If you have to walk somewhere in a part of town where there have been a rash of armed robberies, should you not carry a gun because to do so would let the thugs win by knowing they have changed your behavior? That's the convoluted reasoning some "sexual assault prevention advocates" seem seem to have adopted:
A group of four college students is taking the media by storm with the development of an innovative nail polish that can detect date rape drugs that have been slipped into young women’s drinks. While the new product has captured its fair share of headlines over the past week, sexual assault prevention advocates warn that it’s not necessarily the best way to approach the sexual assault epidemic on college campuses.
Four male students at North Carolina State University have created a nail polish that changes color when it comes into contact with several common drugs intended to incapacitate victims. According to the undergrads, their goal is to “invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime.” Although the product isn’t available yet, their Facebook page has already been flooded with positive responses from people who can’t wait to give it a try.
[. . .]
"I think that anything that can help reduce sexual violence from happening is, in some ways, a really good thing,” Tracey Vitchers, the board chair for Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER), told ThinkProgress. “But I think we need to think critically about why we keep placing the responsibility for preventing sexual assault on young women.”
Women are already expected to work hard to prevent themselves from becoming the victims of sexual assault. They’re told to avoid wearing revealing clothing, travel in groups, make sure they don’t get too drunk, and always keep a close eye on their drink. Now, remembering to put on anti-rape nail polish and discretely slip a finger into each drink might be added to that ever-growing checklist — something that actually reinforces a pervasive rape culture in our society.
“One of the ways that rape is used as a tool to control people is by limiting their behavior,” Rebecca Nagle, one of the co-directors of an activist group called FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture that challenges the societal norms around sexual assault, explained. “As a woman, I’m told not to go out alone at night, to watch my drink, to do all of these things. That way, rape isn’t just controlling me while I’m actually being assaulted — it controls me 24/7 because it limits my behavior. Solutions like these actually just recreate that. I don’t want to fucking test my drink when I’m at the bar. That’s not the world I want to live in.”
What should be done, these advocates argue, is to work on changing the culture, having tough conversations with the men at risk of committing sexual assault. That's a fine thing to do, although I'm not sure how many of these "at-risk" men are going to pay attention to lectures about "respecting other people's boundaries"? Since rape is, to say the least, frowned upon by society, aren't such men pretty oblivious to other people's boundaries?
But to urge women, in the meantime, to not take a simple step or two to avoid becomeing a victim is not just stupid. I'd say it borders on what the prosecutors call depraved indifference to the well-being of others. Bad guys force us to change our behavior. That's a fact of life, not a damn sociology lecture.