It seems to me that the world of “apps”, those clever routines that enable smart phones, tablets, and such to perform all kinds of functions, is expanding at an astounding rate. Our eldest son, a widower who lives alone and works second shift, has one for his smart phone that enables him to monitor his home while he is at work some miles away. I’ve heard of an app that permits an individual to walk through a store, scan items, place them in the cart, and leave the store bypassing cashiers because the items are charged directly to a bank account.
I think those clever folks who design apps do so in response to some perceived need so when I came across reports that apps for couples to use for consenting to sex are available I wasn’t very surprised. Yep, that’s right – another way of handling that increasingly volatile subject of “Did she agree?” has surfaced, but this avenue uses smart phone technology. How about them apples?
As I understand it, this capability has been developed, in part, in response to the increasing number of post-encounter claims of sexual assault where the male insists the activity was consensual but the female denies it. These apps allow possible sex partners to identify their expectations and mutually agree on the level of intimacy permitted – using their smart phones as the medium.
Kinda sounds like an electronic version of the “May I” approach used by a local college wherein each interaction between a male and female must be requested and a positive, verbal assent must be given to proceed. For example, “May I put my arm around you?” to which “Yes, you may” – not a head nod or silence – is an acceptable reply. The big difference is that the smart phone app documents such consent and stores it in a “cloud” for retrieval if necessary.
The way one such app works is that the two individuals must be close together, such as in the same room, when they use this type of app. They communicate by typing in their individual expectations of sexual activity – including specific levels and types of intimacy. This is intended to stimulate oral as well as textual dialogue. Once agreement is reached, the cell phones, acting together, use the app to record the mutually agreed-upon consent.
Don’t know about you, but this appears a bit bizarre – although two people in the same room communicating via keyboard strokes on smart phones is not an uncommon sight. On the other hand, in today’s society the practice of “hooking up” for possible casual sex, combined with such extreme dependence on smart phones does lends itself to such a melding of the two. But it still looks like an unusual way of addressing intimacy unless sex is considered something separate from, not associated with, what we commonly call love – just carnal coupling.
As might be expected, some folks voice opposition to such apps. One of the most common arguments is that some apps don’t make provision for the woman to change her mind and rescind her consent. Others require both parties to log onto the app and make the adjustment – which might be difficult. As one female expert put it, “Remember that you can say no at any point – even after sex has begun. Consent is an ongoing process. You can say yes one moment and say no the next. You don’t need an app for that.” I don’t dare comment on that concept.
Anything else? Well, these apps may be one way of encouraging discussion of anticipations or expectations in a relationship between a man and a woman. After all, other aspects of a relationship such as where to go for dinner are open for discussion and agreement. Then, too, using one of these apps might help resolve questions about what constitutes consent – does a situation where a couple is lying together nude on a bed, kissing and caressing each other, imply consent for sex? Specifying just what is and is not acceptable is the purpose of the apps.
There might also be some legal and privacy questions arising from these apps. Could the record of assent to a level of intimacy be used as a defense in one of those “she said, he said” sexual assault cases so prevalent today? And, with those ever-so-frequent “disclosure of data” breaches, what about the possibility of the details of these “consent” agreements being exposed? Could be embarrassing.
You know, I suppose these “electronic handshake” agreements might look good, but, frankly, I don’t think they’re worth the paper they’re written on – and guys who rely on them as protection from sex assault charges are gonna be real sorry. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.