Techno-physical feminism: anti-rape technology, gender, and corporeal surveillance

Renee Marie Shelby*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Wearable anti-rape technologies are products designed to rebuild feminine bodies in a form allegedly more capable of warding off unwanted sexual advances. Although inventors have patented these controversial objects since the beginning of the Women’s Movement, in 2010, anti-rape technology began to receive global media attention as the new wave in self-defense. While proponents of women’s physical self-defense argue corporeal techniques, such as martial arts and boxing, empower women by disrupting traditional gender norms, inventors embrace a “post-feminist sensibility” arguing technology-facilitated rape-prevention is more effective because passive prevention is in-line with traditional gender norms. This article constructs a genealogy of anti-rape technology using international patent and historical records from 1850 to 2016. This analysis reveals that inventors subscribe to what I term techno-physical feminism—or strategies that utilize technoscience to seemingly transform the wearer’s psychology, corporeal resilience, and agency. Techno-physical feminism draws on Judy Wajcman’s articulation of technofeminism and Martha McCaughey’s physical feminism to analyze the material and discursive relationships between gender regulation, bodies, and technology. While there could be more liberatory designs of techno-physical feminism, I argue this iteration of wearable anti-rape technology reinforces traditional gender ideologies and re-inscribes feminine bodies as passive. This analysis also finds that although popular media accounts frame anti-rape technology as novel, these objects are derived from historical chastity technologies designed to promote normative masculinity. This research illuminates how technology has long been invoked to respond to shifting and gendered paradigms of sexual risk and contributes to conversations about gender, power, and corporeal surveillance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1088-1109
Number of pages22
JournalFeminist Media Studies
Volume20
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Feminism
  • gender
  • postfeminism
  • rape prevention
  • sexual violence
  • technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts

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