A former Wall Street banker has developed a new app that will film you and your partner “consenting” to having sex with each other. Using your phone camera, you point the lens at yourself and state your name and desire. Then you point the lens at your partner and they agree (“consent”). Called WeConsent, the aim of this app is to ensure there is no trouble post-coitus between sexual partners. However, it may have just missed the point.
There is no denying that anything that pushes forward the idea of a conversation before sex about sex is a good thing. At its basest,WeConsent does promote the idea of checking in with your partner, which is something it must be congratulated on: even as I complain about this app, my complaining is still raising the awareness of the idea that checking in with your partner before you “dive in” is something we should all be doing.
However, where this app fails, is that it ties those involved into some sort of “contract” that becomes inflexible. Consent, when given, is not inflexible: you are allowed to change your mind. A contract does not give you such leniency. It suggests that if you’ve said yes, that’s it: all guns are ago and the race to the finish line has begun. It harks back somewhat to the idea that if you’ve consented once, you’ve consented always. The truth is, that even once you have consented, you need to keep consenting. The only way this app would potentially ensure this, would be to film the entire encounter, something most people might not be comfortable with.
According to the Daily Mail, more than 100 people in the UK have already downloaded this app. Once both partners have “consented”, the video is then stored in a cloud, where it can be accessed only by law enforcers should there be an ongoing legal investigation. (Videos are stored offline in order to prevent hackers’ access.) If the parties do not consent, the video shall not be saved. Thus, one could imagine this possible scenario: one partner does not consent but the “activity” still occurs. Because one did not consent, the video stating this is not saved, any evidence supporting to the rape claim has been destroyed. However, should both parties consent, the video will be saved, and then should one party change their mind but the other still “strive onwards”, the saved video will provide proof that “it was not rape because s/he consented”.
The problem with using this app as legal evidence is that it doesn’t prove anything; yes, once upon a time, these two parties said yes to each other. But it doesn’t prove consistent consent; it doesn’t prove that they consented every minute to every part of their encounter…and it doesn’t prove that they were not being forced or blackmailed into being filmed saying yes.
apps can be wonderful things. Hell, I can turn my iPhone into a level for hanging photographs, and I can video chat with my family in the next country. But equating sexual consent (any consent) with “There’s an app for that!” really isn’t going to encourage or promote an understanding of what consent is. In actual fact, the biggest thing this app proves is that we still don’t understand: we still do not get that one must continue to consent in order for it not to be rape; consent is not negotiable.
In so many ways, this app is a step in the right direction: it is raising the right questions. But in so many others, it is falling incredibly short. We must teach consent with a thorough understanding of what consent is; we must teach the importance of understanding that it is ok to say “no”. Right now there isn’t — and perhaps never will there ever be — an app for that.
Only “Yes” will ever mean “Yes” — but “Yes” doesn’t mean “Yes” forever.