Sex Tech

Consent Apps Are Just Ridiculous

Why we need to be talking about pleasurable sexual experiences instead.

A blonde woman looks annoyed and has steam coming out of her ears.

It is true society needs some sorting out when it comes to consent. The rise of the #metoo movement shows that we’re long overdue for a serious cultural shift and some frank discussion about sexual boundaries.

But that doesn’t mean technology should take over and become the arbiters of consensual sex. In fact, I’d say our poor track record is a good argument against us handing over the responsibility.

How can we develop or train software if we as a society aren’t taught consent in a sex-positive and educational setting? Why in sex ed wasn’t I taught that sex should feel pleasurable for myself and for my partners?

Nevertheless, consent apps keep popping up as so-called solutions to tackling sexual assault. A new one called LegaFling aims to track permission and sexual limits using blockchain. The company says it also allows fluctuating consent, meaning you can say no or stop a sex act you may no longer want to partake in.

I’m not the only person who isn’t convinced. In an article for The New York Times, relationship and technology expert Dr. Michelle Drouin said she doesn’t think apps can solve what is essentially a human problem:

The requirement to interact with an app during a sexual encounter is “completely unrealistic,” she said.

“It would be very awkward within the context of an intimate encounter to be like, ‘Wait a second, I’m changing my mind on the app and also with you,’” she said.

More important, she said, the app could persuade someone to fulfill acts simply because they agreed to them in advance, or to overcommit in an effort to appear more sexually adventurous.

Instead, what we need to do is start talking about sex in a way that acknowledges degrees of pleasure and comfort. This includes recognizing pleasure or discomfort in ourselves as well as in our partners.

The reason The New Yorker’s “Cat Person” essay and the poorly reported Babe article on Aziz Ansari drew so much attention is that so many women could relate. They had felt noticeably uncomfortable during a sexual encounter, but their partners clearly didn’t register it or care about their pleasure. They also felt like they couldn’t easily end the encounters.

Not rape, but clearly we can all do better in making sex more enjoyable by talking about these unpleasant and all-too-frequent encounters. If the focus is on mutual pleasure rather than tapping a screen, the human race will be much better off.

And lastly, if you think all this talk about consent is a mood killer then you are just plain wrong! Listen to how a sex worker negotiates consent, and makes it sexy, over at CBC.

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