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Monday, July 19, 2021

Non-consensual personified sexbots: an intrinsic wrong

Lancaster, K. 
Ethics Inf Technol (2021). 


Humanoid robots used for sexual purposes (sexbots) are beginning to look increasingly lifelike. It is possible for a user to have a bespoke sexbot created which matches their exact requirements in skin pigmentation, hair and eye colour, body shape, and genital design. This means that it is possible—and increasingly easy—for a sexbot to be created which bears a very high degree of resemblance to a particular person. There is a small but steadily increasing literature exploring some of the ethical issues surrounding sexbots, however sexbots made to look like particular people is something which, as yet, has not been philosophically addressed in the literature. In this essay I argue that creating a lifelike sexbot to represent and resemble someone is an act of sexual objectification which morally requires consent, and that doing so without the person’s consent is intrinsically wrong. I consider two sexbot creators: Roy and Fred. Roy creates a sexbot of Katie with her consent, and Fred creates a sexbot of Jane without her consent. I draw on the work of Alan Goldman, Rae Langton, and Martha Nussbaum in particular to demonstrate that creating a sexbot of a particular person requires consent if it is to be intrinsically permissible.

From the Conclusion

Although sexbots may bring about a multitude of negative consequences for individuals and society, I have set these aside in order to focus on the intrinsically wrong act of creating a personified sexbot without the consent of the human subject. I have maintained that creating a personified sexbot is an act of sexual objectification directed towards that particular person which may or may not be permissible, depending on whether the human subject’s consent was obtained. Using Nussbaum’s Kantian-inspired argument, I have shown that non-consensually sexbotifying a human subject involves using them merely as a means, which is intrinsically wrong. Meanwhile, in a sexbotification case where the human subject’s prior consent is obtained, she has not been intrinsically wronged by the creation of the sexbot because she has not been used merely as a means to an end. With personified sexbots, consent of the human subject is a moral prerequisite, and is transformative when obtained. In other words, in cases of non-consensual sexbotification, the lack of consent is the wrong-making feature of the act. Even if it were the case that creating any sexbot is intrinsically wrong because it objectifies women qua women, it is still right to maintain that sexbotifying a woman without her consent is an additional intrinsic wrong.