New product aims to prevent rape

Kendra Clark and Kendra Clark

A new beauty product has sparked debates across the country concerning women’s rights and sexual assault.

Four undergraduate students from North Carolina State University named Ankesh Madan, Stephen Grey, Tasso Von Widheim and Tyler Confrey-Maloney created a new nail polish that, when dipped and stirred into a drink, will change color if introduced to some common “date rape drugs.”

They are calling their product Undercover Colors. According to their Facebook page, the nail polish changes color when it comes into contact with drugs such as Rohypnol, Xanax and GHB.

“With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger,” according to the product’s Facebook description. “If her nail polish changes color, she’ll know that something is wrong.”

The students wrote that their goal is to deter potential perpetrators from spiking women’s drinks.

“In effect, we want to shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators,” they wrote.

However, some see a flaw in the product.

Mary Krueger, director of the University’s Women’s Center said she finds it gratifying that men developed the nail polish, but there is still a problem.

“It’s also another example of making potential victims responsible for preventing their own victimization instead of stopping people from doing it in the first place,” she said.

Krueger said she doesn’t question the students’ motives in trying to help, but she sees a bigger picture.

“It’s another rule for women,” she said. “Another thing they have to do or wish they did do if something did happen.”

Alcohol is also a factor when it comes to using drugs against women, Krueger said.

“Alcohol is a ‘date rape drug’ in and of itself,” she said. “So if someone wants to take advantage of you, they can do that without putting anything in your drink.”

Director of Wellness Faith Yingling agrees with Krueger.

“Alcohol is the most common used drug,” Yingling said. “It is the typical drug of choice.”

Yingling agrees that marketing products that prevent rape this way implies the victims are responsible.

“We want to try to educate people on obtaining consent and protect boundaries,” she said. “Even though the product is well-intended, the marketing of the product will transfer responsibility to the victim.”

Yingling said changing culture and behavior is the best way to solve the problem.

“It would be great if we could live in a world where we could respect boundaries,” she said. “Quite often, it is someone the victim already knows that commits the crime, so it can be very hard for the victim to come forward.”

The University offers several resources to educate students on sexual assault and emphasize the need for consent, Yingling said.

The Humanities Troupe uses theater to promote dialogue for problems like sexual harassment. Freshmen are also required to take an online program that teaches about sexual assault, healthy relationships and alcohol.

Senior Tiera Clay said she feels safe on campus, but wouldn’t mind using the nail polish if she went to a party at a stranger’s house.

“You can’t control what other people do, so I’m going to protect myself,” she said.

Freshman Branden Pears thinks the nail product is a smart idea.

“You can potentially catch someone with the nail polish, so I still think it can be helpful even with the negative side,” he said.

Krueger suggests students teach their friends and people they know about getting consent instead of using date rape drugs.

“Men have so much more capacity to influence each other than they realize,” Krueger said. “If you really care, talk to your guy friends and be role models.”