A Smartphone App for Consent: Revolutionary or Problematic? 

A new Dutch app allows users to consent to sex through a legally binding document 

By Brandy Bond, Staff Writer

A Dutch start-up is launching a new smartphone app which will allow users to give consent to sexual encounters through the use of legal documentation. The app is called LegalFling and was created with the hope of encouraging safe and consensual sex. The app’s creators told the CBC that they came up with the idea as a practical response to Sweden’s proposal to introduce legislation that requires clear consent before sexual contact.

This app is considered to be very innovative for promoting and the conversation of consent before a sexual encounter. In a Twitter post regarding the app, the creators made it clear that the app’s sole purpose is not for concrete consent before a sexual encounter but rather to start the conversation about consent. Because the app breaks down the sexual interaction to specific actions, it allows partners to analyze the sexual interaction in a way they may not have before. This not only allows partners to talk about the extent and nature of their actions, but also diminishes much confusion about any physical action taken in a sexual encounter. However, despite the app good intentions on behalf of the app’s creator and the app’s positive message, it raises a lot of questions on whether or not this will positively influence those who use it. Lakehead University’s Pride Central Assistant Coordinator, Liz Ward thinks that the app could potentially be “problematic in many ways.”

PC: Ashley Love

One of the implications of the app raised by Ward is difficulty regarding consent during the sexual interaction. Though someone might consent to sexual contact before it occurs, while it is taking place, they may change their mind but feel obligated to continue due to their previous consent on the app. Additionally, the partner could also insist that the sexual interaction continue, regardless of the feeling of the other partner. When confronted about continuing the sexual act, even when the other partner no longer wants it, they could refer back to the app as if it were a contract. This would completely defeat the original purpose of the app. Perhaps not the original intention of its creators, the app could cause many difficult situations for the people using it and possibly make consent more confusing.

The creation of this app could be a step in the right direction in terms of opening up dialogue about consent, however, it seems that in trying to simplify the concept of consent, it may have further complicated it. Unfortunately, many people still lack a basic understanding that no means no – both before and during sex. Ultimately, this app starts the conversation—an extremely important conversation to have. As Ward states: “If you can’t talk about it, then how can you consent to it?”