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Does an Anti-Rape Device Solve the Problem?

Updated on June 21, 2010

The Rape-aXe -- also called the "rape trap" -- is like a female condom... with bite. Inspired by a rape victim who said, "If only I had teeth down there," the device was created by South African woman Sonnet Ehlers.

How It Works

It's fairly simple. The woman inserts the device before going out -- to work, to school, or to visit family or friends. (With 1.7 million women raped each year in places like South Africa, this might not be such a bad idea.)

The hollow inside of the device has inward-facing barbs. These barbs would latch onto the attacker's penis in the event of rape. To add insult to injury, the device would not be removable except by surgical procedure.


It is easy to see why a device like this might be desirable. With millions of women raped every year across the planet, this is a cheap and quick way to "give women their power back," according to Ehlers. Often governments are slow to move in prosecution of rape, and rape victims are often disempowered socially and culturally, as well.

Critics have stated that the device is "medieval" and takes us back to the days of chastity belts, that it is vengeful or man-hating.  Lisa Vetten from the Center of Violence and Reconciliation in Johannesburg rightly points out, "It is a terrifying thought that women are being made to adapt to rape."

Ehlers responds by saying this is a "medieval device for a medieval deed."

There is also the concern that the Rape-aXe could incite further violence, but the hope is that the extreme pain would distract the rapist long enough that the woman would have a chance to get away.

My Thoughts

Personally, I see no problem with medieval-style torture of rapists. The device is not man-hating; if anything, it is rapist-hating. I do, however, see two problems with the device that are much bigger than those many critics have pointed out.

1. If the Rape-aXe device becomes popular, there is nothing to stop a rapist from simply checking to see if the woman is wearing one before raping her. If he finds it before it traps him, he will be even more enraged and prone to violence to "get back at her" for trying to hurt him.  A similar problem could happen in the event of a gang rape, where the woman would receive a serious beating (or worse) for so badly injuring the first of the men to rape her.

2. More importantly, though, the device puts the responsibility on the woman to not get raped (as opposed to the responsibility being on the man to not rape).  If these are on the market and a woman gets raped, people can say, "Oh well she wasn't wearing a Rape-aXe so it's her fault."  And if a woman is wearing one, then the attitude is, "She was expecting to get raped."  That's a no-win situation for the woman.

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The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that this device (and others like it) does not solve the problem. Supposedly it is currently sold in drug stores in South Africa.  And while it is nice to try to give women back some power, there is a fundamental imbalance in power that is causing the rape (or allowing it to happen) in the first place.

The South African government (and, indeed, all governments) must not be slow to act in the case of reported rape.  Punishments should be harsh enough to deter rapists from raping at all.  Hopefully the Rape-aXe does not give governments a false sense that they have less responsibility since women are taking matters into their own hands.  If anything, the emergence of devices like this is proof that governments are not doing enough to prevent rape.


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    • danielleantosz profile image


      7 years ago from Florida

      WOW! I had not heard of this before! Not sure how it would work in practice, as I can imagine it just pissing the guy off more. Still not a bad idea. Very interesting!

    • truthfornow profile image


      7 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I would imagine that like you said there is the possibility of violent attack once the device is found, though rape in itself is violent. It seems like most of the approaches to rape always put the burden on the women to deal with it ~ we are the ones that watch where we are and what we do, change our routes home to avoid being followed, and travel in packs. Rape needs to be dealt with as the serious crime that it is.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      7 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      As a man-hating device, well I guess any man who tries to rape you is worthy of being hated.

      Personally I find the device to be a bit paranoid and extreme. There are many ways to protect your self from rape.

      I just hope women don't use this as a weapon against their cheating husbands. :)

      Thanks for the info.

    • AngelaKaelin profile image


      7 years ago from New York

      Nice run down on this product. I think a lot of people are looking forward to it being available everywhere. To people who have been attacked multiple times, this is not paranoia. Imagine how this would take the fear out of going on a first date! Or, walking across campus at night. Much like conceal and carry, it would eventually act as a deterrent to rape. Plus, the rapists would actually get caught and maybe... maybe... justice could be done.

    • Helengi profile image


      7 years ago from London, England

      I'm South African (although I live in London) and I've never heard of this device before now. Also, having just returned from an extended visit to my family in Johannesburg I can confirm that I did not see this in any pharmacy or shop although to be fair, I wasn't looking for it.

      I would question what type of person would be paranoid enough to walk around "wearing" this day in and day out waiting for the day that it would come in handy. Planning to hurt somebody really badly with that device is disgusting and if he died, would she be found guilty of murder?

      That aside, thank you for a very interesting, thought provoking Hub!

    • Joni Douglas profile image

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      An interesting device to be sure. But I agree with your last paragraph. Where women are treated as less than equals, rape is not taken seriously enough.

    • agusfanani profile image


      8 years ago from Indonesia

      Wow that's a terrifying device !


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