So many of you are probably aware that some chemists at MIT have invented a nail polish that a person can dip into their drink and detects the date rape drug GHB (gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid) by changing colour. There is some strong indicators from prior attempt to process similar products that they don’t work as they are too sensitive and will change colour when exposed to substances such a milk, and may not even respond to GHB though lets ignore that.
Even assuming that it works this nail polish isn’t the win-win some folks seem to be making out to be. Like most rape prevention items it focuses mostly on the victims rather then he perpetrators and the reasons why the perpetrators commit the crimes.
It’s a stop-gap measure much like a chastity belt, though slightly less problematic and also even less effective (not to mention cost effective). First some people sight number like this could prevent 1% of rapes. First that 1% statistic is probably far too high, why? Because there are well over two dozen relatively (though most are controlled) common substances which can be used a date rape drug (not including alcohol).
This nail polish can probably only detect a single of those compound (maybe, it might detect lots of unintended things). It’s like barricading a house by covering a single window at random and hoping the zombies pick that window. And it does nothing about alcohol you might be drinking and the fact the vast majority of perpetrators are known to the victim (there by passing the trust barrier).
Sure it’s an interesting bit of tech (assuming it works which seem more doubtful then likely), but it’s pretty damn useless because of the above. To even protect the tiny percent of women who will be attacked with GHB we need to have every women wearing it at most social events involving drinking and using it effectively all the time.
Which leads to a particular comment which in large part started off the writing of the reply which lead in turn to this post.
“And lastly, where you definitely miss my point: rape, like murder, will likely never be eradicated from human society. It is at least partly behavioral and you can’t stop that. So while it’s really nice to say “We should just cure the disease,” it’s not realistic and you can’t abandon any other progress just to pursue that.” (I’ll leave him anonymous)
The question isn’t how do we eradicate rape it’s how we prevent (mostly) men from thinking that rape is an acceptable means of exerting power over others, or taking sexual pleasure. The facts as they stand are according to recent CDC studies (here) that an estimated 19.3% of American women will be raped, 43.9% will be exposed to sexual violence, 15.2% will experience being stalked in their life time. These are not numbers to be explained away by some non-existent small percent of bad, but very busy, eggs.
(The male numbers respectively are 1.7%, 23.4%(though some rape numbers are actually in this category so that first number should be higher) 5.7% I suggest people read the report it’s a bit tricky).
Why do I bring this up? Because it seem clear from my experience and reading that a large proportion of rapists don’t even know/acknowledge they are rapists, and don’t understand what consent and rape actually are. That’s part of why stop gap measures like this nail polish are not a real solutions. One because they are not every effective, and two they really are not treating the cause of the problem. Which as far as I can tell is a gross misunderstanding of consent, and a double standard we have with regard to sex and consent and basically all other places where we consider consent as important. such as property, ownership, scientific experiments, medicine and the like. We don’t just assume that, when you haven’t given clear consent, that you’ve in fact given consent to donate your kidney, but many people thing ambiguous consent equal consensual sex, and worse some others think that a no isn’t really a no.
Most feminists, from my understanding, are not saying that the nail polish is awful in and of itself (though I’m sure you can find some if you look, like any opinion), it’s more that it’s pretty damn useless and it’s probable that some woman somewhere is going to get drugged by GHB and someone is going to blame her for not wearing her drug test kit that evening. I hope that’s not the case, but tech like this doesn’t actually even treat the symptoms (overall) let alone the problem, And that’s assuming it works! No matter how neat it might be, it has to be very effective indeed to even be consisted as a useful tool which to inconvenience half the party going population with. And even then do we really want women to have to do another little fucking thing every day just so they are safe from violence?
I suppose the point of all of this is that it isn’t about the nail polish at all, it’s about who we put the burden of rape prevention on. I would like to see everyone, with a particular onus on the education system and the authorities, be responsible for rape prevention. Not just women.