The idea of an app to virtually record sexual consent has (unsurprisingly) sparked global backlash. The suggestion is being championed by the New South Wales (NSW) police commissioner, Mick Fuller, who said it could be a brilliant way to establish "positive consent", but critics say it's an incredibly flawed and unrealistic suggestion.
"You may have a son or a brother and you think this is too challenging but this app... protects everybody," Fuller told the Nine Network (an Australian news channel). He added that trying to prove whether or not explicit consent had been given is a persistent challenge within sexual assault cases, saying he believes an app could help more victims with achieving justice. Fewer than 10% of almost 15,000 sexual assault cases reported to NSW police last year resulted in police charges.
Fuller also said the idea of a sexual consent app had been put forward to the NSW government and in an op-ed piece written for a Sydney newspaper, he wrote: "It needs to be positive consent. How do we do that in this day and age? One option is with technology."
However, the idea of giving written consent (be it on paper or via an app) as a method to reduce cases of sexual assault is nothing new – and is one that has been shot down each time it's been suggested in various formats, due to it being potentially open to abuse.
Encouraging a conversation around sexual consent is of course hugely important, but somebody could write that they consent to something, then change their mind (as is their right) partway through an act. Phones are also open to hacking, or somebody else could make it look as though you'd given your consent virtually, whereas the reality of the situation may be totally different.
There's also the possibility that somebody could be coerced or forced into giving consent via an app or by signing a contract under duress.
As an ever-welcome reminder on what consent actually is, the Sexual Offences Act 2003, Section 74 states consent is given if a person "agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice" in regards to oral, anal or vaginal penetration.
It's okay to change your mind at any point and withdraw consent, and if you're ever feeling pressured into an act (or giving written sexual consent), you have every right to walk away – your body doesn't owe anybody, anything. Ever.
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