Technology For Rape Prevention: Putting the Onus on Survivors and Developing a Self-Controlled Feminine Subject


Technology For Rape Prevention: Putting the Onus on Survivors and Developing a Self-Controlled Feminine Subject


In October 2021, Sky News asked the following question in a tweet announcing "The Great Debate" about women's safety: "Do you clutch at your keys while walking home at night?" Many ladies who responded to the tweet stated that they now always act defensively. The question seemed benign at first, even reasonable.

But when given some thought, the concept of rape prevention technology as it stands today becomes biased. We can see the bias in how the question and the technology place the onus on women to ensure their safety from sexual assault by taking a quick look at its underlying tenet.

Designs for consumer goods and technological advancements have always been positioned around the victim's body with little to no thought given to directing them at the offender. The most likely targets, in particular women, always carried preventive devices for sexual assault on them, starting with the chastity belt, which was based on the patriarchal ideals attributed to virginity and chastity.

In the technologization of rape prevention, the monetization of women's protection is evident. In actuality, consumption of gendered lifestyles is intrinsically tied to the hyper-normalization of the dread of sexual assault. This consumerist approach to women's protection is seen in the increase in self-defence programmes, both online and offline, as well as the numerous pepper spray carrier varieties.

"It is a stylish module that can be worn as a necklace, clipped to a bag, attached to a key fob, or any other location that suits the wearer's lifestyle... the ultimate accessory for the everyday woman," said the co-founder of the business that introduced The Athena Pendant, a rape prevention accessory. The routine use of these tools normalises the culture of rape, which renders the culture of securitization for women a fraud. Putting capitalist prejudices aside, advances in rape prevention technology question the idea that science is impartial and value-neutral.

Technofeminism, a book by sociologist Judy Wajcman, argues that technology is socially formed. Several widely held, gendered rape myths are mirrored by many of the suggested or available anti-rape technologies, which portray and duplicate specific images of sexual assault.

This raises concerns because of the possibility of individual effectiveness as well as the legitimization of myths about sexual violence. The assumption that rape somehow becomes the victim's/fault survivor is subtly reinforced by placing the duty of remaining safe from rape on women and other possible targets.

In the event of a malfunction, several of the garment technologies that emerged in this field could potentially have a negative influence on the women themselves. For instance, the possibility exists that a lady wearing electrically conductive underwear will have to decide between being molested or electrocuted. Additionally, women may feel uncomfortable or constrained in such clothing.

Numerous physical items and the discourse that goes along with them (such as anti-rape underwear and buckles with complex locking systems) encourage the idea that sexual assault occurs through vaginal penetration and that a woman is safe as long as the attacker cannot take her underwear off. Therefore, anti-rape products may be exclusive not only for financial reasons but also because of how they define who requires protection and from what.

Another error in this strategy is assuming that all women would wear these items of apparel and accessories. The idea of "stranger danger" that underlies these devices could not be realistic given the prevalence of sexual attacks that occur in people's homes. Preventive rape apps lead women to more surveillance, which has major ramifications for privacy and paradoxically, their safety.

Particularly in light of GPS communication technology, which enables numerous people to virtually track a woman's location at all times, there is increased surveillance of women. Such access, for instance, is provided by the live GPS trace in programmes like bSafe. Additionally, many apps operate under the presumption that the woman will be able to use her phone in the event of a suspected sexual assault.

According to a study on these apps by Rena Bivens and Amy Adele Hasinoff, the design elements of these apps do not take actual sexual assault experiences into account. They "do not address the sorts of coercion that known criminals generally use, such emotional manipulation, abusing a power relationship, or targeting intoxicated victims," according to their key characteristics.

Rape prevention technologies not only define how women interface with public areas in regularised ways, but also indicate potentially risky locations, encourage them to police their own movements, and advise them on how to dress, decorate, and what to carry. The majority of rape prevention clothing is likewise trans-exclusive.

In addition to the fact that many women are unable to avoid certain areas because they may reside or work there, these technologies also help society impose more control over women's daily lives, making them more vulnerable. The stated safety technology for women then serves as a tool to develop a disciplined feminine subject.

Only bystander interventions and their technology supplements, even if they are not as advanced as they should be, are not aimed at the victim. The narrative continues to be centred on the potentially dangerous locations that women/potential sexual assault victims go to or the potentially dangerous substances they may ingest (thus inventions that detect date rape drugs), rather than on males and their violent behaviours.

Instead of emphasising interventions to apprehend the offenders or educating them about the concept of consent, the conversation is still focused on how women might resist physical force. Such technology also lacks safeguards against assaults committed not through physical compulsion but instead through emotional manipulation.

Without a doubt, the availability of such rape prevention tools, notwithstanding their technological biases, is beneficial. However, they only effectively cure stab wounds by covering them with a bandage. They might be of some use, but they don't deal with the root causes of rape. This self-help approach to rape prevention does not negate the wider need for society to develop policies and strategies that prevent rape by concentrating on societal attitudes.

It will quickly turn into another forum for victim-blaming if we concentrate just on rape prevention technology that relies on the accountability of women and other possible targets. Constant awareness of the value of permission and abhorrence of the mentality that presents rape as a power surge is vital, as is education about these topics. If science and technology are to make a difference, they must address systematic gender violence and how to make perpetrators fearful of repercussions.

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