One New York company is hoping to combat sexual assault in a very specific way -- by developing "AR Wear," a line of undergarments that are difficult to remove forcefully from a woman's body. The clothing items, which look a lot like Lululemon tiny workout shorts, use cut-resistant straps and webbing to prevent an outsider from ripping them off.
The garments are being crowd-funded through IndieGogo and are causing quite a bit of controversy. Though the company explicitly states that "the only one responsible for a rape is the rapist and AR Wear will not solve the fundamental problem that rape exists in our world," they go on to say that the products were developed "so that women and girls could have more power to control the outcome of a sexual assault."
Despite the fact that the AR founders seem to have good intentions, their mission to "offer some peace of mind in situations that cause feelings of apprehension, such as going out on a blind date, taking an evening run, 'clubbing,' and traveling in unfamiliar countries," seriously misses the mark. Slate's Amanda Hess calls the undergarments "elegant chastity belts" and points out (sarcastically) that "nothing makes a woman feel comfortable in her own body like a constant physical reminder that she's expected to guard her genitals against potential sexual assaults at all times."
AR Wear inadvertently puts the onus -- yet again -- on potential victims to "protect" themselves. Perhaps there are women out there who would feel safer walking into a club or a first date with these undergarments on. However, the company's mission statement ignores the fact that 73 percent of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, oftentimes a close friend or romantic partner. The vast majority of women who are raped are not attacked by strangers in foreign countries or by a random man they decided to meet for the first time offline -- the situations that AR Wear's founders point to as the times when their products would be most useful. Plus, let's not forget that there are lots of ways to hurt and abuse a woman -- sexually or otherwise -- even if you can't get her underwear off.
Ultimately, encouraging women to buy products to prevent being assaulted doesn't really solve anything. As Think Progress' Tara Culp-Ressler wrote:
Every time we tell women that they should take another precaution to keep themselves safe -- wear more clothing, stop drinking as much alcohol, watch their drink carefully, and don some anti-rape underwear -- we’re furthering the fundamental premise upon which rape culture rests.
Honestly, we'd prefer not to strap our vaginas into protective undergarments, no matter how well-intentioned they are.