OPINION: Smartphone apps should not promote irresponsible behaviour

X-rated smartphone applications which promote irresponsible and prolific sexual behaviour should not be promoted given the global HIV epidemic, high-levels of unwanted pregnancies and the prevalence of online abuse.

HumanIPO this week reported on “Bang With Friends”, a new Facebook app causing a stir because of its mission to facilitate “easy” sexual encounters among Facebook friends. Users download the app, and then indicate their sexual intentions to other users, who may respond if the feeling is mutual.

According to the anonymous developers, the app assists people in skipping the traditional preliminaries to a sexual encounter, one developer noting: “What a lot of people want is just to skip all the s*** and get to the sex”, while another explains: “It would be great, as guys, if you could find out which girls are actually into you and not dance around anything,”

However, by taking out the usual preliminary encounters before a relationship becomes sexual, the app also promotes quasi-anonymous sexual relations, as realistically speaking not all Facebook friends are personal acquaintances.  

Furthermore, seeing as the app allows users to indicate sexual intentions to numerous users, the app also promotes prolific sexual behaviour, as traditional means of initiating an encounter usually slow the process down, and generally prevent the pre-scheduling of numerous partners.

As the ongoing and deadly HIV epidemic grips the world – with researchers and activists working tirelessly to foster awareness and responsible behaviour, combat taboos, and develop treatments – it is wrong that such applications should be allowed to be downloaded by anyone with a smartphone. It entirely flies in the face of global efforts to beat HIV.

The same applies to the myriad of other sexually transmitted diseases.

The accessibility of such applications to young smartphone users is also terribly worrying. Teenagers being one of the key user groups on Facebook, app developers should have more concern for the potential reach and consequences of their products. In this case, should any application be facilitating sexual encounters among teenagers?

There is a very obvious slippery slope: will the app not also facilitate abuse of younger users, by allowing “friends” – of any age – to make sexual advances on vulnerable young people?

Individuals and organisations, including app developers, should realise the very real power that social media and mobile phones have in shaping people’s behaviour. To go further, it is important to realise that certain types of behaviour carry very heavy consequences.

It would be wise to expend more energy on addressing the very pressing sexually-related issues facing the world today – such as HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, and online (youth) abuse.

And perhaps it would be best to recognise that not all human encounters need to be reduced to an app.

Posted in: Features

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