Moments of Helpless Dissonance

Date Rape Nail Polish: Undercover Colors Changes Color To Prevent Sexual Assault

Undercover colors 1

Ankesh Madan, Tyler Confrey-Maloney, Stephen Gray, and Tasso Von Windheim – creators of Undercover Colors. (Photo Credit:

Charles Poladian writes: North Carolina State University researchers are developing a “date rape nail polish." Undercover Colors nail polish changes color when it interacts with drugs such as Rohypnol, Xanax and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, better known as GHB. The polish is designed to “empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime,” researchers said. (International Business Times)

Let me begin my saying that we are NOT helpless. I used the word helpless in the title because some days it feels like we take some positive steps forward, and then we get smacked backwards. Some days it feels like there's nothing we can do. And we have to be gracious in allowing space for those feelings and thoughts.

Moving on…

Anti-rape advocates are too ungrateful for being frustrated with this new invention.

People who applaud it are being called victim-blamers and irresponsible. 

Sigh… I'm sure we can better conversations than blaming people for their thoughts & opinions, no?

When I first read about Undercover Colors a couple days ago, my first reaction was sadness, frustration and anger. Of course another rape-prevention method would be developed by men! Instead of inventing some kind of rapist-detector, they invent another method women have to add to their arsenal of tools to keep from getting raped.

Carry your keys between your fingers… walk in well-lit areas… park in well-lit areas… always take the elevator… go out in groups (people make fun of women going to the bathroom in groups; trust me, we're told it's the only way to pee safely)… travel with friends… carry pepper-spray… carry mace… learn self-defence… 

… wear Undercover Colors.

I felt like we had given in (again) to our culture of fear that commands us to protect ourselves at all costs; that women are prey and men are predators; that those most at-risk of sexual assault need to bear the brunt of responsibility for their own protection. Unless a woman takes all measures to keep herself safe, no one else will do it for her and she goes out at her own risk.

Why do I have to accept this?

I don't.

Nowhere is it written that I need to accept the status quo and be content with rape culture.

After I cooled my jets a little bit, I worked my anger over a good deal. What was I more upset about?

That men had designed a female protective device?

That some people still shrug their shoulders are say "that's the way it is" about rape culture?

That male rape seemed to get downplayed again in the broader discussion of rape culture?

Or that this is still really the way that it is in our culture, and women really do still need to take precautions when drinking… going out… traveling…?

Maybe all of the above?

When we go out and have a drink or two, we assume we're going to be safe: we get the drinks we want (free from stuff we're allergic to or stuff we dislike), drinks will be mixed properly, bottles will be freshly opened at our tables & not before, & that we'll all have safe ways to get home after having laughs with friends. Those are a lot of assumptions. And it breaks my heart that there are those people in our world that prey on those assumptions.

Maybe color-changing nail polish isn't such a horrible thing… for now. I hate that such an invention was invented. But I'm pretty sure the inventors weren't out to blame victims or women or anything of the sort. 

As long as the action towards ending rape culture continues full throttle, intermediate steps like Undercover Colors might be necessary. But we can't dwell in the norms and mores we're mucking around in — boys will be boys, it's a lad's pad, she left her drink alone…


We have to pursue our culture of peace where one day mace, pepper spray, self-defence, keys, dozens of alternative routes home, and color changing nail polish will be totally and 100% obsolete.


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