What if we had the technology to guarantee consent?

As a former sex crimes prosecutor, I think about consent a lot. I wonder, as technology evolves, how that will impact consent and what that will mean for relationships. When we have technology embedded in our bodies, including ones that can record verbal and bodily responses, or that can capture video, what will that mean for privacy and protection, especially when it comes to parents making decisions for their minor children?

There is already technology around consent. A simple GooglePlay search pulls up ten apps for consent. The Consent App promises that “Sexy Time is just a few checkboxes away,” and has an interface around expectations and boundaries.  Quick Consent offers digital consent and revocation options.

As a former prosecutor, I believe such things are good in theory, but somewhat useless in practice, especially if someone is trying to use an app to prove consent in a sexual assault case. While having a discussion before a sexual encounter is a good idea, consent can be withdrawn at any time. If someone is not taking no for an answer, stopping to let someone uncheck a box will not be an option. And showing a checked box won’t prove anything in a court of law.

But this technology will inevitably evolve. Eventually, we’ll have devices built into us that record what’s happening in real-time, including our physiological responses. Is that something we’ll want and what will it do to the nature of intimate relationships?

In writing ReInception and imagining a likely future where the technology to ensure consent will be embedded in our bodies, I found myself considering what that future will do to privacy and free will. Yes, we’ll have better protection to ensure consent, but we will also utterly lack privacy. Inevitably, this will also negatively impact the positive interactions that come from consenting relationships.

How do you feel about consent apps and how do you think they’ll evolve? How far it too far when it comes to monitoring?

Leave a Comment