Sexual assault is a pressing social issue. It is a problem that continues to plague workplaces and college campuses. The issue has been seen in numerous recent Canadian scandals.
The Jian Gomeshi saga, the case of the CBC host who was acquitted of charges of choking and sexual assault. The Saint Mary’s University 2013 frosh week chant that praised non-consensual sex with underage girls. The Dalhousie Dentistry incident involving a misogynistic Facebook group targeting female classmates.
Can new technology help to solve the problems around consent and sexual assault, especially on campuses? The creators of a number of new “consent apps” think so.
Wantme?, created by a Canadian, as well as Yes to Sex and We-Consent require partners to each enter passwords to confirm consent. Non-consent data is stored in a cloud. The app might be used to prevent coercion, or potentially as protection against accusations of sexual assault.
Wantme? markets itself as providing three services:
1) Education as to what does and does not constitute sexual co
2) Creating opportunities for discussions about consensual sexual activity;
3) Registering clear instances of consent.
Wantme? also promotes its features that obstruct misuse. When a user sets of an alarm, the app will begin streaming audio to Wantme? servers while texting the user’s emergency contacts.
But there are serious doubts plaguing these new technologies. First, just because a person consents at one point, that doesn’t mean that they won’t want to withdraw that consent. Second, who will be downloading these apps? People concerned about assault, or men concerned about assault accusations?
Mara Shapiro, a Toronto based blogger (cofounder of Brazenwoman), community manager, and social media consultant doesn’t think the apps are a good idea. “I think that sexual assault and consent are a societal problem and an issue of education, respect and connection. If we educate the boys and men as to what constitutes consent and then the girls and women on what they deserve that will serve us all much better. I don’t think you can automate common sense and concern for others. This is a human issue and needs to be dealt with in a human way.” However, Shapiro thinks that “a panic button on a phone would be a lot more helpful, usable and less intrusive”.
Time will tell whether our app obsessed culture will bring this technology into the mainstream
Read more from Mara Shapiro at BrazenWoman.com.
Wantme? is available free for download on iTunes.
Scarlett O’Shea is a student at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. She is interning with Women in Biz Network for the summer and will be blogging about business law. Connect with Scarlett on Twitter