What the Company Marketing ‘Anti-Rape Underwear’ Gets Wrong About Rape
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That’s a subtle dynamic, but it furthers a dangerous myth about rape: The idea that it’s about sexual desire. In fact, rape doesn’t happen because men are wildly attracted to beautiful women, even though that’s been society’s longstanding approach to female sexuality. Rape is about power and entitlement. That’s why teaching women to cover up isn’t actually an effective rape prevention strategy.
Purity and whiteness have also typically been linked in our culture. Society has a troubled relationship with black women’s sexuality, and tends to portray women of color as inherently promiscuous. That ultimately means they’re assumed to be at less risk for sexual assault. Our deeply-ingrained rape culture typically eschews the idea that promiscuous women can beraped — since they must have “asked for it.”
4. It’s misleading to suggest there are simple steps women can take to guarantee they won’t be raped.
AR Wear’s founders acknowledge that their new line of underwear won’t put an end to all sexual assaults. “No product alone can solve the problem of violence against women,” they note. But putting forth this type of product in the first place suggests that there are small steps every woman can take to mitigate her risks. It’s understandable that many people are eager to help women feel safer. That’s arguably why so many well-intentioned public figures continue to tell women to drink less, hoping that advice will help protect them.
But every time we tell women that they should take another precaution to keep themselves safe — wear more clothing, stop drinking as much alcohol, watch their drink carefully, and don some anti-rape underwear — we’re furthering the fundamental premise upon which rapeculture rests. As Slate’s Amanda Hess notes, “Rape is a societal problem, not a self-help issue.” Even if women follow all the instructions that are given to them, that still won’t necessarily prevent them — or other women — from being victimized. It will simply end up laying the blame at their feet if they do fall victim to a sexual crime, since they’ll wonder what more they could have done to protect themselves.
5. We already know about some very effective strategies to prevent rape; we’re just not implementing them.
Of course, this isn’t to say we’re all powerless in the face of the global sexual assault epidemic. There are very real ways to tackle rape culture. Sexual assault prevention advocates believe that it starts with comprehensive sex education, to help educate kids about how to recognize when someone is violating their consent. And when kids age, the education campaigns should continue. College activists are attempting to implement more bystander intervention programsto teach students how to get involved when they see something that might turn into a sexual assault. Strong criminal justice policies that make it easier for victims to report crimes, and that actually hold the perpetrators accountable for those crimes, are another important area ripe for policy change.
It’s easier to develop products like anti-rape underwear than it is to take on the actual roots ofrape culture. It’s easier to raise awareness about sexual assault than it is to actually implement the right policies to prevent it. It’s easy to have good intentions. But it’s also largely unhelpful when it comes to advancing the real goal of creating a world that’s safe for women.