Jen Thorpe
Jen Thorpe

The stupidest invention this century

I’m sure many a man has heard of the vagina dentata — a mysterious and powerful vagina with teeth that will devour a penis in seconds. It is a fearful picture to create in anyone’s mind, especially when the vagina is not like that at all. Somehow this crazy idea has been extended to build an anti-rape condom which its creator thinks will ensure the capture of rapists. In fact, what it will ensure is further violence against the victims (survivors) which that rapists chooses to rape. This is linear thinking at its absolute worst.

This anti-rape condom plays to several powerful myths about rape in South Africa. Firstly, it plays to the idea that your rapist is someone unknown to you — or as the creator calls it an “opportunistic sexual predator”. It creates the idea of scary men hiding behind every alleyway waiting to get you. In South Africa and around the world it is more common for the rapist to be someone you know. The fact that this is marketed as something that you can wear when you go to new areas is something that fuels the idea that it is only rape outside the home — a myth that must be dismantled for us to empower women to report their rape. It also plays into a myth that all rapists are mentally ill, or monsters. Rapists are not mentally ill — they are responsible for their crimes.

Second, the media has branded this as something that will ‘take the bite out of rape’. This suggests that for rape survivors the trauma starts and ends with penetration. This is not true. Many rape survivors experience symptoms which can be likened to the effects of going to war, and which fall under a broad description of Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS). If you read any survivor’s account of her/his experience you will find that although the act itself was incredibly traumatic, the long term trauma is caused by a lack of support and closure, and the lack of understanding about the impact of RTS.

What is also worrying about this development is that it is painful for the rapist and this is dangerous for the rape victim/survivor. I suppose the hope is that causing this pain will make it too painful for the rape to continue and so the survivor will be able to get away. The creator suggests that because the condom has to be surgically removed the perpetrator will have to be present at a medical facility and thus will be caught. The creator says that “he knows he will be in double trouble should he kill you” and so he’ll let you get away. This supports another myth: if a woman tries hard enough she can stop a rape. This is not always possible. Many women at the time are physically overpowered and psychologically disempowered from the sheer trauma of the rape. A woman is never responsible for her rape and we should never blame her for not getting away.

Rapists get away with rape because of a poor justice system, including poor support when/if the crime is reported and because there is so much stigma around reporting — the fact that he has some metal prongs in his penis is not going to make him run away — it is going to make him hurt the victim/survivor. The pain will make the experience more violent, or the perpetrator will fear being caught and so will be more physically violent with the victim/survivor. I think that this product will make the whole experience more dangerous for the survivor.

The device does not cause permanent damage to the rapist, so it does not prevent repeat offenders. It simply cuts the penis, which after surgical removal (or help from some friends) will heal and scar. What is the point of placing women at a higher risk of violence by encouraging them to wear this device? It is like saying she is in a position to negotiate her rape.

This ridiculous device has been created with very little understanding of the needs of rape survivors, or of rape in South Africa at all. My suggestion is that if someone offers one of these things to you (because they hope to be distributing them for free), you throw it away or keep it as evidence of poor thinking and understanding.

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This is written in my own personal capacity. It is not a representation of the opinion of all NGOs or any particular organisation.