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Waterloo activist fights rape culture with consent-positive panties

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In 2012, a group of feminist organizers launched a sassy Victoria Secret lookalike lingerie line with one key difference -- consent was front and centre. The much re-tweeted Pink Loves Consent campaign highlighted phrases like "talk to me" and "consent is sexy" on women's underwear. The campaign had a lasting effect on Amulya Sanagavarapu, a computer science student at the University of Waterloo.

"When I saw that, it first opened my eyes to rape culture in our society," she said. "But secondly I was thinking why was no one implementing this?"

Thousands of tweets and hundreds of emails from eager supporters were sent, with a following ready to stand by Victoria Secret's new attitude -- but the campaign was an awareness project and was not endorsed by the company. While Victoria Secret tried to shut organizers down, Amulya couldn't shake the initial excitement over the idea. A year later, no one was actually making consent-friendly panties for sex-positive feminists. So Amulya took the idea and ran with it.

Her Kickstarter project, Feminist Style, is looking to launch a collection of ten designs of panties and boxers with saying like "only yes means yes," "Ask first" and "I love my body." Amulya says that the designs were based on what she, and the many other fans of the Pink Loves Consent campaign, wished they could find in stores. Rather than coming up with a consent-positive T-shirt, Amulya says she wants to confront the rapey messages currently on women's underwear by offering a comparable alternative. She says the damage in having sexually objectifying underwear slogans sold by many big lingerie chains, is the implicit things that they teach women about consent.

"If you look at underwear designs all the slogans out there are very sexually objectifying," she said. "They have slogans like 'ready for anything,' 'take it off' or the classic 'no peeking' which is supposed to be flirty but it's just teaching no isn't a strong word, it's being flirty."

These problematic messages are created by rape culture, a collection of cultural products that normalize violence against women to the point where sexual violence seems inevitable. Rape culture can be anything from sexist jokes to objectifying advertising. By putting out sexy underwear that goes directly against the grain of rape culture, Amulya says she's trying to enact larger social and cultural change. 

Amulya's Kickstarter has already surpassed its goal of $25,000. But she has no plans on stopping there. 

"I want to fight a lot of different issues," she said. "I want this to be an umbrella that tackles women in advertising and what products are marketed towards them."

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