Congress’s Ban on Child Sex Robots: It’s a Start
Nobody wants to think or talk about this. We’d like to wish it away. “These dolls can be programmed to simulate rape,” said Representative Bob Goodlatte. “The very thought makes me nauseous.”
But the moment is upon us, whether we like it or not. That’s why I explore it in The Human Advantage, which comes out next week. (Pre-order now!) I’ve also written about the subject here at The Stream.
The House gesture is just the opening salvo in what is bound to be a long running saga. How do we reduce the downside of high technology while enjoying the upside? Somewhere near the pipe loop where soap, filth and hair congeal, underneath the drain of tech’s downside, are sex robots made to look and respond like children.
The target customers, of course, are pedophiles. The Fresno Bee quotes Rep. Goodlatte, who explains:
The proposal says the obscene dolls and robots “are customizable or morphable and can resemble actual children. … The dolls and robots normalize submissiveness and normalize sex between adults and minors.”
Goodlatte said he was “distraught” that the problem of child sex dolls even exists.
“I am saddened that there are people in this world who would create realistic child sex dolls and distraught that there are people in this world who would buy them,” Goodlatte said.
“Customers can order bespoke dolls, providing pictures of specific children they would like the doll to resemble. They can indicate a preferred facial expression such as sadness or fear,” he said.
The ban prohibits the import of such “dolls” from overseas.
Does a Ban Make Sense?
No doubt some folks will argue that Congress should not get involved. After all, the law will be hard to enforce and the dolls/robots aren’t real people. Besides, the pedophiles who use them are consenting adults. We can’t ban everything. If we ban sex robots, what’s next? A ban on adult sex robots? Violent video games? Pole dancing? Sugary soft drinks?
Add to these the argument that such sex robots might offer pedophiles a way of releasing their perversion without harming real children. If that’s true, then they could help prevent one of the most heinous of crimes.
Let’s take these claims one at a time.
Two Fair Points
Yes, it will be hard to enforce a ban. Hardcore pedophiles are often experts in skirting the law. Until now, importers of these devices have evaded authorities by labeling them as mannequins or models. I doubt this law would prevent more such trickery.
And yes, as Thomas Aquinas argued, we can’t and shouldn’t make laws against everything that is immoral. Imagine how invasive laws against envy would be, for instance.
Still, Don’t Buy It
Still, the ban is a no brainer.
First of all, we have every reason to think childlike sex robots would make pedophiles worse, not better. They might even help these troubled souls prepare for future exploits. This is just what the data from porn use suggest. Porn gives users a quick boost. But, like speed and opium, that same high requires higher and higher doses as the habit persists. Porn users must keep searching for new and more extreme forms in order to get the same brain boost that they got with soft core porn at the start of their addiction.
Now imagine that porn effect applied to child porn and involving sexual action with the body. The habit would become rooted not just in the brain, but in the muscle memory of users. Then imagine those users becoming less and less satisfied with what are in effect fancy sex dolls. Do I really have to spell out the details here? Congress can’t keep criminals from trying to get around the system. But it can make it harder for pedophiles who haven’t broken the law to find their way onto this highway to hell.
Second, the law is a teacher. This is a point many libertarians miss. Our laws both reflect and shape our cultural values. That’s why Supreme Court decisions, such as Obergefell, which overturned state laws that distinguished real from fake marriage, degrade the culture and not just the legal system. Laws should reflect our moral consensus of good and evil.
With the CREEPER Act, Congress is putting a moral and legal stake in the ground. It’s saying, at a time when most Americans still agree, “This is abhorrent, evil, and harmful to would-be users and to the common good. We need to ban it.” That’s not everything. But it is something.
Jay Richards, PhD, is Executive Editor of The Stream, an Assistant Research Professor in the School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America, and author of The Human Advantage: The Future of American Work in the Age of Smart Machines. Follow him on Twitter.