Not-So-Pretty Cup

Have you seen these? They’re being distributed to South African women for free during the World Cup. They’re  Rape-aXe — female, anti-rape condoms.

Rape is a big, big problem in South Africa. It has one of the highest rape rates in the world with over 28% of men surveyed saying they had raped a woman or a girl and one in twenty saying they had done so within the last year.

South African doctor, Sonnet Ehlers, has developed these “devices” which women can wear if they’re going out on a blind date or feeling otherwise vulnerable.

If a man rapes her, the teeth on the inside of this condom clasp onto his penis. It hurts. The guy cannot walk or pee and the thing can only be removed by a doctor. If the guy tries to remove it himself, it only grabs on tighter. The condoms are also impenetrable to prevent any bodily fluids from being tranfered.

Dr. Ehlers has spent 40 years of her life and has cashed in her house and car to get these things developed and distributed. She consulted with engineers, gynecologists and psychologists all through development to ensure safety and effectiveness.

However, critics like Victoria Kajja with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Uganda say it’s a form of enslavement:

The fears surrounding the victim, the act of wearing the condom in anticipation of being assaulted all represent enslavement that no woman should be subjected to…. the device constantly reminds women of their vulnerability. It not only presents the victim with a false sense of security, but psychological trauma. It also does not help with the psychological problems that manifest after assaults.

All that might be true, but they do mete out some sort of justice in countries where rape has been normalized by frequency and lack of legal or medical resources for victims. Women are already walking around in extra tight bicycle shorts or with razor blades inserted in their vaginas to try and protect themselves.

If nothing else, having these things on the market might make guys think twice about sexually assaulting a woman. Then again, it might make them angry enough to come up with more sadistic means of punishing women. What do you think?

A story like this, amidst the glamour and glitz of putting on a smiling face for the world, is also a kind of grim reminder that there are a lot of other dimensions to South Africa than the World Cup.


49 responses to “Not-So-Pretty Cup

  1. I imagine the guy would become so enraged he would just kill the girl. Sure, I like the justice it represents but it should also contain some sort of drug that makes the guy pass out immediately so the girl can escape. It seems to me that since all this rape is going on they should legalize self-defense killing and equip all women with a forearm strap-on switchblade. Now there’s your justice.

  2. @geewits – It incapacitates him, he can’t get up with it, but it doesn’t actually harm the penis (no blood, no fluid loss). So he isn’t going to attack her then.

    However, in a gang rape scenario I think it puts the woman at very great risk.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but if this device can be used as judicial evidence it might increase the rape conviction rate and that might have the societal impact of lowering the sexual assault rates in the country.

    You end up with high sexual assault rates because it is societally condoned. The women of South Africa are already enslaved, rather than attack a device intended to make men think twice, perhaps law enforcement and the judicial system should offer them something better.

  3. I saw this somewhere else earlier today and some of the comments suggested that would be rapist will eventually start checking for this before raping the woman. If that’s the case it could be even worse for the woman.

    In any case better law enforcement would go further than a toothy condom.

  4. although i like the sound of the punishment said rapist would endure, i agree with sean that the rapist could just “feel” around to see if the woman has this condom on and if yes, the results could be devistating (not saying that being raped isn’t devistating in the first place). yes better law enforcement would be the best solution, but let’s be realistic, it ain’t going to happen in such masoginistic societies. it’s a bit of a catch 22 isn’t it?

  5. @geewitz-I imagine he will be pretty distracted to think about killing her. Your comment also reminds me of the old advice for women “Don’t fight back against an attacker, because you’ll make him mad”

    As a woman with self defense and martial arts experience I have to say this is NOT true!

    Rapists and other criminals often seek victims who will not put up a fight. If the victim is too much ‘work’ and makes too much noise, they will often move on. When your life and body is at stake, you HAVE to fight back until you can safely run away!

  6. And as for the condom, it is an interesting idea. But I think there needs to be more education in South Africa. Education that stresses the importance of respect for both genders, as well as (non-weapon related) birth control.

  7. It’s interesting, but I think the only way to stop it is if these men are arrested and jailed. But chances of that happening are pretty slim.

  8. Geewits – I don’t think at the time the guy is in any shape to attack anyone, but he might come back later. It’s certainly not a definitive answer to the problem, that’s for sure.

    Mudmama – I never thought of a gang rape scenario, but ya, that could present big issues. The plan for this condom thing, I guess is that doctors are supposed to report anyone coming in to have this device removed. I suppose it’s better than the razor blade.

    Sean – Yes, it’s easy to find problems with this thing – as others have done. But no one else seems to want to do anything to reduce the incidents of rape in that country and women are doing all sorts of crazy stuff to defend themselves, I reckon this device might be better than nothing – for now. It would be nice if the spotlight currently being shone on South Africa picked up some of this stuff, too and brought about some change.

    Smothermother –I think it’s clever of the doctor to promote this device (and consequently the rape problem) during the World Cup when the eyes of the world are on this country. Perhaps it will help shame them into doing something about the problem legally.

    Pauline – The razor blade in the vagina trick is an old one from various wars. Lots of guys got cut, but a lot of guys knew to check before raping a woman, too. And it did make them made and prompt them to punish her more. However, that shouldn’t prevent women from doing whatever they can to defend themselves. On the other hand, some women are too frightened in such a situation to fight back and feel if they just comply and not make the guy mad, it will save their lives. You never know how you’ll react and there’s no right or wrong response. The wrong is all on the guy’s side. You just do what you have to do at the time.

    Jazz – Apparently it’s not high on anyone’s list of priorities. This condom falls into the desperate measures category. And like I said before, perhaps with the attention on South Africa this month this was the perfect time to introduce this device and the problem that inspired it. Maybe it will help promote some change in other ways.

  9. 1/ Just what I have always feared, a vagina with teeth.
    2/ I doubt how useful it would really be in stopping rape but anything is better than nothing. I do however expect little Stevie to weigh in soon and deny funding to any clinic that distributes these because of the “damage” it will cause men.
    3/ Police and justice systems are a long way back when it comes to stopping this abuse. It certainly seems to me to be a great time for brothers, fathers, uncles, etc to mete out a bit of street justice but if so many are indulging their own depravity how many are left to put the boots to a rapist.
    4/ FIFA is probably going to make you stop using your German team logo because you dared to suggest that there is more to life than the celebration of sports. Next you’ll be slanging the olympics.

  10. That looks like it would be rather uncomfortable.
    Why not just wear a chastity belt? If all women wore them then it would be easy to tell who the rapists are:
    Guys with really big key chains or guys walking around with portable grinders

  11. you’re right. it was very strategic of the doctor to unveil it during the world cup. this issue is getting huge media coverage and there was even a mini doc on cbc last night about the number of children that are being born from rape. every little bit helps. or so we can hope.

  12. I think the key lies in education and changing attitudes. As XUP says, rape has been normalized by its frequency in some countries. Rape victims are blamed and permanently punished for their own rapes (eg stigmatized and cast out of their families, marriages and communities). As a result, most women and girls don’t tell *anyone* they’ve been raped. Not their families, not their friends, not the police. No wonder men get away with it.

    By the way, a friend of mine recently told me about a survey right here in Canada that indicated almost half of all men say they would rape a woman if they could be guaranteed they’d get away with it. I hope that’s not true.

  13. This strange condom will not solve the problem by itself. As with everything else, tools, systems and procedures and even laws fail unless Society’s attitudes change. The problem is the “normalisation” of rape in places like South Africa which again has its roots in poor education (for both sexes) and poverty.

  14. Dave1949 – A very succinct summary of the situation, as usual. Except I think the brothers, fathers and uncles are probably a huge part of the problem, so the women kind of have to figure out their own answers here. It’s way cool though that people are using this event to spotlight some of these issues. I hope it helps.

    Lebowski – A chastity belt isn’t going to stop anyone from doing violence to a woman. It’s really sad that a toothed condom is the best thing these poor women have at the moment.

    Smothermother – Very strategic indeed. It’s getting a lot of coverage. There’s been so much crap going on in South Africa for so long and the world pretty much ignores it because it doesn’t make for glamorous enough sound bites or something.

    Zoom – Ye gods. You’re right. I found this on the Stats Canada website: A recent survey on date rape showed that 60% of Canadian college-aged males indicated that they would commit sexual assault if they were certain they would not get caught. (Helen Lenskyj, “An Analysis of Violence Against Women: A Manual for Educators and Administrators,” Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 1992)

    LGS – You’re right, it won’t solve the problem and might even create more problems. But showcasing the problem during World Cup by way of this condom while at the same time offering women some sort of weapon is a good start. The poverty and lack of education isn’t going to happen for a long time until the rest of the world starts caring and putting pressure on the South African government.

  15. It is certainly disturbing that such a thing could ever be necessary.

    If this ever becomes widely used enough for rapists to be worried about, it does seem like it would be rather easy for them to check if a woman is wearing the device, before inserting his penis into it.

  16. Sigh…only in Africa.

    I don’t get it. I just dont’ get it.

    Seriously. What is WRONG with that place?

    And before everyone jumps on me, yes…yes…I know a lot of these problems have to do with poverty, ignorance, racism, and past colonialism.

    And yes, I know other countries have poor track records too, including parts of Europe and North America, not that long ago.

    But there are other places on the planet that are equally screwed up, that don’t have social problems and abuses on such a large scale as Africa does.

    How come Bangladesh or India or Tibet don’t have widespread rape, chop off limbs with machetes, perform female circumcision, or have genocides?

    The whole African continent is a perpetual basket-case. There are serious issues with some of the cultures there.

    But I don’t know what the solution is.

  17. With rape happening that frequently? I would wear one. Any guy who rapes a woman deserves to have one of these stuck on his wiener. If I were a doctor I might just find that any guy wearing one of these needed an emergency peen-ectomy.

  18. Milan – I’m banking on the notion that maybe rapists aren’t that smart. But it IS terrible that this is necessary and even welcomed by the women of South Africa.

    Friar – There’s a lot of crazy shit that goes on in many countries/continents. I think we don’t hear about a lot of it. And, I think, much as we’d like to, we can’t force them all to live the way we think is right. We can help when we’re asked to, but some things people have to work out for themselves, unfortunately.

    Meanie – So far the guy isn’t punished at all. They’re trying to convince doctors to turn these guys in before they cut the condoms off them. But ya, I take your point – we’re in no position to throw stones – especially with that Stats Canada survey thing I quoted above in my response to Zoom.

    Wendy – Absolutely, if you had no other defence this would look pretty good. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, Wendy!

  19. New security measures always prompt countermeasures from attackers, and vice versa.

    That said, reasonable efforts that have a chance of reducing the frequency of rape should probably be supported. The general unwillingness of police and prosecutors to pursue rape convictions is arguably also justification for vigilante-type approaches.

  20. I think this is a brilliant invention. It is true that is a shame that it is needed, however it truly is needed and may become a deterrent against an epidemic of rape in certain environments. Thanks for sharing.

  21. The other thing to remember is that rape is an act of violence and control. This device may prevent vaginal penetration however sadly there are many ways to rape a person.

  22. @XUP

    “…we can’t force them all to live the way we think is right. We can help when we’re asked to, but some things people have to work out for themselves, unfortunately.”

    This goes beyond just the Rape-aXe.

    At the risk of sounding Euro-Centric Politically-Incorrect Imperialist, sorry, what we “think” is right…sometimes IS right.

    Like not tolerating widespread rape…or not stoning women with infant children, or not pouring acid on school-girls.

    What’re we supposed to do in these cases….? just sit by and do nothing, and hope that people in these countries will work things out?

    Or do we take a stand against evil, and get involved, and use force, if necessary, to stop it?

    What would have happened in Nazi-occupied Europe, or women living under the Taliban today, if nobody intervened?

  23. Milan – Very true.

    Tobeme – It’s certainly not a final answer on anything – just one small thing that might help a little.

    Frair – That is Euro-Centric because just because we think – or even know – something to be right, that still doesn’t mean we can foist it on another country. Muslims think we are very, very wrong for a lot of the things we do and would like to come and show us how to be better people, but we wouldn’t stand for that. So, there’s no reason why other countries should stand for us pushing our way in telling them how to live their lives. Glass houses and all that. Also, I think it’s nice that you think we’re fighting a war in the Middle East to save women.


  24. “How much gets accomplished when 20 people with very different perspectives sit down for a few hours and talk?” — re your G-20 Summit post….

    Earthquake! 🙂

  25. @XUP

    While helping women was not the original intention, our presence in Afghanistan, like it or not…is having a positive effect. Women now have access to medical aid and education which they werent’ getting before.

    It’s not only about killing the bad guys. Talk to any soldier who’s been stationned there who has helped build roads, wells, and has seen first-hand what good things they’re doing. I have. These success stories are things you never hear about in the media.

    But okay. I dont’ want to throw bricks in my glass house.

    So I’ll just adopt the middle-of-the-road, lukewarm Politically Correct Attitude…

    Who are we to judge? So what if people cut off limbs or stone people to death over religion?

    Just because other people do something that we think is obviously morally reprehensible…doesn’t necessarily mean it is so.

    Different culture have different beliefs. Who knows…Maybe they think what we are doing is evil too.

    Every culture is morally equivalent. Anything that anyone does, is no better or no worse than anything we do in the West.


    Now, let’s all go for a group hug! 🙂

  26. @ Friar. Luckily we have progressed so far on the road to civilization that we don’t do any of those things. Of course we did for centuries but that’s all behind us now and we are the light of the world. I think what XUP is trying to say is that you can’t enforce your code of conduct you have to let somone else learn it is a good thing.
    Of course I could be wrong history is just full of people who have changed the way they think because someone forced them to change. No wait a minute that has never actually happened. Why even our good friend stevie can’t get his head around providing complete reproductive medical options for women because he knows that one of the options, abortion, is just wrong and cannot be condoned. Even if it is condoned here at home. Try selling that to the natives and see how far you get in persuading them you know better than them how they should treat women.

  27. @Dave1949

    Oh, I know. Perhaps I was being a little (ahem) facetious…. 🙂

    But I get tired of this moral relativism, where all cultures are considered equal. Because some are definitely worse than others… Sure, we aren’t perfect, but to compare ourselves to a fanatical religious regime with widespread human rigths abuses just dosent’ hold water with me.

    Plus, I get tired of the double standard. Seems no matter what, the West is wrong.

    If something awful is happening in a country, and the States or the West intervene, they’re accused of being imperialist, and enforcing their values and beliefs on a foreign culture.

    But…on the other hand…if they sit back and do nothing, they’re accused of only looking out for their own interests, and the hand-wringers will demand “..why doesn’t someone go down there and HELP those poor people?”

    Seems you just cant’ win…

    Okay..rant over. I need to go fishin’. 🙂

  28. I agree with Friar. This isn’t a matter of attacking or criticizing a nation because it worships the Flying Spaghetti monster. This is an abusive act that harms and kills over half the South African population! The South African government needs to change its mentality along with the rest of the country or else they will never progress.

  29. Lebowski – Although the timer on my comments is an hour behind, I was actually writing that at the moment of the earthquake, so I might have been the first person to put it into the internet! I’m laying claim to that anyway.

    Davina – Ha ha! Wow.

    Friar – No one is more of a control freak than I am, Friar so I’m pretty sure I know better how people should live their lives than they do. My inclination is to go around making people stop eating meat and junk food and make them stop smoking and force them to get out there an exercise. It’s pretty clear to me that their lifestyle is wrong and it would be for their own good if they were to listen to me and do as I say – they’re abusing themselves afterall. They’re abusing their kids, in my opinion by smoking around them and by feeding them junk food and making them fat. But I’ve learned that I can’t do that much as I’d like to. When they’re beating their kids, I can step in. If I see someone having a heart attack in the street, I can go over, do CPR, call 911 – if they ask for my help or advice in other areas I can step in, too, but that’s about as far as I can go in living their lives for them. They have a right to abuse themselves if they want to. They are autonomous beings. Same deal with other countries. When it gets to the point where some dictator is gassing millions of innocent people, then we have do something, but not having tough rape laws or making women dress head to toe in black bedsheets or not allowing them to get an education — we really can’t do much. And we ARE in a tough position because we are capable of helping, but need to sit back and watch a lot of this stuff without being able to intervene. I agree with a lot of what you say, but it’s tough enough to get legal immigrants in this country to sometimes understand that they have to do things a bit differently than they’re used to – no killing your daughters for wearing jeans, for instance.

    Pauline – By “progress” you mean “be more like us”?? We who are greedily raping the rest of the world of resources in our unquenchable thirst for STUFF? We who’ve spawned serial killers, pedophiles, murders, abusers of every description who we churn through our laborious judicial system to punish them with a couple of months in jail? We have destroyed cultures all over the world by forcing our idea of progress on them? Do you know what we look like to most of the rest of the world? Don’t you think Europeans look at us with disgust? Don’t you think other cultures are repelled by who and what we are?

  30. Please, we`re such a `civilized`ìn the right`country that people got angry when OHIP stopped covering the ritualistic chopping off the most sensitive part of infant boys penises. We want our stuff so cheap we practicallyt demand that children be forced to work in servitude in other countries, we want our stuff so cheap we`re happy to have people in developing nations work daily with cancer causing chemicals without proper safety measures in place. We`ve built our culture on the backs of others with less financial clout…want to talk enslavement? Want to talk about morality? I could go on and on.

    This is a complicated issue. From my perspective Canada really isn’t much better at dealing with sexual assault.

  31. Okay…for all of you that think Canada is such an awful, horrible place…is there anywhere ELSE you’d rather live?

    I’m sure there are lots of countries that have are more peaceful culture, and a greater respect for human rights than we do…

    China?. Cuba? India? Saudi Arabia? Pakistan? Myammar? Iran? Russia? Haiti? Sudan?

    Let me know. I’d like to book my next vacation there….

  32. From the United Nations Human Development Index (which is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living for countries worldwide), the following are considered to have Very High human development (2007 data):

    Norway, Australia, Iceland, Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Japan, Luxembourg, Finland, United States, Austria, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, Liechtenstein, New Zealand

    The difference between #1 and #20 in terms of the points index was minimal, from a high of 0.971 to a low of 0.950, for comparative purposes the two lowest countries ranked were Afghanistan and Niger at 0.352 and 0.340 respectively.

    As you can imagine, there is a big difference between the top 20 and the bottom two, so whatever this index means to each citizen in each country, I’d say the small spread between #1 and #20 tells me that any of those is probably pretty much indistinguishable in terms of quality of life.

    I imagine I’d personally be happy living in any of those – I mean, I’ve been to New Zealand, spent quite a bit of time outside of the tourist-y areas to see what life is like for “normal” people there, and I quite liked it. I actually preferred it to Canada, but that’s due to my own personal reasons – what this tells me is that at #20, New Zealand was otherwise indistinguishable from Canada at #4 in terms of what services it offered, and I could then decide if I wanted to live there on the basis of other things, such as climate, environment etc.

    So there you have it, take your pick, Friar – 20 countries for your next vacation!

    I’ve only been to two of them myself, other than Canada of course, so I guess I still have a lot of places to visit 😉

  33. Friar – Right…and look how well that always turned out. I’m not saying they’re any better than us or that we’re any better than them. Different countries, different cultures, different values and yes – different morals. No one is saying Canada is such a horrible place. It’s a pretty great place, but it’s not so great that we can be the supreme masters and determiners of what is right and wrong with the rest of the world and force them to do things our way.

    Mudmama – Yes! It’s odd how easily we can find the flaws in other systems. You’re very right about our judicial system and sexual assault, too. Which leads right into my next post, actually…

    Brett – Ya wanna talk about the United Nations next???

  34. Okay….message recieved.

    I’ll just jump on the PC-Canada-Loathing bandwagon going on here, and list everything we’ve done wrong, going back to European settlement 400 years ago.

    And use that to justify why we’re no better than any other countries on the planet.

    Hell, if other people want to kill and enslave each other, fine. Whatever. Live and let live. After all, who are we to judge?

    There. I’m done. I’m officially withdrawing from this debate. Everyone else….you win!

  35. Friar, no one said we had to hate our own country (or at least, I certainly did not) – it is a good country, one of the best.

    *One* of the best, and there are many. But no country is perfect, even the ones that are “the best”.

    Plus, it is a matter of “perspective”.

    Ask someone who works a crummy job in a poor section of one of our major cities what he thinks of Canada, because his kid has to go to a dilapidated public school with metal detectors, in a neighbourhood where the police are afraid to tread alone.

    Then ask someone who lives in a gated community in South Africa what she thinks of that country.

    I know you can’t do that right now, so I will answer question #2 for you – my wife’s family is (mostly) in South Africa, and are (mostly) part of the privileged upper class.

    Because they have a lot of money and live in gated communities and go to dinner parties and and send their kids to private school all of that good stuff, they don’t see what we were talking about here.

    They vacation in Mauritius and go on safari and drive BMW’s and have nannies and servants in the house (I’m not kidding).

    They have private security firms patrolling their gated communities, and they never have to go outside of there to shop (thanks to the personal attendants) – to them, it is a paradise (if a bit of a prison paradise – but then again, as a Canadian, I can’t go anywhere I choose, either – I’d get mugged in many parts of the larger cities, right? Or a bear might eat me, etc.)

    So it is partly a matter of perspective, and partly what you make of it.

  36. Friar would of course fit in perfectly with the sort of redneck American patriot who knows that to criticize your country in any way is to hate it.

    Your homework assignment is to look up the idea of a loyal opposition. Then of course with a better understanding of the wonders of our own form of government you will be able to go and tell all the others in the world how they are supposed to live.

    I sometimes wonder that the entire world hasn’t followed our lead already. What is wrong with those people.

  37. To everyone criticizing Friar, this is the last thing I will say on the subject: Opposing gang rape/singular rape is not a culturally bias statement and there are African women protesting the way that they are being treated.

    Every country has problems, but treating women as badly as they do and raping them which also adds to the AIDS pandemic there, benefits no one and should be stopped.

    @XUP-Yes ‘white people’ made lots of mistakes in the past and yes some still do, but the rest of us are trying to become better human beings and part of that is helping the oppressed and disadvantaged. (ie. Women in other countries)

  38. THANK YOU! Pauline!!! You’re one of the few commenters here who get my point.

    There are some things that are absolutely, morally wrong…no matter what culture you come from. Gang rape is a good example. And oppressive countries where that is openly practiced are in the WRONG .

    But if you dare say that, the knee-jerk reaction is to bash Canada, in an attempt to bring ourselvesdown to the lowest common put us at that same level as those messed-up places.

    I dunno. What are we so AFRAID of? To admit that another third-world culture might not be as good as ours…? Is that really such a difficult thing to say?

    And for the record, I never said our country was above criticism.

    It’s just the way that the criticism is being used in this instance….to deflect away from what the actual debate was about.

    Personally attacking the debater by implying names like “redneck” are also signs of a weak argument. 🙂

  39. Friar/Pauline/Dave – I think we’re all arguing at cross purposes here. I think we all believe that rape and gang rape and killing women for disobeying their husbands and slavery and all sorts of other stuff is really bad. And I think we all agree that as moral, responsible people we should all be doing what we can to help those in trouble and those less fortunate both in our own country and in other countries. And we are doing that through a lot of different agencies. Some are good, some not so good. The only thing I was objecting to was the idea that we should go in with an army and force other countries to stop being so backward. There has to be some sort of line where we help out in bad situations, but not to interfere in cultural stuff that we might not like, but which is common practice in that country and/or part of their culture or religion. There’s a difference between Pauline’s idea of helping out and the idea of making all those strange other countries more like us

  40. Love this idea, love it and hey did I say I love it? I do, it’s brilliant and I think it’s a great way for women there to fight back.

  41. Lebanowski – Good old MP

    Leah – It’s “an” idea for sure. And it’s not without its problems, but it’s good to see someone trying to do something anyway.