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TECHNOLOGY: Sexual consent applications, a dangerous trend

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Sexual consent apps are starting to bloom all over the web. But already, experts list their limits in the sense that consent cannot be reduced to a yes or no. For example, analysts see it as a way to protect potential sexual assault offenders.

In recent years, companies and developers believe they have found a solution to sexual assault by creating sexual consent applications. They are supposed to protect against rape and other sexual assaults. “It’s nice in theory, but in practice, it doesn’t hold water. It doesn’t take into account what consent really is,” said journalist and sexology student Myriam Daguzan Bernier. She believes that these mobile apps, where both parties involved in a potential sexual relationship have to fill out a questionnaire and then consent, are dangerous because they can encourage sexual assault. “Consent is not just yes or no. Consent can be withdrawn at any time,” she says.

Already in 2017, the concept of CNCNT, an application of sexual consent by the American actor Nick Cannon under development at the time, had strongly reacted the Director General of the Juripop Legal Clinic, Sophie Gagnon. “It’s not a protection tool for vulnerable people; it’s really a protection tool for potential perpetrators,” she said. Where things get complicated, she said, is when the actor acts as a great defender of the poor woman. And she was denouncing the idea that once you give consent to a sexual relationship, you can’t revoke it.” If one person changes his or her mind but the other does not listen, the rape will not be brought to justice. The victim will feel guilty for saying yes. Finally, if the victim files a rape complaint, the fact that she first consented may discredit her testimony,” she also noted.

The philosopher Cédric Lagandré agrees with this in an essay entitled “Du contrat sexuel”. “The contract made upstream of desire, before desire, is a negation of the darkness of desire, which he claims to submit to the clarity without anxiety of the market. And since desire is nourished by fantasies, expectations, projections and uncertainties concerning the other, it contravenes the very idea of the contract, which presupposes clear prior knowledge,” he analyses. According to him, a contract is necessarily based on the idea that one knows what one is committing to before signing. “If I don’t know what I’m committing to, it’s not a contract,” he says. This, he notes, especially since such apps sadly reduce sex to the “only act, if possible enjoyable, and of course without taboos”.

What about a situation where a minor would consent by lying about his age? For the person who was tricked, it gives them a defence. If there is some ambiguity about the age of the victim, the accused can defend himself with the contract,” says Pierre Trudel, professor at the Centre de recherche en droit public de l’Université de Montréal. Or if a person gave consent by ticking boxes under the influence of alcohol or a drug? Questions to which the creators of these applications will hardly find satisfactory answers.

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Disclosure of privacy information is also a significant risk for users to consider. Indeed, there is always a risk for them to be hacked by a malicious individual who may fall upon their consent histories, as well as their sexual preferences. To place in the hands of a private company its capacity to consent, as well as the details of its sexual relations, is to renounce ever more its privacy by ceding one of the most intimate parts of its identity. Not to mention the risks to the data themselves, which can be reused without the consent of their owners.

       

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