Today in Rape Culture

[Content Note: Rape culture; tasking women with rape prevention.]

Via Lauren Chief Elk, I learned of a new nail polish called Undercover Cover, developed by four male students at North Carolina State University, which can detect some common "date rape drugs" in drinks. The product, like other similar "rape prevention tools" which have come before, is being hailed as an awesome new rape prevention strategy.

Yeah. I have a couple of problems with that. Tara Culp-Ressler does a good job of compiling some of the obvious objections being made by anti-rape activists.

Like: Once again, potential victims are being tasked with rape prevention.

Like: Once again, we're preemptively blaming victims. (How long before a woman who is sexually assaulted after being drugged is asked why she wasn't wearing nail polish that could have prevented it?)

Like: Once again, we're focusing on women detecting roofies, rather than the men who put roofies in drinks in the first place.

Like: "Activists point out that most students are assaulted by people they know in environments where they feel comfortable—situations when wearing anti-rape nail polish doesn't necessarily make sense. Plus, the vast majority of those assaults don't involve date rape drugs in the first place. According to a 2007 study from the National Institute for Justice, just about 2.4 percent of female undergrads who had been sexually assaulted suspected they had been slipped a drug."

Like: Someone who is determined to rape will find a way to rape.

Like: Being able to detect roofies in your drink only protects you; the person who put them there can move on to someone who isn't wearing nail polish.

There are so many reasons that this is problematic, and they all boil down to this: Individual solutions to systemic problems don't work. It's true whether we're talking about unemployment, childcare options, or rape prevention.

You can't bootstrap your way out of being raped.

And let us all take a moment to appreciate that we're being told to buy something to prevent rape. Of course. Because the market solves everything. The market has never met a problem that screaming "bootstraps!" and admonishing crass consumerism can't fix.

(I'm not knocking anyone who would find a use for this product. I think there are some women who might find it useful, and that's fine. I just don't want to ignore the implication of the people selling it equating "tasking potential victims with prevention" with "empowerment." And I don't want to ignore the implication that a product which tasks potential victims with prevention gets way more attention than any anti-rape initiative aimed at men.)

The narrative that if only you try hard enough and use this great new tool and that awesome new strategy and avoid doing these things but always do those things, even when those things are totally contradictory, you can avoid being raped is utter bullshit.

What determines whether someone is raped is [CN: description of assaults] the presence of a rapist who is determined to rape you.

Here's the thing about rapists: They rape people. They rape people who are strong and people who are weak, people who are clever and people who are foolish, people who fight back and people who submit just to get it over with, people who are sexually active and people who are not, people who have been sexually assaulted before and people who have not, people who rich and people who are poor, people who are young and people who are old, people who are tall and people who are short, people who are fat and people who are thin, people who are blind and people who are sighted, people who are deaf and people who can hear, people of every race and shape and size and ability and circumstance. The only thing that the victim of every rapist shares in common is the bad fucking luck of being in the presence of a rapist.

Rapists are determined to rape. And if no one drinks a rapist's poisoned drink, then he'll find another way to obtain his victims.

Victim-blaming is based on the damnably fucked-up notion that people (and women in particular) allow themselves to be victimized by virtue of carelessness or stupidity, and they need to be warned and educated and lectured and hectored and cajoled and shamed into never being victims (again).


Our culture creates rapists—and they create victims. No one has ever been a victim of rape, until they had the bad fucking luck of being in the presence of a rapist.

Enough victim blaming. Enough.

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