Anti-Date Rape Nail Polish: Not Quite Nailing It

undercover colors 3

An all-male group of undergraduates have created a nail polish that reportedly can indicate date rape drugs by changing colours when dipped into a spiked drink. When worn, a woman can stir her drink with a finger and know if it contains more than just alcohol.

The product, named “Undercover Colors”, won the Lulu eGames competition at North Carolina State University. It is still undergoing testing and is not yet available for purchase.

When it comes to anti-rape devices, rape prevention products are not a new phenomenon. Rape-aXe condoms for the prevention of rape, anti-rape clothing by AR Wear, personal detection device kit pd.id, straws, coasters and lip gloss are just some of the devices available on the market to protect women from sexual assault.

Not only does this perpetuate the myth that only women can be raped, the expectations that the responsibility and onus falls on the victim to prevent sexual assault. While the intentions are noble, it leaves more room for victim-blaming.

undercover colors

Women are constantly expected to work hard to prevent themselves from being a victim of sexual assault. Words such as “Do not travel around alone” and “Do not wear revealing clothing” echo the idea that nothing bad will happen, but only if all preventative measures were taken.

The truth is, rape can happen at any point of time. So what happens if a woman leaves her house without putting on the nail polish?

Was she asking for it if she wasn’t wearing her date rape nail polish?

Is she then furtively blamed for not taking the preventative steps every single time she steps out the door?

When the Rape-aXe condom was unveiled, Lisa Vetten of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in South Africa said that “It is a terrifying thought that women are being made to adapt to rape by wearing these devices. Women would have to wear this every minute of their lives on the off-chance that they would be raped.”

If someone becomes a victim of assault, she might be accused of not testing her drink. The truth is, preventing date rape should not just be the onus of the victim, but should be the responsibility of the predator and of the society to confront the culture of rape.

Image: Richard Potts via Flickr

Image: Richard Potts via Flickr

Nevertheless, the very same criticism should be taken into consideration when contrasted with a person learning self-defence. While no one expects to be physically assaulted or attacked, learning self-defence is a preventative measure taken to protect oneself from danger.

In the same vein, no one expects to be date raped, but using the nail polish would be one way to prevent oneself from possible rape. It is rational that anyone, not necessarily just a woman, should take as many precautions as possible to avoid rape and the introduction of Undercover Colors to the market adds value to those precautions.

In the discussion of rape, men are often painted as the enemies and women the victims. However, the reality is that there are other groups who are just as susceptible to date rape.

Men get raped. Homosexuals get raped. Children get raped. The invention and growing media popularity of Undercover Colors advocates the belief that only women are potential victims of date rape. This isolates other groups of people due to the false notion that they are invulnerable to rape of any form.

Image: Lisa Norwood via Flickr

Image: Lisa Norwood via Flickr

However, the other issue is that the idea of date rape occurring only when a drink is spiked with drugs is a false notion. An Australian study published by the Emergency Medicine Australasia in 2009 evaluated drink spiking cases and discovered that “ethanol (alcohol) appears to be the most common agent used.”

A study of college students in 2007 by RTI International funded by the U.S. Department of Justice echoed the results. “Clearly, undergraduate women are at much greater risk of sexual assault that occurs in the context of voluntary consumption of alcohol and/or drugs or that is physically forced than sexual assault that is drug facilitated.”

Because alcohol consumption is so prevalent in our culture, its potency is often underestimated. Its side effects include memory impairment and even alcoholic-induced blackouts. The potential for date rape to occur without the need for date rape drugs is disconcerting and Undercover Colors will not be a solution to this issue.

While I applaud the makers of Undercover Colors, and their sentiments and engagement in confronting the rape culture, the underlying problem continues to exist.

The creators of Undercover Colors nail polish

The creators of Undercover Colors nail polish. Image: Undercover Colors Facebook

Rather than seeking to empower women, society should move forward together by imparting education that rape is unacceptable. It is not enough to suggest that we have solved the problem by manufacturing fancy products.

Perhaps it is a utopian notion and will take time and effort for society to reduce the pervasive threat of date rape, but the facilitation of this product sends the wrong message. The invention of this date rape nail polish merely allows one individual to get away while the predator rapes someone else instead. The focus should be on educating society that rape should not be tolerated.

Like the chastity belts of medieval times, the invention of this nail polish is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

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Rape is a very real problem. Zaron Burnett has an amazing piece on A Gentleman’s Guide to Rape Culture and I urge you to read it if possible. 

  • Fari Wu

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19 comments on “Anti-Date Rape Nail Polish: Not Quite Nailing It
  1. I am supporting this cause of promoting these types of products. I’ve had a cousin who’s a victim of rape, and it’s traumatic to the entire family. Will wait for the release of that nail polish and would definitely share it to my women friends.

  2. Thanks for sharing this piece of news. Indeed, this is a very valid problem, and the root of the problem is unable to be controlled as these rapist are hidden while the victims are out there in the open. It’s a very sad but harsh fact.

  3. I’ve heard about this nail polish before in passing, but now I’m learning more information about the founders. I completely agree with your message that these things create a real slippery slope, placing all responsibility on victims. What about just not drugging women in the first place?

  4. “Rather than seeking to empower women, society should move forward together by imparting education that rape is unacceptable.”

    but isn’t it an established fact that rape IS unacceptable? crimes are unacceptable, yet there’s still criminals in every country. in my country, rape is a serious offence and the rapist doesn’t just get a jail term but gets a few strokes of the rotan as well. and yet, rape crimes still happens.
    and when deterrence fails to give a 100% satisfactory results, what else can we do?

  5. I know that it is often said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Rape is a universal problem that can strike anytime and its victims are of all ages, races and gender. I can understand the good intended by the creation of this polish and I applaud their effort. However, I do hope they use it as a launching pad for real education about this issue.

  6. I admire the launch of this product not for the sake of commercial purposes but for the sake of educating people about rapes and preventing them happen, so it is a noble and admirable initiative, indeed!

  7. The product has good intentions but I agree that they don’t quite nail it. Did they base their creation on worldwide statistics? Even in the absence of statistics, it seems to be focused on women from first world countries or those who can afford them. I am for the harshest of punishments for offenders. Unfortunately, victims rarely report because of fear.

  8. I’m definitely with you on this. However, I do think re-instilling that “rape is not okay” might take time and a lot of effort. Even catching and punishing offenders has been pretty hard lately. It’s sad… But I do hope, we’ll be working on a long-term solution for this sooner than later.

  9. I honestly love the idea of the nail polish however, how effective is it and wouldn’t it like cause harm for people who might be drinking the drink after the fingers with this nail polish was dipped in? Isn’t it toxic? I support this kind of products to protect not only women from rape but there’s always a lot to ask.

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