Jayzus in a jetpack. So much has happened since last we spoke that I’m just going to ignore it all and proceed straight to the latest installment of the Anti-Rape Device Chronicles.
You know the Anti-Rape Device Chronicles, right? A long and sordid history attends the battle for dudely control over the problematic human vagina. The timeline so far:
Middle Ages: Chastity belts are implemented by jealous brutes to enforce feminine purity against other jealous brutes. Or are they?
1996: British historians debunk as myth the notion that medieval chastity belts ever existed as anything other than 19th century “curiosities for the prurient or jokes for the tasteless.”This dude writes a scholarly analysis of the mythology. The chastity belt naturally finds its niche as a corny prop in the BDSM community, where it is anything but an anti-rape device.
2000: The “killer tampon” is invented by South African septuagenarian Jaap Haumann. Quoth he, “I designed a hard cylindrical plastic core which contains the spring blade, which slices when pressed against. […] When the rapist attacks the woman and penetration takes place, the point of his penis will touch the section containing the blade and it (the penis), or at least a part of it, is sliced off.” Haumann notes that South Africa is the rape capital of the world.
2005: A now-defunct website announces “FemDefense,” a spike-equipped vaginal insert reminiscent of, but slightly less disfiguring than, Haumann’s dick mutilator. The imaginary FemDefense and its faux marketing campaign turns out to be a conceptual art project by Swedish artist Leif Lindell; the “product” is never manufactured but makes the rounds on the feminist blogosphere, prompting a profusion of whataboutthemen whingeing. Photo here.
2005 again: Sonnet Ehlers, a South African activist, invents RapeX (later changed to RapeAxe). This is a hollow vaginal insert with lined with barbs. “When the attacker attempts vaginal penetration,” says Ehlers, “the barbs attach themselves to the penis, causing great discomfort. The device must be surgically removed, which will result in the positive identification of the attacker and subsequent arrest.”
2006: Production of Rapex “delayed” by squeamish dick preservationists.
2010: The newly renamed RapeAxe is in the news again when Ehlers announces plans to hand out 30,000 of them for free at South Africa’s World Cup.
Today: Blamer Sandi emails me (thanks, Sandi!) with a link to the 2010 Gizmodo story; I fail to notice the date and commence writing this post as though it were breaking news, quite forgetting that we discussed the subject last year in the comments of this post.
Well, untimely though it be, you get this post anyway, because it’s the one I wrote.
So. Consider a minor shift of focus in the wonderful world of rape culture. First there is this imaginary chastity belt, which leaves nothing to the imagination in terms of the 19th century woman’s moral status: a whole mythos erupts around the idea of medieval dudes asserting ownership of their women by literally locking up the only thing about them that matters. You can still rape, though, you just need a key.
Scroll down to the 21st century. Haumann, Lindell, and Ehlers’ devices are more victim-oriented. They don’t prevent rape, but they do suggest instantaneous unpleasant consequences for rapists. Therefore they are controversial.
But why should that be? Are we, as a society, pro-rapist?
Heck yeah we are.
Historically, society tolerates rape because it is more or less consistent with the Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women, but the idea that rape might conceivably involve violence against rapists is just too shocking. Judging by the many comment threads discussing RapeAxe, a significant contingent of Internetians believe that women possess neither sufficient personal bodily sovereignty nor sufficient personal integrity to be trusted with such a device.
Concern trolls pretend to worry that dick-blood might harm the rape victim (more than a rape, apparently), or that the device might make the rapist madder than he already is, or that it’s sending the wrong message and promoting the dreaded “victim mentality” to tell women to be prepared for rape at any moment. The squeamish dick preservationists object that dick mutilation is “just wrong,” that RapeAxe is “vindictive,” and of course that women are evil and will surely be unable to resist using it to injure innocent men who prong in ignorance.
The objectionable violence is interpreted as originating, not with the rapist, but with the vengeful woman who has deployed the barbaric peen-shredding RapeAxe.
Pah. The thing that would prevent any and all peen-shredding is the thing that nobody can fathom: keeping it their pants.
I’ve commented before that this RapeAxe thing is a pretty compelling little gizmo. It can’t prevent rape, but at least it theoretically improves the chances of a conviction. And of course the agony it inflicts on the rapist is conceptually satisfying and poetically justical. And it dovetails so neatly with my wacko consent scheme. Theoretically, anyone equipped with one of these little dealios abides, unlike you or me, in a persistent state of having said “no.” Only removal of the RapeAxe can switch on consent. No ambiguity. Simple as that.
But alas, after considering it lo these many years, I can’t say I have high hopes for its efficacy. Enterprising rapists could easily game the system. For example, it would be the work of an instant for a dude with a gun to force his victim to remove it. In the end, whatever measures a woman takes to keep assholes from assaulting her, some chumpass perv will figure out how to circumvent them. Women can’t prevent rape.
Like the feminist email forward says: preventing rape is easy: just don’t rape anybody, stupid.