Ban sex robots that ‘normalise rape’, urges barrister

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Sep 21, 2017
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The company behind the Roxxxy doll has been accused of normalising sexual violence

Paul Sakuma/AP

A robot sex doll that can be programmed to resist sex, enabling men to enjoy “raping” them, should be banned under the criminal law, a barrister has said.

Kate Parker, who is also founder of the Schools Consent Project, a charity that teaches school pupils about consent, said that the dolls were a “uniquely sinister development” in the quest by companies to recreate sexual intimacy.

Sex robots are digitally engineered to look, act and communicate like a human being.

Parker alleges that the Roxxxy, a robot launched this year by True Companion, a US-based artificial intelligence company, enables customers to simulate rape. It is not an offence to own one of the dolls, but Parker claims that it “normalises sexual violence”.

She wrote on the blog for her 5 Paper Buildings chambers that the Roxxxy has settings to cater for fantasies such as dominatrix or barely 18-year-old. However, “the controversy lies in the Frigid Farrah” setting, which Parker says “normalises sexual violence”.

The company maintains that the doll is not programmed to participate in a rape scenario and any such allegation is “pure conjecture”. It claims that the doll is designed to “provide her opinion or feedback, just as any person would on a date” and can therefore be a learning tool, used “to help people understand how they can be intimate with a partner”.

However, Parker points out that customers are promised that if they touch Frigid Farrah “in a private area, more than likely she will not be to [sic] appreciative of your advance”.

The lawyer argues that although this is only a robot, “the proven relationship between one’s behaviour and the type of content one is exposed to makes a strong case for criminalisation”. She told [ital] The Times [add link] that although ownership is not a crime, the importation of “indecent or obscene articles” is illegal under section 42 of the Customs Consolidation Act 1876, a measure used against individuals importing child sex dolls from abroad.

She adds that under the Obscene Publications Act 1959, it is a criminal offence to publish pornographic content “deemed to be obscene” if its effect, taken as a whole, is intended “to deprave and corrupt persons”.

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