Opinions

It puts the onus on women to prevent sexual assault

Photo and edits by Marta Kierkus

I can’t help but sigh and roll my eyes at the invention of a new rape-prevention nail polish that’s meant to protect women from date rape.

Ladies are meant to wear the polish, created by the company Undercover Colors, and stir a finger into their drink before consuming it. If the product changes colour, that means the drink has been spiked with a date rape drug.

This nail polish isn’t an inherently bad thing, but it is a temporary solution to a greater problem. According to a study of sexual assault on campuses submitted by university professors to the United States Department of Justice in 2007, only about 2.4 per cent of women who reported a date rape incident thought they had been slipped a drug.

So not only is this nail polish a temporary solution to a large social issue, it’s a temporary solution to a miniscule part of that same problem.

However, the makers of this new cosmetic claim to have women’s best interests in mind. On its Facebook page, the company even goes so far as to describe their product as being empowering for women.

“With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger,” the page reads.

The problem is that telling ladies to protect themselves from rapists with nail polish is just another way of telling women it’s our job to keep ourselves safe from date rape. I can’t speak for all women everywhere, but I wouldn’t find it at all empowering to stick my finger in a beverage out of fear that I’ve been slipped a drug. In fact, it would make me feel the exact opposite, since I would be obligated to constantly check my drink the entire night. It’s unrealistic, especially if I’m already tipsy, having a great time, and not thinking about potential rapists.

It’s more realistic to expect a combination of education and media reporting that teaches widespread gender and sex equity. This strategy should be able to refocus the responsibility from women protecting themselves to men treating women respectfully and as equals in every context.

As much as this request seems like common sense, too often we hear people say things like, “Ladies, make sure you wear longer skirts, travel in pairs, and don’t get too drunk,” rather than talking about how horrendous it is to rape someone. It’s almost as if they characterize rapists as some non-thinking entities that are instinctually prone to sexual assault.

In reality, most rapists know what they’re doing, and what they’re doing has nothing to do with the way the other person looks, or how easily he or she can be manipulated into a compromising situation. Rape is about controlling someone else. It is committed so the perpetrator can feel powerful and superior in relation to the survivor.

So how do we change these feelings of superiority? For starters, we stop putting the onus solely on women to protect themselves from rape. There are many different ways we can accomplish this, but colourful nail polish is not one of them.