The #MeToo movement that swept across social media last year, in which women made public their stories of sexually harassment abuse, and rape has been pivotal in initiating a public debate on the questions of consent with regards to sexual behaviour has succeeded in creating a binary world. Pre and post-Weinstein. Never before has such dialogue swept the globe so entirely and we suppose it’s only natural that those of business and social mind may have been spurred on by it to find, commercial or technological solutions to some of these problems. For Dutch start-up LegalThings, it was a catalyst to develop a unique app that’s never been more relevant than it is today - one that records sexual consent.
According to their website their blockchain-based app LegalFling which is available for users in the Netherlands, requests and records explicit mutual consent to sexual contact between different users. The request also registers the do’s and don’ts - like sharing of photos, videos or engaging in BDSM - of the sexual contact. Both partners can accept or deny the request and withdraw consent at any time too. Thereby they give each other the permission to engage in a sexual activity. These clauses remain in effect even after the end of the consensual sex agreement, in order to protect ex-lovers should a relationship end. The app also offers a penalty clause that can be used during trials, whenever the contract is infringed.
Though LegalFling does look like a one-swipe solution for the fears that surround sexual consent, it has come under critical scrutiny. Gizmodo reporter Melanie Ehrenkranz called the app “deeply flawed” in a piece on her site . “A blanketed [sic] contract ahead of engaging in sexual contact signals that consent is simply a one-time checklist,” she wrote wrote. “Consent, however, is something that occurs continually throughout a sexual encounter.”
Arnold Daniels, LegalFling’s creator and the co-founder of LegalThings understands the complexities of the issue as well. In an interview with the Business Insider he said, “Before making it public, we need to get enough input to be confident we’re addressing the problem in the right way.”
We live in a world where women don’t feel safe and, of course, there will be a great degree of simmering anger. Still, we also have to admit that we also live in a world where there seems to be no space to navigate the more ambiguous nuances of sexual consent or acknowledge an equality of agency for all individuals in question. The Aziz Ansari case that has recently taken over social media debate is a notable example of this vast gap that exists. In this light, LegalFling does seem like a promising way to at least initiate a dialogue around the most tricky terrain of sexual consent, if not be a step towards securing it.
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