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An early prototypical anti-rape female tampon was invented in late 2000 by Jaap Haumann, a South African man, for the purpose of preventing rape. Haumann's device was designed to resemble a tampon for ease of insertion, and consisted of a hard cylindrical plastic core containing a tensioned spring blade primed to slice when pressed against by the tip of a penis. Following activation, a portion of the tip of the penis would be removed, in effect performing a minor penectomy.
An anti-rape female condom using a different design was invented by Sonnet Ehlers, a South African woman. Ehlers was motivated to create it while working as a blood technician with the South African Blood Transfusion Service, during which time she met many rape victims. Ehler mentioned that she was inspired to create RAPEX (later renamed to Rape-aXe) when a patient who had been raped stated, "If only I had teeth down there," suggesting the myth of the vagina dentata. Initially called RapeX, the name was changed in 2006 upon discovering that RAPEX is also an EU warning system against dangerous goods on the market.
The Rape-aXe is a latex sheath embedded with shafts of sharp, inward-facing barbs that would be worn by a woman in her vagina like a female condom. If an attacker were to attempt vaginal rape, his penis would enter the latex sheath and be snagged by the barbs, causing the attacker excruciating pain during withdrawal and giving the victim time to escape. The condom would remain attached to the attacker's body when he withdrew and could only be removed surgically, which would alert hospital staff and police. Like most condoms, Rape-aXe also usually prevents pregnancy and the transmission of HIV and sexually transmitted infections.
Rape-aXe was unveiled on August 31, 2005 in South Africa. Although media coverage at the time implied that mass production was due to begin in April 2007, the device has never been marketed to the public and it remains unclear whether the product will ever be available for purchase.
It is like we are going back to the days where women were forced to wear chastity belts. It is a terrifying thought that women are being made to adapt to rape by wearing these devices ... Women would have to wear this every minute of their lives on the off-chance that they would be raped.—Lisa Vetten (Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, South Africa)
This is a medieval instrument, based on male-hating notions and fundamentally misunderstands the nature of rape and violence against women in this society.
Ehler responded to criticism in the FAQ section of her website: "As with everything in life there will be negative attitudes and I can't be responsible for people who refuse to educate men and feel the device is medieval," and responds by calling the Rape-aXe "a medieval device for a medieval deed."
"Sadly, many women have been killed over time, as nobody can guarantee the outcome of any rape. However, the huge plus-factor is that the discomfort and pain is such that the rapist would be disabled temporarily, giving you time to get away and get help."
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