real life

A designer has created some anti-rape underwear. But are they as unproductive as we think?

Earlier this month, a designer from Germany created a pair of shorts with the aim of protecting women from possible sex attacks while they are out jogging.

Complete with a lock for women’s intimate areas and an alarm to sound lest a stranger approaches, the shorts are made of the same material as bullet-proof vests and can only be cut by attackers. You can pick them up for about AU$215.

And if as you read that you felt a rising sense of unease, you’d be understood, if not totally exonerated.

In a world that consistently enables attackers by questioning the victims, and one where rape culture remains insidious, why are we spending our money, time and energy on things that don’t work towards prevention?

Why, as you have no doubt heard argued time and time again, is the onus on women to not get assaulted rather than on the men to not do the assaulting?

At the crux of it, of course, are those underlying ideas.  But what happens when the debate grows in complexity?

Business graduate, Sandra Seilz, decided to invent the trousers after she was attacked by three drunk men when she was jogging in the woods.

Image via Safe Shorts.

She no doubt understands the trauma of assault and has only the best of intentions. After all, our work in ensuring it's the perpetrators of violence who are demonised and not the victims did not save Seilz from attack. In the short-term, could these shorts been the only thing that would've saved Seilz from her ordeal?

Hundreds of women thought so -- the first 150 shorts were sold out immediately. Naturally, the demand raises an interesting conversation: What do we do in the short-term to prevent assault, while our long-term goals are still being navigated?

For many more women, the creation of these shorts does more harm than good. It misdirects the conversation and distracts from what's really, truly important.

As Daisy Buchanan wrote for The Pool this week, "the thing about rape is that it’s alarmingly easy to argue that protective underwear might make all the difference, until it’s your housemate, or your sister, or you."

It becomes easy for so many to assume in theory these may be the answer, but in practice and reality, it's perhaps an entirely different narrative.


"What kind of stupid joke is this? With a gun to your head or a knife to your throat, or any other threat to your life, you would take them off yourself," one wrote on Facebook about the pants.

Which in itself is profoundly important point. Rapists and attackers don't come in peace, nor do they come with the intention of diplomatically stripping their victims of their dignity and their autonomy. They come in violence to seek violence to perform violence. And when your life is at stake, strong underwear doesn't have the means to protect you.

Meshel talks about whether it is ever okay to joke about rape or sexual assault. Post continues after audio.

What should also be acknowledged is the idea that the trauma of rape doesn't have to be directly linked to the physical act of the assault. For many, the attempt and the scuffle and the intention does considerable damage too.

What's increasingly coming into the foray in this conversation is the realisation that it's not the first time anti-rape underwear have been created. In 2013, a New York clothing company pitched their product to crowdfunding site Indiegogo as "a clothing line offering wearable protection for when things go wrong". Within weeks, it raised AU$72,000.

Within three years, it's clear mindset nor public attitude have shifted enough. We're simply back to where we started and debating the victim, not the perpetrator. Perhaps if this was the first time such an item was invented, we could label it unproductive and a mistake and unhelpful.

But it being the second time? This just goes to show how far we really have to go.