Recently, a team of four college students at North Carolina State University created a seemingly revolutionary product named “Undercover Colors” — a nail polish is packaged as a tool to combat sexual assault and protect women against date rape. When the nail polish comes into contact with any date rape drug, the product will change color. This allows the nail polish wearer to stir her drink with her finger to see if her drink has been tampered with. A date rape is defined sexual assault when the rapist and the victim know each other, and are, perhaps, on a date. A date rape drug like Rohypnol, Xanax or GHB is used to intoxicate a victim in order to allow the perpetrator to perform drug-facilitated sexual assault.
Though this product was made with good intentions, it fails to address the root problem of sexual assault. Yet again it puts women in a position where they are forced to take precautionary measures to ensure their safety. In response to the product, Jessica Valenti, writer for The Guardian, wrote that “anything that puts the onus on women to ‘discreetly’ keep from being raped misses the point. We should be trying to stop rape, not just individually avoid it.”
Some critics have even referred to the polish as a “modern day chastity belt,” yet another measure women must take to prevent being raped. This product is like the many “prevention tips” that have long been said to young women — “Don’t drink too much,” “Make sure to never be alone at night.” Similar to these tips, Undercover Color tells women they have to protect themselves from rape, as opposed to addressing ways to stop rapists from raping.
Another problem with this product is that it only helps those who normally wear nail polish — women. Many forget that men also make up a portion of the nation’s sexual assault victims and are vulnerable to being drugged in a date-rape situation. Because the product targets solely women and is gender specific, it excludes an undeniable population of potential assault victims and cannot be considered a viable, inclusive solution to the rape crisis.
Instead of constantly protecting women from rape, we should be tackling the issue head on. Society needs to start holding rapists accountable for their acts, administering just punishment and start treating them like the criminals they are. We need to teach men and women the definition of consent and under what conditions one can legally give it. Today’s world is not an ideal place when it comes to sexual violence. Although products like “Undercover Color” have the potential to save many women from assault, we must not get distracted from the real problem at hand. It is not a woman’s job to protect herself from rape; it is society’s job to teach its citizens not to rape.