Self-Defense Weapons for Women

Whether you’re an incoming freshman or a sophomore living in your own apartment for the first time, you're probably concerned about the high risk of sexual assault on college campuses. It’s highly unreasonable to stay in your dorm room at all times or never go out without your laser-nunchaku, but safety is still very important. 

Many personal defense products address the issue of safety for college students, especially women. What kinds of options are available? Are there any state or school regulations you need to know? 

Pepper Spray

Before purchasing pepper spray, keep a few things in mind. First, under California law, all tear gas weapons must be in canisters with no more than 2.5 ounces net weight of aerosol spray. Check the expiration date and test/practice using the spray. Pepper spray can also blow into your own eyes if there’s a strong wind.

Sabre Red carries a pepper gel designed for college students that features a thicker gel to reduce wind susceptibility, a 4-year shelf life, and is manufactured by a trusted brand. Sabre also has a pepper spray with an adjustable bike strap that Aggies can take while cycling, as well as a product disguised as a tube of lipstick, if you want to feel like Kim Possible.

Wild Kat Keychains

These cute cat-shaped claw weapons are super cheap, compact, and pack a powerful punch. With pointed tips less than an inch long, they’re also allowed under UCD’s official weapons policy, which prohibits blades longer than 2.5 inches.

Personal Alarms

Some students fear physical confrontation or the possibility of having to engage in combat with a potentially bigger and stronger attacker. If this is you, you might want to consider carrying an alarm rather than a weapon for self-defense purposes. Whistles, alarms, and even apps can provide loud distractions to alert the attention of bystanders or simply create enough of a disruption that you can get away.

In addition to tear gas, Mace also sells an emergency whistle. Sabre Red has partnered with RAINN, the nation’s largest organization against sexual violence, to produce a personal alarm that sounds off when removed from your keychain. There are also several personal alarm apps you can download on your phone for free.

Switchblades, Stun Guns, Brass Knuckles?

Exotic weapons like BB guns, knives, or even laser-nunchaku might look cool in Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood music video, but as they’re expressly banned at UC Davis, they’re not recommended for UCD students. According to the official school weapons policy, it is illegal to “[bring] on campus weapons such as knives with blades longer than 2½ inches, switchblades, dirks, daggers, stun guns, BB-guns, air guns, metal knuckles, nunchaku, etc.”

Now, With That Being Said…

Remember the fuss on the Internet over the purported invention of roofie-drug detecting nail polish? A product that not only has yet to have an effective prototype, but also relies on a technology so unreliable it has tested positive for plain water?


Outlandish products proposed to protect women have included electric underwear and female condoms with teeth attached to clamp into a rapist’s penis. While it might be a stretch to suggest that self-defense products for women contribute to rape culture, all the hype over an anti-rape “solution” that doesn’t even exist certainly speaks of a great desire for an easy fix. Even if you ignore the crucial issue of dismantling rape culture, such products are highly imperfect. Personal alarms and rape whistles, for example, tend to be designed with strangers lurking in bushes in mind. In reality, most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, often within a mile of their home.

Pepper spray and other defensive tools can be great for college women. If you have to walk to your car late at night every day, knowing you have a weapon in your pocket can be tremendously comforting. But remember that such gadgets are not an end-all be-all to issues like sexual violence.

When it comes to your personal safety, don’t hesitate to explore your options and decide what’s best for you. And as serious and scary as the threat of violence is, remember that college is meant to be—and will be—a truly wonderful time in your life. Make friends. Try new things. And have fun, stay young!