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Thursday 18 December  
Sonnet Ehlers demonstrates her new anti-rape female condom.
Michael Blass's picture
Pretoria, South Africa
Pretoria, South Africa

Anti-rape condom: safeguard or risk?

Published on : 16 April 2010 - 11:29am | By Michael Blass (Photo: AFP/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)
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A woman can insert it like a conventional female condom, and it will protect her against sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies. And also against rapistsor so its South African inventor claims. Inside the anti-rape condom are tiny hooks which attach to the skin on penetration, trapping the penis inside. But is this a realistic response to South Africa's culture of violence against women?

Every 26 seconds a woman is raped in South Africa, says Dr Sonnet Ehlers, inventor of the anti-rape condom. The Rape-aXe, as it's called, is inserted with an applicator like a tampon. It then remains in place inside the vagina without the woman being aware of it. Like a conventional female condom, it will stop semen from entering the body, thus acting as a contraceptive and protecting the woman against HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. But there the similarity stops. The Rape-aXe is designed as a weapon against rapists.
After penetration, as soon as an attacker withdraws the first time, tiny hooks pierce the skin of the penis. The hooks don't go through to the spongy tissue beneath the skin, so there's no bleeding. Even if any blood is lost, it's contained within the condom, so there's no increased risk of HIV infection. Once the condom is on the penis, according to Dr Ehlers, it's then impossible for the rapist to remove it himself - it's simply too painful and causes too much skin damage. He will be forced to see a medical professional to have it removed - resulting in his inevitable arrest.
Dr Ehlers isn't worried that would-be rapists will think to check their victims for anti-rape condoms:
"I went into prisons, and I spoke to the rapists themselves. Most of them said to me that it would be such a surprise factor... I said 'and will you look for Rape-aXe beforehand?' And they said no because it's a hit and run, you've got to be quick and get away from the scene."
It might seem high-risk strategy to use a device in self-defence which is liable to horrify and enrage a violent attacker, but Dr Ehlers doesn't believe her invention could put women in even greater danger.
"The men are violent already, so I cannot make them more violent with Rape-aXe. And another thing is if they kill their victim, he will be in double trouble. Because he's tagged, he cannot remove it, he's got to go to a hospital, and then he's identified. So now at least he'll be up for rape, and not for murder and rape."
This assumes, of course, that a rapist, finding his penis gripped by invisible needles, will pause to consider the legal ramifications of taking out his anger on his victim. Dr Ehler's website claims that at this point the anti-rape condom "will buy you time to get away". She puts it all down to the benefit of the "surprise factor".
"The moment he looks down - 'what happened to me?' - that gives you time to jump up and run. He cannot run after you. You must remember that it's attached to the penis during erection, and the penis wants to go back to normal, and it can't because it's almost like a splint that's on it now. He cannot urinate, because if he pulls the tip to cut that off so that he can urinate, he pulls the hooks deeper into his body."
Comments from South African men on the Radio Netherlands Worldwide website raise further concerns that the device is likely to provoke violence. Some responses to the news report on the condom were so misogynistic and offensive they had to be removed from the site. A further concern about the Rape-aXe condom is that it could potentially be used by aggrieved women to take revenge on men. 

A 2009 study by South Africa's Medical Research Council revealed a chilling picture of male sexual violence in the country. More than a quarter of men questioned in the study confessed to having raped, some of them more than once. The report concludes that "Rape prevention must focus centrally on changing social norms around masculinity and sexual entitlement, and addressing the structural underpinnings of rape."
Dr Ehler's answer is Rape-aXe. And she's currently seeking donations to make 30,000 free anti-rape condoms available to the women of South Africa.


Amy B. 2 October 2014 - 10:05pm / USA

I vehemently disagree with the commenters who say this is a bad idea that won't prevent rape. Of course it will prevent rape! As soon as reports start hitting the media of men whose penises were slashed during a rape, you bet your bottom dollar the incidence of rape will sharply decline. Women won't even need to use these on a regular basis, because the mere thought that his victim MIGHT be wearing one will be a deterrent. Moreover, it will stop a rape in progress, and to a woman who is being raped, you'd better believe she wants it to stop before it goes any further! Leading to further violence? This is the same argument that's used about guns, resistance, and other responses to rape (protecting yourself might get you hurt). In some cases, it may; in other cases, it will prevent it. Exposure to HIV? Come on! The woman is going to be exposed when the man ejaculates inside of her; this device prevents that, and contains most fluids inside the condom. And the claims that this device, yet again, places responsibility for preventing rape into the hands of the woman? That's the namby-pamby response of the privileged. Yes, I want to be empowered to stop my own rape! Am I going to say, "Don't empower me to stop my own rape, because that would theoretically postulate that I'm responsible for it"? Not a chance! I venture to say that the folks vehemently objecting to this device are -- whether male or female -- simply more horrified by the damage to the man than to the woman.

TOO RISKY 20 February 2013 - 4:42am / USA


Anonymous 27 January 2013 - 1:22pm / USA

Am I to believe a woman who has concerns of being raped can wear one of these in her vagina for long periods of time? What about running the risk of bacterial infection? How do you keep something like this sanitary in the types of third world shit holes where it would be mose effective in its use? Toxic shock syndrome seems like a huge potential side effect.

Chelsea Sinagra 25 March 2011 - 8:49pm

I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but good topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for excellent information I was looking for this information for my mission.

dan 1 January 2011 - 9:32am / indonesian

hello, my name Dianti wanasari, I come from West Sumatra, Padang, Indonesia. I amvery interested in the rape ax and want to publish it in Indonesia because it is sosuitable for use by Indonesian women who will work abroad, because many of themare raped by her employer. therefore I want to know how to get these tools and whetherany of the books, papers or journals about the use of rape ax good about how their useand impact of their use. I am very interested in creating a seminar on this tool. pleasehelp and please reply to this message

Anonymous 15 July 2010 - 5:59pm / India

This will not solve the real problem of women. Woman who is wearing this will have to undergo the trauma and assault of the act 'rape' which is more important than getting conceived or infected. This cannot be prevented.
I also doubt the success rate of this device. Removing the device from penis may not be as complicated as being narrated here. Even doctors may remove the device without any fuss if he is paid more! I don't think this will become popular in our soceity. Rape alarms are better than this I feel. But I appreciate the ingenuity of the invention!

Anonymous 25 June 2010 - 11:20am / kenya

there is a big divide between the effectiveness of this device and the intended purpose it was made for. Defining a problem is the hardest part of designing its solution. This anti rape device is a disgrace. it does not guarantee the safety of the victim from the offender. Are they only assuming that rape occurs on the roadside or in the bushes where the victim can easily escape,consider the ramifications of enraging a violent offender when the victim cannot escape.secondly, youre assuming the person wearing this device has no ill motives and will only use it to protect herself fro an attacker.You might as well issue guns to all women and instruct them to only use them in a rape situation.its an innovative idea but not well thought through.thirdly rapists though being the scum of the earth, are not completely stupid. If a rapist is smart enough to read this page,of even a local paper which has printed this topic they would check their victims for the device an excercise that would take less than a minute to complete..

Anonymous 24 June 2010 - 7:17pm / Canada

I think this is fantastic. And no, he can't remove it as easily as the one commenter says, it has to be SURGICALLY REMOVED.
& if the guy is going to rape you anyways, might as well make it scar him for life as well.

d4m4s74 22 June 2010 - 9:36pm

Rape-aXe, changing rape to murder since 2005!

Seriously, I've seen the thing.
the first thing it will do is anger the guy and make him kill her
and when he gets home he can simply shim it (push something between de penis and the teeth) and remove it.

Also, this is not an anti-rape device, it's a rape-revenge device. For it to work you need the rapist to penetrate the victim, in other words. it only works AFTER rape is commenced.

Anonymous 6 September 2014 - 5:04pm / uk

Women aren't idiots. If they go to the trouble of wearing these then there are aware of how they work. I will try my best to keep myself safe but if I am to be raped then I want the worm to hate every minute. And then to be sent to prison. Where they can have the pleasure of being being repeatedly raped by other sick fucks.

Anonymous 21 June 2010 - 11:56pm / USA

What's this world coming to?

Frankly, I'm all for it...but the fact a young girl would have to wear something like this to protect herself is a damn shame. As much as I'd like to execute every rapist out there, severely harming them in this manner is "the punishment fitting the crime". Imagine all those would-be-rape-victims who'll get to LAUGH ABOUT THIS LATER ON !!! " and then, he tried to rape me...and then he ran away screaming".

Sure beats the status quo i see everyday on Law & order SVU.

Petey 9 June 2010 - 7:03pm

“It’s True, Vagina Dentata”—This is a famous quote from a D-movie called Teeth. The movie is essentially about the folk tale of women with toothed vaginas, which is said to be told by many different cultures as a cautionary tale to prevent sex with strangers and to discourage rape. Though the tale of women actually being born with a chomping vag is debatable, the act of actually inserting a bitelike device is not.

Phil C. 3 June 2010 - 11:33pm / United States

I can't see this thing being a big hit. What are the chances that a woman will get raped on a given day? 1 in 10,000? 1 in 100,000? 1 in several million? The risk of a serious bacterial infection while wearing this gadget may exceed the risk of becoming the target of a rapist. It would be better if women were taught effective self-defence techniques that they can apply anywhere, anytime.

Anonymous 1 May 2010 - 8:32pm

this is shite, and very misandristic. rapists are scum and usually get what they deserve anyway. you mustnt forget some women are vile little bitches and might wear one on purpose and lure a man into bed so that they could damage/mutilate his penis, or stitch him up for false rape.

this does NOT work.

cordodle 18 April 2010 - 6:06pm / United States

I think this invention is great!! If someone is going to rape someone who knows what else they are capable of. Like the Dr said the Rape-Axe will probaly give the victim time to get away. It is terrible that such a device has to be in existence but the rape statistics for the population that was in mind with its invention are horrible ad something has to be done! Anything can be abused and thats just the reality of all things in life but I think its great that these women have a way to defend themselves against this crime in some way! Dr Ehler is my hero

Anonymous 22 June 2010 - 12:02am / USA

I'm with you. FRANKLY, I'd LOVE IT if all the females I knew had one of these. The only men against this are the ones who've raped or plan to rape.

I also recommend women in these places get guns. a 9mm slug in the forehead takes the situation from "rape" to "no rape" pretty quickly.

jasmin 18 April 2010 - 8:30am / India

It is both...

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