One one hand we’re told to take all precautions possible, on the other, told not to adapt to a violent culture.
You might remeber Feministing reporting on the “rape trap” anti-rape device being introduced in South Africa in response to their astronomical rates of sexual violence. Once an artistic concept developed by a Swedish woman “to contribute to the debate on men’s sexual violence against women in society,” this tampon from hell is becoming a reality in a country where over 50,000 rapes occur in a year.
The tampon-like device, invented by a woman, supposedly protects women from rapists by cutting into a man’s penis.
It has sparked an empassioned debate over the high number of rapes committed each day in the country and the authorities’ apparent failure to tackle the issue.
Activists are outraged and want to stop it going on sale alongside tampons in chemists and supermarkets next month.
…The device, which Sonette Ehlers, its inventor, has patented, is worn like a tampon but is hollow. In the event of a rape, she said that it would fold around the rapist’s penis and attach itself with microscopic hooks. It is impossible to remove the clamped device without medical intervention.
“We have to do something to protect ourselves. While this will not prevent rape, it will help identify attackers and secure convictions,” Ms Ehlers told the Johannesburg Star.
Women’s groups were immediately outraged by the introduction of this product to store shelves, beginning a debate quite like the one we are having on the very topic this week:
“This is a medieval instrument, based on male-hating notions and fundamentally misunderstands the nature of rape and violence against women in this society,” said Charlene Smith, one of South Africa’s most prominent campaigners against rape.
“It is vengeful, horrible, and disgusting. The woman who invented this needs help.”
The inventor of the device, Sonette Ehlers insisted she did not hate men.
“Something needs to be done, and women are crying out for me to go ahead,” she told the BBC’s World Today programme.
Ms Ehlers has patented the tampon-sized device, and expects it to go on sale next month.
Lisa Vetten, of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) said it was “a terrifying thought that women are being made to adapt to rape by wearing these devices”.
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.
But the inventor insisted: “I’m not an educator – I will go for those they can’t educate.
The question seems to be whether or not women should adapt. Women’s groups say no, women aren’t raping themselves, it is the men who need education. And interestingly enough, they believe that the use of such a device is misandrist toward rapists (?). Perhaps I’m missing something. Others believe that whatever is necessary to protect oneself should be employed, be it pepper spray or barbed tampons. In South Africa, a woman has a greater chance of being raped in her lifetime than learning how to read.
I don’t know what sort of value to place on this concept, other than to say that the idea that a woman’s last resort is an anti-rape device inserted into the vagina because rape and sexual assault are so prevalent is absolutely horrifying. As Jessica of Feministing asks, have we given up the idea that men can willfully stop raping women?
These things do not occur in a vacuum. Rape is systematically used against women and children as an act of war. Myths prevail, primarily in regions of the African continent, that sex with a virgin will cure a person of HIV/AIDS, accounting for the alarming rate of baby and child rapes in the region.
The overwhelming question is Why? In part, the culture of violence is a legacy of apartheid.
At the root of the problem, says Dr Rachel Jewkes, a senior scientist with the South African Medical Research Council, is men’s attitude towards women.
“In South Africa you have a culture where men believe that they are sexually entitled to women. You don’t get rape in a situation where you don’t have massive gender inequalities.
One of the key problems in this country is that people who commit rape don’t think they are doing anything wrong.”
Is this a problem that can be solved with barbed tampons or education? Neither? Both? I don’t know either way. But this makes my chest ache.
HT: Feministing and Krista