August 28, 2014

If you can't stop rape completely, you might as well not bother trying

Anyone remember back when feminism was about empowering women instead of perpetuating a state of victimhood?

This, from Newsweek:

Four students from North Carolina State University have invented a nail varnish that detects common date rape drugs by changing colour. . . .

The nail varnish indicates the presence of date rape drugs, such as Rohypnol, Xanax and GHB, by changing colour after being dipped in the drink.

[Full Story]

Huzzah! Another tool with the potential to stop a very serious crime even before it start. It never hurts to help!


However, Katie Russell from Rape Crisis England & Wales was critical of the idea, saying that the charity will not support the invention.

"Whilst Undercover Color's initiative is well meaning, on the whole," she said, "Rape Crisis does not endorse or promote such a product or anything similar. This is for three reasons: it implies that it's the woman's fault and assumes responsibility on her behalf, and detracts from the real issues that arise from sexual violence."

And this from columnist Jessica Valenti:

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. Didn't wear your anti-rape underwear? Well what did you expect?

[Full Story, emphasis in original]

And, third, from the Jezebel blog:

The problem, BP explains, is twofold. First of all, the so-called date rape detectors have proven in laboratory tests to be too sensitive, sometimes changing color when encountering such scary rape-enabling substances as cow milk. In another trial, similar products only caught the presence of GHB two out of three times. . . .

And the biggest problem with date rape drug detecting nail polish, coasters, napkins, beanie hats with propellers that spin when rape danger approaches, etc, as BP points out, is that the most common date rape drug is one that women who are date raped know they are consuming—it's alcohol.

[Full Story, sneering in original]

Well, there you have it. Since roofie-detecting nail polish puts the onus on women for self-defense, shifts the blame to them for their own rape, and can't perfectly detect all date-rape drugs or stop a woman from drinking too much, it's no help at all.

Similarly, a few months ago, during the Miss USA pageant, Nia Sanchez (Miss Nevada) answered a question about sexual assaults on campus, and her answer, in part, was that women should know how to defend themselves. The response was very similar: placing any responsibility upon women themselves for their own protection is "victim-blaming," and therefore "rape culture wins." (The lovely and talented Ms. Sanchez, who has a fourth-degree black belt in tae kwon do, was crowned Miss USA anyway.)

When I was in university, new female students often carried a Fox 40 whistle, given to them in their frosh kits, on their keychains. The intent was that if they were attacked, they could sound an alarm by blowing this very loud whistle (the same model used by referees and lifeguards). I don't recall any feminists in the early '90s arguing that issuing rape whistles blamed the victim. These days, I guess they would, because now the conventional wisdom (if you can call it that) is that women don't need to be taught to protect themselves from rapists. Men need to be taught not to rape.

Well, that's great, except for one thing: it's extraordinarily naïve.

The assumption behind "teach men not to rape" is that if men were only educated out of their ignorance that rape is wrong, it would end. It's optimistic, and it's idealistic. And it is woefully naïve. The problem fuelling rape is not male ignorance. Pretty much everyone knows that women are worthy of respect, and rape is criminal and evil. These truths have been pounded into us since we were children. But while everyone knows that rape is barbaric, there is still a sliver of society that wants to be barbarians. They will hurt women no matter what they've been taught. In short, everyone knows rape is wrong, but the ones who commit the rapes don't care.

The cause of rape, in short, is not ignorance. It is total depravity.

Wouldn't it be great if we lived in a society where women didn't have to defend themselves from rapists, because some men didn't want to rape them? It sure would. It would also be nice to live in a society where you didn't have to lock up your house when you went out, or wear a seat belt in your car just in case some drunken yahoo goes on a bender and T-bones you while you're driving home. Neither door locks nor seat belts offer perfect protection from thieves or drunk drivers, but you never hear of anyone taking the defeatist position that they are no solution at all, or the naïve position that we should only teach thieves and drunk drivers not to break in or drive drunk. For the most part (excepting, apparently, feminist anti-rape activists), we don't live in cloud cuckoo land, but in the real world where we do need to protect ourselves in various ways from real human nature. Some people express their depravity by stealing or driving while intoxicated, and we wisely protect ourselves from them. Others express it by degrading women, and if women are wise, they will likewise take reasonable steps to protect themselves.

Some men will only learn not to rape from a well-placed ass-kicking. And perhaps some women can prevent a crime before it starts, even with a well-intentioned and imperfect tool. More power to the Undercover Colors developers. I sincerely hope that they can improve the effectiveness of their product, and wish them all the profits they rightly deserve if they can bring it to market.