News and Commentary

Want Sex? Ask Your App.

It used to be that when you wanted to get more intimate with your dating partner you had two options, either get more physical and see if your partner approved, or simply ask your partner what they were comfortable with. But now there’s a third for those who have forgotten how to communicate: transmit your request through an app.

No kidding. As The Wall Street Journal reports, software companies are creating apps such as uConsent so partners can inform each other what they are comfortable with. Alison Morano, founder of the Affirmative Consent Project, told the Journal, “A lot of problems come from miscommunication. If you have an actual conversation, it will help you make a decision you won’t regret in the morning.”

Cody Swann, who designed uConsent, said two people have to be in the same room together when they give consent when using this app; one person types their request and orally repeats it; the other types in their response, and shazam! A bar code is created. The Journal explains, “The two people then hold their phones together and the app captures the bar code and makes sure that what was requested matches what was granted. This info is then encoded and stored securely in a cloud-based database.”

Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, had some issues with the concept of using an app; she said, “You might say yes to the overall interest in sex with somebody, but then you get with them and they don’t smell good or they act strange or they get aggressive and you are frightened. We are constantly adding up the pros and cons of the situation at hand and changing our mind.”

There may be other problems; what if consent is given and then a partner changes their mind? Some apps lack the capacity to withdraw consent. The Journal adds, “Others require the person to log back on to withdraw it, even though this might be difficult to do in the moment. An oral withdrawal of consent should be honored, of course. But if an assault does occur, that original recorded consent could be used against the victim in court, experts say.”

There may be privacy issues; some apps don’t require users to log in with any identifiable information; others can access billing information and contact lists.