SOUTH AFRICA/USA: Will the Condom with Teeth Catch on in the United States?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Southern Africa
Southern Africa
North America
United States of America
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

South African "Rape-aXe" -- Female Condom with Internal Ribs -- was Created to Prevent Rape

Will the "Condom With Teeth" catch on in the United States? The female condom with internal ribs akin to jagged teeth that capture a man's penis was designed by Sonnet Ehlers, a South African physician, to counter rape.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. According to South Africa's Medical Research Council in a 2009 report, 28% of men that were surveyed admitted to committing rape with a woman or girl, and one in 20 claimed they had committed rape in the past 12 months.

South Africa has been racked by an upsurge in rapes that went hand in hand with the rise in the AIDS epidemic. Many ignorant and superstitious men, on finding out that they were HIV-Positive or had Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, would resort to raping a girl or young woman they assumed was a virgin. Raping a virgin, in the local folkways, was held to be a cure for AIDS.


Sonnet Ehlers, who is white, got the idea to develop the device 40 years ago when she was a medical researcher at a hospital. A rape victim said she had wished she had had teeth in her vagina.

Called the "Rape-aXe," the Condom With Teeth is made out of latex. The prophylactic is inserted like a tampon by a woman who fears rape. If a man takes a woman by inserting his penis in her vagina which is equipped with the Condom with Teeth, his penis will be hooked by the stiff internal ribs, which Ehlers says are like jagged teeth. It is akin to getting one's penis caught in a zipper, only worse.

Only a physician can remove the device. Ehlers believes this will bring a rapist to justice in a country where rape goes under-reported.

Ehlers developed the Rape-aXe with input from engineers, gynecologists and psychologists. The design supposedly is safe for women to wear during an act of sexual intercourse. Ultimately, it will not mutilate the man, but will mightily discourage him. It will not wind up circumcising the rapist as it does not break the skin, but if the man tries to get it off, it will get stuck even more to his penis.

"It hurts, he cannot pee and walk when it's on," Ehlers had said of the Rape-aXe. "If he tries to remove it, it will clasp even tighter.... [H]owever, it doesn't break the skin, and there's no danger of fluid

World Cup

Ehlers, who distribured 30,000 Rape-aXes during the recent World Cup for free, says, "The ideal situation would be for a woman to wear this when she's going out on some kind of blind date...or to an area she's not comfortable with."

She plans to sell the Rape-aXe for the equivalent of US$2.00

The Condom With Teeth may seem to an American be more of a preventive measure, to scare off men who might be prone to rape. In that way, it is akin to a house in the United States with a sticker on the door proclaiming, PROTECTED BY SMITH & WESSON, the popular manufacturer of pistols. Whether the homeowner actually has a loaded pistol is a hazard the would-be burglar has to consider before breaking and entering. He might be discouraged.

However, in South Africa, due to the prevalence of rape, CNN reports that some women actually wear a razor blade in a sponge in their vaginas.

Party Favor?

It is hard for an American male to believe that a woman would actually wear the device in anticipation of a sexual assault for two reasons: The assault might never come, so it is a waste of time as well as being uncomfortable; and the rapist might become violent after having his penis rasped and caught by the Rape-aXe. An angry rapist might physically harm and even kill a woman. Rape, after all, is an act of violence, and a man who would rape a virgin as a cure for AIDS must be highly irrational to boot.

That leads one to a consideration on whether the Rape-aXe could catch on in the United States as a kind of perverse party favor. When I was in the Army a generation ago, a young soldier told me about a friend of his stationed in South Korea who married a "club girl." A club girl is a young woman sold into a prostitution by her family. She belongs to the club owner, the club being both a bar and a bordello.

The soldier's friend bought his wife-to-be from the club owner, but she eventually went back to her old way of life. The young soldier in turn, went back to the club and paid the owner for a "good-bye" love session with his wife.

According to his friend, the young soldier already had on a condom before taking her outside to lovey-her-up. He put on a second condom before engaging in the act of love and as a kicker, he applied a coating of Icy-Hot
balm to the condom in lieu of lubricant.

Such are the tales told by soldiers. Always in the third person.

Could a woman tired of her man give her baby a similar surprise with a Rape-aXe female condom with teeth? I'm sure the Internet will be the first medium to break the news when it does happen.

In honor of this event, here's the Devo classic "The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprise." That the video has sort of an African theme, with strange creatures playing a saxophone and the teeth in a hippo's mouth, makes it particularly relevant: