Innovation is Awesome, but what Question are We Solving?

By Jonathan Kalin

My inboxes have been flooded with articles on a new innovative nail-polish that changes color when it comes into contact with rohypnol, xanax, and GHB. There’s always excitement when new ideas enter the sexual violence prevention space. For far too long, sexual violence prevention has come with a considerable amount of paralysis amongst men. And the fact that men are entering the discussion is awesome, but below are a couple of the lessons I learned that make me concerned about this particular innovation.

1) Roofies aren’t the weapon of choice.

In David Lisak’s “Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists”. His research cites that alcohol, not rohypnol, xanax, and GHB, to be the weapon of choice. As Lisak states, “Alcohol was the weapon of choice for these men…They didn’t think what they had done was a crime.” We often tell women to cover their cup to protect themselves from date rape drugs, but as serious as the threat of a date rape drug is, Lisak’s research shows spiking punches and pressuring women into binge drinking is the real issue.

2) Are we really going to tell women to change their nail polish too?

As men, we often forget how different the experience of partying is for us verses the experience of women. Men can roam aimlessly from party to party on their own. Men can drink as much as they’d like. Men can pass out where ever they please. Tim Wise explains that privilege is the “…luxury of remaining oblivious.” Women are not afforded this luxury. The blindness that male privilege provokes allows us, as men, to see sexual violence as a women’s issue. “If women don’t wanna get raped, then they should do everything they can to not get raped, amirite?” The fear is that this extremely innovative nail polish is trying to solve the problem of how women can prevent their assault, and not attacking the root of the problem — preventing men, who commit over 90% of sexual assaults, from raping.

3) So then what can I do as a man?

Male privilege means that our voice as men will be more listened to than the voice of women. This is an unfair, harsh, sexist reality, as explained here, but it is a reality.

Therefore, men, and particularly entrepreneurially-inclined men, let’s start using this privilege to innovate on solutions to stop men from raping. Rather than ask women to do another act to protect themselves, let’s start by using our voice (over social media, in-person, or however we can) to state the obvious and deplore the actions of men who use date rape drugs, alcohol, or coercion to have sex with women. And then begin to envision the entrepreneurial opportunities of stopping this human rights crime at its source and challenge the structural inequalities that make our voices more respected than women’s voices.

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