Where sexual violence prevention starts.
A new female condom made in South Africa is being marketed as “rape prevention”. The condom, which has teeth on the inside, attaches to the penis when inserted into the vagina – and can only be removed by a doctor. This product has a lot of benefits: it can prevent pregnancy and the contraction of some STIs, it will help to catch and prosecute perpetrators, and it may be very empowering for women who wear it. I applaud Dr. Sonnet Ehlers on her efforts.
But let’s be clear on one thing: this product does not prevent rape. It prevents only one specific form of penetration. Marketing it as otherwise contributes to a false understanding of what is sexual violence is and the trauma caused by any unwanted sexual contact.
Let’s contrast this with an anti-rape ad from Scotland, called “Not Ever”:
See I think sexual violence prevention is not just penetration prevention. It has to start at the source: rape culture. Cara, from The Curavature, sums it up pretty well:
Here is what I love about this ad: it treats rape apologist attitudes as a problem, regardless of whether or not they refer to a specific rape. There is no indication in the commercial that the woman has actually been raped. There is no indication that she will be raped. There is no indication that the man who makes the “she’s asking for it” comment is actually planning on raping her, or anyone else, for that matter. And still, in spite of all of this, his comments are dangerous, they have a real impact, and they are worthy of our attention. They’re worthy, in fact, of a PSA about how incredibly fucked up they are. All on their own.
Here’s what else I love about this ad: while there’s no indication whatsoever that the man is a rapist, there’s no way to tell for sure that he’s not, either. As Thomas has pointed out many times at Yes Means Yes, while not all men who make rape apologist jokes are rapists, rapists do tend to make rape jokes and apologist comments. Leaving the man’s motives up to interpretation thus manages to do two important things: tell guys who aren’t rapists but think that rape is something fun to joke about that it’s not, as well as tells guys that if their friend is making these types of comments, you should probably point out that it’s not cool. As bystander behavior is incredibly important, I have to say that I love this potential dual effect.
So what do you think about the female condom and the “Not Ever” campaign? Where does sexual violence prevention start in your life or in your activism?