Date Rape Drug Detection Nail Polish Being Developed

If you could invent a product to prevent date rape, would you do it? What product would you create?

For four male North Carolina State University students—Ankesh Madan, Stephen Gray, Tasso Von Windheim, and Tyler Confrey-Maloney—the product they chose to make in defense of rape victims is a nail polish that detects common date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, Xanax, and GHB.

When dipped into drinks containing these drugs, the nail polish is designed to change color, giving the four undergraduates the name of their product, Undercover Colors. The Undercover Colors Facebook page has received almost 100,000 likes as of late August, with the page calling itself “the first fashion company empowering women to prevent sexual assault.”

The four male students won the April 24 North Carolina State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative at a cash prize of $6,500, allowing them to begin development of their project.

According to Newsweek, the young men stated that their mission is “to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from [the] heinous and quietly pervasive crime [of date rape].” They shared that they have all been close to someone who has “been through the terrible experience,” and so they focused on finding a way to prevent the crime.

Although well-intentioned in their polish pursuits, not everyone agrees that the product will be effective or is even appropriate. Perhaps columnist Jessica Valenti summed up critics’ opinions best when she stated in The Guardian, “Prevention tips or products that focus on what women do or wear aren’t just ineffective, they leave room for victim-blaming when those steps aren’t taken.”

Questions do arise for potential consumers when considering the product: how often is a woman expected to use the product? Does she put it on right before a party she can preemptively assess will be dangerous? Will the average college student or everyday woman really use the product, mixing and matching colors with her friends? More importantly, what are the sociological and gendered implications of a female placing herself in a situation where rape could happen; is this indeed victim-blaming?

These questions may be answered when the product is hoped to be released, an anticipated time which Madan, Gray, Von Windheim, and Confrey-Maloney have not yet disclosed. The Undercover Colors page is currently taking donations so that the four can continue to fund and complete their work. According to Newsy, they are still in their early development process.

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