Welcome to the World Cup; here's your spiked condom. At the soccer tourney in South Africa, the inventor of the Rape-aXe antirape system (formerly known as Rapex) plans to give away 30,000 of the condoms for free.
Dr. Sonnet Ehlers came up with the concept for Rape-aXe — a latex sheath with "razor-sharp barbs" — after hearing a sexual assault victim say "if only it had teeth down there." A noble notion, but in reality, Rape-aXe sounds sort of scary, not to mention misguided:
The device is worn in her vagina like a tampon. When the attacker attempts vaginal penetration 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.
Better identification and prosecution of sexual attackers is certainly an issue that needs addressing, but is Rape-aXe the answer? Given that it's being launched in South Africa, which historically has one of the highest incidences of rape in the world, Rape-aXe could be read as a desperate measure or a deleterious gimmick. Here's why.
As Lara Williams writes in the Guardian, "Advocating placing a foreign object inside your body as a matter of course places the prevention of rape, once again, squarely with women." Given that women are often held accountable for rape, even by fellow women, a victim wearing this device could be branded with the dreaded "she was asking for it."
Rape-aXe can thwart an attack and physically punish the criminal, but how would a woman know she needs to be wearing one? I'd rather see more preventative and educational measures, for both men and women, aimed at stopping sexual assault in the first place. It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction the Rape-aXe handouts prompt at the World Cup, but until then, tell me what you think.