Mick Fuller's idea of sexual consent app

Hamletian dilemma of Sexual Consent App – to have or not to have

Following the Four Corners program by the ABC last year, the revelations of Brittany Higgins and allegations of historical rape against Christian Porter led women all over Australia marching on streets – as March 4 Justice on March 15. People in authority paying heed promised to take steps. NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller came up with the idea of a Sexual Consent App. It sparked criticism, a lot of criticism.

The idea, the critics say is flawed and will not work to fix the ‘broken system’ as Brittany Higgins put it on March 15, addressing the groundswell of women in Canberra.

“We are all here today not because we want to be here, because we have to be here. We fundamentally recognise the system is broken, the glass ceiling is still in place, and there are significant failings in the power structures within our institution,” Brittany said.

“We are here because it is unfathomable that we are still having to fight this same stale, tired fight.

“It’s time our leaders on both sides of politics stop avoiding the public and side-stepping accountability. It’s time we actually address the problem.”

Dr Emily van der Nagel, Lecturer, Communications & Media Studies at Monash University in Melbourne believes the App will only help men.

“This app is a bad idea that fails to solve the issues required to appropriately address sexual consent. It’s a concept designed to protect men, to alleviate them of blame and guilt. When what we need to be doing is ensuring men don’t sexually assault women in the first place”, Dr van der Nagel says.

At the core of the issue – is consent which needs to be established in case of dispute or alleged abuse. Thus there needs to be a way to record it. That is where Mr Fuller floated his idea.

According to Mick Fuller, an app that allowed people to digitally document their agreement before having sex could be “part of the solution”.

Admitting that perhaps technology cannot, by itself, be sufficient, Mr Fuller added:

“Technology doesn’t fix everything but … it plays such a big role in people meeting at the moment. I’m just suggesting: is it part of the solution?”

“Naive”, say the critics of the idea who do not believe it to be useful.

Also read: Pakistani Uber Driver claims consent as his defence to rape allegations

Bharat Times raised some issues and sought to clarify the position adopted by Dr Emily van der Nagel.

BT: The matter will only resolve (in case of litigation or accusation) when consent can be “established”.

“The app won’t actually establish sexual consent, and that’s the issue with it. It doesn’t take into account that someone’s device might be interfered with, or someone might be coerced or pressured into indicating consent with the app” Dr Emily van der Nagel said.

BT: How else should we proceed?

“Instead of relying on technology to solve social issues, men need to be educated early on about sexual consent, boundaries, pleasure, and how to communicate clearly about their sexual desires – including how to handle rejection if those desires aren’t reciprocated.”

BT: Can you suggest features the app must have to protect women? because you are saying the app protects men.

“I wouldn’t add any features to this app; I’d delete the whole thing.”

A Monash University expert is available to discuss NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller’s suggestion of a mobile phone app to record sexual consent.

She also said it’s disturbing that NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller doesn’t appear to have discussed the app with any women – only the Attorney-General Mark Speakman and Police Minister David Elliott.

“This incident reveals a culture of not listening to, or believing, women. That needs to change”, she added.

It remains to be seen what form of ‘recording’ of consent is going to be acceptable in the modern world where smartphone (which can house the app) seems to be something follows everyone like shadow. Top have or not to have it seems to be a real dilemma at the moment with both sides passionately ironing out their arguments in the public domain. It is a good, healthy beginning.