What I’m about to say will fall into the “typical feminist buzzkill” stereotype– but, hey, it wouldn’t be the first time:

While most of you are undoubtedly watching the World Cup US v. Ghana game, think about the following: During one typical 90 minute game, 317 women in South Africa will be raped. It isn’t fun to think about, but one South African doctor is taking action against this sobering statistic. Sonette Ehlers has invented Rape-axe, a female condom-like device that painfully attaches itself to the perpetrator’s penis.

Rape-ax can be worn inconspicuously, but upon penetration, a man will experience teeth-like hooks that do not break the skin, but are very painful. Rape-axe can only be removed by a doctor, which Ehlers hopes will increase the sexual assault arrests in her country. Currently, only 7% of reported rapes result in a conviction in South Africa.

It’s an interesting idea, but there are two things that concern me:

  1. This is being marketed as an “anti-rape” condom, but the fact is, once the rapist becomes attached to the device, rape has already occurred. It may shorten the assault, but it certainly doesn’t prevent it.
  2. It’s generally considered fact that rape is about power and aggression, not sexual pleasure. If an already-aggressive rapist comes into contact with Rape-Axe, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume he could become more violent. Amidst intense pain and a foiled assault, he could likely take his rage out on the victim. In this case, the attack has the potential to become more traumatizing, more deadly.

Perhaps if it were widely distributed, the condom could have a deterring effect. But I’d be cautious about predicting the positive effects of Rape-Axe thus far. Solving Africa’s sexual assault and HIV/AIDS crises isn’t going to be accomplished through a toothed condom, because it’s much too linked with social attitudes, corrupt legal systems, hypermasculinity and war. Still, in a country where women are resorting to inserting razor blades wrapped in sponges, maybe this device can empower some women to protect themselves in a safer way.