Yes or No to Sex – Is a Consent App a Good Answer?

“On this I know my risks and they are sky-high. Are you okay with it or not?”
Janna frowned at him, then half smiled. “All right fine. The answer is yes,yes, you can record me if you want. I am one hundred percent okay with it.”
Hagen picked up his com and pointed the device towards her mouth. “Can you repeat your consent, please?”
“It was your idea. And a voice modulator app will be able to detect whether you’re under duress when you speak. I always forget I have it.”
Janna looked at the com with disdain. “Did you make Kadie do this?” Janna asked emphasizing the Commander’s name.
Hagen feigned shock. “Uhhh…how dare you. That’s so inappropriate and totally unanswerable.”
“So, no.”
“No comment. Where were we again? Oh yeah, the CYA part.” He held up the com again.
Janna looked at him, then at the com. “Fine,” she said reaching out, and pulling his hand, holding the com, closer to her mouth. Hagen touched an icon, then Janna clearly stated, “Under no threat or duress, I, Janna Marric am saying yes, I am one hundred percent okay with having sex with Hagen Writstone.”
Hagen grinned as he touched the icon again. “Thank you,” he said pulling her into his arms.

– from The Unbroken Line

Consent App screenshotThe latest affirmative consent app called Yes to Sex has come out with a college campus version to be tailored to a school’s requirements. It is not as sophisticated as the app on the com (smartphone) described above in the outtake from the technothriller The Unbroken Line, but it’s another step towards using technology to fight crime and gather digital evidence. In the novel, you can state your consent and the app uses a voice modulation feature to determine if you’re under duress. In today’s technology, the app only goes as far as making the recording.

But is this really the road we want to travel? What ever happened to teaching boys not to rape girls? Regardless of the technology, consent can be withdrawn at anytime or misunderstood from the beginning or obtained while someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The technology will not know if the feeling of duress has changed, or other threats were present (the accomplice in the corner pointing a gun) or if someone decided the whole act was a bad idea. Too many attackers may consider recorded consent to be the ticket to a good time, an unfortunate outcome that we will inevitably hear discussed on the day this technology goes to trial.

Technology is absolutely critical to our progress as human beings on earth. New applications and advances generally mean people are thinking and innovating and adapting existing information to making life safer, easier and more efficient. Central to our embrace of this acceleration is how we manage as human beings with our innate powers of reasoning and rationality. A wholesale acquiescence to the technology’s promise (i.e. an idea that rapes will stop if consent is recorded) is not an advancement in human progress. The technical achievements must be matched by a social and cultural rise designed to ensure our humanity is preserved.

For example, although the technology exists to put a breathalyzer control feature in every car, the measure is not necessary in a society that admits that drinking and driving is a crime, and has been taught to self-organize designated drivers for parties and group nights out without being prompted. The overall societal condemnation of drinking and driving has served as a restraint on the behavior, to the point where only the outliers who break the rules end up having the technology imposed on their actions.

In that spirit, the battle to stop campus, and all other rapes, must still be a recognition of the need for men to respect the rights of women and to control their hunger for power over those they perceive to be weaker.

The strategies used to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, including mandatory training, corporate policies and education are now practiced and incorporated into the consciousness of employed adults. A similar process needs to be the focus of colleges grappling with runaway crimes against women on campus. The affirmative consent recording technology only serves as a reminder, a tool for both men and women to stop and acknowledge the act they are about to commit. The apps provide both partners with a moment to determine if they are in the right place at the right time for an activity they have mutually agreed to perform. But hopefully a consent recording will not be viewed as an excuse or as sole evidence of complicity that overrides a thorough investigation if an assault complaint is filed.


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