The latest product in a growing catalog of rape-prevention devices is Good2Go, a sexual consent app that aims to prevent sexual assault among college-aged kids.
The app, which can be downloaded for free from iTunes, requires that a user, upon instigating a hook-up, asks his or her partner to fill out a digital “sobriety questionnaire.” The partner is first asked “Are We Good2Go?” If the answer is, “I’m Good2Go,” the app then asks the partner to asses her or his own level of intoxication (ranging from “sober” to “pretty wasted”). Good2Go does not grant consent for the hook-up to proceed if the partner indicates that she or he is too drunk to consent. The app, however, doesn’t seem to acknowledge that “pretty wasted” people might not be able to operate the app in the first place. But, according to Good2Go’s official description, the app is designed to prevent or reduce assault by “facilitating communication and creating a pause before sexual activity so that both parties can ask and gain affirmative consent.”
Good2Go is the brainchild of Lee Ann Allman, who told Slate‘s Amanda Hess that she came up with the idea for the app after discussing sexual assault on campus with her college-aged children. Creating an app to address the issue of consent made sense because “kids are so used to having technology that helps them with issues in their lives,” she said.
While anything that encourages people to think about consent sounds like a great idea on paper, in practice it’s hard to imagine college kids actually using Good2Go–not only because it seems unromantic and overly formal, but also because, according to Hess at Slate, who tried out the app with a partner, “the process is deliberately time-consuming.” Slowing down on the action could be the point, but it also makes it unlikely that it will be pulled out in the heat of the moment.
Beyond the issue of whether college kids will actually use the app is the issue of whether they should be using any device that claims to prevent rape in the first place.
From the date rape drug detecting nail polish to anti-rape underwear to barbed female condoms designed to “bite” into a rapist’s penis, rape-prevention products are nothing new. While these devices seem to be designed with the best intentions, they raise questions about how rape-prevention should be tackled. And, unfortunately, all of these devices miss the mark by not addressing the real issue.
One major problem with many of these anti-rape products is that they put the onus on women to prevent their own assaults. For years women have been adapting their behavior in order to address the threat of rape: by altering the way they dress or refusing to walk alone after dark or keeping a vigilant watch on their drinks. But guess what? Rapes still occur at alarming rates. The idea that a special product will provide a safety net is faulty and dangerous.
These products have come under fire from feminists and activists before. The drug-detecting nail polish introduced this summer prompted Soraya Chemaly to write in TIME, “Every time we focus on making girls and women individually responsible for avoiding rape, we lose the opportunity to address the systemic root problem that our mainstream culture grows rapists like weeds.”
In its defense, Good2Go does stand apart from many other rape-prevention devices in that it doesn’t shift the responsibility of preventing sexual assault onto individual women. The app is actually designed to be used by the person initiating a sexual encounter and looking to confirm consent. But what kind of rapist actually asks for consent?
While there are instances where the issue of consent may seem murky, statistics show the majority of college rapes aren’t the result of crossed wires or mixed signals. Instead, the vast majority of rapes are perpetuated by men who know that what they’re doing is wrong. A 2002 study of college-aged men found that, while only a small minority of men were rapists, the majority of those rapists were repeat offenders, raping an average of six women each. Let’s face it: that small minority of men–who are repeatedly and knowingly raping women–won’t be downloading Good2Go.
Where the app does have the right idea, however, is in its focus on unambiguous consent. Though it’s hard to imagine anyone actually using the app consistently, the idea of discussing consent is important, particularly on college campuses. In fact, the more light that’s shed on the issue of sexual consent, the better–not just to prevent the murky, crossed-signals sexual encounters or the instances in which there’s coercion, but also to enlighten bystanders, university administrators and those who engage in victim-blaming and struggle to grasp the nuances of consent.
But the fact that many U.S. colleges are right now grappling with defining consent–and how, exactly, to determine when it’s been given–while universities in the U.K. are introducing mandatory workshops about consent for students, demonstrates just how complicated rape-prevention actually is. Unfortunately, there’s no app for that.