Why Date-Rape Drug-Detecting Nail Polish Is A Nice But Misguided Idea

There’s no nail polish, lip gloss, or self-defense class that can guarantee someone physically stronger than you won’t feel entitled to your body.

Aug 27, 2014 at 2:30pm | Leave a comment

Read more Marci at our sister site, xoVain!
 
In the last few days, you might have heard that a group of enterprising undergrads at North Carolina State University launched what sounds like a brilliant and benevolent startup combining beauty and safety: Undercover Colors.
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“For our first product, we are developing a nail polish that changes color when it comes in contact with date-rape drugs such as Rohypnol, Xanax, and GHB,” their Facebook page states. “With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger. If her nail polish changes color, she'll know that something is wrong.”
 
As a woman, and more specifically as a survivor of date rape, I want to be excited about this idea -- I really do. But I’m skeptical about the future of this venture for a number of reasons.
 
Products Like This Already Exist And You Don’t Know Anyone Who Uses Them
 
In 2009, I wrote about a product called 2 Love My Lips, a line of lip glosses that come with strips treated to detect the presence of date-rape drugs gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and ketamine. At the time, the British brand was fully expecting high enough demand in the U.S. to justify distribution here shortly after their launch.
 
It’s been five years, and there are still no U.S. distributors. Sure, you can order it from the U.K., but do you know anyone willing to spend $37 on shipping for a $12 lip gloss? Hell, do you know anyone who’s even heard of 2 Love My Lips?
 
As prevalent as date rape is, the demand for beauty products that are marketed to help prevent it does not exist. Which leads me to my next point.
 
It’s Unrealistic And Exclusionary
 
Even if Undercover Colors develops the technology that allows a nail polish to change color with the presence of roofies, that’s not going to help in most date-rape scenarios.
 
First of all, it’s highly unrealistic to expect a woman to think, “Oh, better do an anti-rape manicure before I go out tonight.” Unless a woman is expected to wear no nail polish but Undercover Colors nail polish, it doesn’t account for the spontaneity of socialization. Furthermore, women who don’t wear nail polish get assaulted. Duh.
 
Even bigger duh: The vast majority of rapes -- stranger and acquaintance -- occur without the use of date-rape drugs. And many occur without the victim even drinking alcohol. I’m living proof of that.
 
It Doesn’t Solve The Real Problem
 
This nail polish concept is just one more example of not only giving women a false sense of security, but of putting the responsibility to not get raped in the hands -- or in this case, on the hands -- of the potential victim, when the only way the sexual-assault epidemic will stop is by teaching boys and men to not rape.
 
There’s no nail polish, lip gloss, or self-defense class that can guarantee someone physically stronger than you won’t feel entitled to your body.
 
Perhaps my personal experience has made me inordinately cynical about this business idea, but I truly feel that, in the case of Undercover Colors, the road to hell is polished with good intentions.
 
Read more Marci at our sister site, xoVain!