It is a sad commentary on our society that so many companies are working to find ways to incorporate self-defense products into everyday life. We’ve seen tasers built into phone cases, discreet pepper sprays, and all sorts of apps that alert your loved ones if you aren’t home/at your destination by a set time. Most of the time the pitches make complete sense. Then there’s the Invi bracelet, which allows you to skunk your attacker.
“The smell can surprise, demotivate, and repel an attacker without using violence. The foul smell evokes a disgust reaction which has a negative effect on sexual arousal. Furthermore, as the smell spreads easily (over 100 meters distance) this can help to alarm others in the surrounding.”
It’s an admirable goal, but I have a number of concerns that Invi’s website FAQ doesn’t directly address:
- If the smell is that strong, how is it not going to also impede your ability to run away? Yes, you know it’s coming, but knowing it is coming isn’t going to make it any less shocking. (This is also a criticism that many have about pepper spray, but at least with pepper spray there’s a chance you aimed it away from you, this is all-encompassing)
- Yes, a normal person might be demotivated and not interested after smelling something bad. But oftentimes assault and rape are not about sex, they’re about power and dominance. In that situation, you’re just making your attacker angrier.
- I can’t speak for everyone, but I think most people I know would not coming running TOWARDS a bad smell, so repelling others from the area is actually more unsafe for the victim, especially if the attacker is not “demotivated” by bad smells.
- This product is predicated on an attacker having a normal sense of smell. So an attacker with, say, a freshly broken nose, or a sinus infection, or even noseplugs, is not going to be deterred by your stinky bracelet. So now you have an attacker who isn’t bothered by the smell, but you’ve still chased away anyone who could help you.
- Invi’s website talks about test subjects feeling more confident, but there is not any hard evidence on how well the smell deters someone beyond “people hate bad smells”. People generally hate assaulting each other too, but once someone is breaking the social contract and attacking others, I’m not sure that smells will really cause them to re-evaluate their lives.
I admire that Invi wants to make a positive change in the world of self-defense. I agree that if a self-defense product is as easy to wear as a bracelet, it will more likely be in reach when you need it. But you also need it to be something you can do automatically, and something that will not incapacitate you as well as your attacker. Years ago, the Riot Grrl movement put together a concert series called “Free to Fight” which incorporated songs about standing up and defending yourself with useful self-defense tips. The entire discography as well as the accompanying booklet on self-defense and empowerment are now free, and worth a listen. I especially suggest the “Target Practice” song, because it is catchy and will help you commit to memory “eyes, knees, groin, throat”. But the idea behind incorporating self-defense tips into a mix album is to really commit to memory those tips on how to be safe, from how to fight back to how to carry yourself to look more confident. All these are more valuable than hoping an attacker has a strong sense of smell.
Self defense is incredibly important, and it’s something everyone, especially women, need to take seriously. However, you cannot rely on any device or weapon to save you; at the end of the day, the device is only a tool, and what matters more is your mental confidence and ability to react under duress. Most important is your safety, and a device like the Invi just feels like something that’s more likely to anger an attacker and isolate the victim instead of providing serious protection.