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An App About Consent Won't Make Us Better Communicators

10/01/2014 12:51 EDT | Updated 12/01/2014 05:59 EST

Let's talk about fucking.

There is a particular look that appears on the faces of some of my friends when I broach the topic of sex. It is typically dismay, eclipsed by mild disgust and, often, discomfort and sometimes judgment. Fluent in Chirp, every word I say is tinged with a kind of silliness, a truly sardonic tone that, sometimes, gets lost in the mix of the subject matter. It is classified as "too much information" (oversharing for fans of that awful word) or wrong, most times, and not polite. "You're too real. I can't really deal with that," is something I have heard more times than I would like. The subject is then switched, an implied denouement, and we move on.

Whether we're talking about a sexual moment I have chosen to reveal in a trust circle kind of way or any larger discussion about sex and sexual assault and rape, or casual sex and the practices of people on Tinder or Grindr (or other such sexually implicit or explicit apps), there is a very palpable feeling of unease.

Let's talk about a new app called Good2Go, which is a head-scratcher, and is meant to promote discussion about sex. Targeted to the college and university crowd, this free application, reported here in Slate, is intended to "encourage sex partners to assess their mutual interest in sex and record their intoxication levels before getting busy." It is an effort on the part of the app's creators to decrease assault and facilitate conversation about sex between people before they engage in any activity.

According to the video about the app, only one person needs to download it before suggesting sexual intercourse with a partner. Three options appear: No, Yes But We Need To Talk, and Good To Go. The No screen prompts a reminder to users "No Means No!" (in case you were wondering.) The Yes But We Need To Talk allows users to "go offline" to discuss their apprehensions. If you choose Good To Go, you've consented. But you have to click Ok on the screen. It presents users with another option of how intoxicated the partner is. If "wasted" is chosen, you cannot have sex.

Calling this Good2Go is about as subtle as the smirking emoji wearing sunglasses. The entire process of deciding if you should bang or not while using its many screens, while a good intention to decrease sexual assault, miscommunication, and "regrettable incidents," is exhausting and makes it harder to talk about sex. Would you have that conversation if you weren't prompted by technology? This is the troubling aspect. Who knows how effective or popular this app could be but its existence raises an issue warranting conversation.

The crux of our issue with sex begin and end with an inability to truly accept and be open about having sex and how fucking great it feels and that we're going to keep doing it. This isn't news to anyone but it happens between committed, monogamous couples or two single humans (or more) who simply want it. Instead it's still made dirty, especially if casual, uncomfortable and gives way to misunderstanding, miscommunication, assault, victimizing, shaming, and not valued as something to be discussed among friends or sexual partners or other people in a non-judgmental way. It is an act where we are at our most vulnerable and, while at its seemingly most free point, it is taboo.

We're not talking about sex when we talk about sex. We're usually talking about desire, fantasy, and our ideas of what a sexual encounter could be, which, in me saying that, doesn't discount those things. Those are important during and for a sexual experience. But it's not being truly open about sex. Take sexting, for example: it isn't real. A sext doesn't count as communicating about sex. It's communicating how much you want to fuck someone.

Let me clarify that we aren't the worst at talking about sex before the Terrible Men of the Internet somehow turn this into an anti-sex, blasphemous misandrist plot as I sit here writing and hypothetically drinking the blood of my male victims. Yes, we have a better Cosmopolitan Magazine now, if that's your thing, and open forums about sex and its implications, access to information about it on campuses, websites, pretty much everywhere but somehow we're bad at this dialogue on a human-to-human level. This isn't meant to chastise us because that practice is, in so many ways, the problem. This is questioning why we would use an app to talk about sex, sexual consent, sexual behaviours, and more, when, if I'm not making too steep an assumption, we should be able to do those things without the help of our mobile phones. This is about getting under our own skin and figuring out why we need something like this at all. Are we so connected digitally and disconnected humanly we can't even make a choice without consulting some app?

I'm bad at one-night stands. I'm bad at juggling more than one sexual partner at a time -- not bad, really, just not into it. I don't think anyone is sincerely good at one-nighters but they happen and shouldn't, like most things involving humans, ever be considered as a means to an end or that that person you're with is in any way disposable. Each time I consider a sexual partner or they consider me, there is a process we go through. But sometimes I am met with their darting eyes, stumbling over words, confusing lines of thought on what we're about to do, if we're going to do it at all.

Openness, often mistaken for forwardness, about sexual experiences -- casual or part of a serious relationship -- is somehow intimidating and that's peculiar to me. It isn't a buzzkill or menacing to have honest, usually brief, conversations about it. When putting on a condom, do you ever stop to think, "Ah, I'm really blowing the mood here" because I doubt that. If you do, no one wants to know you.

The app's FAQ reinforces the need for communication, promoting itself as a medium for such things. However, in the end, it must concede, while it tries to be idiot and asshole proof for sexual encounters resulting in unwarranted assault or regretted incidents, it is up to the person to remember these social, sexual, and human codes and, you know, no does actually mean no. Please re-evaluate why you would ever need to be reminded of that on your phone screen.

The argument is always going to circle back to properly equipping people with the knowledge about sex and real openness in a larger context so those one-on-one conversations with partners aren't so hard to have. It's frustrating and dizzying to have to say it again but that's the solution. I mean, first we should stop treating it like it is something offensive or wrong, which, however freely it is available to us, very much happens. This means talking about it frankly, not glibly or shyly. If we were good at being open about it, would it be frank at all?

Untangling the language of sex, its politics, and the act in its varying forms itself is a task proven to be exceptionally arduous. We've managed to really knot up our understanding and communication of it. Isn't it better and easier to try to repair what we know instead of placing a temporary fix on it? It's going to crack. You know this.

Honesty about sex isn't about getting you to admit the specifics of someone's dick. No one is asking for that; that is between you and your partner. It's about genuinely discussing and acknowledging it without laughter, blushing, or scorn and, so important, without the aid of an app.

We fuck. The first step is admitting it.

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