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June 24, 2010 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Toothed female condom unveiled in South Africa. South African Dr. Sonnet Ehlers was on call one night four decades ago when a devastated rape victim walked in. Her eyes were lifeless; she was like a breathing corpse. "She looked at me and said, 'If only I had teeth down there,'" recalled Ehlers, who was a 20-year-old medical researcher at the time. "I promised her I'd do something to help people like her one day."

more from the article...

"It hurts, he cannot pee and walk when it's on," she said. "If he tries to remove it, it will clasp even tighter... however, it doesn't break the skin, and there's no danger of fluid exposure."
Women take drastic measures to prevent rape in South Africa, Ehlers said, with some wearing extra tight biker shorts and others inserting razor blades wrapped in sponges in their private parts.


Human Rights Watch Report about violence against women in South Africa (pdf available)

BBC Africa news article about the survey discussed in the article about the doctor. "One in four South African men questioned in a survey said they had raped someone, and nearly half of them admitted more than one attack."

South Africa Medical Research Council reports on rape in South Africa, including the aforementioned survey about rape.

I figure folks will pull out more salient quotes from various things. It's all a little much and I just want to keep posting quotes from everything.
posted by sio42 (186 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow.
posted by lunasol at 1:08 PM on June 24, 2010


This has come true.

This used to be a trope in science fiction.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:09 PM on June 24, 2010


forgot to mention, there is a picture of the dr holding the toothed condom in the first link, so you can see exactly what it looks like.
posted by sio42 at 1:10 PM on June 24, 2010


Women take drastic measures to prevent rape in South Africa, Ehlers said, with some... inserting razor blades wrapped in sponges in their private parts.

I would think that this condom is, at least, is a preferable alternative to razor blades.
posted by Ouisch at 1:12 PM on June 24, 2010


One thing I'm not sure that's mentioned is that the male has to go to the E.R. to get it removed once it latches on, thereby admitting he has attempted to commit rape.

I think this is most excellent in a situation where there are too few solutions.
posted by Malice at 1:12 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems like it would be easy for a would be rapist to check first.
posted by stavrogin at 1:13 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


One in four men ADMIT to being rapists? Jesus H. Christ.

Critics say the female condom is not a long-term solution and makes women vulnerable to more violence from men trapped by the device.

Sadly, that was my first thought, too. It's stupid to merely hurt someone larger than you if you can't get away immediately; you have to incapacitate them. In Snow Crash, at least the tiny needle injected an anaesthetic that was supposed to knock out the rapist immediately.

But maybe some of the women who are currently (Jesus!) inserting razor blades in sponges up inside themselves are willing to take the risk of a beating, or even death, if they can painfully tag a man who stands a chance of facing justice.
posted by maudlin at 1:15 PM on June 24, 2010


Yeah, I'm filing this under "Less than ideal, open to abuse, but pretty much fucking necessary until something better comes along".
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 1:15 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems like it would be easy for a would be rapist to check first.

But he'd need a hand free to do so. Anything to buy time and/or opportunity for escape is an absolute good.
posted by griphus at 1:16 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


so help me god



thank you for the post.
posted by infini at 1:21 PM on June 24, 2010


Someone already made the comparison between this device and Stephenson's dentata here. Oddly enough, this was posted back in 2005, and a linked BBC story from that time describes the opposition to it.
posted by maudlin at 1:21 PM on June 24, 2010


I can't help but think that this is far from ideal. The odds of a man who finds he's been stuck with one of these beating his would-be victim to a pulp have got to be more than zero.

But that's the only reason I'd raise against using it. Don't give a damn about the attacker, don't give much of a damn about arguments that this is somehow demeaning or reinforces the problem. Nuh-uh. If a woman wants to use this, and has weighed the risks, I say go for it.
posted by valkyryn at 1:23 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


From maudlin's link

Ms Ehlers's critics argue that it would be better to educate men not to rape in the first place, rather than just to catch them after the deed.

Yes, that would be better. For now, however, this is better than the status quo, of men not getting educated, raping women, and not getting caught.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:24 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


It seems like it would be easy for a would be rapist to check first.

I might be wrong but I'd imagine there would be some trepidation to inserting your fingers where they might get "bit".

As well I think the combination of paying attention ot the pain and "It hurts, he cannot pee and walk" when it's on may provide a buffer to flee.
posted by edgeways at 1:24 PM on June 24, 2010


I can't imagine this ending well for the woman if this happens to the rapist. He's going to absolutely bug fuck insane and probably do something worse to the woman.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:24 PM on June 24, 2010


i'd rather be beaten than raped.

i've never been beaten and i've never been raped, but i still which i'd choose.
posted by sio42 at 1:24 PM on June 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


I suspect the sort of man who will still brutalize a woman despite the horror and pain of having a spiked condom attached to his penis is the sort of man who would brutalize a woman regardless of the condom.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:27 PM on June 24, 2010 [16 favorites]


I can't imagine this ending well for the woman if this happens to the rapist. He's going to absolutely bug fuck insane and probably do something worse to the woman.

Whether or not that is true: one in eight South African men have stated they have repeatedly committed the act of rape. Imagine getting on the bus in the morning and knowing that every eighth guy is, practically, a serial rapist. I figure this happens to a rapist once, that he has to go to the ER once to get one of these fuckers removed and he'll think twice before trying it again.
posted by griphus at 1:28 PM on June 24, 2010


now... if there was a way to remotely lop the dick off once he pulls out.
posted by edgeways at 1:29 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Medieval device? Please. What's medieval here is the fact that so many rapists get away with it.

A 2009 report by the nation's Medical Research Council found that 28 percent of men surveyed had raped a woman or girl, with one in 20 saying they had raped in the past year, according to Human Rights Watch. Those are just the ones that admit it.
posted by cmyk at 1:29 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


A dramatization.
posted by hanoixan at 1:29 PM on June 24, 2010


I might be wrong but I'd imagine there would be some trepidation to inserting your fingers where they might get "bit".

I'm sure they'd rather risk a finger than their dick. I do think this is better than nothing at all, but the only solution to this epidemic is convicting rapists and educating men to respect women. I have to wonder why these countries don't already take this more seriously, is it the expense of convicting them or do the people in power just not care?
posted by stavrogin at 1:30 PM on June 24, 2010


i'm speechless over here. thanks for the post.
posted by ms.jones at 1:31 PM on June 24, 2010


(Sung to the tune of Hakuna Matata)

Vagina Dentata! What a wonderful phrase
Vagina Dentata! Ain't no passing craze
It means no worries for the rest of your days
It's our problem-free philosophy
Vagina Dentata!
Vagina Dentata!
Yeah. It's our motto!
What's a motto?
Nothing. What's a-motto with you?

posted by Ratio at 1:34 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


i'd rather be beaten than raped.

Beaten to death?

Beaten until you have permanent brain damage and your family has to change your diapers?
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:34 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I guess my concern is that, if this becomes popular enough, men might simply switch the anal rape.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:35 PM on June 24, 2010


Here's what strikes me as the major problem - assuming even that every single woman uses this, there are ways to rape a woman that don't involve vaginal intercourse.
posted by naju at 1:35 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ms Ehlers's critics argue that it would be better to educate men not to rape in the first place, rather than just to catch them after the deed.

Of course, that's preferable. It's also a longer-term solution, and this is a more immediate solution to the acute situation. So why not do both?
posted by Ouisch at 1:35 PM on June 24, 2010


A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:35 PM on June 24, 2010


How about being beaten, raped (or deeply sexually humiliated, if a narrow definition of rape is being used), beaten again, and then killed? Anybody up for that?

A woman wearing this is taking a goddamn serious risk of all of the above happening. Without the device, you get everything up to a rape, with further beating and your death possible add-ons. With the device, your chance of all of the above from a hurting, humiliated and angry rapist would be even higher.

I figure this happens to a rapist once, that he has to go to the ER once to get one of these fuckers removed and he'll think twice before trying it again.

Some rapists might react that way. Others might be much more careful, thorough and vicious the next time they pick a victim. Also keep in mind that there's another couple of orifices to choose from.

But as I said, some women may well make this choice knowing how very, very badly it could end up for them. They may think it's worth facing a higher chance of serious injuries or death if this single rapist gets caught, even though there's a non-zero chance that he could re-offend again. But others may find it not worth the additional risk at all.
posted by maudlin at 1:35 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I figure this happens to a rapist once, that he has to go to the ER once to get one of these fuckers removed and he'll think twice before trying it again.

That's because you're a decent human being.

A guy who would rape a woman will find some other sexual method to project his power her and that could be frighteningly worse for the woman.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:35 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


don't for a moment think this wasn't developed with an eye on the market for off- label uses...
posted by Fupped Duck at 1:37 PM on June 24, 2010


I knew I remembered discussing this here before: http://www.metafilter.com/44712/This-Hurts-Just-Reading-About-It. Circa 2005 it was called the RAPEX.
posted by Lizc at 1:39 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


The argument that this is more dangerous because the rapist is more likely to retaliate with more violence is the same argument against the victim fighting back in any way.

You could use the same logic to discourage rape victims from screaming for help, or striking their attacker, or attempting to escape.
posted by Ouisch at 1:39 PM on June 24, 2010 [24 favorites]


Sadly, that was my first thought, too. It's stupid to merely hurt someone larger than you if you can't get away immediately; you have to incapacitate them.

I think the device would switch to becoming incapacitating by simply converting the plastic interior teeth to metal ones.

Obviously I'd rather we, yeah, teach people to not fucking rape someone, but if this device is going to exist it might as well be as effective as possible.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:39 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the device may prove to be pretty incapacitating if it does prevent the rapist from walking, as the quote above says.

Striking or biting your attacker provides a similar valuable, though risky, opportunity to escape while the rapist is momentarily shocked an in pain.
posted by Ouisch at 1:41 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


You could use the same logic to discourage rape victims from screaming for help, or striking their attacker, or attempting to escape.

No one here is doing that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:42 PM on June 24, 2010


It sounds like people are advising women not to aggravate their rapist lest they get beaten and raped.

Do you also suggest they just lie down and take it? I mean, make sure you also tell them not to fight back at all! Because you might just piss off your rapist, right? And then just get beaten even more!
posted by jabberjaw at 1:42 PM on June 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


point taken by all who pointed it out that the beating could be infinitely worse and that sexual violence is not necessarily vaginal.

i guess sometimes it's just so hard to think like people that want to hurt other people in such a way that it limits my thought process.

i guess i'm more horrified by the fact that this is an alternative to women sticking sponge-razors in their vaginas, that things are so bad a women would even THINK about doing that, much less actually executing.

i am happy to be so relatively safe that this is way off my radar. christ, it's just so...man, i don't even know the right words.


i really hope this doesn't come off me babysitting, i just wanted to particpate in the discussion.
posted by sio42 at 1:43 PM on June 24, 2010


Ask yourself this ... how would you feel if someone installed a device to specifically maim someone that attempted to break into their house?

Like, say, a spring-loaded crossbow. A trapdoor with stakes. A bucket of acid over the door.

While some of you are going, "rock on, dude," ... not so fast there.

The "castle doctrine" is applied unevenly in the U.S., but setting an unmanned "burglar trap" in your house is generally considered to be illegal, even if it's on your own property.

This seems like just a hop, skip and a step from that.

I don't see how this couldn't be construed as self-defense ... and it's not like there's a potential to harm an innocent bystander ... but still, there are other things to think about than, "Yeah, vagina dentata, kick ass."

I mean, would you put a spring-loaded bear trap in your purse?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:45 PM on June 24, 2010


from the BBC article:

"We know that we have a higher prevalence of rape in South Africa than there is in other countries.

"And it's partly rooted in our incredibly disturbed past and the way that South African men over the centuries have been socialised into forms of masculinity that are predicated on the idea of being strong and tough and the use of force to assert dominance and control over women, as well as other men."


I remember discussing it with my South African colleague when this first came out. Many are saying that the rapist will revert to violence in retaliation. I suspect that domestic violence adn violence against women is already endemic (based on both hearsay and our own fieldtrip through townships and rural towns across 1500 km of driving) - rape is what the boys do when they want sex, not flirt or pick up a girl or something like that. Its become a default mindset. I also had access to a startup social network targetted at township residents - the conversations there also lead to me believe that the social dynamics of gender interaction are seriously dysfunctional in many ways.

I think we're assuming these are rapes like in other places - crazy rapist hanging out around a dark parking lot type of thing. I suspect its a lot more casual and a lot more detached than that, hence the high number of acknowledged rapists.

And if 'rape' as a weapon (as stories from the Congo and other places) is common, then women end up with more to worry about than a temporarily enraged man, such as fistulas and other permanent damage internally.

As the OP said, I'd rather be beaten
posted by infini at 1:46 PM on June 24, 2010


I think the device would switch to becoming incapacitating by simply converting the plastic interior teeth to metal ones.

Anything that is specifically created to let blood may prove dangerous to the woman than not. Keep in mind these were created specifically to prevent transmission of fluid.
posted by griphus at 1:47 PM on June 24, 2010


No one here is doing that.

And I never said anyone here was doing that. What I said was that the essential logic could be used similarly. It might be something worth thinking about or discussing.

Since, you know, that's what we do here. Purportedly.
posted by Ouisch at 1:47 PM on June 24, 2010


It sounds like people are advising women not to aggravate their rapist lest they get beaten and raped.

I agree. I also wonder how many women in this context get plain old raped without being beaten along with it. I don't have the numbers at hand, but maybe they're available.
posted by Ouisch at 1:48 PM on June 24, 2010


I mean, would you put a spring-loaded bear trap in your purse?

If I was in constant danger of someone attempting to fuck my purse and ... no, this doesn't work at all. You can't compare violation of physical property to bodily violation.
posted by griphus at 1:49 PM on June 24, 2010 [31 favorites]


While it is satisfying to think of this working, I don't see how it's practical - it's not like women are given a schedule of when they will be sexually assaulted. Are they supposed to have this device at the ready 24/7? And what is to stop rapists from 'testing' whether a women is wearing one using a stick or a knife? I hope it works, but I'll be interested to see what the actual results are.
posted by ghost dance beat at 1:49 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


One in four men ADMIT to being rapists? Jesus H. Christ.

Honest to god, this is the kind of thing that makes me have to close my eyes and breathe deep to get the angry drums in my head to go away. The angry drums that make me wonder what would happen to the thin veneer of civilized I wrap myself should I ever find myself in a secluded place with one of these people.

There are some subjects that put me into a really dangerous place, and bragging serial rapists feature high on that list.
posted by quin at 1:51 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


One way I think a device like this might be valuable is that it provides pretty clear evidence that the woman is, in fact, being raped. Where rape is culturally normative, so many guys seem to think that what they do isn't "really" rape, that she wanted it at some level or would have liked it eventually or wanted it at the moment of penetration or whatever. Having a device like this as part of the equation makes the act much less ambiguous because, dude, if she wanted to have sex with you, why did she have a toothed mole trap in her vagina?

The level of endemic violence in South Africa is HORRIFYING. I mean, this is a place where you can have a flamethrower mounted to your car as a jacking deterrent AT THE DEALER. While this sort of thing might lead to an increased risk of violence, I doubt there's anything a SA woman could do to protect herself that wouldn't. At a certain point, I think it's valid to choose to fight back rather than passively accept your fate, even if there are consequences.
posted by KathrynT at 1:51 PM on June 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't see how it's practical - it's not like women are given a schedule of when they will be sexually assaulted. Are they supposed to have this device at the ready 24/7?

From the article: "The ideal situation would be for a woman to wear this when she's going out on some kind of blind date ... or to an area she's not comfortable with," she said.
posted by griphus at 1:51 PM on June 24, 2010


I agree that these don't address the cultural problems at root, especially in terms of rape as a political weapon in Africa, but I get that these are designed for protection and not societal change. However, I worry that if a woman is not wearing one of these people will start to argue that she "wanted it" or that it wasn't rape because she wasn't actively working to "prevent" it- but as it has been pointed out, women will use these at great personal risk of escalated violence.
posted by questionsandanchors at 1:51 PM on June 24, 2010


Ask yourself this ... how would you feel if someone installed a device to specifically maim someone that attempted to break into their house?

Like, say, a spring-loaded crossbow. A trapdoor with stakes. A bucket of acid over the door.


Dude, maybe 99.99% of the time I think your comments are awesome and relevant and thought-provoking. This is that last .01% of the time where I ask you please, for the love of fucking god, do not do this. Do not draw a parallel between being raped and having your house robbed. Please.
posted by elizardbits at 1:53 PM on June 24, 2010 [44 favorites]


And what is to stop rapists from 'testing' whether a women is wearing one using a stick or a knife?

I think this is an interesting question.

I'll also be interested to see what actually happens as a result of these being used.
posted by Ouisch at 1:54 PM on June 24, 2010


I was just this morning reading this article about how sexual assaults have skyrocketed in Haiti after the earthquake.

As an actual tool for preventing rapes, I don't think that this device has much promise. As a tool to help force a conversation about preventing rapes, I think that this device is marvelous. It's outrageous enough, both titillating and nasty, to force the issue more into the open.
posted by Forktine at 1:54 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, would you put a spring-loaded bear trap in your purse?

In the US, one in six women (cite) are rape victims. Rape carries with it the risk of assault, permanent physical disability, emotional/psychological disorders, and various diseases. On top of that, more often than not if a woman seeks to pursue justice, she is shamed, silenced, or told that it's 'her word against his.'

I wouldn't attempt to compare having a purse stolen with being raped, but I absolutely fucking would use a bear trap on a rapist.
posted by cmyk at 1:54 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ask yourself this ... how would you feel if someone installed a device to specifically maim someone that attempted to break into their house?

No, being forcibly raped is not the same as having your house broken into.

How about this analogy: you live in a culture that practically condones rape, and murder is a rampant fact of life; you know some guys are going to break into your daughter's room with the intent purpose of raping her. Of forcibly, violently, violating her. Guess what: you can't move away from this culture, and you just can't be there to protect her.

How does that booby trap sound now? Not quite as unreasonable.

Living in constant fear of rape, and being prepared to face your rapist, is not the same thing as "lying in wait."
posted by jabberjaw at 1:55 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Like, say, a spring-loaded crossbow. A trapdoor with stakes. A bucket of acid over the door.

This is an extremely bad parallel. Breaking and entering is not remotely comparable to rape. For one thing, rape involves assault or force or the threat of force. That already puts you into a different category than breaking and entering, and you have greater right to use violence to defend yourself.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:55 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell, it seems to me there is a qualitative difference between unmanned protection of property and a semi-autonomous defense of self. I am not so sure the bear trap in the "purse" is a equal correlation.
posted by edgeways at 1:55 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


One thing I'm not sure that's mentioned is that the male has to go to the E.R. to get it removed once it latches on, thereby admitting he has attempted to commit rape.


Going to the ER would admit no such thing. It would demonstrate that he has attempted to have sex with a woman wearing one - not that she denied or was incapable of giving consent, which is the ONLY criteria for whether a sex act was rape. I can think of more than one plausible scenarios where a man could end up with one of those attached to his penis without even the slightest intention of committing rape.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:56 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


setting an unmanned "burglar trap" in your house is generally considered to be illegal, even if it's on your own property.

Yes, because of the danger that harm will come to an innocent bystander, or that deadly violence (like the a spring-gun-type booby trap) will be used on a perp whose intrusion doesn't rise to the level of threat justifying the use of deadly violence under the law.

It's theoretically possible that this rape-preventing female condom could accidentally injure an innocent person ("Oops, sorry, honey, guess I forgot to take that out"), but in my opinion those circumstances would be so vanishingly rare as to make the analogy to the burglar situation inapposite. And while it's also theoretically possible that this condom could be used purposefully against an innocent person during consensual sex, that by itself doesn't justify banning the device, at least not while we approve of selling other items that could theoretically be used in such a manner--like knives. Further, this condom does not pose a deadly threat even to its intended "victim."
posted by sallybrown at 1:58 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can think of more than one plausible scenarios where a man could end up with one of those attached to his penis without even the slightest intention of committing rape.

She simply forgot it was in there? She wanted revenge?

Plausible, yes. Likely? Much less so than attempted rape.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:58 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can't even see how this is going to work.

Do rapists routinely pause their vicious sexual abuse in order to slip on a rubber johnny? Doesn't that... kill the mood, somewhat?

Plus, even if they do get it on, and it then causes them sufficient irritation to prevent the rape - won't it just... come off... once erection is lost? Which, presumably, will happen fairly rapidly with barbs in your penis.

... which just leaves the rapist open to go at it again, this time without the 'protection'.
posted by metaxa at 1:58 PM on June 24, 2010


I'd also point out that if rapists begin to worry about women wearing one of these, they might start making other kinds of rape their first choice, either with objects, or anal rape.
posted by questionsandanchors at 1:59 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


metaxa, the woman already has the condom inserted.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:59 PM on June 24, 2010


Gah. Duh. Sorry.

I've just noticed now that it's a *female* condom. I'll go away now. Sorry.
posted by metaxa at 1:59 PM on June 24, 2010


Some rapists might react that way. Others might be much more careful, thorough and vicious the next time they pick a victim.

Bear in mind that a rapist that has had this happen to him has had to go to the hospital, admit to being a rapist, and (ideally) therefore gone to prison.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:00 PM on June 24, 2010


I can't even see how this is going to work.

Do rapists routinely pause their vicious sexual abuse in order to slip on a rubber johnny? Doesn't that... kill the mood, somewhat?

Plus, even if they do get it on, and it then causes them sufficient irritation to prevent the rape - won't it just... come off... once erection is lost? Which, presumably, will happen fairly rapidly with barbs in your penis.

... which just leaves the rapist open to go at it again, this time without the 'protection'.


I am totally confused by this comment.
posted by Ouisch at 2:00 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


...not anymore.
posted by Ouisch at 2:00 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gosh, am I one of those "people"? Gosh, is little old 5'1" me with a history of (luckily) never getting raped but who has been aggressively verbal with harrassers (of me and other women) advising women not to aggravate their rapist?

Fuck, no, I am not.

This device is not the same thing as fighting back. I think the current advice from most self-defense experts is for a woman to use her own judgment of the situation to determine whether fighting back, giving in, or trying to talk the rapist down is the best choice. A woman making a decision to choose any of these methods that she reasonably believes will leave her alive and safe at the end is to be commended.

But this after-market device causes pain by attaching itself to a crucial part of the rapist's anatomy. He's hurt AND humiliated AND outwitted AND facing a visit to some back-alley device remover (and you know there's going to be sources springing up to take care of this.) I think a rapist is much more likely to seriously hurt a woman who attacks his ego and his dick directly with a little plastic gizmo designed just for that purpose than a woman who gets a solid punch in and a running start.

Oh, and if it's a gang rape situation and rapist A gets caught in the device, there's a few more angry men around, right? This pre-installed device takes away agency from a woman at the very time that she needs to make a decision about her best choice in this situation. (I guess she could yell, "Wait! Let me remove my device so I don't hurt any of you guys.", but that might be a little late, eh?")

Jesus Christ, at least a woman walking around with a gun can threaten with a gun without having to use it, and if she does have to use it, that's pretty serious stopping power.

On preview: if it really does prevent him from walking, that makes escape from the vicinity less likely. But the immediate beating, or anal rape, are still likely scenarios. And as I have said repeatedly before: SOME WOMEN MAY FEEL THE ADDITIONAL RISK IS WORTH IT. Just don't pretend there isn't an additional risk.
posted by maudlin at 2:03 PM on June 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


At a certain point, I think it's valid to choose to fight back rather than passively accept your fate, even if there are consequences.

As a tool to help force a conversation about preventing rapes, I think that this device is marvelous. It's outrageous enough, both titillating and nasty, to force the issue more into the open.


This is what makes this a powerful invention. One, its empowering in such a society to know that somehow somewhen one has a way to fight back what might be a daily fear. If one in four rape, how many in four have been raped?

Two, if nothing else, if the PR around this thing starts to make men think (in ZA) about their actions adn its consequences, then perhaps as a tool it may serve a valuable function.

Don't forget AIDS is also endemic. And Zuma thought having a shower would prevent it.
posted by infini at 2:03 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bear in mind that a rapist that has had this happen to him has had to go to the hospital, admit to being a rapist, and (ideally) therefore gone to prison.

If they managed to get a survey done where one in four men admitted to rape, I think the gap between the ideal and the real in this situation is immeasurably wide.
posted by griphus at 2:03 PM on June 24, 2010


as much as i enjoy imagining the mangled penis of a rapist, i fear that, in real life, a vagina dentata is just going to end up getting women murdered instead of raped.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:04 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just don't pretend there isn't an additional risk.

I don't think anyone here is doing that. But I think there is something to be said for giving women the option, should they want to take it.
posted by Ouisch at 2:05 PM on June 24, 2010


Bear in mind that a rapist that has had this happen to him has had to go to the hospital, admit to being a rapist, and (ideally) therefore gone to prison.

Black market for doctors who will remove this in 5...4...3...2...1...

I'm just not seeing what this device will do quell rape against women. This doesn't mean women have to lie there and take, just that this particular tactic doesn't seem like it would be very successful and make indirectly encourage more violent behavior of rapists.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:06 PM on June 24, 2010


Do not draw a parallel between being raped and having your house robbed. Please.

I hear 'ya. Not going to be fighty here.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:06 PM on June 24, 2010



I can think of more than one plausible scenarios where a man could end up with one of those attached to his penis without even the slightest intention of committing rape.

She simply forgot it was in there? She wanted revenge?

Plausible, yes. Likely? Much less so than attempted rape.
posted by Astro Zombie 1 minute ago [+]


Those are precisely the two scenarios I had thought of. I agree completely that those scenarios are far less likely than attempted rape, but the fact that two people in this thread arrived at the idea of those two scenarios separately means that they're certainly not out of the question. And that is exactly why getting one removed at the hospital does NOT, in my mind, constitute an admission of attempted rape, as Malice indicated upthread.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:08 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, bear in mind that this is a part of the world where the HIV incidence for men in their twenties and thirties can be greater than one in four. That would change my "is beating worse than rape" risk/benefit calculations considerably.

I'm just not seeing what this device will do quell rape against women.

If women themselves are choosing these kinds of devices, doesn't that imply that they might see an advantage you don't?
posted by KathrynT at 2:10 PM on June 24, 2010


It sounds like people are advising women not to aggravate their rapist lest they get beaten and raped.

Do you also suggest they just lie down and take it?


1988 — In an NBC interview with Connie Chung, who asked how he handles stress, Knight says: "I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it." He explains he was talking about something beyond one's control, not the act of rape.

- Bob Knight
posted by flarbuse at 2:12 PM on June 24, 2010


If some women living in this situation feel like this is something that will help them address the threat, I don't feel particularly encouraged to criticize their choice.
posted by Nabubrush at 2:14 PM on June 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


If women themselves are choosing these kinds of devices, doesn't that imply that they might see an advantage you don't?

Sure, but what are the advantages that they're seeing? Because I'm honestly not seeing it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:19 PM on June 24, 2010


We don't know yet if women are choosing this. We know that the researcher will be distributing it. Any other media reports showing what women are saying about it?

It's one hell of a choice to make, but I think the women who are already using the sponge and razor blade method won't be a hard sell at all.
posted by maudlin at 2:20 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


If women themselves are choosing these kinds of devices, doesn't that imply that they might see an advantage you don't?

especially in a (worse than) third world slum like the townships?
posted by infini at 2:21 PM on June 24, 2010


I guess it would help to know a little bit more about the culture of rape in South Africa. Wikipedia actually has a detailed motivation for rape page, and knowing what causes men, as a group, to commit rape may be useful in knowing how they may, in general, respond to devices like this, which are intended to combat that.

If they're primary and exclusive goal is to exercise power over women and sexually humiliate them, then, yes, I can see this backfiring, and badly. If they engage in it because of social pressure, a culture that believes men must be aggressive to women to get sexual satisfaction, general tolerance of sexual violence, etc., it is possible that such a thing might discourage them. Rapists in America have shown a tendency to get spooked when women show resistance at all, especially aggressive resistance, and doing so doesn't seem to increase the odds of a woman being injured by her rapist. But America does not have nearly the culture of rape that South Africa does, and that culture is going to affect how men respond to this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:22 PM on June 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


My first thought wan't about men retaliating violently but rather that they would quickly start to choose victims they'd think were too young to be equipped with one of these. Good christ I don't see how any of this ends well.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:24 PM on June 24, 2010


I have my doubts about the claim that "only a physician can remove it", especially if "it doesn't break the skin". Unless it's made of Kevlar and responds to the presence of a framed medical degree it looks like it could be removed in a bathroom with a pair of sharp scissors.

I also have my doubts about the claim that a man "cannot pee and walk" when the device is attached. I've seen far worse-looking things attached to penises on BME.com, right next to the user's discussion of wearing them to work.

Isn't false advertising that preys on fear also exploitative?
posted by clarknova at 2:29 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another benefit could be that fear of the device reduces the rate of rape.

If rape is at least a quasi-accepted cultural norm in South Africa (and with a rate of 25% willing to admit to rape, it's hard to argue that it's not), one result could be that the possible costs of rape (for the rapist) are very limited. A rapist is not risking a hell of lot to rape a woman in South Africa. There may be a large group of current rapists who could have been dissuaded in other circumstances--say, if they lived in a country where rapists were zealously punished.

A device like this--particularly because its OMG SHOCKING nature will make it widely known--forces the potential rapists in the culture to think twice about whether rape is worth it. If every woman in South Africa wore one of this whenever she was unwilling to have sex, the cost of rape for the potential rapist would rise dramatically, while the benefits would stay the same. And because this device doesn't come with a "Hey, I'm Wearing The Toothed Female Condom Today" sign, at least some potential rapists are going to fear that any intended target could be wearing one. Those who would be inclined to rape in a culture where rape means no real cost to the rapist might be less inclined once raping another person meant risking of injury to themselves.

As for the potential violence in response to the device, one factor in rape being so common is certainly that women are devalued in South African culture, which could make us worry that rapists would be more likely to beat their targets viciously. But another factor could be that such a huge number of rapists means a larger percentage of rapists who don't see themselves as "evil" in the way they see murderers. We shouldn't assume that a rapist in a culture where rape is so prevalent would be willing to escalate his acts to a severe beating--he may consider that wrong and unacceptable even if he considers rape okay.
posted by sallybrown at 2:30 PM on June 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Sure, but what are the advantages that they're seeing? Because I'm honestly not seeing it.

Is it important that you see it rather than just accept that they do?
posted by KathrynT at 2:30 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


We don't know yet if women are choosing this.

True. But we know some of them, at least, are already choosing to use razor blades.
posted by Ouisch at 2:31 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Women take drastic measures to prevent rape in South Africa, Ehlers said, with some wearing extra tight biker shorts and others inserting razor blades wrapped in sponges in their private parts."

If some women are already putting razor blades in their vaginas, then they are already using a jury-rigged version of this toothed condom. Those women have already done the risk-calculation and decided it was worth it. Therefore, toothed condom seems like a useful idea to me, because at the very least, it's got to be safer to use than sticking a spongeful of razor blades inside their vaginas.
posted by colfax at 2:31 PM on June 24, 2010 [10 favorites]


The "castle doctrine" is applied unevenly in the U.S., but setting an unmanned "burglar trap" in your house is generally considered to be illegal, even if it's on your own property.

Tryin' to be nice here, CPB...

I think it's safe to say that if you have your "rapist trap" jammed up your vagina, your rapist trap is not "unmanned." It's rather under your direct control and observation.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:33 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


maudlin : We know that the researcher will be distributing it.

Maybe the real value of this device lay more in the abstract fear it could engender rather than the actual results. If they make a big deal about releasing this, and make it very public knowledge that any woman could have one, and most probably do, perhaps the impact will be that the number of rapes will go down simply because of good marketing.

I'm too cynical to actually believe this, but typing it made me feel better for a couple of seconds.
posted by quin at 2:36 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


culture of rape in south africa?

1999 BBC article on survey of women

A new survey carried out in the South African city of Johannesburg has uncovered an alarming picture of sexual violence.

One in three of the 4,000 women questioned by CIET Africa, non-governmental organisation, said they had been raped in the past year.

CIET researchers trying to find ways of arresting the alarming growth in sexual violence in South Africa said they were shocked by the finding.

posted by infini at 2:36 PM on June 24, 2010


reading the 1999 article further,

In a related survey conducted among 1,500 schoolchildren in the Soweto township, a quarter of all the boys interviewed said that 'jackrolling' - a South African term for recreational gang rape - was fun.

More than half the interviewees insisted that when a girl says no to sex she really means yes.

Many of those interviewed also expressed little knowledge about the need to use condoms and to practise safe sex.

'Intolerable'

The boys' opinions differed markedly from those expressed by schoolgirls, many of whom suggested that they were living in an intolerable sexual environment.

posted by infini at 2:38 PM on June 24, 2010


this device attaches to the penis and is removed from the woman when he withdraws. once word of this gets around (and it will, in these communities, if it hasn't already), what's to prevent the men from simply using a finger (or other implement) to check for / remove this before raping the woman?

i, too, worry that use of these will cause the violence to be escalated, both from men who are caught by this thing and by men who discover that the woman they're about to rape intended to catch them with this thing.

some people have said things like "i'd rather be beaten than raped", but the environment we're talking about involves largish groups of men gang-raping prepubescents because a) the younger children don't have AIDS & b) some of them actually believe that fucking prepubescents will CURE them of the AIDS they already have.

that being the case, the options appear to be "raped" or "raped & beaten", not "beaten" or "beaten & raped".

this problem is systemic and disgusting and encouraged by men in the area. i don't think anyone believes that this device will eradicate the problem, so the only question left is "does it do more harm than good", and i'm on the fence about that still.

but if anyone wants to use this device, i see no reason at all to disallow that.
posted by radiosilents at 2:41 PM on June 24, 2010


Thanks, infini; that suggests to me that a number of men could actually be discouraged by these condoms. And, as others mentioned upthread, the fact that women are actually inserting razor blades in sponges in their vaginas makes me think that, at the very least, this is a safer alternative for those women.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:41 PM on June 24, 2010


If its successfully designed, hopefully it would be such a painful experience for the man that they'd be incapacitated long enough for the woman to get away, or put some initial distance between her and the rapist. At the minimum it should hurt enough that the guy can't hold a struggling woman down and beat her, which, given that we're talking about rows of teeth biting into a man's dick, shouldn't be that high a threshold to reach.
posted by shen1138 at 2:42 PM on June 24, 2010


Sure, but what are the advantages that they're seeing? Because I'm honestly not seeing it.

Preventing or fighting back against a second/third/fourth/fifth rape is what I'd consider to be an excellent reason to using this condom to gain "advantage."

I'd use it if I were in their situation (see the rape stats in their area). Why? Because FUCK HIM.

Further, let him beat me to death if I can't kill him first. I would not have issue one with using this if I were in their situation. I don't care to live through a second rape, and I absofuckinglutely will not - I won't be raped again because I will try to kill him up to the point of either succeeding or being killed. No regrets. I totally get why they might see this as an "advantage."
posted by heyho at 2:44 PM on June 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


The reason that automatic burglar traps are illegal is that although you are entitled to use reasonable force to defend & protect your property, a trap has no way of assessing this "reasonableness" - eg it cannot tell the difference between a kid retrieving the soccer ball he kicked through the window & a deranged burglar on meth.

Another way of putting the legal principle is that self defence is OK, but excessive self defence is not, and an automatic response risks being excessive.

In the case of these rapist traps, I can't see how the thing would risk harming an innocent. It's not as if the women might go to visit their gyno and somehow forget that they had the thing installed.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:44 PM on June 24, 2010


The MRC brief of the aforementioned 2009 study is here. Though a monolithic figure like "one in four" (27.6%) might beg for a magic bullet, it is worth questioning just how effective this sort of device might be in the many situations posed by the study.

Rape of a woman or girl had been perpetrated by 27.6% of the men interviewed and 4.6% of men had raped in the past year. Rape of a current or ex-girlfriend was disclosed by 14.3% of men.

Since many men had raped more than once, rape of a woman or girl who was not a partner was actually more often reported than rape of partners. In all only 4.6% of men had raped a partner and not raped a woman who was not a partner (i.e. an acquaintance or stranger). 11.7% of men had raped an acquaintance or stranger (but not a partner) and 9.7% had raped both. Rape of men and boys was also reported, 2.9% said they had done this.


[...]

Asked about their age at the first time they had forced a woman or girl into sex, 9.8% said they were under 10 years old, 16.4% were 10-14 years old, 46.5% were 15-19 years old, 18.6% were 20-24 years old, 6.9% were 25-29 years and 1.9% were 30 or older.

While this sort of self-defense device - reliant upon surprise and flight - might prove effective in deterring stranger rape, it does not seem to offer a shield against rapes occurring within close relationships; not to mention the many cases of child-rape, or the fraction of male-on-male rapes, where the body will not accommodate it.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:45 PM on June 24, 2010


"One thing I'm not sure that's mentioned is that the male has to go to the E.R. to get it removed once it latches on, thereby admitting he has attempted to commit rape."

I'm extremely sceptical of this claim. It's made of latex; even if it fit like a two sizes two small surgical glove a few minutes with some baby oil, Vaseline, or pretty well any petroleum solvent is going to dissolve the device. I mean normally I would put gasoline on my junk but I think I'd make an exception to remove this.

"The 'castle doctrine' is applied unevenly in the U.S., but setting an unmanned 'burglar trap' in your house is generally considered to be illegal, even if it's on your own property."

I think the unmanned part is the key way this is different. It's pretty tough to claim any device inserted into the vagina is unmanned.

"I have my doubts about the claim that 'only a physician can remove it', especially if 'it doesn't break the skin'. Unless it's made of Kevlar and responds to the presence of a framed medical degree it looks like it could be removed in a bathroom with a pair of sharp scissors."

It's made of latex, a few minutes with a bottle of baby oil should melt it away.
posted by Mitheral at 2:45 PM on June 24, 2010


Barring the wholesale and indiscriminate slaughter of random men, I will never, ever argue against any kind of measures a woman takes in order to make herself feel safe, no matter how illogical &/or controversial. But I can tell you right now, a rapist who finds any kind of obstruction in the vagina does not physically have to go very far to continue raping you.

I very much understand the desire to feel safe and in control, as well as the desire for some kind of vengeance, but I feel like this is an ultimately flawed solution.
posted by elizardbits at 2:46 PM on June 24, 2010


"I mean normally I would not put gasoline on my junk but I think I'd make an exception to remove this."

Ugh, horrible grammar fail.
posted by Mitheral at 2:47 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


astrozombie: exactly

also, while it sounds like it might be a challenge if its gang rape cos the others could continue I suspect that if the device were to actually be used (and its a lot safer than razor blades, sponge or no sponge) a few such cases of public shame, pain, humiliation etc might actually serve to curb the activities as a "recreation" rather than escalate it. or at least that would be the best outcome.
posted by infini at 2:48 PM on June 24, 2010


Ugh, horrible grammar fail.

Isn't Vaseline made of petroleum jelly?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:53 PM on June 24, 2010


I don't want to encourage the use of it, but I think that discouraging it by arguing that it may result in greater violence against you is just a bad argument. You are anticipating a rape-arms race? I'll tell you, the rapists are winning right now.

I get it that there has to be a better solution. Education, better police enforcement, etc. But what better solution is there for the victim? For a young woman, for a teenaged girl in a South African township, what can she do to prevent her eventual rape? Learn to run faster than her rapist? Learn to hit harder than her rapist? Learn to become a recluse? Learn to just take it lying down? What solutions does she have, how can she effect any change on her society?

This is a start. Something that can empower women in a place where women have no power is a step in the right direction. I'm interested to see if this plays out.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:53 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Isn't Vaseline made of petroleum jelly?"

Vaseline is a brand name for petroleum jelly.
posted by Mitheral at 2:56 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is an interesting product and I guess a good idea but this entire Metafilter discussion has been both depressing and mildly repulsive.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:58 PM on June 24, 2010


"he cannot pee and walk when it's on," she said.

I just have to ask: how can she be sure of the exact effects? I can think of a few possible answers to that question and I don't like any of them.
posted by tealdeer at 2:59 PM on June 24, 2010


Commentators upthread and the wikipedia mention this device was announced in 2005 and set to go into mass production in 2007. I may have missed it upthread, but given there are at least a couple-three years of experience, is it working? Has it decreased rape? Has it increased violence against women? Has it prompted a profound debate of the issue? Anything?
posted by chavenet at 3:01 PM on June 24, 2010


this entire Metafilter discussion has been both depressing and mildly repulsive.

Really? I thought that, considering the subject mater, the discussion has been remarkably level headed thusfar. I mean, it even survived the tub of acid over the door jamb analogy.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:02 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's made of latex, a few minutes with a bottle of baby oil should melt it away.

Are the spike strips also made of latex? I imagined it was only the main sheath that was made of latex. The spikes are described as plastic, and if they are like barbs, they might be difficult to remove even after the sheath was gone.
posted by Ouisch at 3:07 PM on June 24, 2010


I feel like this is an ultimately flawed solution.

I don't think anyone here disagrees with you. I certainly feel that it's a damn shame someone has to even consider something like this as the lesser of a number of evils, or of the benefits of it outweighing the risks.
posted by Ouisch at 3:09 PM on June 24, 2010


Really? I thought that, considering the subject mater, the discussion has been remarkably level headed thusfar. I mean, it even survived the tub of acid over the door jamb analogy.

Well, for me it's seemed a lot like, man, this anti-rape condom, let's brainstorm some workarounds.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:10 PM on June 24, 2010


Well, for me it's seemed a lot like, man, this anti-rape condom, let's brainstorm some workarounds.

Hi, welcome to critical thinking. People are wondering whether or not this might in fact be effective in its stated and laudable goal of preventing rapes, not scheming methods to help would-be rapists.
posted by modernnomad at 3:14 PM on June 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


I went looking to see what the "results" might be, if any since this product's launch and came across this summary of our discussion in this thread, only it was written in 2008. Here's a bit that we've not yet mentioned however,

Said bluntly, what must be understood in discussing Rapex’s effect on society and the ethics of the device is that South Africa’s situation is already so severe, and the violence so disproportionate on the side of men, that when confronting the issue of innocent males getting harmed, many women say, “Why not?”

Other forms of punishment, more extreme than Rapex, have already been suggested and employed outside the law to deal with rape. As reported by BBC in 2001, amidst an upsurge of baby rapes in South Africa (including the gang rape of a nine-month-old baby girl), lynchings of suspected rapists occurred in various communities, and demonstrators called for convicted rapists to be castrated. Instances such as these provoke a re-examination of the severity of Rapex and the fairness of its usage. In the case of one nine-year-old girl who, also in 2001, was so torn up by a rape that she needed “extensive surgery,” you cannot help but ask: men tear up women, so why shouldn’t women have a device to tear up men?

posted by infini at 3:16 PM on June 24, 2010


I certainly feel that it's a damn shame someone has to even consider something like this as the lesser of a number of evils, or of the benefits of it outweighing the risks.

Yeah, when you realize that as a species, mankind has reached the point where in order to combat rape we have to use what are essentially toothed vaginal lampreys, ffs, it's difficult not to look forward to the zombie apocalypse.
posted by elizardbits at 3:18 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great idea. There are definitely risks, but people are smart enough to weigh them on their own. I recognize that people pointing out the risks aren't saying this should be banned or anything. Anyway, despite everyone here being thoughtful, it nevertheless calls to mind abortion debates: providing a safer option to the jury-rigged one, making broad claims about what is best for women, etc.

It's interesting that many conversations about women's health and bodily autonomy fall into the same patterns.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:18 PM on June 24, 2010


I mean, would you put a spring-loaded bear trap in your purse?

If one in eight men in my country were regularly going around forcibly shoving his dick into purses I might.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:18 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


including the gang rape of a nine-month-old...

Seriously. What the fuck?

There are people out there that just shouldn't be allowed to exist.
posted by quin at 3:22 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


A Google Scholar search for anti-rape device turns up a lot of similar devices.
posted by Ouisch at 3:24 PM on June 24, 2010


(from the US Patent Office, mostly.)
posted by Ouisch at 3:24 PM on June 24, 2010


It's interesting that many conversations about women's health and bodily autonomy fall into the same patterns.

I'd be curious to know what patterns you see.
posted by infini at 3:27 PM on June 24, 2010


Sure, but what are the advantages that they're seeing? Because I'm honestly not seeing it.

The device isn't meant for you.
posted by kmz at 3:34 PM on June 24, 2010


This article from 2005 raises some interesting objections to the device from both rape survivor's and social justice groups.
posted by Ouisch at 3:40 PM on June 24, 2010


I don't like it. In order for a weapon to be useful, it has to have an appropriate time to be used, and an appropriate effect. A knife is no good in a gunfight. A gun locked in a safe in your garage is no help against a burglar in your bedroom. A bouncer at a bar should not have a knife to help eject drunken patrons. And so on.

This thing fails on both counts. It's only used after the rapist has actually overpowered the victim. In theory if he can forcibly insert his penis into her vagina he can just as easily do pretty much anything else to her that he wants to. Yet rape as a behavior pattern is not commonly followed with murder. Rapes with beatings are a subset (I'm not sure how large a subset) of rapes. The implication is that the urge to rape and the urge to beat and the urge to kill are not the same things. The total behavior is more complex. But it seems clear that having raped, except possibly in the context of an abusive long-term relationship, the rapist will feel an urge to leave. This device harms him at a point where he would (probably, in the ordinary course of behavior) not be inclined to further violence, and where the victim is particularly vulnerable to further violence. In the psychological rather than legal sense, this device is provoking.

Which is the second problem, that the device is only provoking. I do not have a problem at all with a victim killing, or maiming, or incapacitating, a rapist. Rape is an act that renders the perpetrator deserving of such punishment. Unlike for example other actions against another's person such as murder or grievous bodily harm or the intentional infliction of serious pain, which all can be done to protect and preserve and prevent harm to others, there is no circumstance under which a rape could be a morally righteous act. Rape ought to be stopped with the minimal practical violence required to stop it, but if that's "kill him", then so be it. If a rapist is caught, he should be castrated; the threat of this may or may not function as any kind of pre-emptive deterrent but would definitely prevent almost all recidivism.

For the "weapon" part of this a literal steel trap or poison needle would be a better idea (though the inside-out condom is even more necessary, to prevent blood contamination). A plain, unweaponized inside-out condom which has burstable dye packs, with a dye that reacts with water on his skin to later become visible (presumably he will shower or wash himself at some future point), would be a better idea. Even a chastity belt; I think a chastity belt isn't a great idea either as the victim can either be forced to remove it, or if removing it is difficult for her it will cause problems with urinating and defecating, but it still seems to me to be a better idea than this thing. This thing is the worst of both worlds: a weapon that calls attention to itself yet does no serious harm.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:40 PM on June 24, 2010


goddamn apostrophes
posted by Ouisch at 3:40 PM on June 24, 2010


I mean, this is a place where you can have a flamethrower mounted to your car as a jacking deterrent AT THE DEALER.

For the love of god, please know what the fuck you're talking about before you go repeating nonsense. The last thing this thread needs is someone talking IN ALL CAPS about something that was an aftermarket product 12 years ago, purchased by essentially nobody, and non-existent in the country today.
posted by god hates math at 3:41 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


And here's an interesting blog post refuting the claims that Rape-aXe will act as a deterrent.
posted by Ouisch at 3:52 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Yes, my device may be a medieval, but it's for a medieval deed that has been around for decades," she said.

Ah yes, I also put the end of the Middle Ages at the beginning of the 1980s.
posted by geoff. at 3:59 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Claim:It gives women a chance to escape and so shortens the rape and reduces the total damage caused by the rape.

NO, because a rapist can buy it and wear it inside out.


jesus fucking christ.
posted by elizardbits at 4:00 PM on June 24, 2010


Sorry if that was inaccurate, god hates math, I was taking that from a South African blogger I read, who represented it as a current option.
posted by KathrynT at 4:03 PM on June 24, 2010


it nevertheless calls to mind abortion debates: providing a safer option to the jury-rigged one [etc]

I'm not sure I understand why it's a bad argument to say: women are already making this choice, so it's better than not to give them a safer way to do it. I see that as a way of respecting women's autonomy and choices, but it's quite possible that I'm missing something. Also, I'm not at all saying that the entire situation isn't fucked up and doesn't require a lot more than this to fix it.
posted by colfax at 4:09 PM on June 24, 2010


Ah yes, I also put the end of the Middle Ages at the beginning of the 1980s.

Stop being pedantic. The Middle Ages did end decades ago; approximately fifty decades. And rape itself has has probably been endemic to Homo Sapiens for around 20,000 decades.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:33 PM on June 24, 2010


I wouldn't say it's a bad argument. This is probably better than sticking a razor blade in a sponge and shoving that up there, so if people are already making the decision to do that, might as well offer this.

It's just also kind of tangental to whether or not it's a good idea to use it in the first place.
posted by kafziel at 4:34 PM on June 24, 2010


aeschenkarnos: A plain, unweaponized inside-out condom which has burstable dye packs, with a dye that reacts with water on his skin to later become visible

A marked man, literally. Assuming it couldn't be washed off. Interesting.

heyho: Preventing or fighting back against a second/third/fourth/fifth rape is what I'd consider to be an excellent reason to using this condom to gain "advantage."

The second book in Stephen R Donaldson's Gap series addresses something like this. Somebody questions the protagonist, Morn Hyland, about the wisdom of her decision to fight back against the chimp-strong asshole whose ongoing sexual harassment had clearly been escalating towards rape, and she says something like, "How many times have YOU been raped? None. Uh huh. Well I'm at the point where if I'm going to be subjected to that again, I'm damned if I'll let the rapist get away without at least trying to inflict as much damage as I possibly can." Psychologically healthier for her at that point, and physically, well, the only person who can predict with reasonable accuracy whether fighting back would be worth the physical risk, is the woman herself in the moment.

Not everyone would react like that, but the ones who do, I say more power to 'em.

Donaldson wrote it better, but I haven't got a copy of the book around to quote. One reading of that series was enough.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:39 PM on June 24, 2010


olfax: I'm not sure I understand why it's a bad argument to say: women are already making this choice, so it's better than not to give them a safer way to do it. I see that as a way of respecting women's autonomy and choices, but it's quite possible that I'm missing something.

Well, potentially, you could argue that this is a rather poor solution that might stop people from seeking better solutions. I tend to think that the best ways to combat rape on an individual level are to carry a gun (or whatever weapon you're allowed to carry), learn to fight, and learn to run, in that order. This is way down the scale. It's like punching a bear - it may be better than not punching the bear in some situations, but your bear-avoidance or bear-combat strategy should not be based around punching them, except possibly as an absolute last resort after all other options have failed.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:47 PM on June 24, 2010


Donaldson wrote it better, but I haven't got a copy of the book around to quote.

"After a while," she said, "you hurt so bad that you don't want to be rescued anymore. You want to eviscerate that sonofabitch for yourself. Eventually you don't even care that you haven't got a prayer. You need to try.

If you don't try, you end up killing yourself because you're too ashamed to live."

No one should have to understand this feeling. Ever.

posted by elizardbits at 4:50 PM on June 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


I wouldn't say it's a bad argument. This is probably better than sticking a razor blade in a sponge and shoving that up there, so if people are already making the decision to do that, might as well offer this. It's just also kind of tangental to whether or not it's a good idea to use it in the first place.

Fair enough. I was originally framing that argument though--and maybe this was just clear in my head and not clear on paper--in contrast to the hypothetical questions about whether or not this is a good thing to begin with, because a lot of those questions seem to be framed in terms of: "What if this makes the situation worse? Is it worth it then?"

It seems to me that there's probably already some data on the ground about whether or not using a toothed-condom approach makes the whole situation worse for the woman or not. And that data--if anyone has collected it--seems to me to have a great deal of relevance to those earlier hypothetical questions, because the way I figure, in this case they're not actually hypothetical questions at all.
posted by colfax at 4:59 PM on June 24, 2010


After reading the link and this thread all I can feel is deep sadness over the lives that some women lead; this is so heartbreaking that I have a lump in my throat. Why is society in South Africa so badly damaged and how can it be changed? Why are the daddys and the brothers and the sons not more protective? Will this madness burn itself out or will the rape culture become more firmly embedded with time? I'm all for this device if there are any women brave enough to try it, but I think something much, much bigger and broader needs to be done.

How have other cultures in time changed the mindset of the male population that thinks rape is acceptable? Laws? Religion? Punishment? I don't think something that women do alone is going to be effective-- somehow they have to enlist the help of the other sex.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:07 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sorry if that was inaccurate, god hates math, I was taking that from a South African blogger I read, who represented it as a current option.

No worries. Sorry to react so strongly, but I'm a little sick of that stupid invention being used to represent the current state of affairs South Africa. It ends up being a very simplified explanation that doesn't do justice to a very complicated country. And considering the embarrassing things that plenty of Americans believe about their country, I have no trouble believing there's at least one South African blogger who thinks there are hoards of terrified Afrikaners driving around with these things on their SUVs.

Would you mind linking me to that blog, by the way? If you've still got the link handy, that is. You can memail it to me if you like.
posted by god hates math at 5:07 PM on June 24, 2010


I wish we weren't having a conversation about an item that tasks women with rape prevention in the first place. Which is not a criticism of Dr. Ehlers, nor the women who might want to use the Rape-aXe, because they are dealing with an immediate reality of daily life. It's just so frustrating that all the discussable proposed solutions to a human rights violation as old as humankind are still so heavily skewed toward the victims of that crime, rather than its perpetrators. -Melissa McEwan
posted by Ouisch at 5:18 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


"A 2009 report by the nation's Medical Research Council found that 28 percent of men surveyed had raped a woman or girl".

That's the most fucked up thing I've heard all day. And that includes vagina teeth.
posted by DZack at 5:26 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


From 2000, a long article discussing crime in South Africa, here. At the time of the article, the crime was well beyond what the police could handle. I doubt it's any better now. An excerpt from the article on a local response to an alleged gang rape:

"This is an example of taxi vigilantism in action. A teenage girl on the Cape Flats was gang raped last year, and her family took her to the local taxi people. The young culprits she named were swiftly rounded up, and a makeshift kangaroo court followed, where the girl identified the rapists. The youths, barely more than boys, were stripped naked, tied up, and the girl was handed a sjambok and urged to give them a whipping. A TV crew filmed the whole affair, and harrowing footage of the boys screaming and bleeding caused a minor stir in liberal circles when it was broadcast."

-----

How have other cultures in time changed the mindset of the male population that thinks rape is acceptable? Laws? Religion? Punishment? I don't think something that women do alone is going to be effective-- somehow they have to enlist the help of the other sex.

Looks like patriarchy might be good for something after all. That a pretty grim assessment, but I can't imagine there's anything as effective for creating that social norm as the fear of retribution from men offended that someone preyed on their family.
posted by BigSky at 5:29 PM on June 24, 2010


me: "Sure, but what are the advantages that they're seeing? Because I'm honestly not seeing it."

Others: Is it important that you see it rather than just accept that they do?
The device isn't meant for you.

The device doesn't seem like it would work. I would like it to work or better yet, not be needed. My question is geared towards figuring out if does work, 'cause hey, I don't know everything.

Preventing or fighting back against a second/third/fourth/fifth rape is what I'd consider to be an excellent reason to using this condom to gain "advantage."

Fair enough, good point. If the truth is you don't have much hope, then every little thought and action to deny that can help.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:32 PM on June 24, 2010


I mean, would you put a spring-loaded bear trap in your purse?

If it got stolen constantly, maybe.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:01 PM on June 24, 2010


There are some subjects that put me into a really dangerous place, and bragging serial rapists feature high on that list.

I think it's instructive that such a high percentage of the men rape. Someone had mentioned that this is how men in some areas see sex now, that rape is "normal." It's very important to distinguish the problem from the perpetrators. Even if you removed all the serial rapists, as you put it, the problem would persist, because it's not about sociopaths running loose. It's about a social norm of violence against women becoming acceptable, and "ordinary" people rape with such a norm. It's highly likely that most men in such a culture are serial rapists, but that it's not socially unacceptable. It's not like people deviating from social norms, which is what rapists are doing in, say, the US. It's not about the rapists, rather it's about the conditions which allow and encourage this to happen. It's really an aspect of social breakdown and devastating poverty, as I would not imagine this is how any healthy society could function.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:10 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I absolutely am on the page of not discouraging the use of this, or other deterrents, but simply questioning their effectiveness, and I certainly think it depends on where in Africa we're talking about. If it's the Congo, Rwanda or Liberia for example, I think a lot of the concerns about subsequent violence and multiple kinds of rape are relevant given how rape is used as a weapon during civil war by large groups of soldiers while various towns or camps are being attacked. Nicholas Kristof writes about this a lot for NYT (example).

If someone in a relatively stable African country is concerned about the scenario of being raped by a single person in a way that is more traditional of how we think of rape scenarios occurring in the United States (whether or not that's how they happen), then this tool might prove helpful, and I hope it's available for use. Even in those countries, however, I would question if police forces will follow through on arrests at hospitals, and if would-be rapists will be jailed.
posted by questionsandanchors at 6:10 PM on June 24, 2010


Looks like patriarchy might be good for something after all. That a pretty grim assessment, but I can't imagine there's anything as effective for creating that social norm as the fear of retribution from men offended that someone preyed on their family.

That is a ridiculous and insulting statement. Patriarchy is not "good" for preventing rape, give me a break. Law and order is good for preventing rape. Patriarchy is good for using things like rape as justification for things like honor killings and marrying off their prepubescent children to old men.

I'm amused at all the armchair quarterbacking going on in this thread, presumably by men who have never been threatened with sexual violence in their lives. What do you really know about the choices a victim makes before or after the second, third, fourth time they're assaulted? How do you know if it's "better" to anger a rapist or that revenge isn't important to these women above all else? These women will make their own choices about this device with full knowledge of the implications and you all sound ridiculous "worrying" about their safety. No one gives a shit about their safety, obviously.
posted by fshgrl at 6:14 PM on June 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


My apologies for not limiting my thoughts on this device to only South Africa.
posted by questionsandanchors at 6:15 PM on June 24, 2010


Fair enough, good point. If the truth is you don't have much hope, then every little thought and action to deny that can help.

During WWII the US distributed cheap handguns as insurgency weapons, the FP-45 Liberator. It was a terrible gun and had a very short range, but it was cheap and did the job. It was purported to be more of a psychological weapon, as there aren't many accounts of it being used in combat. It was the kind of thing you might really want if you're behind enemy lines, if not ideal by any means. It answers a specific need one might have in a difficult and perhaps desperate situation, in a blunt but efficient manner.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:24 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


My ex-wife used to go by v.dentata online.
posted by kalessin at 6:44 PM on June 24, 2010


I figure this happens to a rapist once, that he has to go to the ER once to get one of these fuckers removed...

I know several ER doctors, and if someone came in with something like this, and they do come in with much more dangerous contraptions down there, usually as the result of ill-considered solo questing, the doctor will call building maintenance to come up with a hacksaw.

These kinds of guys will probably find their own hacksaw, and, yes, they will probably lash out. But at conceivable times I might draw the line, and defend my boundaries without weighing the consequences. I think that a handgun might be better protection, for this purpose. How do they compare in cost, in the local market?
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:02 PM on June 24, 2010


To the people who don't understand how it could be used - it actually makes a lot of sense to me in the defense against acquaintance-rape, once you think about it. From what I've heard about this part of the culture (I have no first-hand knowledge, so correct me where I'm wrong) acquaintance-rape isn't even a mental category for many of the men of South Africa - women cannot mean it when they say no, so all sex can be justified as "consensual". This makes acquaintance rape something that women can't talk about.

Think about it - there's no taboo in the US against one of your acquaintances having sex [consent implied] with your sister, right? But there is a taboo against beating or murdering your sister. I would imagine that many cases of acquaintance rape are done by people who never intend to permanently damage the woman - or at least not damage in the way that would cause repercussions in their community - minor injuries like bruises or cuts might be easier for the woman to explain away rather than deal with the shame of being raped/accused of being a slut, but murder or severe brain damage cannot be explained away. Also, it might be hard for the woman to physically fight back against someone close to her, because it could be easily spun but the rapist into "crazy woman kicked her Dad's best friend in the head for no reason!" where as with a rape condom it is harder for him to blame her.

Unfortunately, I bet there are girls in the US and elsewhere that could also probably use this device. It all makes me sick.
posted by fermezporte at 7:26 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I'm amused at all the armchair quarterbacking going on in this thread, presumably by men who have never been threatened with sexual violence in their lives."

I am unhappy that my mother, my 3 sisters, my wife and women I don't know face the prospect of sexual violence. My not being threatened by sexual violence isn't the opposite of not being concerned for those that are.
posted by vapidave at 7:57 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


fermezporte makes a good point. Besides any deterrent to a crime of opportunity, this could give someone in a familial situation a pretty undeniable, "told you so."
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:05 PM on June 24, 2010


That is a ridiculous and insulting statement. Patriarchy is not "good" for preventing rape, give me a break. Law and order is good for preventing rape. Patriarchy is good for using things like rape as justification for things like honor killings and marrying off their prepubescent children to old men.

What does law and order even mean beyond absence of crime? It's a term we use to describe conditions when there are comparatively few violations of the law, it doesn't prevent anything. In other words, it's when the criminal law and the social norms are closely aligned. The statistics quoted clearly point to the social norms being the problem. It seems highly unlikely that South Africa with its overcrowded prisons and corrupt police will make a change in these norms solely through the administration of criminal justice. The more likely avenue to such a change in norms, if it should come about, is the men assuming responsibility for the safety of the women in their family and seeking retribution due to the personal offense, probably through the continuation of their tradition of vigilantism.

A few more statistics:

- A girl born in South Africa has around a one in three chance of completing secondary school, but she has a one in two chance of being raped.

- Rape is the least likely violent crime to be reported, and victims cite fear of reprisal as the commonest reason for not telling anyone. 33.3% give fear of reprisal as the main reason for not reporting.

- Less than 1% of rapes end in a successful prosecution.

A state of law and order is pretty much beyond the horizon at this point.
posted by BigSky at 8:14 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't read all this. Somewhere around the horrific statistics and quotes plus the stories of baby and child rape I began to feel like throwing up.

This place, South Africa, is where right now tens of thousands of (relatively wealthy) visiting World Cup viewers are celebrating wildly. Maybe each one should be taxed for an "anti rape fund" to help with prevention and support (and to educate all about the problem).

And ... maybe *everyone* entering the matches could be forced to buy a tshirt with a "respect women!" logo. The world has to help change the culture. This is too horrible to leave to this country alone.
posted by Surfurrus at 8:41 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


As reported by BBC in 2001, amidst an upsurge of baby rapes in South Africa (including the gang rape of a nine-month-old baby girl),

What in the fucking hell is wrong with people? :(
posted by zarq at 9:06 PM on June 24, 2010


fshgrl I'm amused at all the armchair quarterbacking going on in this thread, presumably by men who have never been threatened with sexual violence in their lives. What do you really know about the choices a victim makes before or after the second, third, fourth time they're assaulted?

There is a distinction between the motivation for an action, and the practicality of that action. How strongly the user of the device feels about it, and her reasons for using it, will not make it work or not work. If the device won't actually work in the manner and situation that she hopes, and she uses it anyway hoping it will, she will be more likely to be harmed than if she never actually used it at all. False hope is worse than no hope.

How do you know if it's "better" to anger a rapist or that revenge isn't important to these women above all else?

It might be better to anger a rapist but if the idea is to stop him from raping you it seems to me that it would be better to anger him before he's actually engaging in raping you. Secondly if revenge is important enough to risk her life for it why not make that revenge seriously worthwhile? This device seems very much less damaging than it could be. At worst/best it inconveniences a rapist when a very similar thing used in the exact same way could do a whole lot more harm to him.

These women will make their own choices about this device with full knowledge of the implications and you all sound ridiculous "worrying" about their safety. No one gives a shit about their safety, obviously.

Of course she has the right to decide whether to use it or not based on any reasons whatsoever, but your assumption that a given woman who uses it will have actually thought through the practical implications of using this viscerally appealing but apparently highly impractical device seems very unfounded to me. That's just not what human beings do. Very few people think properly through the implications of any course of action, or otherwise there wouldn't be a lot of things that there are (including rape). We all here, in our luxurious state of not having been at risk of suffering--or tempted to engage in--sexual violence are surely missing plenty of implications; I missed the "rapist turns it inside out and wears it" implication, for example. Strong emotional investment tends to worsen a person's ability to assess practical implications. The advice of an "armchair quarterback" is usually sneeringly dismissed on emotional grounds due to his inability to carry it out personally, and the fact that the advice is too late, not because of the correctness of the advice itself.

There's also the question of the ethics of giving out or selling these things to women who are in fear of rape, as a rape-prevention device, when whether it is in fact a rape-prevention device or just a "get beaten and raped instead of raped" device is still an open question. It might be. But it seems doubtful.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:28 PM on June 24, 2010


Well, let's be clear. Unless you think the threat of one of these will be a significant deterrent, this is not a rape-prevention device. By definition, it doesn't do anything until after the rape has already started. It's retributive.
posted by kafziel at 10:51 PM on June 24, 2010


Well, let's be clear. Unless you think the threat of one of these will be a significant deterrent, this is not a rape-prevention device. By definition, it doesn't do anything until after the rape has already started. It's retributive.

If it stops it from happening at that point, the distinction probably doesn't matter that much to the victim.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:11 AM on June 25, 2010


If the device won't actually work in the manner and situation that she hopes, and she uses it anyway hoping it will, she will be more likely to be harmed than if she never actually used it at all.

That is speculation. Let me cut your dick up and lets see how well you function.

It might be better to anger a rapist but if the idea is to stop him from raping you it seems to me that it would be better to anger him before he's actually engaging in raping you.

What? Do you think that prior to penetration, rape is a non-violent act? Do you think that women, teenagers, little girls, have the option of angering a rapist before rather than later? Do you think a victim should stop fighting once penetrated?

when whether it is in fact a rape-prevention device or just a "get beaten and raped instead of raped" device is still an open question.

I take it you've never met a rape victim. You've never met a person right after she's been raped. Right after she's been broken. You've never looked into the sobbing face of a woman curled in the fetal position whose sense of safety is forever lost.

It's not "raped" versus "raped then beaten." Because it's never just "raped." "Raped" is short-hand for "terrorized, brutalized, beaten, restrained, loss of all hope, penetrated, raped, humiliated, shamed, beaten some more, possibly impregnated, loss of all dignity, left to die." Never "just raped."

If it deters, then none of this happens. If it works, then it might become "terrorized, brutalized, beaten, restrained, loss of all hope, penetrated, raped, humiliated, shamed, beaten some more, possibly impregnated, loss of all dignity, left to die, slightest bit satisfaction."

Yes this is a visceral response, because this is a visceral topic. The act of rape is not a remotely rational act, so applying game theory will not work. Stop trying to rationalize around something that you know so little about.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:27 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


The "castle doctrine" is applied unevenly in the U.S., but setting an unmanned "burglar trap" in your house is generally considered to be illegal, even if it's on your own property.
Basically the reasoning is that you cannot use deadly force to protect property (see: Katko v. Briney).

However, 'faultless victims' are generally allowed to use deadly force to defend themselves against an immediate threat of grievous bodily harm or death. Some jurisdictions require that you attempt to remove yourself from the situation first ("retreat to the wall"), the idea being that deadly force should be a last resort. But there is usually no duty to retreat if you are in your own hope, being robbed, or raped.

Also, this device is not a deadly weapon. If you'll forgive the absurdity of the statement, you could probably use this device to boobie-trap your property.

From a legal standpoint, I would guess this device is roughly on par with pepper spray or a tazer (non-lethal self-defense weapons). However, unlike pepper spray or a tazer, which can both be used offensively, this device is almost by definition a defensive instrument. So if it is used on an assailant, there should be close to zero question about about whether it was used defensively.

Given that you would could be justified in shooting someone who was trying to rape you (in most situations), it's hard to imagine why a non-lethal, purely defensive device like this would run afoul of the law.

But this is probably all moot anyway, as the device is going to be used in South Africa, not the United States.
posted by Davenhill at 2:58 AM on June 25, 2010


No one gives a shit about their safety, obviously.

You're mistaken. Some people are concerned that the device may make them women less safe, resulting in physical and mental abuse and damage.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:16 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


What if it's anal rape? Seriously. If men know that there is a risk of getting stuck by one of these, wouldn't they just choose an alternative route?
posted by stormpooper at 6:29 AM on June 25, 2010


Well, South Africa is yet another country I'll be adding to my list of places I never, ever want to visit. Especially after reading the horrific quotes from infini upthread from the surveys done in SA.
posted by math at 6:31 AM on June 25, 2010


What if it's anal rape? Seriously. If men know that there is a risk of getting stuck by one of these, wouldn't they just choose an alternative route?

posted by stormpooper at 1:29 AM on June 26 [+] [!]

Would it be in bad taste to point out that this is eponysterical?
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:45 AM on June 25, 2010


Yes, it would be bad taste and also out of place in this thread.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:51 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lucky I asked.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:57 AM on June 25, 2010


on afterthought: apologies for that. just got back from a night on the town. bedways is rightways now.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:04 AM on June 25, 2010


I lived for a short time in a small town in South Africa in the early 90's and I've never come across anything like it anywhere else. The nature of the culture was that a great many men seemed to take it for granted that they could have sex with whoever they wanted to. Consent didn't even come into it - they would think very little of having a go with whoever they'd been talking to in the bar that evening. This behavior was beyond endemic, it was entirely normalized and was not by any means restricted to the townships. During that period, I was subject to more harassment and attempted assaults than at any other time in my life, from all sorts of men, as a matter of course.

Any rational debate of the practical and ethical risks around this product misses the point entirely. This is vigilantism for brutalized women in a society that scarcely even acknowledges the crime. Vagina dentata is a powerful symbol across many cultures, and its mass production is emblematic of the position of women in South African society. I can't honestly say I'm surprised that a doctor would make it her life's work to develop a product like this, out of righteous anger and desire for some sort of redress.

If I was still there, I would definitely have considered using one as a precautionary measure on a night out. It would be cheaper than packing heat.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 8:53 AM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Any rational debate of the practical and ethical risks around this product misses the point entirely.

Even if that debate is considering ways the use of this device could make it more dangerous for women?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:09 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Even if that debate is considering ways the use of this device could make it more dangerous for women?

This is the part that I don't get.

Rape is inherently very, very dangerous. Do you believe that women are ever raped without the threat of death or severe bodily harm? I submit that in every instance (save for drug-induced rapes, which is a different issue) that is the very threat that is faced. Death or severe bodily harm.

My point is, the when a woman resists, one of two things happen: (1) the attacker thinks its more trouble than its worth, then ends the attack; or (2) the attacker increases his violence commensurate. This means, in situation (2), that the more a woman resists, no matter what form it may take, results in an increase in the the likelihood of death or severe bodily harm.

This device increases the danger to a woman no more than a woman who is willing to continue fighting in the face of more violence or death.

Would you discourage a woman from kicking her attacker in the nuts? You know, that'll piss him off pretty bad. Discourage gouging his eyes? That'll upset him too! Discourage running away? Because he's going to have to disable you from trying to run away again, and that could include a pretty bad beating and possible breaking of bones. No, no -- resist just enough to avoid making your attacker fly into a righteous rage that could harm you even more. Don't increase the danger by fighting back.

Right?

This poor rationale, then -- the goal being to avoid making rape "more dangerous for women" -- simply encourages submission, and misses the point of what rape is: a violent and vicious act. I'm not sure you can make it any less dangerous.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:14 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's consensus that men's attitudes towards sex are at the root of this. But a survey shows near unanimous views of South Africans. Why do the men's views so closely correspond with the women's on the necessity to prosecute and punish when such a large proportion are self confessed rapists themselves? Is this just a moment of self consciousness when they're talking to a foreigner?
posted by BigSky at 10:15 AM on June 25, 2010


Why do the men's views so closely correspond with the women's on the necessity to prosecute and punish when such a large proportion are self confessed rapists themselves? Is this just a moment of self consciousness when they're talking to a foreigner?

My guess is that it's because the concept of "rape" is pretty flexible. So when all the guys are saying "yes, prosecute and harshly punish rapists," they are speaking about violent stranger-rape; they aren't thinking about date rape or other coercive situations where the woman is forced into acquiescing by someone she already knows. So a guy can simultaneously be a rapist (because he doesn't accept a "no" on a date, say) and believe that "rapists" should be castrated, because he isn't including himself in that category.

You see the same thing in the US, where the word "rape" conjures visions of knife-wielding attackers in the night, rather than the more common ways that consent is violated.
posted by Forktine at 10:39 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes rape is inherently dangerous and violent and a woman in danger of being raped is of course (and sadly) at risk for being beaten, mutilated, killed or eve worse. I am not advocating submission of the woman to such acts nor do I think anyone else in this thread is. That you and others have come to the conclusion is baffling and unfathomable.

What troubles me about this device is being taunted a rape defense and I don't see it as being such, either in the short or long term. It is restricting, hurting and probably embarrassing to a personality that is ok with rape. It seemingly harms or gives appearance of harm to the rapists genitals, which I'm totally fine with, but having know the insane rage of being kicked in the genitals (don't play soccer without a cup, seriously), I can't see any male that's ok with raping a woman, responding in sort of sane fashion should he be caught by this device. It's very, very easy to imagine things going considerably worse for the woman and that is the root of my concern about the device.

Long term, I also can't imagine a rapist simply checking for the device with a finger or some such or simply proceeding to anal rape, which could could even worse physical damage than vaginal rape.


I'd would love for this device to work. I'd love for woman not have wear such a device. But considering that it's being sold as "a revolutionary new product that aids in the prevention rapes", I'm having trouble believing it will do much good, for the reasons cited above. I would be happy to be wrong about that though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:10 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not "raped" versus "raped then beaten." Because it's never just "raped." "Raped" is short-hand for "terrorized, brutalized, beaten, restrained, loss of all hope, penetrated, raped, humiliated, shamed, beaten some more, possibly impregnated, loss of all dignity, left to die." Never "just raped."

If it deters, then none of this happens. If it works, then it might become "terrorized, brutalized, beaten, restrained, loss of all hope, penetrated, raped, humiliated, shamed, beaten some more, possibly impregnated, loss of all dignity, left to die, slightest bit satisfaction."


I agree with this definition of rape except that I'm pretty sure that much of the time actual beating is not involved. However, the terror of being beaten usually is.

Also, in the sicko's mind, the victim is not "left to die". He is more likely thinking "it's not that big of a deal, she'll get over it."

As far as the men admitting to rape, yet their views closely corresponding to women's on the survey, it could be that a lot of them deeply regret their youthful actions.
posted by serena15221 at 11:14 AM on June 25, 2010


Brandon Blatcher, the point I think you're missing is that these guys, the rapists, they AREN'T ok with rape. They aren't one of those horrible monsters who preys on the women of South Africa, they're just guys out for some fun. They don't want to proceed to anal sex, because they don't want to have anal sex. They want to have standard vaginal sex with this girl they picked up at a bar, you know, like blokes do, and it just simply isn't a part of their worldview that her protestations that she doesn't want to are meaningful.

This device is a way to give a woman's "no" some teeth, literally. I suspect that in the majority of cases where it was deployed, the rapist would be more baffled and confused than angry and retributive.
posted by KathrynT at 11:17 AM on June 25, 2010


According to the questions and answers page, the Rape-aXe will cause enough temporary pain to the rapist that he'll be incapacitated and the woman will thus have time to get away. The inventor compares the pain to that of patient who caught himself in a zipper and says it would be worse than that.

I'm curious now about how this was tested.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:21 AM on June 25, 2010


KathrynT, I think you're giving far too much credit to the decency of these men. They're not going to be baffled and confused about having a device surprisingly attached to their penis that they need a doctor to remove.

I'd be quite happy to be wrong about this though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:25 AM on June 25, 2010


"I'm curious now about how this was tested."

While you are pondering that think about how they test a shark bite suit:
I was watching one of those animal shows on the Discovery Channel. There was a guy inventing a shark bite suit. And there's only one way to test it. "Alright, Jimmy, you got that shark suit on, it looks good... They want you to jump into this pool of sharks, and you tell us if it hurts when they bite you." "Well, all right, but hold my sign. I don't wanna lose it."
posted by Mitheral at 12:30 PM on June 25, 2010


What troubles me about this device is being taunted a rape defense and I don't see it as being such, either in the short or long term.

Rape-aXe is not a defense, it is a deterrent. As others have pointed out, when Rape-aXe enters the equation, defensive measures have failed and all other bets are off. But it still has the potential to prevent rape by making a very real risk out of a very unpleasant fairy tale.

Ask any woman who has been seriously assaulted and seen her assailant go unpunished whether she would change that situation by inflicting even a fraction of the same pain and trauma, and my guess is that she would jump at the chance. Ask any man thinking of trying his luck if he wants have his dick mauled by an angry muff and I'll wager he will run a mile.

Rape-aXe is not a rational product because rape is not a rational crime, and rational thought is not a popular pastime in a culture addicted to violence. If this device goes mainstream and enters the South African public consciousness in any measurable way, then yes, it surely has the potential to prevent rapes from happening, and may even lead to more convictions in the future. But equally, its very existence is a manifestation of a dysfunctional and hopelessly damaged society, in which sexual violence is such an accepted fact of daily life, that whatever risk a woman runs in using it is meaningless when compared with the intolerable situation she has to live with.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 12:44 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


My point here is that in a society with where males assume that they can have sex with whomever they please and don't even regard it as rape, this device, which prevents them from what they wrongly feel that they have a right to do, will probably cause an escalation in violence.

Ask any man thinking of trying his luck if he wants have his dick mauled by an angry muff and I'll wager he will run a mile.

Really? If a male is that comfortable with the idea of having sex whenever they, won't they simply check for the Rape-aXe and then proceed?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:31 PM on June 25, 2010


My point here is that in a society with where males assume that they can have sex with whomever they please and don't even regard it as rape, this device, which prevents them from what they wrongly feel that they have a right to do, will probably cause an escalation in violence.

I don't think it could get worse. I have a hard time speculating negatively about something that is meant to protect women in extraordinarily dangerous environments, where other forms of self-defense may not be practical or work fast enough to help the most women today. I am giving the benefit of the doubt to the people involved, because I certainly don't have expertise in this area. And we don't have a precedent, except maybe chastity devices, but they weren't thought of like this. We should probably defer to them and their experience and immediate need for some remedy, even if it's crude.

I think it will end up being more symbolic than practical, and that's very useful in creating the catalyst that brings progress.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:31 PM on June 25, 2010


Really? If a male is that comfortable with the idea of having sex whenever they, won't they simply check for the Rape-aXe and then proceed?

It's usually a hasty act. Some might check. You could come up with a million "what ifs" to argue against this and still not help the women who are victimized so frequently.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:32 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a hard time speculating negatively about something that is meant to protect women in extraordinarily dangerous environments...

This is where the divide in understanding lies. What you and others see as speculating negatively, I see as as concern for the women because of well intentioned device that is none the less faulty.

If we can't understand that point and each other, then we don't have much to talk about.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:58 PM on June 25, 2010


There's definitely room for the discussion. I think I understand what you're saying, Brandon, and I think it's a valid point. I share some of that same conflict with you, and I don't think that it's wrong, in any way, to consider that the use of the device could potentially turn an already dangerous situation into an even more dangerous situation. It's true -- it could totally happen, and it would really suck. In fact, it probably would happen in a percentage of instances.

But there are also problems with giving in to that kind of fear and not taking a measure of precaution that is available. It's tricky shit.

I think a stumbling block for a lot of people is the knowledge that the opposite of fighting back is lying back and letting it happen, and that's just a worse scenario to a great many women. You resist somehow, or you don't -- those are the only two options.

I can easily imagine a man going completely berserk when he loses a sense of control while he's trying to rape his prey, but they do that anyway. That's what rape is all about. You're not allowed to resist without severe consequences, and in the moment, you're keenly aware of that.

Having some measure of control over it just feels right to some people. Maybe it's a false sense of control. Then again, maybe it works and you exact a little revenge. It's a coin-toss. It's a shitty coin toss, but it's one I can see a lot of women considering. Once you're overpowered you're not winning the battle, and you know it. Having some way to fuck him up is really just a way to not lose all the way.

But, shit, yeah. It's not a "good" option. It's a sucky option. Then again, what's the alternative?
posted by heyho at 1:32 AM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


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