Safe Shorts: Should women accessorise their way to safety? by Gabrielle

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Content Note: Reference to rape, sexual assault and victim blaming.

So, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but an entrepreneur in Germany came up with nifty little gadget called ‘safe shorts‘. Built in the same material as –I shit you not- bullet proof vests, they open and close via a padlock attached by a cut proof chord. If someone tries to “force entry” into the shorts, an alarm of over 130 decibels (that’s louder than the shriek of a chainsaw, if you need a reference point) goes off. You guessed it: these safety shorts are anti-rape gear.

Ladies and gentlemen, in 2017, the chastity belt makes its return.

Now, I’m sure some people out there think it’s a great idea. It is promoted as a great piece of equipment for joggers, to jog with peace of mind. And hey, if that makes you feel safer, more power to you- I understand the desire to escape from constant fear of your surroundings.

However, personally, this news made me want to face-palm so hard my hand could tickle my occipital lobe. Here’s the thing: the more I am told how to avoid being raped, the more I feel like I’m being told that if I am raped, it was probably my fault. Like I’m being told: ‘You had all the tools necessary, had you used them, you would not have been raped!’

Put your date rape drug detecting nail polish on.  Get a good combination for your chastity belt padlock. Always get one of your strong man friends to walk you home (show good judgement, don’t pick the guy that will end up doing the raping!). Make sure you have your keys wedged in between your fingers like a mini knife so you can jab at anyone who approaches you. And of course, have the police on speed dial, just in case. Now you’re ready for a night out!

Meanwhile, in man land, just spray Lynx in generous amounts, sleek your hair back and tadaam! You’re ready to step out the door.

What I don’t get is: why?

Firstly because even if I were wearing the strongest underwear in the world, how would that protect me against other forms of sexual assault such as forced oral sex, groping and molestation? And secondly because, despite the media’s portrayal of rape being a situation where a woman is grabbed on the street and dragged into a dark alleyway, that is not the most common form of sexual assault.

In Scotland, in 2015-2016, only 13.5 per cent of rapes were committed by strangers. All the rest were committed by people known by the survivor. Similarly, only 10.4 per cent of rapes were committed outside, compared to 25 per cent in the perpetrator’s home and 38.5 per cent in the survivor’s home.

So, what are all these gadgets, tips and tricks for exactly? Are we suggesting that women wear a chastity belt 24/7 for good measure? Who are these methods supposed to help exactly: women, or men’s consciences?

How about, instead of spending so much time and effort on getting women all geared up and ready to Krav Maga the crap out of anyone who gets near them on the street at night, we teach men that toxic masculinity isn’t cool and that consent is the current basic standard for human sexual behaviour?

Why not teach men the Safe Shorts tagline- ‘Safeguard-Secureness-Freedom’- in a genuinely meaningful way, instead of once more shifting the responsibility of safety onto the victims?

Since most men already understand and live by this, we would only be teaching the small percentage of men who don’t.

This sounds to me like it would be a lot less hassle and a lot more productive than teaching all women to live in fear.  Am I missing something here?

Images courtesy of Safe Shortsroga muffin and Penn State.

Gabrielle Blackburn is one of our fantastic blogging network members. As a cognitive scientist and a feminist activist, she is interested in exploring the roots and consequences of prejudice and bias, especially those relating to gender. She also enjoys good beer, pole dancing, and confusing people with her unidentifiable accent.

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