Religion & Beliefs

Taking a Bite Out of Crime

A good friend of mine e-mailed me a link to a story in the Foreign Policy blog about a new device being used to fight rape in South Africa. It’s called the Rapex. The rapex, shaped like a female condom, … Read More

By / April 13, 2007

A good friend of mine e-mailed me a link to a story in the Foreign Policy blog about a new device being used to fight rape in South Africa. It’s called the Rapex.

The rapex, shaped like a female condom, is worn internally and equipped with 25 teeth in its lining. The razor-sharp teeth fasten on the attacker's penis if he attempts penetration. Since the device does no lasting damage to the attacker, it is completely legal and will sell for 1 Rand (around 14 cents) when it hits stores. The majority of women surveyed about the device said they would be willing to use it. The inventor of Rapex, South African Sonette Ehler, a former medical technician, got the idea when a traumatized rape victim lamented to her, "If only I had teeth down there."

Later in the article there’s discussion of Rapex detractors who say:

The idea places the burden of stopping rape on the victims rather than the perpetrators. But the reality, according to Ehler, is that "[n]obody can make you safe except you." Given that South Africa has the highest per capita rate of rape of any country in the world, at a reported 119 per 100,000 people (which translates to around 1.7 million women raped each year), she may have a compelling argument.

I’m looking into what, precisely, Jewish law would have to say about something like this. As a rule, rape is more widely defined in Jewish law than it is by the American legal system. A woman is usually presumed not to have consented to the intercourse even if she enjoyed it, and even if she consented after the sexual act began and declined a rescue. Rape within marriage is also halachically recognized and prohibited, largely because sex within marriage is considered the woman’s right, not the man’s. The question becomes: how offensive can we be in our defense against rape? I’m going to ask some rabbinic authorities, but I suspect one of them will quote Deuteronomy 22, which is the chapter where rape is discussed and prohibited, and the chapter with the famous ruling that requires a fence built around the roof of a new house to ensure that no one falls off. This is the source for a vast number of protective measures we take both physically and spiritually. The key is only to build fences around roofs where someone is likely to go wandering and take a fall. South Africa is clearly a place where one runs a great risk of being raped. But what about Nashville, or Chicago, or New York, or Jerusalem? In the US, a study conducted by the Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 6 women is the victim of attempted or completed rape. 1 In 33 men have experienced sexual assault. (View more statistics here). Those numbers are pretty high, but are they high enough that I want to run out and buy a Rapex? Not really. The idea of walking around with that thing in is both yucky and sad. And while I’m reassured that it exists, and I’m glad to see women are building their own fences in the face of real threats, this fence doesn’t seem like the most effective or practical device. Anyone have a brilliant idea that doesn’t involve sticking a toothy device into a poor girl’s vajayjay?