Have you heard about the idea for nail polish called Undercover Colors that can be used to detect so-called “date rape drugs” in drinks? It seems to be just a concept for now, but the idea is that a woman having drinks with a date could discretely dip a fingernail into her drink, and the polish would change color if the drink had been spiked with any of several drugs.
My wife noticed this in the news a day or two ago, and my initial thought was that a woman who suspected her date was trying to dose her could use drug-detecting nail polish to check her drink. On further consideration, however, I’m not sure that makes any sense. I mean, if she’s so suspicious of her date that she wants to test her drink, is there really any point to doing the test? Shouldn’t she just get the heck out of there? What’s the thinking for sticking out the date? “He strikes me as the kind of man that would knock me out and rape me, but if the drug test clears him, I’ll stick around and maybe we’ll make out”?
I suppose it makes some sense at a social event or a busy club, where a total stranger could dose your drink without you ever knowing it, although even then it’s only going to stop the small percentage of rapes that involve drugs as a means of controlling the victim. Also, unless the indicator chemical goes on as a clear coat over other colors, it probably won’t give women the color choices they want.
Anyway, I wouldn’t have given it any more thought, except that I stumbled across a link on Twitter to an article about Undercover Colors by Melissa McEwan at the feminist site Shakesville. Some of her concerns are similar to mine, but a few of her complaints are frankly baffling.
Yeah. I have a couple of problems with that. Tara Culp-Ressler does a good job of compiling some of the obvious objections being made by anti-rape activists.
Like: Once again, potential victims are being tasked with rape prevention.
As opposed to who? Most rapes occur in private settings with only the victim and the rapist present, and the rapist is not going to be interested in rape prevention.
Like: Once again, we’re preemptively blaming victims. (How long before a woman who is sexually assaulted after being drugged is asked why she wasn’t wearing nail polish that could have prevented it?)
No, we’re not blaming the victims. It’s possible that at some point in the future someone will blame a victim, and that someone should be called out for being an asshole, but we’re not doing that now. Are you angry at companies that make car alarms because if you don’t have one and your car is stolen, some people will say you should have had an alarm? When someone offers you a choice, why would you get mad at them because someone else, who you consider to be a jerk, might criticize you for your choice?
Like: Once again, we’re focusing on women detecting roofies, rather than the men who put roofies in drinks in the first place.
Well, these people have a plan for detecting roofies, so that’s what they’re focusing on. If you think they should focus on getting men to stop putting roofies in drinks, what’s the plan for doing that? How has it been working so far? I’m willing to believe that initiatives to discourage sexual assault have some effect, but none of them are a panacea that obsoletes all other approaches.
Like: Being able to detect roofies in your drink only protects you; the person who put them there can move on to someone who isn’t wearing nail polish.
I’m not sure I’m understanding that correctly, but it sounds like McEwan is saying that because drug-detecting nail polish would not prevent all rapes, it’s a bad idea to use it to prevent any rapes. This sounds like some kind of radical egalitarian nonsense. Should we not have installed airbags in cars until we could afford to install them in all cars? Should we not produce new drugs to cure diseases unless we can make them cheaply enough for everyone?
There are so many reasons that this is problematic, and they all boil down to this: Individual solutions to systemic problems don’t work. It’s true whether we’re talking about unemployment, childcare options, or rape prevention.
Individual solutions work just fine for individuals who are able to take advantage of them. Not everybody can benefit from them, but not everybody can benefit from systemic approaches either. No rape prevention program aimed at changing men’s attitudes toward sexual violence is going to be 100% effective. Some men are just psychopaths.
And let us all take a moment to appreciate that we’re being told to buy something to prevent rape. Of course. Because the market solves everything. The market has never met a problem that screaming “bootstraps!” and admonishing crass consumerism can’t fix.
Oh dear God. You know, I understand the people who rant at capitalism, because capitalists are so often terrible people (Donald Trump, please call your office), but ranting at the free market is just bizarre. I mean, here are some people using their own time and money to try to solve at least part of a serious problem, and you don’t have to have anything to do with it if you don’t to, and somehow that’s a problem.
Besides, despite what I said earlier, there are probably going to be some women who find it useful to check if a drink is drugged. I would think, for example, that a woman who has been the victim of a “date rape drug” before might appreciate the peace of mind of being able to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. It could take some of the fear out of social situations.
Another group that would probably benefit is professional escorts, who routinely take the risk of spending time alone with strange men, and often turn down drinks out of fear of being roofied. With a discrete way to test the drink, they could be more accepting of hospitality and create a friendlier mood.
And while I was writing this, Elizabeth Nolan Brown wrote about the same subject at Reason:
At the crux of most of these complaints is the axiom that we should teach men not to rape instead of teaching women not to be raped. And that’s an important message! Too much cultural focus for too long has been on how a women’s own conduct contributed or may contribute to her assault, in a way that winds up absolving assailants of culpability.
But teaching men not to rape and helping women avoid rape aren’t mutually exclusive options. It’s been said so many times already so as to be a cliche, but no one accuses security cameras of encouraging “theft culture”. And neither do most people blame theft victims for getting robbed just because they didn’t have security cameras.
And if they do blame theft victims for getting robbed because they don’t have security cameras, they’re idiots, and it would be ridiculous to argue against the sale of security cameras because idiots would blame victims for not having them. You shouldn’t give idiots that much power over the choices available to sane people.
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