Susan B. Anthony, the mother of the women's vote in the U.S. said: "I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand." Ms. Anthony said that more than one hundred years ago.
She did not say: "Don your chastity belts, girls!" Currently there's an internet brouhaha about the modern equivalent of chastity belts: "Anti-rape" underwear, being promoted through a crowd-sourced funding platform. This antiquated, really bad idea has already raised significant bucks. Some of us in the self-defense community are countering with a less medieval approach to the concept of "anti-rape," which is dubbed: "Go Commando!"
I am curious if the anti-rape panties promoters are surprised by all the attention they've gotten. I visited their website and interpreted it as dark humor, or a tongue-in-cheek idea hatched by friends after too many margaritas. I'm not going to provide a link to their campaign, as "Go Commando!" deserves your attention (and dollars) a lot more than armored undies.
"Anti-rape panties" is really a misnomer. They should be called "anti-vaginal penetration" panties, which would encourage an assailant to figure out another warm orifice. What's next? A modern re-introduction of a Scold's Mask to prevent forced fellatio? A quick history lesson: Scold's Masks were iron masks for uppity women who talked too much, or said the wrong things to people in power.
In case you don't know women's history, the idea of dressing women and girls in such a way as to frustrate a rapist is as old as, well, castles, damsels-in-distress, rogue knights and Vikings. To this day, some Middle Eastern cultures require women to cover themselves completely, believing this will mitigate the power of temptation that women, by the simple fact of their very existence as females, have over men.
However, no one has ever promulgated the idea of putting sheep in protective clothing. Nervous flocks, ranging from Yemen to Wyoming, have endured the unwanted attentions of horny men since time immemorial. Sheep worldwide are not actively tempting men, yet are raped nonetheless. They are not "asking for it."
Golda Meir (1898-1974) the late great Prime Minister of Israel had it right. "Once, in a Cabinet meeting, we had to deal with the fact that there had been an outbreak of assaults on women at night. One minister suggested a curfew: women should stay home after dark. I said, 'But it's the men who are attacking the women. If there's to be a curfew, let the men stay home, not the women!'"
Channeling Golda Meir, we would be better off developing anti-rapist briefs for men, since it's a few bad men who insist on forcing their junk where it doesn't belong.
"Hey, boys -- can't control your rape drive? Buy these iron boxers! They're so difficult to remove, by the time you've dropped your drawers, your urges will drop too!" Crazy, right? That's how many of us, women and men alike, feel about the nuts notion of anti-rape underwear for women.
As Gavin de Becker and I wrote in the "Rites of Spring" here at the Huffington Post, preparing for violence should be considered as a normal part of physical literacy or disaster preparedness. And yes, there are walking, talking disasters out there, just waiting to jump on an innocent person, with or without her chastity panties on. We are talking about a "females as chattel" mentality when we put the onus of rape on women and girls, and not on the rapists themselves.
As Lisa Gaeta, my colleague and co-author of "The Safety Godmothers" always says, "The only person who is always there to defend you... is you," which is also the motto for my, currently in production, self-defense documentary called "Beauty Bites Beast." Your dog is not always with you. Your pepper spray might have rolled out of your purse and under the car seat. Your super-panties might be in a twist in the laundry hamper.
Until we can research and develop anti-rape "lingerie" for men -- I'm thinking something in white, with a penile motion detector skunk bomb, combined with an electrical charge -- why don't we get behind a simple idea that's far more modern, like: Having women learn how to fight and defend themselves verbally and physically! Think "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," but with a lot less fancy choreographed fighting. (Thanks, Joss Whedon!)
Self-defense is not just fighting physically. If the concept of a "fight" for a woman is doing whatever she needs to do to survive, including strategically submitting, then in our view, she fought. Elizabeth Smart didn't fight her sick abductor, Brian David Mitchell. She did what she had to do to survive and tell her story.
There's a vicious and inaccurate meme going around that says that self-defense advocates blame survivors of assaults because they didn't fight back. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, many of us are survivors who didn't fight back in the moment. We listened to what we knew at the time, followed our instincts and in some cases didn't fight. We don't "back seat" drive for people who didn't fight. We do provide healing, nurturing and skills that are, I believe, every person's right to know.
I have been thinking, speaking and writing about personal safety for decades now. Smart-ass that I am, I do not officially speak for the organizers of "Go Commando," nor do I officially speak for the board of IMPACT Personal Safety as a board member. I speak as an ardent advocate for women, kids and gentlemen who I believe need to know the basics of self-protection.
So, in the spirit of "Got Fight?," please don't buy or fund anti-rape panties. Instead, help us get our education out to the many people who could use less medieval attitudes, and more practical resistance tactics.
News flash! Despite entertainment depictions to the contrary, men and boys are simply flesh and blood. A well-placed heel-palm, knee to the groin, or eye-strike works wonders!
Susan B. Anthony had it right.
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