The campus crusade against rape in colleges across the United States has a new ally in the form of a smartphone app that aims to provide stronger clarity over sexual consent. ‘Yes to Sex’ records verbal consent statements from both individuals, before storing them on secure servers.

This app also asks each individual to agree on contraception, a safe word and indicate their "sexual mood", such as horny, wild, flirtatious, sweet, tingly, and playful. However, the app, which only takes 25 seconds to save all the relevant information, doesn’t require users to input any personal information, including names, phone numbers, emails or photos.

The app has sparked controversy with some critics saying that these kind of tools are a dangerous distraction from actual consent education. Wendy Mandell Geller, the app's founder and president of Safe Sex Consent, explains why the Yes to Sex app is a safeguard against rape and STIs. 

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What is the story behind this app? 

Yes to Sex is the world’s first safe sexual consent app with protection choices, safe words and secure, non-traceable verbal consents. It requires no sign-ups, names, faces, videos, fingerprints, emails, phone numbers, social media information or signatures. I created this app in 2015, after watching the news and conversing with my college-aged kids and their friends in my den about their pre-sex discussions and thoughts on the “Yes Means Yes” rule. After months of research, I decided to focus on redirecting today's sexual culture away from the epidemics of rampantly spreading sexually transmitted diseases and infections, unplanned pregnancies and sexual miscommunication issues. I realized I needed to create a phone app as an alternative communication tool that would encourage informed and safe decision-making, while still appealing to the millennial and Generation Z lifestyles – the only way to connect directly with youth and young adults today is by their smartphones, and the most advanced method to the masses right now is through apps.

What is the main objective of the Yes to Sex app?

Yes to Sex allows individuals to quickly confirm consent facts, agree on protection, verbalize and save decisions in as little as 25 seconds before sexual activities. Users are encouraged to leave the app open in case someone changes their mind during the encounter – this way the change can be recorded with two clicks. Without compromising privacy, users digitally and verbally agree, or are able to say no to very important considerations pre-sex – consent and protection. This app aims to make all sexual partners stop and think for a few seconds to reduce sexual assault issues due to miscommunication and to decrease the chances of getting or spreading the more than one million sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which are acquired worldwide each day.

How does this app work?

When users open the app, they are brought to a screen where each partner chooses his or her gender and sexual mood, such as: “Sensual”, “Excited”, “Tingly”, and “Thrilled”. There is even a “Sorry, Not Interested” mood, for those that are not interested in consenting now. The next screen has users confirm consent facts, such as their age and to confirm that they're not being coerced. Next, partners must agree on which protection they prefer, from “Nothing” to “Condom & Birth Control” or the app will not allow them to continue. The final step involves each partner consciously recording themselves saying, “I’m saying yes! Our safe words are: Code Spaghetti.” or “I’m saying no – sorry but no!” The safe words and moods are randomized to eliminate the potential for prerecorded answers.

Last year, Rape Crisis spokesman Katie Russell said in response to a similar app, "Someone saying ‘yes’ to sex on camera does not necessarily prove that they have given their consent.” What is your opinion of this?

I’d prefer not to provide comments about someone saying “yes” on camera, because Yes to Sex’s core value is not rooted in getting users to consent on camera – our core value is educating and facilitating conversation around a sensitive subject, while only utilizing decisions and voices, not videos or personal information.

What tools are offered by this app to ensure that there is really consent to have sex?

The Yes to Sex app opens a window of opportunity for partners to discuss “sexual consent” and agree on “sexual protection” as individual desires can vary and both users need to be vocally involved in this decision. In the heat of the moment when teens and young adults are faced with making a judgment call on pending sexual activities, many questions, thoughts, concerns and emotions might inundate the thought process, altering their abilities to be clear about their intentions. Yes to Sex is an educational tool kit that encourages all partners to have the difficult conversations around having safe sex together at this time or not, in a non-intrusive way.

What happens with the verbal consent statements from both individuals? 

I learned from my student advisory group that there could be absolutely no videos, photos or social media connecting users to the app, so no sign-up or sensitive information is stored. Once a user closes out of the app, no information remains saved on any phone; however, the date, time, place, decisions and voice recordings are stored on Yes to Sex's secure servers, using the same data encryption as the U.S. Department of Defense. These records cannot be erased or altered, and they can only be retrieved by the partners with court-endorsed or quasi-judicial orders if a situation arises, ensuring peace of mind for both parties.

Could this app kill the romance during a sexual encounter? 

Yes to Sex is designed not to insult the billions of couples who enjoy consensual sex daily. Think of the app as a new road speed bump. There is a definite need for it to slow some cars down a bit as a safety measure, but when it is first installed, almost everyone complains about the bump. As time passes and people become used to the speed bump, they automatically go slow over it and it is no longer a big deal. The same can be said for Yes to Sex. Initially, there is some hesitation as this app challenges traditional methods of safe sexual communication, but after people become more accustomed to it, they will warm up to the idea that Yes to Sex is a useful tool for safe sexual consent. Like a speed bump, Yes to Sex is permanently here now, making everyone in today’s world a little more thoughtful pre-sex and during sex – that is romantic.

– By Daniel Casillas