There are so many scenarios that lead to sex. There are drunken bar hook-ups, romantic dates, and excellent study sessions. Sometimes all you need is the right eye contact and a good conversation. But, in far too few of these cases do these conversations include issues of boundaries and consent before clothes get ripped off. This lack of communication can lead to your standard incompatible, bad sex. But, on a larger level it can lead to unenthusiastic coerced sex or straight up rape.
Increasing media coverage and a lot of unhappy people scarred by such interactions are rightfully pushing for a productive discussion on consent. It’s an important topic and needs to be addressed on macro and micro levels.
One proposed solution comes via a controversial new app hoping to use legally binding contracts to protect people against non-consensual sex, STD transmission, and revenge porn. Currently just a concept, creators are aiming to release an app on iOS and Android that lets partners create a Live Contract — which is legally binding — detailing their approval and disapproval of sexual activities.
LegalFling, the brainchild of Dutch firm LegalThings, hopes to create a vehicle for explicit consent before partners enter into a physical relationship. In addition to consenting to “sexual intercourse,” the app will also let users create a list of do’s and don’ts based on their personal preferences and offer approval for photos and videos to be taken during the act. The designers also anticipate sections that allow for a user to disclose the status of their sexual health, consent to sex without a condom, and gauge their comfort with BDSM and dirty talk.
This sounds like something that is most useful for people who don’t know each other or have never spoken and are aiming to keep that going. Viva la one-night stand! But the designers assert it is useful at any stage, and thus you can add an unlimited duration to your contract, keeping all your agreements in place indefinitely.
Ever the optimists, the app’s website states: “LegalFling is also good to have around when your fling turns into something steady. Think of a spicy photo or video you made with your partner. You don’t want that to go viral when the relationship ends.”
Twitter — where many of the #metoo conversations have blossomed and evolved — is not having this.
The question posed by the backlash is obvious: Why we aren’t helping people have open, honest conversations about sex before they have it?
This isn’t always easy. There isn’t a lot of time for chatting when you grab the person you have been stealthily groping at the bar and pull them into the bathroom for a bit of a fondle and a quickie. But all of us are legally and morally obligated to make the time. The real issue at stake is education, of course. Stop telling people they “will know” when it is right. Teach them to make it right by openly stating their boundaries, and give them a society where it feels safe to do so.
Furthermore, though the app says a person can pull their consent at any time with one click, it isn’t that simple. Are you keeping the phone in your hand through the entire scene with your finger on that button? Doubtful. Consent is shifting and ongoing and it deserves the freedom to be revoked. What we need, it seems, are less apps and more conversation.