LegalFling is a Dutch app that's supposed to protect partners in sexual liaisons from miscommunication by recording both parties' consent to sexual activity in an indelible, public blockchain entry.
While LegalFling appears well-intentioned, it is singularly unfit for purpose. Sexual consent can be revoked at any time, for any reason, and numerous sexual assaults turn not on the question of whether one party consented to initiating sexual contact, but whether they sought to end that contact when it didn't go to their liking.
LegalFling is the latest in a dismal series of technology startups that have confronted some social problem that wasn't readily reducible to an algorithmic solution, and so insisted that nebulous, social concepts be flensed of their nuance and converted to a computable commodity. Other examples include social networks, who insist that our social relationships with one another be unambiguously chosen from a dropdown menu; and copyright enforcers, who design tools to allow sharing of copyrighted works within a "family" and then decide what is and is not a family (for example, Google Red insists that my daughter isn't part of my family because my Google account is irrevocably set as a UK account — being a merchant account, it can't be re-localized — and my daughter has a US account).
"Users can also configure the app to communicate their sexual preferences and boundaries." Are you kidding me with that? Professional business people don't always write contracts that fully communicate their preferences and boundaries. Now we're expecting couples across the land, most of them with no legal training at all, to effectively communicate the expected parameters of a sexual encounter, before it happens? ONLY NON-LAWYERS think that "getting it in writing" makes things any more CLEAR. Look at nearly ANY breach of contract case and you'll see that one or both parties were materially confused as to what they were signing when they signed it. What you're gong to have is a bunch of people trying to explain how their body or trust was violated, and a bunch of regrettable men waving around a phone screaming about the parole evidence rule.
Aside from the fact that it is acceptable AND LEGAL for a person to revoke consent at any time, there's the more obvious point that consent is a one time offer. But just think about how hard that's going to be to litigate once you have a smart contract. He says she consented. She says she did not. He says that they have a smart contract from their previous encounter. She says, yeah, that was then, this is now. Defenders of smart contracts will say that the failure to get a second sex contract will help her case. I say: have you at all paid attention to what juries do to women? Because already we live in a world where any past consent to virtually anything is used as evidence against a woman alleging rape.
Blockchain Sex Contracts Will Be Weaponized Against Women [Elie Mystal/Above the Law]
(via Naked Capitalism)
(Image: Victoria's Secret; BTC Keychain, CC-BY)