Good news! We are “Good2Go!” With a few simple taps of a smartphone, we both have just consented. To what, exactly? That is the question most people would ask, and the question that Sandton Technologies' new app, Good2Go, does not answer. Yes, there are certain assumptions that can be made based on giving consent, but they differ greatly and have meanings unique to every person.
Launched in late September, Good2Go is designed to facilitate a conversation and decision regarding consent. It is aimed at college students and hopes to reduce the sexual assault and rape endemic on campuses across the country. Unsurprisingly, Good2Go was pulled from the App Store and Google Play store last Wednesday only a week or so after its release. Quite simply, it was not ready for market. It oversimplified a vastly complex issue, and did not provide any real reason for a perpetrator to stop his assault even after his possible partner did not give consent.
I’m not here to argue about the failures of an app that most of you have never heard of. I’m going discuss an issue that most, if not all people on college campuses have been affected by, whether that be personally, through a friend, or through family: sexual assault and rape. The problem with apps such as Good2Go is that they take a top-down approach, assuming that the issue and cause behind sexual crimes on campus is that people just don’t say no, and that, given the opportunity, they would feel safe and comfortable saying no. That is flat out wrong.
Sexual assault and rape stems from the fundamental misogyny of patriarchy, the system that has governed our society for hundreds of years. Only in the past 100 years have serious gains been made for gender equality, and even those have been slow and a long time coming. One of the most harmful things left behind is the idea of a man’s "right to sex". This is not simply for single males looking for a one-night stand; “implied consent” in relationships is a serious issue, and quite often results in sexual assault and rape. Studies have shown that as many as 9 in 10 women knew their attacker. I find this to be the most telling statistic of all. We all know how hard it is to say no to a friend, and in coed friendships in college, it can be hard for both parties to know for certain what they want in a friendship. This leads to a rationalization of what is happening, and distorts that fact that, no matter if you know and are friends with your attacker, it is still sexual assault.
Good2Go isn’t the only example of a top-down approach. Students at North Carolina State University recently unveiled a nail polish designed to detect the presence of date-rape drugs in drinks called Undercover Color. While this product has noble intentions, it again takes the wrong approach. It is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Both products go astray in that they place responsibility on the possible victim. Self-blame is one of the biggest issues in the aftermath of sexual assault cases, and often stops victims from reporting the incident. Instead, the perpetrator needs to be held one hundred percent accountable for his actions. Products that target the victim rather than the perpetrator aren't addressing the real root of the issue.
A better approach would be education. We need to address sexual assault at its source: the mind. In my experience, secondary school sexual education fixates on contraception, when it is “right” to start having sex, and prevention of STDs. While these topics are of the utmost importance, sex-ed classes need to also be a forum of a candid discussion of the issues of sexual assault and rape, as well as consent. This shouldn’t stop in secondary school. Universities need to overhaul their on-campus programs, to drive home the severity and importance of this issue. The stigma on victims of sexual assault needs to be eradicated and replaced with a stigma on the perpetrators of such action.
In addition, Good2Go and Undercover Color are technical solutions to a social problem. In the 21st century, this is not a new approach. We spend billions of dollars to create new technology to limit the affects of a crisis, but spend much less time engineering a solution at the source of the issue. Serious amounts of funding and time need to be devoted to an issue that affects an estimated 20-25% of college women over their four years of school. 20-25%. That is an astounding statistic. Of those incidents, less than 5% go onto to tell the authorities. Those statistics paint a grim and depressing picture of the fear that women face each and every time they walk out the door.
The fact of the matter is that people need to stand up and take responsibility for their actions. A change in individual behavior is the only feasible foundation to a broader movement that will halt and reverse the trend of sexual assaults on campus. The next time you notice that your friend has had too much to drink, or that they are being preyed upon, get out of there, together. You won’t miss “the best night of your life,” and it certainly won’t be hers if you leave her helpless.
Note: I refer to the victims as females because they constitute the overwhelming majority of victims of sexual assault and rape. There are also male victims of sexual assaults, and they, just as much as women, deserve justice and safety.
Here are two great resources on the subject: