A few weeks ago, the story broke about a new anti-rape nail polish developed by four undergraduate male students from North Carolina State University. The polish changes color when it comes into contact with common date rape drugs. Many news sources have praised the product, calling it a huge step in ending the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. A cute nail polish that can also protect you! Seems great, right? Well, maybe not.
I have no problem with the concept of furthering the prevention of sexual assault; in fact, I think it’s an incredibly important goal that deserves attention and research. However, I take issue with the current direction of attention and research. This new product is just one of many additional products that force women to take extra precautions against being sexually assaulted. It puts the responsibility on the victim, which perpetuates the cycle of victim-blaming already present in our culture.
To take it a step further, I want to know what conversations about sexual assault will look like if this product is integrated into the mainstream market. Conversations about sexual assault, especially when victims don’t take the “necessary precautions,” are already way too common.
“Did you she the skirt she was wearing? She was dressed like a total slut, she was basically asking for it.”
“She was walking down a dark alleyway by herself, why would she put herself in danger like that? Of course she was raped.”
“She wasn’t wearing anti-rape nail polish, what did she expect?”
That phrase fits all too easily into the plethora of victim-blaming conversations that occur after a sexual assault. This nail polish is just one more thing for the media and the public to hold against rape victims.
I am tired of being told to “do this, wear that, don’t go there, protect yourself.” The conversation in the media is constantly focused on what women should do to not get raped instead of focusing on teaching men not to rape.
I’ve had several arguments with friends who insist that this product is a positive thing. “If rape is going to happen anyway, then what’s so wrong with creating products to prevent it?” Well, I’m not naïve. I’m aware that rape is a pressing issue and that it needs to be dealt with. My point is, imagine if the focus was shifted to new creative educational programs about sexual assault, or revamping the sex ed programs in schools? What if THOSE prevention methods were getting media attention? In fact, here are 11 additional ways to solve rape that tackle the idea of rape culture in addition to precautions taken by victims. Let’s move towards creating an anti-rape culture, not just an anti-rape nail polish.