You may soon be able to use the blockchain to formally consent to sex

couple kissing Christian Hartmann/Reuters

  • Dutch blockchain company LegalThings is creating a blockchain-based app that will establish legally binding contracts for sexual consent.
  • The app was created in the wake of the #MeToo movement; the company hopes to establish clear lines of communication around sexual acts.
  • Critics of the app argue that it oversimplifies sexual consent.

Blockchain technology could soon be used for something a bit sexier than keeping track of bitcoin transactions or the movement of goods within corporate supply chains.

Dutch startup LegalThings announced Wednesday it plans to release an app designed to allow people to more easily give explicit and formal consent to sex. Through an easy-to-use interface, couples or groups will be able to use the app, dubbed LegalFling, to enter into binding contracts that are recorded on a blockchain, the digital ledger technology that's designed to save permanent records of transactions in multiple places.

The app is meant to be a "fun" solution for navigating the often ambiguous nuances of sexual consent, said Arnold Daniels, LegalFling's creator and the co-founder of LegalThings' co-founder in an email to Business Insider. But Daniels acknowledged it may need more work.

"We want to start a dialogue and get input from those with more expertise on this subject," Daniels said in an email to Business Insider. "This is a delicate subject that we'd like to get right."

Unfortunately for Daniels and LegalFling, instead of sparking a dialogue the app is instead drawing sharp criticism, at least from some quarters.

LegalFling represents a "deeply flawed" effort and is a far cry from how sexual consent should actually work, Gizmodo reporter Melanie Ehrenkranz wrote in a piece on her site.

"A blanketed [sic] contract ahead of engaging in sexual contact signals that consent is simply a one-time checklist," Ehrenkranz wrote. "Consent, however, is something that occurs continually throughout a sexual encounter."

Ironically, LegalThings, according to its website, decided to develop LegalFling specifically in response to the #MeToo movement that swept across social media last year, in which women made public their stories of being sexually harassed, abused, and raped. That movement has brought to the forefront questions of consent with regards to sexual behavior. LegalThings was hoping to address such questions with LegalFling, which it plans to release in the next few weeks, by providing a way for users to clearly communicate their intentions.

"Before making it public, we need to get enough input to be confident we're addressing the problem in the right way," Daniels said in his email.

LegalFlings

But the company has a broader goal in mind for LegalFling. It wants to use the app to showcase its Live Contracts, which are digitized agreements in which both the deals themselves and the various ways they're implemented are recorded in a blockchain. LegalThings wants to use LegalFling to demonstrate the ease of entering into a legally binding Live Contract, Daniels said.

"We want to show that creating an agreement doesn't have to be a ten-document-long legal document," he said.

Although the contracts are made using an app and recorded in a virtual ledger, there can be real consequences for breaking them, even when it comes to agreements related to sexual conduct, Daniels said.

"For instance, you may have consented to taking nude pictures, [and] the contract clearly states that these must be deleted upon request and may never be shared," he said. If you violate the agreement, you could be slapped with a $50,000 fine, he said.

"If needed, litigating a violated [non-disclosure agreement] is much easier than having to go to law enforcement and take it to criminal court," Daniels said.

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