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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Ethics of Virtual Rape

By John Danaher
Philosophical Disquisitions
Originally published April 26, 2014

The notorious 1982 video game Custer’s Revenge requires the player to direct their crudely pixellated character (General Custer) to avoid attacks so that he can rape a Native American woman who is tied to a stake. The game, unsurprisingly, generated a great deal of controversy and criticism at the time of its release. Since then, video games with similarly problematic content, but far more realistic imagery, have been released. For example, in 2006 the Japanese company Illusion released the game RapeLay, in which the player stalks and rapes a mother and her two daughters.

The question I want to explore in this post is the morality of such representations. One could, of course, argue that they are extrinsically wrong, i.e. that they give rise to behaviour that is morally problematic and so should limited or prohibited for that reason. This is like the typical “violent video games cause real violence”-claim, and I suspect it would be equally hard to prove in practice. The more interesting question is whether there is something intrinsically wrong with playing (and perhaps enjoying) such video games. Prima facie, the answer would seem to be “no”, since no one is actually harmed or wronged in the virtual act. But maybe there is more to it than this?

The entire article is here.