OH! Lab Invited Speaker

  • Gates Hillman Centers
  • Reddy Conference Room 4405
  • Professor, Department of Philosophy
  • Adjunt Professor, Centre for Human Bioethics
  • Monash Univresity

Teledildonics and Rape by Deception

It is now possible to buy sex toys that connect to the user’s phone or computer via Bluetooth and can be controlled by the user or their partner. In the future, more sophisticated devices, which can transmit a wider range of physical sensations over the Internet, are likely be developed. We suggest that there is a prima facie case that such devices would allow geographically separated partners to have sex. However, the use of such Internet-enabled haptic sex toys would involve an ineliminable risk of being deceived about particular features of one’s sexual partner and/or about which person one was having sex with. Where this occurs, it is possible that the user would become the victim of rape-by-deception. We argue that determining whether a person using an Internet-enabled haptic sex toy has been raped or not when they are involved in a sexual encounter with someone — or something — other than that they intended requires us to confront difficult questions about the definition and significance of sexual intercourse and about the nature and harm of rape.  Our discussion of these topics suggests that the use of such devices would be — and, we suggest, the use of existing devices is —more ethically fraught than has to date been appreciated.

Rob Sparrow is a Professor in the Philosophy Program, a Chief Investigator in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science, and an adjunct Professor in the Monash Bioethics Centre, at Monash University, where he works on ethical issues raised by new technologies. He has published extensively on topics as diverse as the ethics of robotics, the moral status of AIs, human enhancement, stem cells, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, xenotransplantation, and migration. He is a co-chair of the IEEE Technical Committee on Robot Ethics and was one of the founding members of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.


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