It’s being called the first fashion accessory that could help prevent sexual assault, but it isn’t receiving the kind of high praise you might expect from anti-rape activists.
Four undergraduate students from North Carolina State University have created a nail polish called Undercover Colors that claims to change color when the polish is exposed to “any date rape drug,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
“With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger,” researchers said. “If her nail polish changes color, she’ll know that something is wrong.”
Team member Ankesh Madan told the website Higher Education Works that the idea for the polish came from a fellow co-founder who felt there was a significant lack of products aimed at helping to prevent date rape.
“All of us have been close to someone who has been through the terrible experience, and we began to focus on finding a way to help prevent the crime,” Madan said. “We wanted to focus on preventive solutions, especially those that could be integrated into products that women already use, and so the idea of creating a nail polish that detects date rape drugs was born.”
The product has already won at least one award, and the team is actively soliciting donations for further research and development. The idea of an anti-rape fashion accessory received a lot of press on Monday after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a profile on the team, but anti-rape advocates were not as quick to embrace the product.
Activist Rebecca Nagle told the website ThinkProgress that anti-rape products do little to address the problem of sexual assault: That people are putting date-rape drugs in drinks in the first place.
“Rape isn’t just controlling me while I’m actually being assaulted — it controls me 24-7 because it limits my behavior,” Nagle said. “Solutions like these actually just recreate that. I don’t want to fucking test my drink when I’m at the bar, that’s not the world I want to live in.”
Alexandra Brodsky, who runs a group dedicated to addressing sexual assault on college campuses, agreed.
“I really wish that people were funneling all of this ingenuity and funding and interest into new ways to stop people from perpetrating violence, as opposed to trying to personally avoid it so that the predator in the bar rapes someone else,” Broadsky told ThinkProgress.
But the product has support among those who say advocacy isn’t enough to address the problem of sexual assault.
“Adding a tool for women to protect themselves is not misguided,” Tessa Ann Moore wrote in a Facebook comment. “That’s like saying we shouldn’t lock our doors because teaching people not to steal your things is more important.”
“I will gladly buy CASES (of this product) to give out to my students,” another commenter wrote.
It could be a while before the product hits the shelves — if at all. The creators of the product say they are still in the early stages of research and development and hope to have a final product “soon.”
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.