The Austin-based dating app Bumble has partnered with Planned Parenthood for a campaign to promote sexual consent.
As part of this campaign, Bumble will bring a surprise to the University of Texas at Austin campus next week as part of Sexual Assault Awareness month.
The company wants to prompt a conversation about how easy and important enthusiastic consent is in sexual encounters. They’ll be using the acronym FRIES to talk about how consent should be: Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, and Specific.
“This concept of consent is something that’s being talked about across the country, but really a lot of those conversations are stemming from campus, as college students are learning to talk about consent what it is what it isn’t,” said Cara Caulkins, the local marketing and events lead for Bumble. “So we thought, what a natural fit to get students talking in our own backyard.”
Caulkins explained that their main goal is to make discussions about consent easy, comfortable and safe as people form relationships.
“Yes, sometimes dating apps can have a context in certain situations, and we want to make sure our users feel safe using the app and we want to provide these tools for them to understand what consent is,” Caulkins added.
She said that this campaign comes out of a responsibility Bumble feels to keep their users safe and stick to their core values. Caulkins noted this effort does not stem from any incidents that ever happened, “It’s just really something we believe in.”
The Bumble campaign comes at a significant time on the UT campus. Last year, UT released the system-wide CLASE study which showed that 15 percent of women at the Austin campus experienced rape during their four years on campus.
Data from Austin police shows that they’ve received 16 reports of rape or sexual assaults in the last 15 months in West Campus alone, with only one arrest out of all of those reports.
“I think it’s really interesting because dating apps do have a hand in sexual violence or in the climate around how relationships work especially on a college campus,” said Isabella Fanucci, a UT sophomore and the Interpersonal Violence Prevention chair on campus. She works with student groups across UT to promote consent and to stop sexual assaults.
“I think it’s really amazing that Bumble and Planned Parenthood are partnering to combat those issues and address them up front and just have that conversation started,” Fanucci said. She hopes to see more companies step up to help promote conversations about consent.
Fanucci and organizations like Not on My Campus and Voices Against Violence have tried flyers, social media campaigns, educational events for student groups and everything they can think of to get the message out. But they still hear about reports of students being assaulted.
One of the biggest hurdles for Fanucci and her fellow advocates is getting people to talk about consent and how it applies to their own relationships, a process which she notes “can be uncomfortable.” Fanucci admits that UT Austin has a definite hookup culture.
“A lot of people don’t think that this applies to them when it really does hit home on a daily basis for a large number of students on this campus,” she said. “You would think its very self-explanatory that you should have someone’s permission to do intimate things with them, but its kind of a hard concept to grasp and a lot of people feel awkward asking for consent. But its actually super easy.”
What does she tell her fellow students to keep in mind when it comes to consent?
“It’s most important that it’s an enthusiastic ‘yes’ and just because someone doesn’t say ‘no’ doesn’t mean its consent, someone has to say ‘yes’ to confirm they are consenting to any intimate acts,” Fanucci said.
KXAN also spoke with Jessica James, a lecturer in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University who has done research on dating apps and digital culture. In 2015 she did a study with Texas State students and dating app Tinder and found a major difference in what men and women were looking for on the app.
“Women are much more selective, men not so much,” James summarized, explaining that men were more likely to be looking for a physical encounter while women were more likely to put more thought into their dating options as potential mates.
James believes that apps like Bumble can have a big impact on how we interact in relationships.
“If [promoting consent] is something [Bumble] can incorporate into their design, I think that would go a long way into drawing attention to how people use these apps and to a better understanding about how they should be used,” James said, praising Bumble for using the tools they have to continue the conversation. “How we have conversations about sexuality in general probably needs to be addressed a lot more than it has been.”
According to Bumble’s data, UT Austin is the fifth most active university campus using Bumble in the country. The campus that uses it the most? Indiana University.
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