Condoms With Spikes
South African Dr. Sonnet Ehlers was on call one night four decades ago when a devastated rape victim walked in. Her eyes were lifeless; she was like a breathing corpse. “She looked at me and said, ‘If only I had teeth down there,’” recalled Ehlers, who was a 20-year-old medical researcher at the time. “I promised her I’d do something to help people like her one day.”
Dr. Ehlers eventually created a product she calls Rape-aXe. It’s a condom women wear that is inserted like a tampon. It has jagged teeth-like hooks that attach themselves to a penis and won’t come off without a doctor. “It hurts, he cannot pee and walk when it’s on,” Ehlers explained. “If he tries to remove it, it will clasp even tighter… however, it doesn’t break the skin, and there’s no danger of fluid exposure.”
She says that South African women are already resorting to extreme measures, like hiding razor blades in sponges in their vaginas.
Those extremes are caused by living in the “Rape Capital of the World” where a 17-year-old’s gang-rape recently went viral and where 40% of women say their first sexual experience was forced. A University of South Africa study estimated that 2,777 assaults are committed per day, totaling one million a year. The South African Law Commission believes the rate is even higher at 1.69 million per year. Sixty-five percent of victims are gang-raped. Forty percent are children.
Given what the condom is responding to, some criticisms sound odd, as when likening the device to “barbarous” and “medieval” torture. Dr. Ehlers admits, “Yes, my device may be medieval, but it’s for a medieval deed that has been around for decades.” More like millennia.
On the more practical side, others worry that it would only work if the rapist didn’t know it was there, didn’t remove it, didn’t resort to oral or anal rape, and didn’t simply begin raping younger girls.
And so the gadget would likely only work with a large-scale buy-in that was not publicized so that it could be used to identify rapists (who must go to a doctor) to get them off the streets.
So far Rape-aXe has not had any widespread distribution that would indicate its potential for rape-prevention.
The biggest problem is that the condom neglects the core issue: men feeling disempowered and using rape to regain a sense of power, while also venting their rage on women.