An Open Letter to the Myriad Anti-Rape Devices Marketed Toward Women That Is So Not Going to Go Viral:

Dear Anti-Rape Devices Marketed to Women,hairy-leg-stockings

We don’t mean to be impersonal, Anti-Rape Devices (ARDs).  But there are just so many of you, we don’t want to leave anyone out.  Where to start?  The Anti-Rape GlovesThe Anti-Rape Underwear? Rape-aXe, the Anti-Rape CondomHairy Legs Tights?  (Because everyone knows, only women with smooth legs get raped.)  I know there are others of you out there, but it’s like the Golden Globes:  if we try to mention all of you, the music will start playing, and we’ll never get to finish.  So please know, this is for all of you.

We know you mean well – you don’t women to get raped, and we don’t either.  But as fashion-forward and entertaining as many of you are (what shade of Anti-Rape Nail Polish will go best with my Anti-Molestation Jacket that can deliver 110 volts of electric shock to the asshole trying to feel me up?), we must point out that you are missing a critical point, as you drape, adorn, and hide the bodies of the women you intend to protect:  those bodies themselves, the actual bodies of girls and women, can be powerful tools of resistance.  And when you don’t say that, you contribute to the cultural discourse that says women and girls HAVE to have these things, because if they don’t, there is NOTHING THEY CAN DO to stop a rape or an assault from occurring.

Not true, ARDs.  Not true.

Your goal is the same as ours, ARDs.  We want men, and others, to stop raping, and we don’t want anyone to ever be raped or assaulted ever again, ever.  Here is where it seems we disagree:  we know that women and girls are capable of fighting back against sexual assault, and we know that training women and girls in self-defense techniques reminds them of that, and teaches them how to do that.

But for many people, ARDs, you seem so much easier, so much more logical, so much more realistic, so much prettier.  Because many, many, MANY people don’t believe that women and girls are capable of thwarting an attack.  Here’s the good news – they are!  Women and girls can defend themselves, and they do.  But that’s not as catchy a headline as “Will Jagged Teeth Deter World Cup Sexual Assaults?” or “Japanese Anti-Rape/Anti-Mugging Dress Transforms Into Vending Machine Disguise”. vending machine

We don’t know how to make self-defense and self-defense training “catchy”.  Listen, if Miss USA gets slammed for even suggesting it should be an option, we know we’ve got an uphill battle.  But here’s what we do know:

  • Responsibility for rape always lies with the perpetrator
  • Women and girls can effectively fight back and thwart rape and sexual assault (data! There’s data!)
  • Self-defense and resistance, broadly defined, are options we want women and girls to have at their disposal, not requirements that make women and girls responsible for the violence perpetrated against them
  • ARDs can be options available to women, but they should be real options that increase women’s and girls’ safety, not the just the Next Cool/Hip/Fun/Pink Thing that perpetuates one of the underlying tenets of rape culture: that women are weak, helpless, and inherently rapeable unless men or products are available to save the day.

We’ll make a deal with you, ARDs.  You stop making promises about safety that have no data behind them, and stop perpetuating the myths that say women are incapable of resistance, and start promoting women’s and girls’ rights to and capacity for self-defense, and we’ll follow the  15-step instructions for the Anti-Rape Gloves (Step 1:  2 pieces of marine grade stainless 12mm wide (half inch) 120mm long (about 5 inch) 2mm Thick (5/64 inch)?  Check!) and post a picture of how it turns out on BuzzFeed:  Nailed It, for sure.

anti rape gloves


Jill Cermele and Martha McCaughey

P.S.  By the way, how DO you go to the bathroom while wearing the anti-rape underwear?  Maturing women want – nay, NEED – to know.

5 responses

  1. Love your humor and passion. But you already know that.

    1. Martha McCaughey | Reply

      Thank you- and the feeling is mutual! 🙂

  2. One only defends, protects or guards against that which is feared, so while I agree with what is probably being suggested, ie that women be exposed to means of securing their own safety, the wording only promotes fear. Empowerment by use of arms, backed by training in safety and skills, has proven a successful deterrent. Most potential criminal acts against individuals can be thwarted by accurate placement, at a median speed of 1000 feet/second, of 230 grains of a jacketed hollow-point projectile. When both potential targets of crime and the “sheepdogs” who would assure their safety at hazard to their own are armed, trained, practiced and guaranteed the right to carry concealed, campus/student violent crime will be necessarily reduced.

    De Oppresso Liber

    1. Martha McCaughey | Reply

      Thank you for your comments. We don’t see anything we’re saying as excluding armed self-defense, but pulling out a gun for use against an unarmed assailant at a crowded frat party (for example) isn’t always the best option for several reasons: (1) the law requires that one not use far greater force than that which is being used against her/him; (2) historically the law has looked unfavorably upon women using lethal force against “nice guys” (see the recent case of Marissa Alexander); (3) even armed self-defense instructors (such as Paxton Quigley) insist upon the importance of training in unarmed self-defense techniques, which are admittedly the best forms of self-defense for a variety of sexual assault situations; and (4) insisting that women need guns for self-defense can be a disempowering narrative because it presumes that women can’t learn any protective moves using their own bodies. Jennifer D. Carlson provides a compelling argument about this last point in her examination of “the great gun debate” in which she insists we move from “gun politics” to “self-defense politics.” For info on that essay see: href=””>

  3. […] like the ones for the zombie apocalypse–we are reminded of the many who have attempted to market self-defense devices to women simply by harnessing that culture of fear, attempting to make women feel even more afraid […]

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