The promises and perils of anti-rape technologies

Lesley McMillan*, Deborah White

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter focuses on the remarkable array of devices that has emerged in recent years claiming the capacity to prevent or mitigate sexual violence. These so-called ‘anti-rape technologies’ aimed primarily at women include apps that harness the communication functions of digital mobile phones and a variety of ‘wearables’, all designed to alert others to potentially dangerous situations collect evidence, and thwart attacks. In this chapter, we offer a substantive critique of these devices, outlining their possible unintended consequences, the misunderstandings and misrepresentations often present in their design and marketing, their potential for misuse and violence perpetration and their contribution to the normalisation of fear and the apparent necessity for women to take responsibility for their own protection through daily routinised safety work. We then extend our analysis to explore the possibility that for some, these may represent tools that allow for a sense of greater freedom, autonomy and agency; accepting one form of control and restriction to alleviate another. We conclude, however, that despite any potential benefits at individual or societal levels, the majority of these technologies signify ‘safety theatre’, offering only the illusion of safety, rather than realistically reducing the chances of assault or the eradication of rape.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Gendered Violence and Technology
EditorsAnastasia Powell, Asher Flynn, Lisa Sugiura
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9783030837341
ISBN (Print)9783030837334
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • sexual violence
  • women
  • technologies


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