Civil Liberties

Congrats, Luddites: Consensual Sex App Killed Off By Apple



It's already over for Good2Go, the iPhone app designed to promote consensual campus sex. Apple removed the app, which was developed by a third party, after determining that it violated official policy.

I gave the app a mildly favorable initial review. While I have no idea whether it would ever catch on or work as intended, I'm inclined to think that creative, entrepreneurial people are more likely to come up with innovative solutions to social problems than clumsy state legislators. I wrote:

Skeptics might say it's too weird to ask people to use an app before climbing into bed with them. But modern technology is already changing how people find romantic and sexual partners. Nowadays, people use apps like Grindr and Tindr to find sexual partners all the time. Why can't consent work the same way?

As it turns out, mine was just about the only remotely positive appraisal on the Web. Conservatives and liberals alike attacked Good2Go. Criticisms ranged: Some said the app would function as a way to "sign your own rape confession," others said the app would not help actual victims, and still others said it was too confusing or cumbersome to catch on. A major concern, highlighted by The Washington Post, was privacy:

When you use the trendy new consent app, Good2Go, you're theoretically practicing "affirmative consent": explicit, conscious agreement to sexual activity before it starts.

Incidentally, you're also telling a new mobile development company with no Internet footprint or track record to speak of (a) who you're sleeping with, (b) when you did it, and (c) how drunk or sober you were at the time.

Didn't realize you consented to that, did you?

To be clear: Those are all valid concerns, and it may be the case that Good2Go is unworkable due to some combination of the above.

But why did Apple yank it from the app store after already approving it? I spoke with Good2Go creator Lee Ann Allman, who said that Apple gave notice that the app violated company guidelines, which state "apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected." Apple didn't provide much explanation beyond that, although the company did explain that Good2Go wouldn't have qualified as "crude," leaving "excessively objectionable" as the only possibility.

Apple "suggested that we retool and try to re-submit under the education category," Allman told Reason.

Allman believes the negative reception from the media influenced Apple to shutdown Good2Go.

"I asked if they had heard from the public and they said yes," she said.

According to Allman, feedback was much more positive among actual college students than among journalists.

"The feedback that we've gotten from college students…I think there was some real interest," she said. "I received messages from people who had been very interested in using it."

Allman plans to redesign the app and re-release it next year. At a minimum, Good2Go will no longer store any information on the people who use it. This will render it less useful in the field, but Allman thinks colleges might be able to do something with it for educational purposes.

Apple is a private company, and it has every right to reject apps for any reason at all: good, bad, or arbitrary. Perhaps a consensual sex iPhone app is simply a bad idea. Perhaps it's a fine idea, but the practical hurdles are insurmountable.

I have no stake in the matter; if the app never works, oh well. But I can't help but wonder whether instinctive opposition to new vehicles for social interaction played a role in killing Good2Go. People laughed at the idea of using a phone app to find sexual partners before Tindr, Grindr, et al. The idea of making purchases over the internet was once suspect—how can I trust some faceless salesperson half a world away?—and then Amazon changed that. It may seem silly to whip out your phone when you want to have sex, but it once seemed silly to whip out your phone when you wanted to take a picture. Times change, folks.