Sex consent app plan by top cop panned
An app that allows couples to establish and record their mutual consent before engaging in sex has been suggested by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller.
He believes the idea could be one part of the puzzle in tackling the nation's increasing number of sexual assaults.
Despite the rise in cases, the rate of reporting and conviction of such crimes is dropping.
"The conversation around sex and consent seems to be anchored to the '50s and clearly it isn't working," Mr Fuller wrote in an opinion piece published in The Daily Telegraph.
He believes consent apps could normalise conversations around consent and formalise the habit of actively seeking consent.
"There is no implied consent. It needs to be positive consent. How do we do that in this day and age? One option is with technology," Mr Fuller said.
"People say 'how unromantic is that'. But think of how many people are looking for friendship and love online - it's not as though technology and dating are foreign to us."
Speaking on the Today show, he conceded an app could provide challenges, such as if someone withdrew consent after agreeing.
Other nations are trying similar ideas. Denmark, for example, has introduced a consent app and expanded the definition of rape to include sex without explicit consent.
However, the idea has been panned by many on social media who say it will not solve the issue.
Just one thing on the “consent app” for sex thing. Its utility is that a person with power can later use it as “evidence” against a rape allegation, ignoring context, coercion, withdrawal of consent, etc. It’s designed by men to make it harder for women to prove rape.— Stilgherrian (@stilgherrian) March 17, 2021
A consent app that you sign BEFORE having sex completely ignores the fact that you can withdraw consent AT ANY TIME.— Eden Gillespie (@edengillespie) March 17, 2021
Aside from the specifics of why a "consent app" is terrible, it betrays a very disturbing attitude at the very highest levels of police. Unsure why police think victims would be comfortable trusting them to work in their interests given this is apparently their approach.— Osman Faruqi (@oz_f) March 17, 2021
I actually can't express my rage and frustration at this consent app concept. Knowing what I know about sexual assault trials (if they even get that far!) a defence lawyer would have a field day using this. Consent can be withdrawn at ANY TIME.— Lucy Carter (@lucethoughts) March 17, 2021
Activist Chanel Contos - who has revealed thousands of cases of alleged sexual assaults in Australia's schools - told news.com.au that a consent app was "missing the mark".
She said that the same methods people use to coerce others into sexual acts could be used to make them say they "consented" on the app - making it even harder to prove a case of sexual assault later on.
"It's also important to stress that consent is dynamic. It can be taken away at any moment and it can change within minutes," she said.
For example, somebody may agree to having sex with their partner but may then be forced into a position or a type of sex they are uncomfortable with - meaning a blanket consent agreement on an app would be meaningless.
Ms Contos said factors like alcohol will make the app process even more murky.
"I don't think that it's a terrible idea and I like that the police are forward-thinking about this, but this is not taking any societal pressures off victims - the forces that coerce them into sex will just be reflected in the app," she said.
"It's only a Band-Aid solution and it doesn't solve the core issue, which can only be done by empowering people about active consent through education."
Speaking on the Today show this morning Mr Fuller said he wouldn't expect the app to solve issues around consent by itself, but that it could be a useful tool particularly in online hook-ups.
"If you are online or dating or looking for friendship you have to be upfront with that in terms of what your expectations are from the relationship," he said.
"Is this going to solve the entirety of the problem? No it's not. If we continue to chip away to minimise opportunities to see more victims in this space then I think we're on our way to what would be victory.
"Because we don't understand how long this has been happening for. We know that there's been a change in the way that we meet people and the way that we date, technology plays such a big role in that.
"We are still learning victimisation in this space. We are learning every day but what we do know there was 15,000 victims last year and there will be many, many more next year and I think we've just got to continue to do more to stop that increase."
Originally published as Sex consent app plan by top cop panned