The Anti-Rape Manicure: Nailing the Problem

Unless you’ve been living in the wilderness far away from wifi of any kind for the last week, you’re probably aware of Undercover Colours, the innovative new product that aims to prevent rape. A nail varnish that changes colour when it comes into contact with date rape drugs, such as Rohypnol and GHB, it’s taken the world by storm – and unleashed the media’s talons in the process.




Invented by college students from North Carolina State University, the manicure provides discrete protection for women on a night out – simply stir your drink to subtly see if it’s been tampered with. If the nail varnish changes colour, then women will know the drink is unsafe – and that they need to leave the situation ASAP.

In theory, this is great. At first glance (or first coat of analysis), Undercover Colours offers an excellent way of preventing sexual assault. Women don’t have to carry around clunky gear on a night out, and it gets around the fact that no bar or club will allow a person to bring their own drug-detecting cup into the premises.


On the other hand, is an anti-rape manicure merely masking the fact that society once again places blame upon the female for ‘allowing’ herself to be raped? This product says ‘don’t get raped’ – but where is the reprimand for rape in the first place? Why are we not focusing on male prevention – rather than female protection?

As Andrea Grimes, a Senior Political Reporter at RH Reality Check, pointed out so beautifully on Twitter: “Rape prevention nail polish sounds like a great idea but I’m not sure how you’re going to get men to wear it.”

Firstly, look at facts to see what needs to be focused upon Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, approximately 2/3 of all rapes are committed by attackers who know their victims.  Alcohol might not even be involved. The random rape generalisation is a myth – programmes need to stop teaching and promoting the notion of this, because it thus suggests that women need to be constantly aware of the fact that rape is possible simply because of their gender, at any time. And in doing so, that encourages the idea that rape is something almost to be expected.

Yes, random rape occurs – but less often than the reality of cases. Which is what needs to prevented, and printed in press rather than painted on our nails.

I love a manicure as much as the next girl – but I hate that this product exemplifies the fact that women are given the blame for ‘allowing’ themselves to be raped. Whether it’s provocative clothes, makeup, drinking, dressing older than our ages or even just flirting – a victim is not the perpetrator. Think about the number one question for rape that recently exploded on Twitter & Tumblr – “But what were you wearing?” Will women now be asked what shade of polish they had on, too? Whilst Undercover Colours is a fantastic idea on the surface, it cannot help but reveal the enormous ugly cracks of society beneath the glossy varnish.

“Education is the key to life.” That is some of the very useful advice I was given during my graduation ceremony, and it applies to this situation now.  In my opinion, we need to focus on programmes in schools and messages within society that teach young people how not to rape – rather than how to paint their nails.












1 thought on “The Anti-Rape Manicure: Nailing the Problem

  1. Totally agree. Why aren’t we pressing to teach people not to put drugs in peoples drinks?

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