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.