TECHNOSEX – LEGAL QUESTIONS

         

New technology poses new legal problems. At technosex we explore these new questions.

SHOULD WE CRIMINALISE ROBOTIC RAPE & ROBOTIC CHILD SEX ABUSE?

In 2008 a man faced charges for having sex with a picnic table. This was, to be honest, the kind with a hole in the middle intended to hold an umbrella. The man faced charges because of public indecency because his house is near an elementary school. If only he would have fucked the picnic table in his own backyard, nobody would have cared. The picnic table did not give consent, but it does not have feelings. Neither does a sexbot.

So, how cares if you want to rape a sexbot?

Meet Frigid Farrah. Frigid Farrah is a personality setting which can be chosen on a Roxxxy True Companion Doll. This means the doll willAfbeeldingsresultaat voor inflatable doll become shy and reserved and not too appreciative if you touched her in her private area. Or, in the words of the New York Times: she is yours to rape for just US $ 9995. Well, no problem, as long as you don’t rape her near an elementary school. It is not illegal to force your toaster to make your toast! So why should it be illegal to rape your sexbot?

This is a very good question. After all, when sexbots were still inflatable dolls nobody really cared. Rape your blow up doll if you want! Pathetic, but hey, it is your doll. The problem is that sexbots are becoming more and more realistic and it feels like a small step from a rape-me-sexbot to real-world rape.

Josh Danahan tries to make the argument that raping a sexbot should be criminalised. His prime argument is that it can be a proper object of the criminal law to regulate conduct that is morally wrong, even if such conduct has no extrinsically harmful effects on others. But Josh has doubts. He asks, what if raping a sexbot greatly reduced the real-world incidence of sexual abuse? Surely then we would be better off permitting or facilitating such acts. And, do we want to pay for enforcement and policing?  He is genuinely unsure about how we should approach this phenomenon. But, he concludes, it is an issue worth debating and that’s why he wrote this paper as a (provocative) starting point for that debate.

You could also ask, why is this a debate? Suppose it is not about raping a woman, but a child. Suppose it is about realistic child-bots. Or when a company would provide realistic blood-spurting robots to stab for wannabe murders. Or brown robots to be abused by a bigot? That sounds ridiculous and morally wrong.

In GTA you can sleep with a prostitute, murder her and earn some bonuspoints. After, all it is only a game. It is not realistic. Yet. This is, I think, the key. The more realistic our technology will become, the more we have to think about legal implications. In Canada a man, Kenneth Anderson is accused of child pornography by having a child-like sex doll mailed. There is a lot of discussion in Canada around this, even Manneken Pis, naked, holding his little penis has become part of the debated. However, a picture of the mail ordered child-doll has not yet surfaced.

And somehow I feel that that is an important missing part in the discussion.

IS HACKING AN ONLINE SEX TOY SEXUAL ASSAULT?

Sarah Jamie Lewis is an anonymity and privacy researcher who maps the dark web, a place designed to allow people to browse with complete anonymity. In August this year, she connected her smart vibrator to the dark web, allowing others to anonymously control it. “I think this is as queer and as cyberpunk as it gets,” she tweeted. Though Lewis consented to anonymous controllers, technology and internet lawyer Neil Brown raised the question of hacking. If you hack someone’s vibrator, is it assault by penetration? “The law isn’t ready for the internet of sexual assault,” he said. Later, when the law is ready, more….

ARE YOU ALLOWED TO HAVE SEX WITH PEPPER THE ROBOT?

Pepper is a humanoid robot manufactured by SoftBank Robotics designed with the ability to read emotions. Pepper is not a functional robot for domestic use. Instead, Pepper is intended “to make people happy”, enhance people’s lives, facilitate relationships, have fun with people and connect people with the outside world. Pepper’s creators hope that independent developers will create new content and uses for Pepper.Pepper is currently being used as a receptionist at several offices in the UK and is able to identify visitors with the use of facial recognition, send alerts for meeting organisers and arrange for drinks to be made. Pepper is said to be able to chat to prospective clients.

The robot has also been employed at banks and medical facilities in Japan. Pepper is small, slick and cute. But there is something strange about Pepper: you are not allowed to have sex with it.

SoftBank—the firm that produces Pepper—has posted the user agreement that accompanies their product. (Note, agreement in Japanese.) The most interesting stipulation appears at point 4, which loosely translates to prohibiting “Acts for the purpose of sexual or indecent behavior, or for the purpose of associating with unacquainted persons of the opposite sex.” It’s a surprise anyone even found the clause in the oft overlooked terms and conditions, but it’s nonetheless binding. If you own or employ Pepper, you must not attempt intercourse of any kind.

The four-foot-tall, pearl white android is buffed, slick and ergonomic, but it isn’t the aesthetic prototype for human-robot (sexual) relations. Practically speaking, one would need to get creative to make sex with Pepper even possible. This is at least part of the reason why SoftBank includes such a clause in their user agreement—i.e. to restrict hackers from manipulating their product for an erotic end. But the other, more significant reason is in image and branding.

Image and branding! One might ask, why would you want to have sex with a robot? Why do you need a user agreement to prohibit sex? If you buy a dishwasher, you can have sex with it. It’s your dishwasher. The same goes for your microwave. The reason is simple. Pepper is just a basic android but Softbank wants you to think otherwise. For SoftBank, the want is to make Pepper more human and thus more identifiable as an agent or a subject in our lives. What better way than affording the android its sexual autonomy?

So, to make Pepper more human, the people of Softbank put the idea in your head of having sex with it, and then they tell you, you are not allowed to do that.

DO LOOKALIKE SEX DOLLS INFRINGE PEOPLE IMAGE RIGHTS?

The lines on this are blurry and mainly moral ones rather than legal, but as long as you aren’t selling a sex doll on the basis that it looks like a trademarked character or someone famous, it’s not illegal. However, if you falsely claim the doll was endorsed by the famous person, or if the person was misrepresented in a way that was likely to damage their reputation, you would be on shaky legal ground. Likewise, if you’ve made a sex doll that looks like a real (but not famous) person for your own use it’s not illegal in the UK, it’s just gross.

Enter Johan Vlemminx, Dutch Entrepreneur and international man of ideas who took the initiative to create a sex doll based on Patricia Paaij. Ms Paaij, a Dutch media personality, who was a surrounded by a pee-sex controverse was not amused. She wanted 30.000 euros in damages. Johan Vlemminx on the other hand wanted 200.000 euros for missed business opportunities. For now there is no Patricia Paaij sex doll yet. A lot of of people think that is a good thing.

HOW ABOUT OUR SEX DATA?

If you talk about data and the GDPR well it is not going to be more private than data that is collected by a sex toy company. In March this year, the Canadian company We-Vibe  makers of smart sex toys that can be controlled remotely via Bluetooth and a smartphone app  agreed to pay out millions of dollars after a class action lawsuit over collection of private data (temperature changes to the device, dates and times of use, vibration intensity, etc). It’s a rare case. Most of the time updated privacy policies are forced on users. If Facebook does this (you can not say, well I do not like this update I think I stick with the old Facebook version) than you know sex device makers won’t be more ethical. You  have to agree to these new terms or their smart device would become unusable. After laying out hundreds of pounds for a device, users are unlikely to take issue with the new policies and even less likely to sue because of the hassle and embarrassment of publicity. Because of the taboo and our unlikeliness to speak up, companies are able to do legal but unethical things.

More questions to follow….