August 31, 2005


We've got you now, rapists! (Via Metafilter.)
A South African inventor unveiled a new anti-rape female condom on Wednesday that hooks onto an attacker's penis and aims to cut one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the world.

"Nothing has ever been done to help a woman so that she does not get raped and I thought it was high time," Sonette Ehlers, 57, said of the "rapex," a device worn like a tampon that has sparked controversy in a country used to daily reports of violent crime....

The device, made of latex and held firm by shafts of sharp barbs, can only be removed from the man by surgery, which will alert hospital staff, and ultimately, the police, she said.
Who hasn't vaguely envisioned this invention?

I think just knowing some women are wearing these things ought to be enough to deter rapists, a bit like the way some folk's having guns in the house lowers the rate of burglary and benefits all of us.

UPDATE: Complete your ensemble with the "No Contact Jacket."


Freeman Hunt said...

Okay, how many other people instantly thought of the book "Snow Crash" upon reading this?

Independent George said...

Isn't this a bit like the old chastity belts?

Ann Althouse said...

Chastity belts didn't clamp onto the penis and require surgical removal.

Freeman: That title comes up in the Metafilter comments.

Elliott said...

Definitely "Snow Crash". Does the inventor have to share any royalties or license fess with Stephenson?

Brendan said...

Suddenly, I feel queasy.

Steve Donohue said...

I almost started crying when I read that.

Good idea though.

Troy said...

It sounds like a cross between Lo-Jack and that monster/asteroid the Millennium Falcon flies out in the Empire Strikes Back -- excuse me: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

I hope it works though. Even the fear or urban legends surrounding the device could deter.

Kevin S. said...

But what of the clever Bobbits?

Zone-5 said...

I immediately thought of "Aeon Flux" -- there's a section in the book (not the TV show by my memory; the book was subtitled The Herodotus File) that shows a surgically implanted knife-like device that if activated would likely achieve an amputation.

In the same book, I believe, there was also depicted a microscopic mechanical contraceptive that "hunted down" the sperm cells. It's been years since I read that, though. But perhaps possible through nanotechnology -- any Madison biotech leaders working on that?

lindsey said...

How horriffic must South Africa be that women there have to arm their vaginas? Imagine every time you leave your house or even in your house, having to arm your vagina because rape is so common.

Ann Althouse said...

Lindsey: Yes, it's strange to think of feeling so endangered you'd put one of these things in. I'd rather carry a weapon and just kill an attacker before he gets as far as he'd have to get into a rape for the rapex to do anything to stop the attack.

And, to be practical, couldn't the attacker feel for the thing and yank it out? Or use a different orifice?

HaloJonesFan said...

>And, to be practical, couldn't
>the attacker feel for the thing
>and yank it out? Or use a
>different orifice?

Or get ticked off and kill the woman. The benefit of the Snow Crash dentata is that it subdues the attacker rather than harming him.

On the other hand, South Africa has an interesting arms race going on. Crooks were carjacking people, so the people started locking their car doors. The crooks started shooting the driver through the window, so the drivers installed flamethrowers in the doors. Crooks now buy bigger guns, and shoot the driver from the sidewalk.

Freeman Hunt said...

Geeze. Those are some tenacious carjackers. I think I would have begged off after people installed the flamethrowers.

Diane said...

Yeah, but rapists already don't have much regaurd for women.
Picture this:

Rapist is looking for action sees a woman, decides to rape her. Now imagine that the woman he was "putting in her place" just exposed him and left him with some serious pee-pee pain.

What if he reacts violently. I don't think it is much of a stretch to say that he might kill the woman.

Give me a gun over that thing any day of the week. If he is going to rape me, I plan to hit him so hard that he can't retaliate further. I don't plan to leave the monster wounded and able to seek revenge.

Simon Kenton said...

Lindsey, Ann, it's worth noting that in South Africa, in most of sub-Saharan Africa, the combination of violence and the HIV infection rate means rape has a high priority of being a death sentence.

My daughter leaves for Africa tomorrow, and I am following the primary parental rule: shut up.

Ann Althouse said...

Diane: The one thing about the Rapex is that it would work for a woman who has difficulty actively attacking. There are in fact many self-defensive things a woman could do with her bare hands, but you have to have the presence of mind and the nerve to do them. This thing is a last resort for a passive or terrified person. It also works to catch the man, because he must go to a surgeon to have it removed.

Karl said...

A similar device (with a concept picture) was mentioned a few months back.


Sebastian said...

I'd rather carry a weapon and just kill an attacker before he gets as far as he'd have to get into a rape for the rapex to do anything to stop the attack.

This may not be an option for women in South Africa. My understanding is their government, in response to the high crime rate, has restricted the carrying of arms by civilians, which, of course, has no effect on the criminals.

I also can't imagine how such a device could be made not to be a hazard to the wearer, or a forgetful wife's poor husband.

bill said...

fyi, the dentata passage from Snow Crash

Meade said...

Sebastian said... I also can't imagine how such a device could be made not to be a hazard to the wearer, or a forgetful wife's poor husband.

A good point. Yet as a positive side effect, more husbands might suddenly become more considerate in their lovemaking strategies, taking their time and engaging in conversation and foreplay before jumping right into coitus. I've heard that women dig that sort of thing and who knows - the very change in the guy's approach might jog her memory that there is a little something she needs to remove before completely surrendering to their mutual desires.

Kirk Parker said...

Sebastian is spot on. Sadly, South Africa has decided to follow England (and, to a lesser extent, Australia) in using the law to enforce victim disarmament.

michael a litscher said...

Ann Althouse: I'd rather carry a weapon and just kill an attacker before he gets as far as he'd have to get into a rape for the rapex to do anything to stop the attack.


I've been making pilgrimages to Madison a couple of times a year for the last few years in order to get concealed carry passed in Wisconsin.

I've already taken the class and passed the test. I've also applied for, and received, a Minnesota permit to carry. I've applied for a Florida permit, which should arrive in my mailbox within the next few weeks.

Between those two permits, I'll be legal to carry concealed in 28 states, none of which I've lived in, and only some of which I've visited.

But not in my home state of Wisconsin. I've got Chvala, Risser, Sherman, and Doyle to thank for that.

Simon Kenton said...

I teach personal protection classes, and have several times taught woman-only classes. About a third of the women in those classes had been victims of rape. You never touch them (as for instance, to adjust a stance or demonstrate trigger control) without asking permission first. And they are the most focussed students you will ever encounter. I take a certain amount of crap about this from liberals. My response is, "Why should they have to go through it twice? What's wrong with a violent man dying to keep them from being raped again?"

Goesh said...

On the other hand, who would want a rapist stuck to them? It would be like having an instant, huge wart grow on you. He would be thrashing and hollering and hitting and would probably have body odor and bad breath and what if the ambulance had a flat tire waiting to take the both of you to the ER for surgery? This inventor needs to include in the kit a large scissors with a stout string attached to hang around the neck, thus the victim could free herself of the unwanted appendage.

Noumenon said...

And, to be practical, couldn't the attacker feel for the thing and yank it out? Or use a different orifice?

Ann -- I came into the comments looking for that one insightful objection about what you might have overlooked. You supplied it yourself. And with style.

Goesh -- That's not what I was looking for when I came in, but I love it!

Lanny said...

I'm glad to see that effort has been made to put a stop or at least decrease the number of rapes occurring. I am physically quite strong but I know that realistically it is very difficult to fight off an attacker, particularly when surprised so I say anything goes in defense and prevention. I think the punishment for committing crimes needs to be made much more severe in order to deter these creeps from doing this. If castration is too difficult of a method to pass then perhaps hormone injections would do it.

hunnybunbun said...

ever watch killer condom i bet they stole that idea oh poor guy that has the b*tch gurlfriend n decides to " get back at him" or sumthing better limit sumthing or alot of guys that said "maybe u are getting a little fat" or sumthing like that are gonna lose alot eww that is really harsh barbs and hooks in one of the most sensitive parts of the male body u kno it had to be some old lady that invented this i hope theres alot of guys on the approval board

Topanse said...

Rapist will go around the Rapex. Rapists would raping his victims through her anus or her mouth instead of her vagina. So do women have to protect all of her holes? I think carjacking incidents are perfect example of how people will always look for other ways. Rapists won't give up. If I have to walk by myself in dangerous area, I am better off wearing barbs wire wrapping all over my body instead of wearing Rapex.

Keeka2 said...

According to the product's designer, the device is shaped like a normal (more or less) female condom on the outside - thus it does not hurt the woman nor does it stay there one it has 'hooked on'. It can only be removed by inserting the back of the applicator so the rapist cannot remove it (unless he has an applicator I suppose). Wearing the device also reduces the risk of HIV infection which is quite high in South Africa. As for the person who opts to kill the rapist - they may be dispicable people, but have you considered the phsycological and emotional effects of taking the life of another human being? Especially considering that person could be a family member or even a boyfriend? Rape is South African is alarmingly common. You get every form of it here - from date rape to full on sexual assault. Unfortunately, the law is designed to protect everyone - even criminals. Therefore maiming an attacker with a gun will likely result in the rapist getting 3 years (if he's even caught) and you getting 5-10 for 'intent to kill'. If you did actually kill him, you'd likely get man 1. It sounds twisted but that's the way it works. An apparently the device will cause enough pain to distract the attacker long enough for his victim to get away (so hopefully he wont do too much to further harm her). Also, the device is invisible from the outside so he has no real way of knowing if its there. Hopefully, the thought of this device being a possibility will deter future attacks and help keep South African woman safe. I am a South African woman and I know what it's like to live here.

Lindsey: Yes, rape is common. But you can usually avoid it if you keep yourself safe. Stick to areas that are secure when you are alone, have company (preferably male) when you are in a worse area. Basically use your common sense. Of course this does not guarantee that you will be free from worry, but it helps.

Halojonesfan: I dont know who your source is but that is the funniest story I've heard in ages. As a South African, I can honestly say that I've never heard of flame throwers being fitted to cars to ward off carjackers. If you read an article or something to that effect, it was likely a specific case where one person had enough. Most South Africans use mace, anti-carjacking devices and immobilizers. ;) And they skip red robots after 12 o' clock at night if there's no oncoming traffic and they are in a bad area.

Simon Kenton: I am a 23 yr old woman living in South Africa and have never had too many problems with crime in this country. Yes, it can be dangerous, but if you keep your wits about you you can usually come out on tops. Tell your daughter to use her common sense and remember that things can get really bad if she lets them - rather be paranoid than raped or dead. Never take lifts from strangers, stay out of 'bad' areas (such as townships and shabeems and down town areas)unless you have a varified guide and watch your back when you go out with friends. Same basic priniciples that apply all over the world - but just with a little more paranoia. I do not know what part of Africa she is going to, but I'm sure she will be careful and will be able to enjoy her time here.

karl: this is what the device looks like, not the strange looking drawing you posted.

I am not saying the device is good or bad, I'm just filling in a few more details. It's likely to have its downsides and upsides and hopefully it will result in a safer country for all the woman who live here.

Alexis said...

I think knowing that a woman might wear this thing ought to be enough to deter any man wanting sex - consensual or not.

Seriously, though: The anti-rape condom has so many holes (conceptually) - I'm not sure I can cover them all, but here's a few.

First of all, any method of self-defense that relies on pain alone is fundamentally flawed, because not all attackers are equally sensitive to pain. The average rapist is probably high on adrenaline. It is well known that adrenaline and other hormones released in stressful situations diminish sensitivity to pain. Many drugs also do, some to the extent that users wouldn't feel a broken arm. If the pain, however, is not severe enough to really disable the attacker, then - though it's improbable that he'll continue with the rape - he'll have ample opportunity to pay the victim back (from his point of view).

Second, a rapist could remove the trap. It is claimed that the only way to remove it is using the applicator (which obviously contradicts the claim that it stays on an attacker's penis), but it wouldn't be difficult for a man to acquire one, or use another object for removal. Granted, this may distract him for a few seconds and allow her to try another method of self-defense, or to run away.

Third, if there's more than one attacker, this condom will take out at most one, in addition to making all of them angry (rsp. angrier).

Experts agree that rape is mostly about violence, less about sex, which leads to the fourth and maybe worst objection. Most rapists rape because they have a grudge against women in general, or the victim in particular, or the social group to which the woman belongs, or some other woman the hate against whom they project on the victim (often his mother), or her husband/father etc.. So the sexual pleasure for the attacker is one of the less important elements of rape, the pain and humiliation inflicted through forced penetration of the victim being much more important. This means that the rapist could also just use some unanimated object for the act of penetration - a stick, a thin pipe, a bottleneck, the rear end of a torch light, the handle of a knife (the blade in more brutal cases), etc. Case in point: One of the worst serial killers in history, Andrei Chikatilo, who killed 52 women and children, was impotent and is said to have raped many of his victims with a knife. Whatever it is, I'd expect all of these items to cause more severe injuries than an erect penis, but if this is a way to avoid contracting HIV during rape, some women may be willing to take this risk.

To sum it up, I'd recommend pepper spray (when sprayed into the eyes, blinds in addition to causing pain), stun guns (paralyze for up to 30 seconds in addition to causing pain), self-defense training or even firearms where they are legal over this contraption any time. At best, this can be a helpful addition to a larger self-defense strategy. At worst, it makes the victim's life harder. In any case, it's no silver bullet, and the wearer should be thankful if it turns out to be even as much as a rubber bullet (no pun intended). As Ann Althouse said - a last resort when everything else fails.

Memphis Steve said...

When this thing hits America I guarantee it will be used for revenge on ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands. What will the law do to a woman who lures a man into having consensual sex with her only to sexually mutilate him with this? Will she be charged? I guarantee not. She'll just change her story after the fact and claim rape, having her victim charged, like John Bobbitt. Whatever is going on in South Africa, I know how this torture device will be used in the States. It won't be used on rapists. It will be used on men who trust a hateful woman they once loved. Wait and see.

Tom Goodwin, G.G. said...

It will be interesting to see if and how the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the USA approves this device. The standard is that it has to be "safe and effective." One can only imagine the difficulty of doing clinical trials involving it!

lozanod said...

Everyone on the internet is an expert, eh?

Try this at home, all of you detractors who are obviously tactical experts; Go find a needle and try to punch a punching bag after you jab yourself in the penis with the needle.

If you succeed, try 10 needles.

Those of you relating this to escalation; what do you recommend?

Playing dead in a fetal position?

Since when did the human race become so afraid of fighting against evil?

Caroline said...

Has anyone ever thought that woman might use this for the wrong reasons? Say they mass produce this device, then anyone can buy it. What if a woman seeking revenge on a certain guy uses the Rapex to satisfy her anger? She could possibly ruin a man's life. How do we know anyone will use it properly?

BrantWellsTFC said...

Well, this device will definitely cause pain for the rapist. It won't be like a swift kick in the groin where the pain eventually subsides. This pain will be intense and continual under a doctor puts him under to remove it.

But yeah, I also agree a woman could use it to get back at an ex or whoever. Next thing ya know, there's gonna be more female rapists (and they do exist and they can rape men if you do your research).

Derek said...

This is just a bad idea. Maybe it's cool in Africa but if this hits the US then it will be bad. These better not ever make it on to American shelves. Too many people WILL abuse these, I know that it could help some Americans but it will do more harm than good. Too many men will be victimized with this and don't think for one second an entire gender has it coming.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with this idea. I have no objection to women defending themselves against Rape, even being a Man myself i still think its a disgusting thing to do, but the problem here is that its like keeping a knife on you for personal safety;

If someone attacks you for your purse then they will most likely punch or beat you for it. Leave you injured but usually not dying.

But, if someone tries to attack you and you pull a knife out for defence, they feel threatened and will get more violent, likely turning the knife of their knife on you.

Same principle with the RapeX. If a rapist goes to rape you then usually he will and then he will leave. Im aware that rape can sometimes result to murder, and that obviously rapists are not gentle, but there are two majorly bad outcomes to think about.

First; the Rapist goes in, it snags him, but the adrenaline and rage created is enough for him to overpower the pain, or for example, he has pinned you down and weighs too much for him to escape whilst stunned.
Then, you are in serious trouble. You do not want to be in a mans way after just having harmed his Manlihood.

The second, and very likely outcome, as someone mentioned earlier about carjackers, is that criminals will find a way.

Make it idiot proof, and someone will invent a better Idiot.

Rapists in Africa, if this product is used widely, will learn this.
And may go in, maybe first with their fingers, to check. At this point, if they do find you to be wearing one, you once more have a very angry and violent rapist, who remains unharmed and ready to kill you.

Overall, its a good concept, but in reality it just wont work. when stopping rape you cannot harm the rapist, but more of block the passage.

A chastity belt or a pair of steel locked underwear would be a much better idea to be honest.