Sexual violence is having a moment in American culture. From Florida State to Columbia, colleges across the nation are struggling with how to address campus rape. Last month, the theft of nude photos of prominent female celebrities prompted the Internet to do what it does worst, and spread them virally across 4chan and Reddit. And of course, no single recent act of violence captured the public eye as strongly as Ray Rice's punch seen 'round the world, delivered to his then-fiancée Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City elevator—and since witnessed by millions, courtesy of TMZ.
Sexual violence is a pernicious, often secretive problem desperate for creative solutions. So it’s unsurprising that many of the well-intentioned among us are considering how technology might be used to address it. In August, four undergraduate students at North Carolina State University debuted Undercover Colors, a nail polish that changes color when it comes into contact with common date-rape drugs, like Rohypnol. The polish is designed to let a woman “discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger” to detect the presence of a drug, and presumably extricate herself from the situation.
Along the same lines, Good2Go, an iPhone/Android app released in September, aims to create “hard data” about consent to a sexual encounter. The app requires its user to assert that she is Good2Go (that is, she consents to have sex). It then asks her to assess how intoxicated she is—if she’s “pretty wasted,” the app won’t permit her to consent—and sends a verification code to her potential paramour’s phone to confirm his identity. The app’s intent is to “facilitat[e] communication” around sexual consent by “creating a pause” for discussion between potential partners. (iTunes pulled the app earlier this month, saying it violated developer guidelines which prohibit "excessively objectionable or crude content.” In response, the founders have shuttered the website and are reconsidering the app's future.)