THERE could be an app, soon, on which you can log your consent to a sexual act before it happens. A Dutch software development company have announced they have devised such a system in response to planned new rape laws in Sweden which will require partners to give explicit consent to sexual acts. “Asking someone to sign a contract before having sex is a little uncomfortable,” CEO of the company, LegalThings, Rick Schmitz said in a press release. “With LegalFling, a simple swipe to consent is enough to legally justify the fling.”

It makes you wonder what the world is coming to when this is the solution to the problem of rape and sexual assault. In the Twitter-storm world that exists following #MeToo, there is a defensiveness that is producing ridiculous and extreme solutions. Rather than consent being about talking things through, or reading each other’s body signs, we are now being asked to consider an app as the answer to the problem.

I’m not saying the app couldn’t work. For a young generation whose world is digital and whose prime communication is online, the consent swipe might not seem so awkward. One person presses the consent request and it’s like saying: "I want you." The other responds and it’s like saying: "I want you too", and then they tumble into the sheets, pausing to swipe any time one of them considers a new move – for consent is a moment by moment, act by act, matter.

But, as an answer to what we’ve learned through #MeToo, this seems to be taking us in the wrong direction, and failing to recognise the true nature of sex. And it’s not just the app that is the problem. Also the legislation it’s designed to enable is problematic, since there remains an issue over how we prove consent, which is, after all, sometimes done wordlessly when two people understand and trust each other, and mostly without witnesses.

This app seems most likely to be used by men who merely want to protect themselves. Consent, here, is not about respect for the other person, but about not getting yourself into trouble. Of course, if it prompts men, and women, to think about whether the sex they are getting involved in is consensual, it is a form of progress. But is this the kind of progress we actually want? Do we want men merely to be frightened into producing a record of consent? Or do we want a whole-hearted engagement in the idea?

Frankly, I want the latter. Recently, I’ve been thinking about what I want to tell my own sons about consent. I don’t want them to grow up thinking that sex is a shameful thing, or that their desires are bad – as women have for too long. But I do want them to learn how to handle desire that is not reciprocated. I want them to take risks, but know how to back off. I want them to read the signs well enough not to need an app to help them. And I want them not take it as an attack on their own self worth when they are knocked back.

To be able to take rejection on the chin, and not hold it against an individual or their whole gender, seems to me key. An app, or even a piece of legislation, wouldn’t teach any of that. Nor would it help tackle the still entrenched negative attitudes that revolve around female desire.

All it would do is make us more suspicious of each other, more self-defensive. For such a system relies on fear not compassion. And such a Big Brother world is not one any of us should desire.


THERE have been two really big revolutions in recent times that have had an impact on most people's lives. One has been the invention of the dishwasher. I say this, because mine has broken down leading to a personal domestic crisis. The other has been men doing more of the housework. This particular one has been a monumental shift that I thoroughly appreciate every time I see my husband hanging the laundry in a fastidious fashion that puts me to shame. Of course, that’s not all men. Because, older men don’t do nearly as many housework hours as their female counterparts – even after they retire. This is what a recent study by the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology showed. Across all of the countries studied, men spent less time cooking, cleaning and shopping than women (88.7 minutes a day compared to 217.9 minutes). But men did do more gardening and maintenance tasks than women (68.8 minutes compared to 38.5 minutes a day).

So far, so unsurprising. But what was a bit of a revelation was that men doing more housework makes them fitter. Meanwhile women doing a bit less housework and getting more sleep makes them healthier, since clearly they are overworked. Yet again, we learn that divvying up and sharing is good for us. It even gives us better sex lives – as The Gendered Division Of Housework And Couples' Sexual Relationships: A Re-examination, revealed in 2016. Equal mops for all.