AR Wear
AR Wear anti-rape pants are for 'when things go wrong' (indiegogo.com)

A crowd funding initiative in New York has gained widespread attention for its controversial product - anti-rape pants.

Started by two women on funding website indiegogo.com, AR Wear's anti-rape underwear is supposed to make women feel safer while in potentially dangerous situations, such as on a first date or on an overseas holiday, the promotional video says.

Their tagline is: "A clothing line offering wearable protection for when things go wrong."

The anti-rape underwear is difficult to remove by force or when the victim has been drugged. It has cut-resistant straps and webbing and a "unique locking device" that means the pants cannot be pulled down.

While the creators, named Ruth and Yuval, said their product does not encourage a "blame the victim" mentality, there has been a huge backlash.

Ruth and Yuval write: "Rape is about as wrong as it gets. The only one responsible for a rape is the rapist and AR Wear will not solve the fundamental problem that rape exists in our world. Only by raising awareness and education, as well as bringing rapists to justice, can we all hope to eventually accomplish the goal of eliminating rape as a threat to both women and men.

"Meanwhile, as long as sexual predators continue to populate our world, AR Wear would like to provide products to women and girls that will offer better protection against some attempted rapes while the work of changing society's rape culture moves forward."

AR Wear
The creators are just $9,000 off getting the money needed to produce the pants (indiegogo.com)

The underwear is supposed to give women more "power to control the outcome of a sexual assault". It suggests that self-defence techniques, such as martial arts, only make matters worse in some situations and recommends passive resistance.

"We developed this product so that women and girls could have more power to control the outcome of a sexual assault," they said. "We wanted to offer some peace of mind in situations that cause feelings of apprehension, such as going out on a blind date, taking an evening run, "clubbing", travelling in unfamiliar countries, and any other activity that might make one anxious about the possibility of an assault.

"We believe that the tools of self-defence currently available are not effective in many common settings of sexual assault. Training in martial arts or products such as pepper spray, teargas, stun guns, etc can only help if the potential victim is extremely alert and bold when an attack occurs. Worse still, products of self-defence can be taken from the victim and used against her.

"We read studies reviewing the statistics of resisting assault, whether by forceful or non-forceful means. We learned that resistance increases the chance of avoiding a completed rape without making the victim more likely to be physically injured. We concluded that an item of clothing that creates an effective barrier layer can allow women and girls to passively resist an attacker, in addition to any other form of resistance they may be able to carry out at the time of an assault.

But a recent study from Kenya found that teaching girls self-defence methods, including verbal and physical methods of self-defence, dramatically reduced the girls' vulnerability to sexual assault.

Researchers from Stanford University, the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and anti-rape organisation No Means No Worldwide, found that the number of girls who were raped fell from one in four to one in 10 after taking self-defence classes.

A 2005 report by the US Department of Justice report found that self-defence actions did not significantly affect the risk of injury to the victim during an attack. 

chastity belt
Chastity belt from the late 16th century or 17th century (wiki commons)

A number of commentators said that the pants' locking system would not be ideal for women wearing them on a night out, as visiting the bathroom would be difficult. The Telegraph's Jake Wallis Simons pointed out that the un-removable underwear could prove dangerous if the wearer were involved in an accident and needed emergency surgery.

Another issue that arises from the anti-rape underwear is that it effectively suggests that every man is a potential threat. Rather than a first date being a possibility of a loving relationship, it is a rape risk, goes the subtext.

The most prevalent complaint, however, is that the garment places the onus of rape prevention on the victim.

Amanda Hess, of Slate.com, wrote: "Nothing makes a woman feel uncomfortable in her own body like a constant physical reminder that she's expected to guard her genitals against potential sexual assaults at all times."

Huffington Post blogger Louise Pennington said: "Rape is not 'something that goes wrong'. It is a crime with a clear perpetrator who chooses to rape. It isn't an accident.

"Nor is rape a miscommunication. This comment suggests that women who are raped are partially responsible for not saying 'No' clearly - a clear message to her would-be assailant that she is not consenting. We believe that this undeniable message can help to prevent a significant number of rapes'.

"Wearing anti-rape underwear won't make it 'clear' to a rapist that they do not have consent. Rapists already know they don't have consent. We need to move on from this idea that men are too stupid to know when a woman is or is not consenting. Rapists rape because they choose too, not because they are confused."

Christina Paschyn on Role/Reboot, said: "Anti-rape wear is another measly Band-Aid on the societal infection that is male privilege and sexual entitlement. It requires heavy medication and surgery. If we're going to bring an end to gender-based violence we need products and campaigns that re-socialise men from their misogynistic upbringings."

Ruth and Yuval have almost $41,000 of the $50,000 they require to put the pants into production.

AR Wear
The promotional video shows women in 'potentially dangerous situations' (AR Wear)

Katie Russell, spokeswoman for Rape Crisis England and Wales, also condemned the underwear. She told IBTimes UK that the clothing was a "red herring" that "pedals myths that give women a false sense of a security". Between 85% and 90% of women know their attacker, she added.

"Whilst I'm sure [the creators] are well-intentioned, sadly the product appears to reinforce rape myths. The video in particular describes going for a jog or to a club as 'risky behaviour'.

"The claim that resisting makes you less likely to be the victim of violence is of course a fabricated fact. It reinforces victim-blaming and makes women responsible for resisting rape."