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What’s the best way to raise awareness for affirmative consent during sex? One tech company has an idea: Try blockchain. That’s the premise behind LegalFling, a new app built entirely around legal contracts for hooking up.
The app, which is planned for both iOS and Android, matches users based on their sexual preferences and lets them send a “Fling” via WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, or text message. If both users accept, then the two can draft up a “Live Contract” and set boundaries for their consensual sexual intercourse. It’s as easy as switching requirements on and off. Down for oral but not for anal? No photos allowed? Write it up and send it out!
The app’s Live Contract, also known as a smart contract, is where blockchain technology comes in. After both parties have signed the contract and legally consented to sex, a transaction hash and timestamp are both stored inside the blockchain, assuring the contract remains securely protected. That means others won’t find it, and no one will be able to covertly modify it.
Oh, and just because a contract has been signed doesn’t mean both parties are forced to have sex. Phew. LegalFling is specifically built to assure users can withdraw consent “with a single click.” Users can also outline if a boundary was breached, and penalties come in the form of cease and desist letters or even payments. Getting sexual consent has never been easier, right?
Suffice to say, most of Twitter agrees that blockchaining sex is a bad idea.
"since pivoting to the blockchain i've had 70,000 percent more sex"— Matt Levine (@matt_levine) January 10, 2018
People are just brazenly ripping off apps from Black Mirror now https://t.co/ZhlnkJUmgV— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) January 11, 2018
Men and women alike are pointing out that if men have a problem handling consent without the law, who’s to say a legal contract will fix male entitlement to women’s bodies?
Proving consent, or lack of, in sexual encounters can be incredibly complex. But not if we put consent....ON THE BLOCKCHAIN https://t.co/f8K5Z37Odm— Tom Gara (@tomgara) January 10, 2018
What makes you think men who have difficulty grasping the concept of consent are going to nicely ask women to sign a contract? I sense a massive blind spot in this idea...— Dana Kiel (@dana_kiel) January 10, 2018
Finally, we have discovered how to end sexual assault: Tell men that their magic internet money will be taken away from them pic.twitter.com/1aGkNU9ZPn— Jake Zeuhlyvahn (@instant_grat) January 11, 2018
Imagine misunderstanding consent this hard.— Richard Bouchard (@indierockranger) January 11, 2018
Plus, very few people are down to have sex through the blockchain.
Protip: no one is going to consent to sex with you if you make them sign a block chain contract first. https://t.co/SxOEiWKGgI— Cooper Q (@cooperq) January 11, 2018
Granted, there are some legitimately useful ways to use LegalFling. In areas where prostitution is legal, it’s easy to see how LegalFling could be used to quickly draft up contracts between sex workers and their clients, assuring payments are acquired discreetly and that johns don’t break the rules. Theoretically, LegalFling could also be used on a much larger scale in adult modeling and porn shoots, making sure directors, producers, and other models are legally bound into fair treatment and pay.
Of course, LegalFling doesn’t advertise itself for sex workers. It’s more like Tinder meets HelloSign, turning “u up?” into “u free to sign a legal contract for sexual intercourse?” The reality is, sex is much more complicated than a unilateral “yes” at an arbitrary point in time. Consent can be revoked at any moment, which is why communication before, during, and after sex is key to a healthy sex life. And consent can be revoked in any situation, from a wife and a husband having sex to a sex worker and her client.
This also only further complicates sexual assault victims being believed in a court of law—what if a woman signs at blockchain at 6pm but decides when she meets this dude at 9pm, he is creepy and violent and she changes her mind?
“Juries tend to look for any reason to disbelieve victims, and ‘they didn’t say no/fight hard enough’ is one of the most common reasons,” Yes Means Yes: Visions of Sexual Power author Jaclyn Friedman told Lifehacker. “Under this standard, participants have no responsibility to pay attention to their partner’s body language or participation levels.”
So while blockchaining sexual consent may sound like a solution in theory, the reality is that society still largely mistrusts women who claim they’ve experienced sexual assault. Flattening consent into a signature on a legal document isn’t going to fix a broken society, even if a blockchain is involved in the process.
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.