An app has launched in Denmark that aims to allow sexual partners to give ‘official’ consent before each act of sex. iConsent was apparently created in response to a new and wider definition of rape being passed in the Danish parliament, and which requires partners to give explicit consent to sex.
Sex Is Becoming Digitized So Why Not Consent To Sex Too?
If I were to try to sum up in a few short words, what the future of sex tech means over the coming decades, my best answer would probably be – ‘the digitization of sex’. From the latest smart sex toy, to sex robots, to virtual and augmented reality porn, sexual pleasure is increasingly becoming digitized. In fact, the term digisexuals has already been coined to describe those of us who embrace such a thing. So as sex becomes increasingly digital, perhaps it is not surprising that we are now seeing the first attempts to digitize consent to sex.
Last year the Danish government reformed their laws on sexual violence upon the model of their famously progressive neighbours Sweden. Previously in Denmark, somebody could be convicted of rape only if violence had been used, or if the victim was unable to give meaningful consent for some reason – such as mental impairment. Now each participant in a sexual act will have to give explicit consent, otherwise it will be considered rape under the new law.
Not Only Legally Worthless, But Potentially Dangerous
The intention of the app is apparently to provide proof that you have consented to sex, or rather that your partner has. One partner (presumably the male in a heterosexual encounter) sends a request for consent, and the other confirms or denies. The ‘consent’ is valid for 24 hours and ‘can be withdrawn at any time’.
Although some popular media outlets are presenting the app as though it were the creation of the Danish government, it appears very much the work of a private Danish company. Nevertheless, it still seems to have sparked fury among social commentators in Denmark, as well as scepticism from legal experts. Many see it as redefining sex itself in terms of a contract. And according to legal experts quoted in Denmark, the contract would not have any meaning under law, and would be insufficient to prove consent in a rape trial.
The controversial Men’s Rights Movement has long cautioned men to attempt to obtain evidence of consent before they have sex, especially a brief encounter, lest they be subjected to a false allegation. Whether or not this advice is paranoid or not, it would seem that iConsent is not the kind of solution they might want. Not only does it appear that the use of the app to give ‘consent’ by the alleged victim would have no legal merit as evidence for the defendant’s innocence, I could see the very real possibility that, if the use of the app did become widespread, its absence might actually sway a jury into believing his guilt. Thus if the intention of the app is to safeguard men (or women) against false accusations of rape or sexual assault, it could actually backfire. For example, a man might have the app on his smartphone, go on a Tinder date which leads to consenting sex, but did not ask the girl to confirm the consent. Perhaps the man realized that asking such a thing before sex (do you have the iConsent app?) might just kill any romance or passion building in its tracks.
Consent For Sex In Haptic VR
While the use of an app like this for real life sexual encounters might not be appropriate, perhaps something of this nature might have a more fitting role to play in digital sex worlds themselves, such as in virtual reality or for remote sex encounters? Stronger safeguards for consenting sexual activity in virtual reality may be needed, at least if a new report that appeared this week in Australia has any merit. It seems that the moment virtual reality – and VR porn – begins to enjoy a modicum of popularity or momentum, the media inevitably panics over potential dangers that will start jumping out of the virtual woodwork. This week Australia’s eSafety Commission has warned of new harms that may emerge from hyper-realistic technology such as VR headsets and haptic suits, and are already calling for the law to be suitably updated.
Professor Kieran Tranter from QUT School of Law says the haptic suit example is “really at the extreme outside end of what our law imagines.”
“You are attaching something that has the potential to engage with your body in a sexual way, so there will be issues about consent around that,” Professor Tranter told The Feed.
“If there is unwanted sexual conduct, could we even identify the perpetrator and if we can’t, could we argue that the platform or even the hardware manufacturer is precariously liable for the assault?”