Nail Polish That May Prevent Date Rape Incurs Criticism

North Carolina State University is proud of their four undergraduate male students for creating an ingenious new product — a fingernail polish, which they named Undercover Colors, that will actually change colors when it comes in contact with a date rape drug, as reported by Elite Daily.

These four students, Ankesh Madan, Stephen Gray, Tyler Confrey and Tasso Von Windheim, are majoring in materials science and engineering and have all had women in their lives who have been through the horrible experience of what they’re trying to prevent. In promoting Undercover Colors, the Washington Post reports them stating,

“In the U.S., 18% of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. That’s almost one out of every five women in our country. We may not know who they are, but these women are not faceless. They are our daughters, they are our girlfriends, and they are our friends.”

Once Undercover Colors is applied to the nails, the female will simply stir her drink with her finger, and the polish will detect immediately any trace of Rohypnol, Xanax, and GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid), also known as date rape drugs. If Undercover Colors detects the drug, it will change colors, alerting the would-be victim and busting the perpetrator.

However, there are always critics just ready to pounce from every corner it seems, and Undercover Colors is no exception. Although USA Today reports “55% of about 1,570 colleges and universities with more than 1,000 students received at least one report of forcible sex offense on campus in 2012. From 2010 to 2012 there were 14 forcible sex offenses reported on N.C. State’s campus.” Yet there are those who will argue that this product will only cause more problems than help.

For example, Think Progress reports that Rebecca Nagle, a co-director of the activist group FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture says,

“As a woman, I’m told not to go out alone at night, to watch my drink, to do all of these things. That way, rape isn’t just controlling me while I’m actually being assaulted — it controls me 24/7 because it limits my behavior. Solutions like these actually just recreate that. I don’t want to f***ing test my drink when I’m at the bar. That’s not the world I want to live in.”

Well, guess what Ms. Nagle? Unfortunately, that IS the world we live in today. Maybe it’s inconvenient to lock our car doors, or close our windows at night or keep our cell phones close by so they don’t get stolen. But we all do those things because it is the nature of our society today that we need to be safe. So, if it’s too much trouble to put a little bit of nail polish on your index finger and then simply dip it in your drink, then just don’t.

Another activist by the name of Alexandra Brodsky, founder and co-director of Know Your IX, tells Think Progress:

“Well-intentioned products like anti-rape nail polish can actually end up fueling victim blaming. Any college students who don’t use the special polish could open themselves up to criticism for failing to do everything in their power to prevent rape.”

Wait. Then, is Ms. Brodsky also saying the victims could be opening themselves up for criticism if they aren’t packing heat, carrying pepper spray, or well skilled in self-defense techniques? If a woman is to do “everything in her power” to prevent rape, or she will be criticized, shouldn’t she be doing all these things to protect herself? Let’s be realistic here.

Tracey Vitchers, the board chair for Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER) admitted to Think Progress that she believes the Undercover Colors is a good product, but goes on to say,

“I think we need to think critically about why we keep placing the responsibility for preventing sexual assault on young women. Are you talking to young men about the importance of respecting other people’s boundaries and understanding what it means to obtain consent?”

Shouldn’t the problem be addressed from both ends? Women protect themselves while men are learning their boundaries? There will always be those few, the males who are so far gone that they have to buy “date rape” drugs, who will not be influenced by someone telling him he needs to respect boundaries and get consent. Those are the ones that the fingernail polish is intended for.

Ms. Nagle also argues that, “The problem isn’t that women don’t know when there are roofies in their drink; the problem is people putting roofies in their drink in the first place,” as reported by Think Progress.

So, from a different perspective, when terrorists attacked the United States, was the problem that we didn’t know they were going to attack, or that the terrorists attacked us in the first place? So, does that mean Homeland Security shouldn’t continue to find ways to make our nation safer in case we have a future attack? Should the U.S. focus on rehabilitating the terrorists and teaching them to respect boundaries?

Undercover Colors

While there are a few critics, overall the four students have been given not only accolades, but won first place and took home $11,500 at NC States Lulu eGames. That is a “student competition that challenges students to design working solutions to real-world problems,” according to Elite Daily. The students also acquired $100,000 from an investor who spotted Undercover Colors and was impressed at the K50 Startup Showcase.

The entrepreneurs promote their purpose stating:

“Through this nail polish and similar technologies, we hope to make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught. In effect, we want to shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators.”

Good luck to you in your Undercover Colors endeavor!

Photo Credit: Dailymail.co.uk, amplifyingglass.com