When I first read about the nail polish that the NC State students are developing to help detect date rape drugs, my initial thought wasn’t “Oh, this is great!” No – while the intention behind the potential product is a good one, it still perpetuates the number one problem with rape culture: It puts the responsibility of not getting attacked on the potential victims.
Look – I have no problem with the guys who are developing this product. They’re trying to raise awareness and that’s great. They want to help keep women safe. That’s fantastic. They want to deter the criminals – that’s a noble idea. On their Facebook page, they state that “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.”
The issue is that products like these are, at times, the equivalent of putting our problems in the closet and hope that no one notices. It’s just the latest addition to the growing list of things that women need to do to prevent rape – along with getting married, wearing more clothing, and essentially to stop asking for it.
The conversation shouldn’t revolve around victim blaming and how the potential victims can protect themselves. The conversation needs to be around consent.
Though the intention behind these kind of products is inherently good, they become just one more way to blame the victim. I can see the commentary now. “If only she had remembered to wear her GHB detecting nail polish and swirled her finger in her drink – then she would’ve been safe. Never mind that she shouldn’t have been drinking in the first place. And did you see what she was wearing?”
Let’s get real, shall we?
“I think that anything that can help reduce sexual violence from happening is, in some ways, a really good thing,” Tracey Vitchers, the board chair for Students Active For Ending Rape(SAFER), told ThinkProgress. “But I think we need to think critically about why we keep placing the responsibility for preventing sexual assault on young women.”
The problem doesn’t end when a woman figures out that there’s a roofie in her drink. The problem ends when people stop putting roofies in our drinks in the first place.