Rape is a serious topic. I don't even like to hear the word because it's burned its meaning into my brain in a way that makes me cringe. I especially hate to hear the word mis-appropriated for things that are not rape. When musicians or actors talk about being 'raped' by studios and record labels it dilutes the meaning of the word and turns a very specific crime of violence into something more abstract. When we abstract things, it's easier to lessen their meaning. I've had several friends who are rape survivors, and let me tell you that when you hear their stories first hand, not on TV or in a book, but when someone you know is telling you what happened to them, there's no amount of abstraction there, and no abstraction would be justified.

Now, there's a new device coming on the market and news of its release is spreading through the LiveJournals and blogs. This thing was reportedly inspired by the idea of vaginal teeth that could resist or attack a male attacker. The device doesn't stop a rapist from penetrating his victim, it simply makes that penetration unpleasant or possibly painful, and it forces the rapist to seek medical attention to have the device removed. There are all kinds of problems with this idea.

Someone was quoted in the article as saying "I would encourage my wife and two daughters to wear this device. It would send a signal to would-be rapists that they won't have it easy." I'm not sure how a device that a woman wears like a tampon is supposed to send a signal. The thing about this that's screaming at me is that we live in a world where an ill-conceived device like this is even a remote necessity. Experts in the article rightly point out that the focus needs to be on changing men's behavior, making them accountable, reducing the objectification of women, and reducing violence in our culture. In medicine, there was a fundamental shift in ideologies at one point where physicians stopped treating the symptoms of a wound or disease and started trying to pinpoint the symptoms' cause. The holistic view treats the patient's whole being because the body is a big, interconnected series of organs and systems that all affect each other in some way. In short, it doesn't make sense to give someone a remedy that simply dries out their sinuses if the problem is a cold brought on by infection. Likewise, we can produce devices like this ad infinitum, and they won't move us an inch closer to solving the problem.

People need to take this stuff more seriously. In the contemporary arts, and especially in music (noise music being the worst), rape has become an easy way to shock and offend people. It's been turned into a gimmick by bands and record labels and fans who've never thought once about what the mis-use and watering down of the term for entertainment purposes might mean. A noise artist making a lot of racket with home-soldered distortion pedals and a microphone isn't saying anything constructive about, or doing anything to help the problem. All that the rest of us can do is support the people who need it, and turn our backs on the people who take this matter and make it something frivolous.