More than a manicure: Protection from sexual assault

By in Opinions
One in five women experience sexual assult in their lifetimes. Can this nail polish help to reduce this number?
One in five women experience sexual assult in their lifetimes. Can this nail polish help to reduce this number?

Sexual assault is definitely no laughing matter — as a serious issue it affects both women and men all across the globe. Typically, the focus on how one can avoid sexual assault is dedicated to taking preventative measures — including limiting alcohol consumption, knowing your company and avoiding questionable situations.

However this could all change. The newest proposed method of avoiding sexual assault is simply a manicure. Yes, you heard me right. Ladies, this innovative nail polish changes color when it comes into contact with any liquid that has been infused with date rape drugs like GHB, Xanax and Rohypnol. The polish, called Undercover Colors, was proposed by four undergraduate students from North Carolina State University.

This is both clever and creative, but will a nail polish really help prevent sexual assault?

Date rape drugs are odourless, tasteless, slipped into drinks and most often found in college settings. The person who ingests them becomes weak and can lose consciousness — a perfect victim for sexual assault. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that nearly one in five women will experience rape at some point in their lives and at least one-third of these women will be college-aged.

The undergraduate inventors said that their main goal with the polish was to invent something that would empower women to protect themselves. This approach to sexual assault has definitely never been taken before and it is difficult to know how effective it would be, since it would only be useful in cases that utilize date rape drugs, not in other situations that spur sexual assault.

This nail polish could potentially reduce the risk of date rape in general; perhaps men would be less inclined to use date rape drugs in the first place due to the risk of getting caught, since the nail polish is undetectable and will look like completely normal nail polish.

While I do believe these students’ initiatives are both commendable and possibly effective, there is a common thread that bothers me. Giving women sneaky methods to avoid rape seems to imply that men cannot control themselves. Put frankly, this position assumes that rapists are lurking everywhere and women should be implementing protective mechanisms to avoid being assaulted.

This is not just in this particular situation. All efforts at combating rape are usually directed at women. Rape happens to women the most, therefore it must be their fault — so let’s give them something to protect themselves with. Whether it’s telling women to wear less provocative clothing, avoid dark alleys at night or to not act in certain ways, this advice assumes that women should be the ones to prevent rape because the men who rape cannot prevent it themselves.

Men should be insulted by these assumptions. This implies that women should have certain tactics in place to prevent themselves from being in potentially dangerous sexual situations. That we even need to invent a nail polish to combat date rape drug use is both sad and enraging.

Having a hidden mechanism to determine whether your drink is safe or not rests on the presumption that you are not safe to begin with. Women cannot attend parties or the bar without concern and especially cannot have a drink without fear of being raped. Where I was not previously concerned about being date raped, this has caused me to wonder if I really should be. If rape really does happen to one in five women and I pick 10 of my girl friends, that means two of us will experience rape in our lifetimes — and we’re all college-aged. This is frightening and leads me to encourage these undergraduate men to please invent more sexual assault protection tactics along with the nail polish.

Will nail polish really help with stopping sexual assault? Maybe, but the fact that sexual assault needs an undercover nail polish in the first place is disturbing.

Naomi Zurevinski / Opinions Editor

Photo: Katherine Fedoroff / Photo Editor

  • angry foodie

    You know, the only date rape drug I have ever seen was GHB, and the girls were popping them like crazy.

    However, I liked this article, especially how she acknowledged how important limiting alcohol consumption is.

    Because if you get loser drunk, not only are you more vulnerable to someone else, but you are also more vulnerable to yourself making dumbass decisions.

    My hunch, based on significant experience, is that these drugs are much less common than your average “rape culture” crusader claims they are. In my wild days, I never had problems finding girls willing to do drugs with me. Of course I learned that weed was like the anti-sex drug. You bring a girl home from the bar, smoke a big joint, and the girl whose hand was on your crotch 45 minutes earlier is on her phone, calling a cab. Happened so many times, it’s what I got for having more benign tastes in drugs I suppose.

  • Guest

    I am a male and let me tell you that I am not insulted by the fact that most men are dumbasses and a lot of men lack self-control, especially when it comes to sexuality. YES, I agree that I would like to see a world where women could wear anything they want and do anything they want and go anywhere they want without fearing getting attacked by a male, but the REALITY is that some things TRIGGER something in men in a very much animal-instinct manner. If you’re bleeding profusely and decide to jump into a fish tank full of sharks, YES the sharks are the ones responsible for attacking you; but, nonetheless, being attacked could have been PREVENTED by not jumping in the shark tank. I quote the article “Rape happens to women the most, therefore it must
    be their fault” and need to mention that I do not believe it is their
    fault, just like in my shark story. Ultimately, it is the shark’s fault,
    but preventative measures should be taken when they are available. It’s
    also like walking across a street at a pedestrian crossing! The pedestrian has the right of way, but if they cross without even looking or if they cross when the vehicles have not come to a complete stop, they take a risk. If they get hit and end up in a
    wheelchair, YES, ultimately it is the driver’s fault, but man…
    blaming it on the driver won’t change the fact you’re in a wheelchair
    and it could have been prevented by taking precautionary measures. Again, yes, i wish women’s choices did not trigger such male instincts to kick in, and yes those males need to seek help; but in the meantime, while we wait for society as a whole to figure out an effective/guaranteed way to make ALL males non-rapists, just be smart, be safe, and be aware of the REALITY of the situation.

    • angry foodie

      “I am a man, but…” (hysteric feminist blather ensues)

      Your shark tank analogy is foolish, and it is impossible to remove all sexual quirks from the human animal.

      Your first fallacy is presuming that men are the only sexual predators. Not true. Karla Homolka for one. The point is that women are just as capable of men of taking on perverse and harmful sexual quirks. Note that I said “capable”, not “likely”.

      Your second flaw is in using nothing but analogy. Your shark story is actually flawed because you are attributing fault to a less intelligent animal that is operating solely on its instinct. Humans, with our supposedly greater control over our instincts, are expected to not have sex without consent or randomly kill and eat animals we see walking along. You cannot blame a shark the same way you can blame a human, these are abstract concepts that are relatively unique to us humans.

      Your third flaw was taking this article at face value. The writer uncritically accepted the lie that women have a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted on campus, a claim that has no evidence supporting it whatsoever. There is no “rape culture”, if women actually had a 1 in 5 chance of suffering sexual assault in co-ed university, there would be no co-ed university.

      Barbara Kay, linked below, using relatively liberal statistics and then accounting for the 90% unreported, put the number closer to 1 in 186.

    • Anonymouse

      Thank you foodie. I actually agreed with this article up to the “1 in 5” bullshit. If we want people to take rape seriously, starting with accurate statistics should be the first step. Scare tactics like the one above make for good conversation, but don’t really help in the long run.

      I would also like to add that the most recent studies place female on male rape at close to 50%, so no, “most rapists” aren’t male.

  • Anonymouse

    I’ve never liked the arguments that preventing rape by teaching women to prevent it is “victim blaming.” Rapists, both male and female, already know rape is wrong. They know they shouldn’t do it, but in their eyes, the benefits outweigh the risk. They are criminals! It’s no different from a car thief, mugger, kidnapper, or drug dealer, they know it’s against the law and they DON’T CARE!!!

    I still lock my car to prevent theft. I don’t let my kids wander around unsupervised to prevent kidnapping. I learned self-defence and don’t leave my drinks alone at the bar to prevent rape. If I didn’t do these things, it would not make the crime my fault, but they’re still smart things to do!