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 Worldwhere 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.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on May 11, 2012, in feminism, gender, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I have read an article about this in the past and I find it difficult to believe that there are so many women and children that are constantly getting raped. They have to go through extreme measures to protect themselves. This invention can go both ways. It might or might not work depending on the situation and how the rapist would go about what is happening. Violence today is only getting worst and worst all over the world. It’s scary, even I’m scared to walk upon the streets alone.

  2. I heard about this type of protection before somewhere but i can’t remeber where. It’s crazy how womens form of defense has evolved. Mace/pepperspray, holding keys in between each finger ready to attack a potential attacker, tazer etc. But this is something that is truly invasive for the woman too. This is something that we insert into our bodies to protect ourselves. It really has gone too far. Rape is such a terrible crime because the victims often feel guilty and alone. The trauma that follows has so many different forms and the mental scars are permanent. I’ve read articles about the civil war in Congo that the rebels rape the women in the villages in the most horrible ways (using knives and other objects) as a war tactic. They do it to make the men feel powerless because they are raping their women. When does the violence against women stop?

  3. tiffanyguzman

    I found this article very interesting. I think it is sad that women are forced to take such precautions to protect themselves. Men need to realize that hurting someone who doesn’t have the equal level of strength to defend themselves, just proves that the men are weak. This device seems like it would be effective in reducing the number of rapes by scaring off rapist and identifying them. However, it is unable to make rapist stop using rape as a way to feel powerful and it may increase the numbers of other kinds of rape.

  4. Weiyi Xia (Klark)

    This invention is just a desperate try to end this major issue between men and women that has been going on for countless years. As the writer said in the article, the core issue is not how to stop that one case or million cases by spiking the criminals; what we should be focusing on is to stop all men from thinking about forcing women to have sex by using violence. According to the writer, the main issue is that “men feeling disempowered and using rape to regain a sense of power, while also venting their rage on women,” so the only way to solve the problem would be to stop men from trying to feel empowered by raping. The way to achieve this is through education – let all men realize that using violence against women to gain anything is shameful, and in fact, it exposes the weaknesses underneath their guise, because violence is all they have left. Once all men have this thought in mind, the ones that commit crimes like raping will never be accepted by other men again. If one day this can really happen, I believe there would be few people to do such things, because it is against not just all women, but all humans.

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