Sexual assault affects all genders, sexualities, and ethnicities. With the prominence of songs like “Blurred Lines” and the coverage around events such as the Stuebenville rape case, “rape culture” is a phrase that has been frequently thrown into conversation. While sexual assault is not a new threat, the subconscious thought process that leads survivors to be blamed for their assault is now being challenged. A new clothing company, AR Wear, offers protection against rape, but is the message they are sending more complex?
“Have you ever been out walking alone,” the company’s video begins, “wishing you could be safer?” Given that queer individuals are more likely to be sexually assaulted than non-queer individuals, I know many queer individuals (including myself) who would like to feel more protected while walking alone at night through unsafe areas. AR Wear is introducing a line of undergarments that cannot be cut or ripped open. The buttons must be turned to a specific setting (set by the wearer), making the wearer the only person that can take off the clothing. AR Wear can be worn under gym clothes or a dapper outfit, without showing or being uncomfortable. The designers of AR Wear started an IndieGoGo fund to raise money for their launch and were given over $50,000 in one month. Anti-Rape clothing seems like a great idea, but is it practical? Could it actually work?
“I wish I would have been wearing this the night I was raped,” one survivor wrote on Tumblr. “I would feel safer going out if this existed,” another commented. One can argue that AR Wear is empowering. Those that choose to wear it may be able to walk down any street or step into any dive bar with more confidence. First dates and nights out at the club become less scary when you have an extra layer of protection besides the buddy system. While the comfort and practicality of AR Wear has yet to be seen, the idea of the clothing is already helping ease some worries. AR Wear must be commended, at the least, for giving control back to those who feel powerless against sexual predators.
AR Wear may offer a tangible way to prevent sexual assault, but it seems that akin to putting a small Band-Aid on a gaping flesh wound. It has the same flaw that well-intentioned warnings like “Be careful how much you drink when you’re out” and “You shouldn’t dress like that if you want to avoid attention” hold; it places all the responsibility on the potential survivor and very little on the attacker. Rather than implementing a solution that focuses on the attacker’s role, it seems it is up to the victim to not get raped.
Is that AR Wear’s fault? Maybe anti-rape clothing can serve as a security measure until we, as a society, figure out an effective way to prevent sexual assault that teaches potential attackers to not rape instead of teaching everyone else to not get raped. Similar to drunk driving, society now aims to prevent people from driving while impaired instead of teaching motorists to avoid being hit by drunk drivers.
AR Wear does address some of its deserving criticism. It plans to release AR Wear for humans with penises and will donate the clothing to organizations that make sure those who cannot afford to buy it will still be protected.
Is AR Wear much needed protection, a problematic issue, or a complicated mixture of both?