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Anti-rape nail polish: Does it perpetuate rape culture?

Lisa Vetten says society needs to interrogate its social institutions that uphold rape culture.

Undercover Colors was invented by a group of male undergraduate engineering students at North Carolina State University. Picture: Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - A nail polish that not only makes nails look pretty but changes colour when it comes into contact with date-rape drugs has been the subject of both praise and scrutiny, with many saying it perpetuates rape culture.

Undercover Colors was invented by a group of male undergraduate engineering students at North Carolina State University.

If a woman's nail polish changes colour when she subtly stirs her drink with her finger, she knows that it has been tampered with.

Lisa Vetten, a gender researcher with the Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research, questioned the need for women to be constantly taught ways on "how not to be raped."

She says society needs to interrogate its social institutions that uphold rape culture.

"If you look at the kinds of jokes that people tell, the kind of language that they use, the imagery, the advertising, everything that we see around us - it requires us to take a more critical look. It is for us to say what is that sustaining? What is that supporting? Should we be challenging not just each other but our broader social institutions to change how they encourage us to think about sex?"

Vetten says the way sex is represented in the media and broader society must be relooked because it is part of the problem.

"We immediately seek an explanation for a horrible and traumatic event and immediately place fault on the victim. We don't ask those questions and we don't encourage parents to speak to their sons or their brothers or whoever."

She supports this statement by mentioning a model in the US that was looking towards establishing affirmative consent as a way to combat the idea of blurred lines in sexual engagements.

"To show that they actually asked their partner if they wanted to have sex - that they didn't just assume because you were very drunk or because you had on a short skirt that meant that you wanted sex. There's an obligational requirement to show that they asked first and obtained verbal consent."