There are emerging conversations about consent – and even budding conversations about enthusiastic, or affirmative, consent! – brewing in the public discourse in the US. California now requires that colleges that receive state funds define consent in these terms – such an exciting move! Why is it that the state doesn’t just make that the state-wide rubric for consent, I have no idea.
And that conversation, growing louder, brings us to an article a friend sent me yesterday about an app called Good2Go. This refers, of course, to being ready to engage in sex. Or oral sex. Or making out. So while that part is not entirely clear, the fact that one of the people (because only one is required to give consent through the app) is, in fact, ready to engage in something is entirely clear. At least, apparently, after they’ve scrolled through four or more screens and signed up for the app themselves so that they can wait for a text and maybe some other stuff…
Wait, what were we talking about again?
And so, in honor of this bungled app, I bring you a lesson on consent from our manual of the week, Making Sense of Abstinence.
SAYING YES, SAYING NO
1. Recognize the importance of talking with a partner about abstinence, sexual behaviors, and setting sexual limits.
2. Learn how to assert their own sexual decisions.
3. Learn how to manage different decisions partners may make regarding sexual behaviors.
4. Practice the skills needed to communicate with a partner.
Like most couples, teen couples may experience conflict over decisions about sexual behaviors. If partners don’t communicate effectively, one may make incorrect assumptions about the other’s decisions. This lesson helps young people examine the communication skills needed to assert their decisions, and discuss conflicting decisions about sexual behaviors in a relationship.
Ah, good old-fashioned communication and the understanding that even college students can manage it (with a solid educational background) without going through digital devices? Fantastic!
Now, it’s true that this lesson was written before the technology to run a consent app was written. And it’s also true that Good2Go makes a point of asking about the consent-giver’s state of inebriation. But at the end of the day, verbal communication will need to happen whether Good2Go is put to its proper use or not. And if someone isn’t interested in getting consent or are too drunk, uneducated, or uncaring to ask for it, Good2Go isn’t going to do much to prevent the situation from continuing.
So you want to know what I would do if I were creating a consent app? I’d acknowledge that it wouldn’t be used (very often) in the situations I was designing it for (sexual consent). Instead I’d create something so hilarious, so engaging, so viral that college kids would find themselves talking about consent in entirely surprising situations – like with their buddies. The moment of consent (or the moment of lack of consent) isn’t a time when we have access to the hearts and minds of other people and it isn’t where cultures change in the first place. No. What we need is to incorporate basic communication skills (as in this lesson plan) along with huge cultural shifts. We need things like THIS to go viral rather than things like THIS. But they won’t – not unless we make them as blatantly funny, engaging, and viral as everything else around. So Good2Go: You’ve missed your mark, I’m afraid, by being pretty dry and boring. But maybe you’ll point someone else in the right direction and together we can all move along this path in the direction of a cultural shift.
(Oh gods. I just looked at the Good2Go website…where they start off being clear that this app is for HETEROSEXUALS ONLY. While I have no idea about the actual perspective that the creators have on the range of normal sexual orientations that exist, the passive hetero-infexibility and in-your-face heterosexism annoys me to no end. Everyone needs and deserves consent. Regardless of sexual orientation.)