This weekend, I decided to stock up on fashion magazines to help me through my convalescence while my knee gets back to normal. While flipping through an excellent edition of Marie Claire, I came upon a snippet about a British company that was marketing lip glosses with “built in test strips that detect date rape drugs in drinks.” Given my penchant for personal safety, I took a trip over to the company’s website hoping to purchase a few tubes of this miracle product for some college aged cousins and a few former interns. But imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the product isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
Both the Marie Claire article and the 2LoveMyLips website made it sound like the lip gloss, or some part of the gloss’s packaging, tests drinks for date rape drugs. But what actually does the testing is a test strip (pictured above) that comes with the gloss when you buy it. So for $17, you get one lip gloss and two single-use test strips.
On the one hand, the company’s PR person is a genius. In an effort to market a new line of cosmetics, he/she spent a few extra pennies to make the product unique and tout the personal safety angle resulting in a slew of exposure. On the other hand, he/she is probably going to Hell for using blurry marketing, fear, and the victimization of women to sell lip gloss.
The strip tests for two drugs: GhB and Ketamine. While these are common date rape drugs, they aren’t the only ones out there. So even if you use the strip your drink could be spiked with something else, like the ever popular Rohypnol, and you’d never know. Also, some experts caution that GhB test kits can give a false positive when used in drinks like Margaritas or Cosmopolitans. (Cause girls never drink those, right?) So while using one of these strips may make you feel like a CSI, they don’t provide incontrovertible proof that you’re drink is spiked or safe.
Despite their fallibility, the company’s Facebook site is littered with comments from women who can’t wait to buy the lipgloss that detects date rape drugs. How many of these glosses do you think they will sell by convincing women that having one, or the test strip that comes with it, will keep them safe? Frankly, it kind of makes me sick to my stomach and I’m not the only one.
Maybe I’m being too cynical, but I don’t think this company’s intentions are pure. They wanted to sell yet another lip gloss to women who already have a makeup drawer full of them, so they found a clever marketing gimmick that got them all kinds of press attention. But at the end of the day, the test strips aren’t fool proof and since there are only two strips in the box, they’ll only protect you through the first hour of your U Street bar crawl.
Since we’re on the topic of how to protect yourself from sexual assault while hitting the bars here are some rules to follow. But please remember that the only fool proof way to protect yourself is not to leave the bar with the guy in the first place:
Know When to Say When. Fun fact: Most victims of date rape aren’t drugged, they’re drunk. So if you’re planning to go out for a good time with the bar tab to match, you need to know your limit. For whatever reason, a lot of young women think it’s fun to drink until they can no longer stand. But a girl who isn’t in control of her own legs, let alone her own mind, is exactly the kind of girl that asshole rapists target. Don’t give them an opening, protect yourself and stay reasonably alert.
Look Out for One Another. A good soldier never leaves a woman behind. Yes, gentlemen, I’m that friend. You know the one, the bitch who tries to stop her friend from heading home with the hot stranger she doesn’t know out of concern for her friend’s safety. But when the friend fights back, because she’s in her mid-twenties and well within her rights to have meaningless sex with hot strangers, I’m the friend who asks to see your driver’s license before you take my girl home with you.
Oh, don’t kid yourselves, I’ve done this so many times, I actually have a speech prepared.
The trick to checking the driver’s license is to appeal to the man’s sense of chivalry. Explain that you’re not here to step on his game, you’re just here to look out for your friend because that’s what good friends do. I find this works best if you ask nicely in a non-chalant tone that makes the guy think that this is just some unwritten Chick Rule that he’s never before encountered. Nine times out of ten, your friend’s hook-up will happily hand over his license for a quick inspection and then make a lame joke about how he’s not a rapist.
Only two guys have ever refused the license check, and those guys left the bar alone that night. Refusal is a deal breaker.
After awhile, my girlfriends got so used to me checking IDs that they started asking the guys to turn over their licenses for inspection. By the end of the summer, the license check was a running joke that made them safer and helped me sleep at night.
Watch Your Drink. The rules for this game are simple:
Number One. Never accept a drink from a stranger’s hand. If a cute guy buys you a drink that didn’t go straight from the bartender’s hand to yours, thank him for it but don’t drink it. This can be tricky, but if he asks why you’re not drinking it, tell him that you have either a) reached your limit, b) was hoping to try a (fill in drink name here), or c) the truth.
If you choose option b and he offers to get another drink for you, go with him. Stand next to him. Grab the drink directly from the bartender.
Number Two. Your drink should NEVER leave your sight. If you walk away from a drink (to use the bathroom, dance, etc.), that drink is now undrinkable. I don’t care if it’s the most delicious cocktail you’ve ever had, it is now radioactive.
Also, you may think that asking a friend to watch your drink is a great idea, but bars are loud, chaotic places and she may not do a perfect job. Bottom line, finish your drink before you leave the table or be prepared to get a fresh one upon your return. This is a basic tenet of good bar safety but it is usually the first rule to go.
Drink and Dial. Before you leave the house on Friday night, make sure that you have the phone numbers for at least three cab companies in your cell phone and emergency cab money in your purse. These numbers come in handy for many reasons not the least of which is making sure you have a safe way home from the bar.
Whether you take a cab, the Metro, get a ride, or walk, when you get home from the bar text your girlfriends to let them know that you are safe and to ask if they are safe. When I was in college, my dorm mates and I would text “Goodnight Moon” to one another to let the others know we were sound asleep in our own beds. And if one of us had gone home with someone else, we had a drop dead time for making contact with them. Usually, I needed to know they were safe in bed ,or at least safe in someone else’s bed, by 7:00AM or else I started calling to make sure.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that you don’t need to buy a lip gloss or a test strip to keep yourself safe. Look out for yourself, look out for your friends and don’t get so intoxicated that you can’t make good decisions. Because take it from someone who knows, you do not want to be the person sitting next to the hospital bed holding your friend’s hand while a nurse performs her rape exam any more than you want to be the person being examined. Be safe out there.