Rape-aXe: Empowering or Terrifying?

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In South Africa, the rates of rape and violence against women are among the highest in the world.

In 2010, Dr. Sonnet Ehlers created a way for women to protect themselves.

Rape-aXe is a female condom inserted like a tampon, with one big difference – this condom has teeth-like hooks that will attach to a man’s penis during penetration. He cannot walk, urinate or remove the device without a trip to the doctor. If he tries to remove it himself, it will only clasp tighter.

Ehlers planned to distribute 30,000 of these little rape stoppers to various cities in South Africa over the World Cup in 2010 for free, stating that after the trial period, they would be available for purchase for around $2.

Ehlers reportedly spoke with various engineers, psychologists and gynecologists to make sure the device was safe to use before distribution. In a country where some women take extreme measures to protect themselves from rape, such as inserting razor blades into their bodies to harm potential attackers, the rape stopper seems like a more reliable alternative, though not all are convinced.

Some argue that the Rape-aXe constantly reminds women of their vulnerability, instilling fear rather than empowerment. Others say that it could elicit a more violent response from attackers, putting victims of rape in a potentially more dangerous situation than if they had chosen not used the Rape-aXe. We wonder how effective the Rape-aXe has proven to be since its release in 2010, but as far as we can tell, feedback is lacking.

It goes without saying that the device will not prevent rape or help with the psychological trauma that arises after an attack, but in a country where a woman is raped every 17 seconds, there should be something she can do to protect herself, and rape-aXe just might be a tool that gives a woman a sense of safety and empowerment.

But it begs the question: Do we really need this?

The Rape-aXe website says, “If men can use their bodies as a weapon of attack, well, it’s time for women to do the same.”

What do you think? Do you think Rape-aXe provides a false sense of security? Or is this a woman’s best defense against rape?

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About Author

Ellen wanders. She wandered her way through Europe in 2007 during a semester abroad in Madrid, then through parts of the South Pacific after college graduation, and spent a year in South and Central America during 2010. Most recently, she went on a solo adventure south of the border to research and write the travel guidebook Go Girl Guides: Mexico.

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