Standing Up Against Rape Culture, One Finger at a Time

Centre for Gender Advocacy Paints Nails with “Don’t Rape” and “Ask First” Slogans

Photo Shaun Michaud
Photo Shaun Michaud

In the wake of the debate surrounding a new “anti-rape” nail polish, the Centre for Gender Advocacy took to the sidewalk outside Concordia’s Hall Building to promote consent by giving manicures denouncing attitudes that place the onus on women to not get raped.

Armed with several bottles of nail polish and a wealth of sexual consent knowledge, the Centre gave manicures at their MANicure event last Friday. Participants crowded around a table at the corner of Mackay St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd., anxious for a fresh set of feminist paint.
With an assortment of eye-catching colours to choose from, the free polish was open to anyone who wished to sport the slogans “Don’t Rape” or “Ask First” across their fingernails. The event, which drew in a large crowd of all genders, was organized in response to the recent development of “anti-rape” nail polish.

The nail polish, developed by a group of North Carolina State University undergraduate students, is designed for women to use as a means of preventing sexual assault. The nail polish turns a different colour when dipped in a drink containing date rape drugs, warning the wearer of potential substances in their drink.

The Centre argues that this method of prevention is tackling the issue from the wrong angle. Instead of teaching people how not to rape, women are being told “that if they don’t dress like sluts, don’t walk alone at night, use a rape whistle, wear rape-resistant underwear or (the latest) wear roofie-detecting nail polish, they won’t get raped,” the Centre said on its Facebook page.

As the Centre’s Scott Paradis described it, there’s a “problematic mentality of ‘don’t get raped’ instead of ‘don’t rape.’”

As he picked out a sparkly silver nail polish for the next set of nails, Paradis explained that the complicated nature of sexual assault is not something that can be permanently resolved by teaching women how not to get raped. Organizers of the MANicure event were also encouraging men to participate in the feminist pampering and help stand up against rape culture.

“So many institutions are failing to be proactive against sexual assault,” said Julie Michaud, one of the Centre’s coordinators, applying a coat of bright pink nail polish to a fingernail.

“We need to get people thinking about who is responsible,” she added.

The Centre also encouraged participants to sign a petition urging Concordia to provide mandatory sexual assault workshops for students living in residences. According the Centre’s website, “around one in four students, most of them women, will experience sexual assault over the course of their post-secondary career.”

Optional workshops are offered to first-year students living in residence, but it’s not enough, according to the Centre’s website, “because having someone’s consent before engaging with them sexually is mandatory.”

The free MANicure event also marked the start of “Another Word for Gender: An Intro to Feminist Organizing and Action,” an annual weeklong series of events organized by the Centre and dedicated to promoting gender equality and eradicating gender bias.

“We’ve got events on feminist porn, disability and sexuality, reproductive empowerment and reproductive justice, trans issues, racialization and indigenous struggles,” said Michaud. “My advice is to attend as many of the events as you can!”

The Porn event, which includes a panel discussion with Papí Coxxx on Sept. 30, will also highlight the importance of positive and consensual sex.

Gender and feminist activists such as Papí Coxxx have been combating the issue of non-consensual and abusive sex with feminist porn—porn that has a much bigger focus on consent and positive intercourse than mainstream porn—as a means of consent promotion.

Full event details can be found at