Content note: this post discusses rape and rape culture
Some male students have decided to ride in on their white horses and protect women on their campus. How? By developing a nail polish which supposedly detects date rape drugs. I have so many problems with the concept, I have to split them down into reasons. In no particular order, here are my issues with the product.
1. Shifting responsibility: Under rape culture, responsibility for rape is shifted from the perpetrators to the victims. What could we have done to prevent it? Do that, or it’s our fault. Unless we behave like saints, rolling around in our rape-proof bubbles in the safety of our own homes, we’ll be blamed. Such safety products frame rape as something women need to prevent rather than something men need to stop doing. Four men together could have set up an initiative to help stop their fellow men from raping, but instead they chose to develop a fucking nail polish that changes colour in the presence of certain date rape drugs.
2. The method of testing is ridiculous: The nail polish works by sticking your finger in your drink and seeing if your nail polish changes colour. Now, people who have ever visited a university bar might spot a problem with this: university toilets are absolutely disgusting, and usually lack the washing facilities to get your hands sterile for fingering your drink. So, hooray for maybe not drinking something that’s riddled with rohypnol, but the safe drinks are going to be swimming with piss-bacteria and the sticky Jagermeister that just won’t come off..
3. Rohypnol and GHB are not the only drugs: These drugs are reasonably commonly-used in drug rape, but are far from the only ones available. In fact, given the great public awareness of these two drugs as date rape agents, existing testing kits are on the market, and some dealers are switching their game up to drugs you cannot detect this way. I was once spiked with MDMA to “loosen me up”, meaning rape drugs aren’t even limited to downers. Unless this nail polish were to detect anything that wasn’t booze and sugar, I somehow doubt it will be much use in a vast quantity of cases.
4. Gimmicky nail polish is almost always crap: I have bought a lot of new nail polish in my life, getting excited over advertising campaigns that tell me that my nail polish will be two-tone, or not require a top coat, or can be peeled off without nail varnish remover when the night is over. Almost every time I have done this, the process of painting my nails has gone Horribly Wrong. The texture of gimmicky nail polishes is usually weird: too loose, too thick, requires about a million coats, somehow manages to coat your entire hand in indelible red goop. I can only imagine how inadequate a nail polish with a built in chemistry lab will be. And on the off-chance it went on just fine, I’ve a feeling I’d spend half my night trying to source some GHB because colour-changing nail polish would be cool.
5. It’s really not appropriate for men to be developing anti-rape products: For two broad reasons, men are the worst possible candidates for developing safety products for women. Firstly, because they don’t know what it’s like and what we need. What we need, as I outlined above, is for them to stop raping us, please. And secondly, more chillingly, since men are overwhelmingly more likely to be perpetrators, it’s kind of chilling. Tweeter @Sarah_Wolley pointed out the fact it’s four men making the product, and some statistics put perpetration rates close to one in four.
6. There are a lot of products that serve as drug testing kits already: Nail polish is a somewhat ridiculous one, in a world where you can get a little strip of paper you dip in your drink, or a glass that changes colour, or a little nozzle you put over your bottle to prevent anyone dropping anything in.
7. Will women who don’t wear nail polish become targets? As a woman, I’m fucking paranoid about getting raped. I think most of us are. This thought may, therefore, be catastrophising, but in a world where fucking catastrophes happen, I don’t think it’s an invalid concern. If rapists want to spike drinks undetected, they could easily go for the women who aren’t wearing nail varnish. Since I often cannot be arsed to wear it, particularly because of the short lesbian nails on one hand, would that make me more of a target to them?
8. Not that that matters anyway: The thing is, your rapist isn’t as likely to be a rando in a bar, spiking whatever drinks he can drop a roofie into. He’s more likely to be your friend who walks you home when he realises you’ve been spiked, your boyfriend who you stayed in and ate pizza with instead of going out to the big wide rapey world, the policeman who you report your spiking to.
9. Would you buy a fashion product from these guys? Really, would you?