Sexbots: Sex & Consequences

Sexbot-ColorAs a general rule, any technology that can be used for sex will be used for sex. Even if it shouldn’t. In accord with this rule, researchers and engineers are hard at work developing ever more realistic sexbots. By science-fiction standards, these sexbots are fairly crude—the most human-like seem to be just a bit more advanced than high-end sex dolls.

In my previous essay on this subject, I considered a Kantian approach to such non-rational sexbots. In this essay I will look at the matter from a consequentialist/utilitarian moral viewpoint.

On the face of it, sexbots could be seen as nothing new—currently they are merely an upgrade of the classic sex dolls that have been around for quite some time. Sexbots are, of course, more sophisticated than the famous blow-up sex dolls, but the basic idea is the same: the sexbot is an object that a person has sex with.

That said, one thing that makes sexbots morally interesting is the fact that they are typically designed to mimic human beings not merely in physical form (which is what sex dolls do) but in regards to the mind. For example, the Roxxxy sexbot’s main feature is its personality (or, more accurately, personalities). As a fictional example, the sexbots in Almost Human do not merely provide sex—they also provide human-like companionship. However, such person-like sexbots are a still a thing of science-fiction. As such, human-mimicking sexbots of this sort can be seen as something new.

An obvious moral concern is that the human-mimicking sexbots will have negative consequences for actual human beings, be they men or women. Not surprisingly, many of these concerns are analogous to existing moral concerns regarding pornography.

Pornography, so the stock arguments go, can have considerable negative consequences. One of these is that it teaches men to regard women as being mere sexual objects. This can, in some cases, influence men to treat women poorly and can also impact how women see themselves. Another point of concern is the addictive nature of pornography—people can become obsessed with it to their detriment.

Human-mimicking sexbots would certainly seem to have the potential to do more harm than pornography. After all, while watching pornography allows a person to see other people treated as mere sexual objects, a sexbot would allow a person to use a human-mimicking object sexually. This could presumably have an even stronger conditioning effect on the person using the object, leading some to regard other people as mere sexual objects and thus increasing the chances they will treat other people poorly. If so, it would seem that selling or using a sexbot would be morally wrong.

People might become obsessed with their sexbots, as people do with pornography. Then again, people might simply “conduct their business” with their sexbots and get on with things. If so, sexbots might be an improvement over pornography in this regard.  After all, while a guy could spend hours each day watching pornography, he certainly would not last very long with his sexbot.

Another concern raised in regards to certain types of pornography is that they encourage harmful sexual views and behavior. For example, violent pornography is supposed to influence people to engage in violence. As another example, child pornography is supposed to have an especially pernicious influence on people. Naturally, there is the concern about causation here: do people seek such porn because they are already that sort of person or does the porn influence them to become that sort of person? I will not endeavor to answer this here.

Since sexbots are objects, a person can do whatever he wishes to his sexbot—hit it, burn it, and “torture” it and so on. Presumably there will also be specialty markets catering to particular interests, such as those of pedophiles and necrophiliacs. If pornography that caters to these “tastes” can be harmful, then presumably a person being actively involved in such activities with a human-mimicking sexbot would be even more harmful. Essentially, the person would be practicing or warming up for the real thing. As such, it would seem that selling or using sexbots, especially those designed for harmful “interests” would be immoral.

Not surprisingly, these arguments are also similar to those used in regards to violent video games. The general idea is that violent video games are supposed to influence people so that they are more likely to engage in violence. So, just as some have proposed restrictions on virtual violence, perhaps there should be strict restrictions on sexbots.

When it comes to video games, one plausible counter is that while violent video games might have negative impact on the behavior of some people, they allow most people to harmlessly “burn off” their desire for violence and to let off steam. This seems analogous to sports and non-video games: they allow people to engage in conflict and competition in safer and far less destructive ways. For example, a person can indulge her love of conflict and conquest by playing Risk or Starcraft II after she works out her desire for violence by sparring a few rounds in the ring.

Turning back to sexbots, while they might influence some people badly, they might also provide a means by which people could indulge in desires that would be wrong, harmful and destructive to indulge with another person. So, for example, a person who likes to engage in sexual torture could satisfy her desires on a human-mimicking sexbot rather than an actual human. The rather critical issue here is whether or not indulging in such virtual vice with a sexbot would be a harmless dissipation of these desires or merely fuel them and drive a person to indulging them on actual people. If sexbots did allow people who would otherwise harm other people to vent their “needs” harmlessly on machines, then that would certainly be good for society as a whole. However, if this sort of activity would simply push them into doing such things for real and with unwilling victims, then that would certainly be bad for the person and society as a whole. This, then, is a key part of addressing the ethical concerns regarding sexbots.

(As a side note, I’ve been teaching myself how to draw-clever mockery of my talent is always appreciated…)

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28 Comments.

  1. You did a good job of depicting a sexbot.

  2. “Not surprisingly, these arguments are also similar to those used in regards to violent video games.”

    They could also be used with regard to food excesses. Should we stop eating?

    I’ve seen nothing the presents a serious objection to sex robots.

  3. I think the closest real world analogy that we have right now is the existence of cgi generated images of children under the age of consent engaged in sexual acts or depicted in a sexual manner. People are already creating these images to get around the employment of actual children, and some have argued that this is preferable and should be allowed to some degree because the possibility exists to lessen actual damage to real children. Does that damage the humanity of the one using it, or safely curb otherwise harmful (to actual people) tendencies. I don’t know, but it seems like an area for some research.

  4. Doris Wrench Eisler

    To watch pornography is to watch real people being abused sexually and in other ways, and apart from its addictive potential it enables abuse of real human beings. The use of sexbots, apart from its addictive potential, does not involve this element. Therefore in this respect it is less morally wrong. But an obsession even with personal, non-vicarious sex can’t be a good thing in itself even if it doesn’t involve the abuse of another person: that would involve the principle of the “golden mean” or some kind of proportion. Portrayed gratuitous sex and/or violence is demeaning to the viewer and usually associated with a younger, impressionable, undiscriminating audience, but is perfectly acceptable as a part of an excellent film or play. As for the rights of sexbots not to be abused, you’ve lost me there. I do not believe a robot, no matter how “intelligent”, is a “person”. And the concept of intelligence, not clear to begin with, is extremely narrow when applied to robots. I imagine feelings of guilt would equate with, for instance, mutilating a photograph of a beloved relative or much respected public figure: you know it ain’t them…but still. Other than that, that sort of violence could be habit-forming, escalate, and transferred to human beings, such is the complicated nature of the human mind. Sports, work, or a creative interest are much better modes of catharsis.

  5. The ingenuity of man knows no bounds. In this connection it seems that it may well be possible in the course of time to produce a sexbot which is indistinguishable from the real object and moreover adjustable according to the appetite of the user. In other words it may be better than the real thing. The ramifications of this could well, I think, make substantial inroads into our sexual and social structure. Humankind is for ever curious and without the dangers of venereal disease, pregnancy, and unwanted emotional attachments, the temptation to try out a sexbot could be for many quite overwhelming, and likely addictive. Humanity may be saved by the simple fact that we do fall in love with each other. It is difficult to imagine such a relationship developing with a person whose opposite number is a sexbot.

  6. Hello Don Bird,

    So nice to see you back again.

    I would think that a sexbot would be boring, not addictive.

    Part of the attraction in a real-life sexual relation are the psychological games (the insecurity, the jealousy, not knowing what she thinks or feels for me, her changing and not always understandable desires, etc.) and those would not occur with a sexbot.

    Yes, you could program a sexbot to be changeable, but after not so long, those changes would be predictable and in any case, the changes in a real relationship are in response to a situation, hence, more compelling.

    My experience with a pornographic film or book is that it works once (I don’t need to be more explicit), but a real woman can be infinitely attractive (that sounds a bit romantic, but I’ll leave it).

  7. With all due respect, reiterating baseless claims about the “harms” of porn without evidence only undermines the premise of the whole “article”.

    With porn peaking with the internet over the last years, sex crimes have gone down. There’s my evidence, where’s yours?

    Porn does not harm. The porn that is harmful is actual violent porn and in all such cases it’s the violence that’s the issue not the sex/ porn. And of course most porn is NOT violent!

    Porn is good. Porn is the celebration of sex and hopefully you’re not going to tell me that sex is “bad”. There’s no difference between sex in marriage and sex on screen physically. It’s still sex! The same sex that’s gives us the euphoric orgasm and makes us extremely happy. The same sex that makes us survive as a species! Sure there’s a difference emotionally, but that’s my next point.

    Porn does not objectify. Porn is entertainment, like movies, games, sports. The purpose of entertainment is cater to our fantasies. The whole point is to escape reality. Entertainment strips away the boring bits. Does Indiana Jones go into detail about the meticulous planning, the days of travel? In the same way porn simplifies sex to the parts we want to see, and because most porn is made by men the scenes are male centric. Just like romantic movies have more female appeal and action movies more male.

    Porn is supposed to be unrealistic and fantastic or are we going to ban Superman for giving us false hope about human strength? It’s not real, it’s a fantasy. We know the difference!

    I think the human body, sex and porn is amazingly beautiful. If you think it’s shameful and abusive (like Doris), then who’s got the deluded and twisted mindset around sex? Women in porn aren’t abused any more (they were when it was illegal). Women are represented in all facets of porn including performers, directors, writers, crew, company owners, advocates, etc… out of their own will!! To say a woman can’t chose to do porn is on the same level as telling your daughter who she can not marry.

    The intent of porn is to make people happy not to degrade women. It’s ludicrous. As if women don’t like sex too.

    The only thing immoral surrounding porn is the fact that we’re still denying that we have sex drive and naturally like nudity, sex and porn. I understand we have to overcome centuries of sexual repression, but I think it’s time :)

  8. Doris Wrench Eisler

    I do not think nor did I say that sex is “shameful and degrading”. But some sex is, and used in a particular way for that particular effect. Some very famous psychopaths have themselves admitted to being influenced by porn, but it has been argued they are not good witnesses or authorities – because they are psychopaths.

    Sex is great, sure, fine, but obsession with sex is not so great. Maybe because we are not yet that “enlightened” but there is a long-standing literature of sex and sexuality that presupposes a predatory mindset and intent to degrade and/or compromise someone by the use of sex. I simply do not believe that some men are not influenced by long-standing “norms” in their perceptions of women or that porn doesn’t support those ideas. Rape is a terrible social problem everywhere and I don’t believe pornography (hard porn) has ameliorated it. Fantasy and reality are two different things, but they often if not usually merge/overlap in the human mind. Isn’t that fact supported by religious, or some religious beliefs? Isn’t that merging mechanism how most wars are launched? Check Shakespeare – he knew a few things about reality and our grasp of it.

    Please don’t accuse me of being uptight about sex. It simply isn’t the fact. But we are not bonobos simply because our ancestors were, and Freud’s limited research of the upper, idle classes seemed to confirm it. Most people have more on their minds.

  9. While dedication to a cause is laudable, my essay was not aimed at attacking porn. Rather, I was simply using the stock arguments regarding porn and applying them to sexbots. If porn is as wonderful as you claim, then if sexbots have a comparable effect to porn, then they would also presumably be as wonderful.

    I do actually consider potential positive aspects of sexbots. For example, “Turning back to sexbots, while they might influence some people badly, they might also provide a means by which people could indulge in desires that would be wrong, harmful and destructive to indulge with another person.” As such, your opening criticism does not apply to my actual article.

    I have nothing against porn as such. If that is your thing and it is not harming you, then fine. Even it is harming you, but not harming others, then also fine. However, the stock arguments I referred to do appear to have merit that cannot be easily dismissed-especially when considering the sort of porn they are directed against.

  10. Doris, you start off with a blanket statement “To watch pornography is to watch real people being abused sexually” and you don’t want me to think you’re uptight. That’s like Putin saying ‘gays are paedophiles’ or ‘all blacks are criminals’. It’s patently offensive.

    I refuted your arguments in my second paragraph. Rape crimes have gone down since porn has become mainstream. See here http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-1 . This is the net effect of porn. If like you say porn presupposes a predatory mindset, where is the rape epidemic???

    The truth is what you, religion and radical feminists are doing is demonizing porn. You hate porn (which is fair enough, everyone is entitled to their own opinion). But you don’t stop there you must stop others from enjoying it. With that you probably know very little about porn and only listen to the negative, hateful propaganda that aligns with your thinking. But if you care to look just a little deeper you’ll find no arguments just hate on your side.

    Point in case, your initial statement that ALL porn is to watch abuse, really???

    To your other arguments: “Psychopaths watch porn.” Correlation is not causation! So if psychopaths had eaten a slice of bread in the morning can we blame the bread? Porn is so prolific, you’ll be hard pressed to find males and a majority of females who don’t watch it. But again I point you to the fact that rape crimes have gone down!

    “Obsession with sex is not great.” Sure, anything in high doses is not good. And what do you define as “obsessession”, few times a week is that an obsession? Porn is entertainment like movies and games, how often do we watch such material?

    “… long-standing literature of sex and sexuality that presupposes a predatory mindset”. First of all, quoting Shakespeare and Freud is an appeal to authority. Are they an authority on human sexuality and pornography? Also philosophy does not equate to fact. I’ve given you evidence, where is your proof?

    I can also easily showcase how banning porn does not prevent “degrading women”. Take a look at muslim countries. Here you have the ‘women’s objectification’ that you so anxiously seek. Porn is banned by severe punishment (death in some countries, I believe) but women are treated like second class citizens, real objects barely fit for anything but house work, female prisoners of war become slaves, menstruation is impure, walking in public without hiding behind burqas will make you a slut fit for rape oh and rape is the women’s fault and a crime against god!

    No the predatory mindset surrounding sex, comes from your way of thinking that porn is shameful, because now you have ordinary people with natural desires called out as “preditors”. Inserting a penis into a vagina on screen becomes “sexual abuse”, “rape by default”!

    I believe in women’s equality. I think every woman must have exactly the same rights as men. I also love nudity, sex and porn and there is no conflict at all. Do you really think that people who are passionate about something like sex will not do with it like they do with anything else people are passionate about? Like put it on camera and share it with other people? Porn makes people happy and so people want to share this with others.

    Can sex be abused? Sure it can? Now name me ANY thing, tool, hobby, business, political party, major corporation, industry that does not contain abuse in some way? Again I point to the fact that with rape, sex is not the crime, VIOLENCE is!

    Now tell me why violence gets far more lenient treatment than porn? Doesn’t violence represent the very thing that were all against -> harming others? Are your feelings around violence as strong as they are around sex and porn?

    “Fantasy and reality are two different things, but they often if not usually merge/overlap in the human mind.” No, if parents and society teach about the difference there is no issue with fantasy at all. Superman does not cause people to jump of buildings in the hopes they can fly, 5m tall avatar aliens do not really exist, huge amounts of violent games do not cause riots. You know all this but you chose to be ignorant about porn.

    “Isn’t that fact supported by religious, or some religious beliefs? Isn’t that merging mechanism how most wars are launched?”. – What you point out is if fantasy is taken as fact. Faith becoming replacement for evidence. No such thing occurs with porn. You know that porn sex does not represent real sex and so does everyone else. Entertainment is seen as fiction not fact. Religion is seen as truth by some.

    “But we are not bonobos simply because our ancestors were…” ah equating sex with primitive instincts are we? Ok, should we go abolish eating then, it’s a primal instinct and causes lots of deaths both by over and under eating. For more dangerous than sex by the way.

    “Please don’t accuse me of being uptight about sex. It simply isn’t the fact.”. So I should take you by your word? Then take my word: I would never want to see a women degraded… ever! I am a male I happen to think the female body (and mind) is amazingly beautiful. Also think that sex is a gift from nature that is to be celebrated not hated. And that is the reason why I love porn.

  11. I appreciate that Mike, but what bothers me is that every discussion around sex and porn makes negative correlations by default (if you re-read your article I think you’ll agree). Is sex really so awful or do we simply have some growing up to do as individuals and a society? If you want to be seen as unbiased then a neutral position would be more appropriate.

  12. When you think about activities socially rewarded and accepted by contemporary society, foreclosing mortgages on low-income people, downsizing workers after a lifetime on the same job, pushing high-sugar, high fat junk food or beverages for children, factory-farming animals, etc., pornography, which depicts two or more adults giving each other pleasure on a non-profit basis, is positively ennobling.

  13. Frank,

    There is, as you note, a bias against porn and sex. I think that there is a manufactured pathological view of sex and sexuality which does considerable damage to individuals and society as a whole.

    Certain porn is regarded by some as damaging-in my essay I was making use of that view to make an analogous argument about sexbots. If it is true that porn can be harmless or beneficial, then if the porn-sexbot analogy holds, then sexbots would also be harmless or beneficial.

  14. Frank,
    where is this wonderful pornography which apparently gives you such lasting pleasure. Personally I would say that so far as the World Wide Web is concerned, my own experience has been that of viewing and listening to, or eavesdropping on, a ludicrous unrefined, activity making a mockery of love making. Yes I agree that it can have some arousing effect, but overall I have little or no wish to return to what seems an episode of vulgar voyeurism, or the contemplation of bad art. It is an example of prostitution in the full sense of that word. I am not denying that there has been some wonderful paintings and photography which have extreme sexual connotations, especially Indian paintings. For these I have no objection they are works of art and to be admired; are they is sexually provocative? Yes, but somehow, well for me that is, innocent of all vulgarity and contemptibility. Reading your comments I am reminded of the old Jewish joke, the punchline of which is, “Does your mother know what you do?”

  15. Don,

    first of all read your reply and note how it reaps of hate and yet you have provided no evidence or facts to support actual harm that porn causes. Read my posts and see all the reasoning and evidence that I believe I’ve provided to the contrary.

    All you have said is that you HATE porn because you find it vulgar because it doesn’t align with how YOU would like sex presented. Well do you find gays vulgar because they have anal sex? Or maybe techno music cause it’s too artificial. Or maybe erotica because it’s not Shakespeare? Remember the times they said Elvis was the devil’s music? Yes, Elvis of all people! What YOU find obscene does not automatically apply to everyone else. That’s not how the sex thing works! We as people are allowed to express ourselves sexually the way WE like it, as long as we do it CONSENSUALLY and without causing harm!! Please don’t tell me you’re in the all porn is rape camp also.

    “Does your mother know what you do?” . Lol. I’m not ashamed of the fact that I have sex drive and have a natural love for the female form. I think I’m being very honest with myself. Are you?

    The key is not to hide it, that’s why my wife doesn’t have a problem with it. She actually doesn’t like porn as much as I do, but it doesn’t affect our relationship because we’re open about it.

    In any case I need to clarify my standpoint. I am not here to convince you to like porn. You are more than welcome to hate it. You are entitled to your opinion. The ONLY thing I take issue with is that some people and perhaps you yourself believe that because of your hate you have the right to restrict other people’s enjoyment of porn via bans, legislation, constant bashing and demonization, etc.
    If not, then fine.
    If yes, then I urge you to reply with actual, factual evidence and reasoning preferably targeting regular porn and not scapegoating via violent or child porn which I’m NOT here to defend.

  16. Don,

    “a ludicrous unrefined” – What is ludicrous about the unrefined? It has its place. Sometimes, in many aspects of life, a quick unrefined fix is all that is called for.

    “activity making a mockery of love making.” – Why is it making a mockery of love making. Who is to say what is required in the act of making love? Some may require the delicate, patient, personal, and tender. Others may not need or want that.

    “I have little or no wish to return to what seems an episode of vulgar voyeurism” – Then don’t. But while you are entitled to express how it makes you feel it seems presumptuous to call voyeurism vulgar without that qualification. Why is voyeurism vulgar? It seems like a quite natural behaviour of a curious human brain, which when viewing sexual acts results in sexual arousal. All theatre relies on the voyeurism of the audience.

    The only sense in which voyeurism seems vulgar to me is when the voyeur is getting gratification knowingly at the expense on unvoluntary others, such as gaining non-sexual pleasure from gathering round an accident, or secretly peeping at couples that are trying to have a private moment.

    “or the contemplation of bad art.” – I don’t like art that I don’t like. That is what bad art is to me. I think it is impossible to define good or bad art unless you define a context. So, in the context of the fine work of the romantics much modern art is simplistic, childish and crude. But in its own context modern can be intellectually and purposefully challenging accepted notions of art and so can be an art form in its own right in that respect, in that context. Art is so subjective and contextual that pretty much any art can be glorified and vilified, depending on one’s perspective. Porn is an art form, with a specific purpose. As is theatre. As is music. They appeal to different aspects of our nature, pull us into the shared experience, and require performers to implement it, and to be paid.

    “It is an example of prostitution in the full sense of that word.” – Prostitution has suffered vilification from the pompously pious for millenia. Modern sexual prostitution suffers the from supply and demand constraints in a criminalised context. It is made scarce by law and so the demand that always exists takes it underground where the lack of regulation prevents proper protection of sex workers in law and encourages illegal and cruel practices like trafficking. I have a great admiration for the professional people who can give aspects of their person to others with such skill. It is the ultimate form of acting for a human, making the character believable to the extent that the audience, the person paying for the experience, can feel so lost in it. But still, there are occasions when a quick fix is all that is required, and so simpler shorter transactions can be just as valid. Prostitution might be a far more enjoyable and safer industry if it was not so vilified by those that don’t want to use it, and if better protection and licencing was available. No such luck when the pious are too busy enjoying the proscribing of what others get up to. I can’t imagine anything more vulgar and voyeuristic than the pious sticking their noses into the activities of others just because it’s not something they would choose to do, or because because they get a perverse satisfaction from telling others how they are falling short of the ideals set by the pious.

    “I am not denying that there has been some wonderful … For these I have no objection … ” – How magnanimous to suffer just that art that meets your satisfaction.

  17. Frank and Ron Murphy thanks for your replies.
    I did not say that I hated porn or those who in indulge in it. In fact Frank I asked you, assuming you are somewhat of an authority in the matter, where I could find a better pornography than on the World Wide Web. You asked me why is voyeurism vulgar and if a person likes to indulge himself or herself regularly in viewing pornographic material then who am I I to say they should not. I’m not putting prohibitions on what other people do it provided no harm is done to themselves or others so far as I am concerned they can do as they like.
    Do you not not think how ever that we tend to be somewhat wary of people whom we know are regular indulgers in pornography or something like Dogging, a form of voyeurism, or exhibitionism, or are we just being pompously pious. These are two practices and there are many more, which perhaps are not particularly harmful, but one would not put on one’s CV when applying for a job unless of course you are proud of what you do.
    I agree with what you say about prostitution Ron to ban it is to ban an essential part of human nature but it does need proper regulation so that sex workers and those employed in the sex industry do not find themselves criminalised or the subject of legal and cruel practices, as you say.
    What does concern me currently is the increase in sexually transmitted diseases and how often those who have become infected seem to be indifferent to the problem knowing that they can be cured and continue their indiscriminate mode of life, or am I being pompously pious again. There is currently a problem with schoolchildren who indulge in Sexting which as you probably know is sending vulgar and unsuitable photographs of themselves or worse still other people to their friends. Many young females have been induced to allow the so-called boyfriends to photograph them only to find that many other children in the same school have had the pictures mailed to them. This is surely wrong. It seems to me that these days one dare not mention standards of behaviour, or self-respect, for fear of being dubbed an old Fart who is only full of pompous pious wind. I could go on here about drunkenness in the young, and smoking, and other acts of self abuse. Should I not mention this for fear of being thought pompous and pious.
    I deliberately made my original mail provocative in the hope that it would receive the attention that it has. How ever it does represent my own personal feelings which are mine and mine alone I make no claims to be saintly which I certainly am not, nor do I recommend these private thoughts of mine to form the basis or a way of life. It was not my intention to make a case for the harm that pornography might cause I was merely exposing my own take on things not wishing to lay down any standards of behaviour for others they must do what they think best. I did not say that I hated porn per se, just that I dislike certain manifestations of it which I have seen. If I say I don’t like rice pudding because I find it slimy, I do not expect people to take that as a recommendation that they to should not like rice pudding and find it slimy.
    There is one point which occurs to me Frank you say “I’m not ashamed of the fact that I have sex drive and have a natural love for the female form. I think I’m being very honest with myself. Are you?
    The key is not to hide it, that’s why my wife doesn’t have a problem with it. She actually doesn’t like porn as much as I do, but it doesn’t affect our relationship because we’re open about it.”
    Not wishing to be disrespectful or offensive here I must tell you that almost word for word I have heard that passage frequently from other gentleman concerning their viewing of pornography. I usually think to myself, I suppose she has no option really. About time I went for a quick unrefined fix I think Ron.

  18. Doris Wrench Eisler

    Prostitution and a lot of pornography is essentially exploitative, that is, takes advantage of the weakened position of some people. So when you say “it is an essential part of human nature”, do you mean in the sense that is is human to exploit others? You usually hear the so-called argument that prostitution will continue and should because it “is the oldest profession”. Were it the oldest profession in fact would not legitimate it morally anymore than murder or theft are moral because of their history in human affairs. Aside from that, the fact prostitution does go back a long way is not a winning argument: it originates from the time women generally had no power other than sex, and were completely under domination by males one way or another. Thus was the association of women and “easy virtue” established and maintained ever since.

    Some porn may be totally voluntary in its makeup, and harmless. But much of it is violent, exploitative, dishonest and conveys incorrect and harmful perceptions of women. Sweden is beginning to change these dishonest and dangerous perceptions, and the country is still viable.

  19. Doris,

    Much of what you say about the exploitative nature of prostitution and porn is true, because it is made illegal and provides a lucrative market for those willing to risk criminality. The sex industry should be legal, licensed, with strong employment protection laws. At the moment organisations like the police cannot properly protect sex workers with explicit schemes to do so because that is interpreted as an implicit support of the sex industry.

    There are many industries during the industrial revolution where the lack of good protection laws has resulted in exploitation in the past, in the UK. Now we see garment factories collapsing and children exploited in places like Bangladesh. There’s nothing immoral about making clothes; but there will always be humans willing to exploit others – at least until such time as we understand human brains and their behaviour sufficiently to change them for the better.

    So for those that want to make fair moral comment on the current state of the sex industry it would help if they weren’t so hung up on their judgemental attitude to the sex industry in the first place.

    If the sex industry was well regulated and as safe for sex workers as other industries, avoiding the involuntary coercion of adults and children into it, then what is wrong with it in principle?

    You’re right that the ancient and common nature of prostitution is no justification for it on moral grounds. But it is an indication that it’s something many people want, and a service which many are willing to provide. So really, what are the moral principles that would oppose a healthy well regulated sex industry?

  20. Doris.
    When I mentioned “an essential part of human nature” I was referring to sexual activity alone. In this connection I would not favour any move which outlawed prostitution. If somebody wishes to sell their flavours to another person and provided there is no coercion on either side I have no problem with that. However it is not that simple and I don’t think it is necessary for me to point out all the unpleasant ramifications which do arise in prostitution. Hopefully efforts to improve this will prove successful. There are some who hold that gardening is an older profession than prostitution which is an interesting thought. It seems to me that the big question is how to make the sex industry respectable in the way that we consider other professions. Years of solid prejudice would have to be overcome, jokes about the Actress and the Bishop less meaningful, for instance. Could a visit to a prostitute been regarded as no more reprehensible than a visit to a hairdresser? A massive change in viewpoint would in my opinion be necessary to lay a foundation for a decriminalised and properly regulated respectable profession.

  21. Doris Wrench Eisler

    There is a world of possible misinformation in the statement “willing to provide”: with a gun to my head I would be “willing” to do a great number of things I wouldn’t otherwise do. The statements of ex-prostitutes and many prostitutes concerning this “profession” is not edifying: most feel degraded, do not like men and practically all of them use drugs to deaden the depression and anxiety. Legalization will only increase an activity that is basically deadly to mind, soul and body.
    Prostitutes will tell you they are expected to perform sex acts related to absurd and perverted fantasies that wives and girlfriends will not do.You cite lack of regulation as the cause of abuse but regulation will never change the basic nature of this activity and is suspect to begin with: where are the programs (outside Sweden) that are supposed to educate and train ex-prostitutes who wish to escape? They don’t exist and will not exist for a variety of reasons: it is an added educational and bureaucratic expense, this “business” is very profitable for some, and legalization will only support the laissez-faire, “it’s a natural and needed service” attitude. Legalization will only make it more difficult to sort out trafficking victims – like picking needles in a haystack. Prostitution is also associated with drug-dealing and has not lessened STDs in countries where it is legal. Germany, Holland and many other countries are now trying to find ways to better control and cut back on prostitution and we should investigate their data on the issue. Legalization is not always the best route for everything. Sweden has the mot successful, humane and progressive approach: users are prosecuted but prostitutes are considered victims, and rehabilitated.

  22. “regulation will never change the basic nature of this activity”

    True. As lack of regulation will never change the nature of the trafficking of people or slavery, or the abuse of children.

    And yes, many current prostitutes will confirm your selection bias, for the very reason that those that do work in an underground industry where they cannot hope to be protected.

    “where are the programs (outside Sweden) that are supposed to educate and train ex-prostitutes who wish to escape?”

    Do they want to escape? I think it depends on the nature of their business and how they are come to it: http://sciencenordic.com/what-drives-prostitute.

    Prostitution itself is legal in many countries, on a personal level, though related activity may be illegal. But still, the morally indignant, especially backed by churches, are too big a voice for politicians to ignore. Politicians will not put their career or party on the line by backing the better employment regulation and licensing of prostitution.

    “it is an added educational and bureaucratic expense”

    So is child protection, employment protection, health and safety in hazardous industries. Prostitution is too much of a hot potato, with too much a stigma that is backed to a great extent by religious indoctrination.

    “legalization will only support the laissez-faire”

    Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? Laissez-faire means free from government interference, which is what we have now. Again, prostitution is actually legal in many countries and what law is in place is supposed to offer protection from exploitation – e.g. organised prostitution managed by profiteering pimps is supposed to be illegal, but with only half hearted token gestures from governments it’s hard to enforce.

    “Legalization will only make it more difficult to sort out trafficking victims – like picking needles in a haystack.”

    Why? If prostitutes have to be registered, regularly health screened it becomes easier to identify the legal from the illegal. Note that any illegal activity that continues would continue anyway under the current poor regulation. You don’t stop enforcing child protection laws and employment laws because some people remain unprotected; you strengthen the laws. In an industry where regulation and licensing is required, and where other workers are penalised fo supporting and enabling unlicensed workers, I’m not sure how you think not regulating can be any worse than what we have now?

    “… countries are now trying to find ways to better control … we should investigate their data”

    Well, yes. Control; regulate, license, enforce, protect. Of course.

    “Sweden has the most successful, humane and progressive approach: users are prosecuted but prostitutes are considered victims, and rehabilitated”

    Is that true in the higher end escort market? Or are you really talking about the low end street business? In any industry there will always be people willing to by-pass regulation. It’s still very common in the UK for people in the building trade to work cash-in-hand without paying tax. But does that justify unregulating health and safety in the building industry? How can regulation not help an industry that is impossible to stamp out – and of course that begs the question as to why anyone would think there is anything wrong in principle with paying for sex. It seems all to easy to slip in moral dogmatism and proscription of what others wish to do under the guise of concern for others.

    “needed service”

    It’s a wanted service. It’s a welcome service. It’s an enjoyable service. It’s a profitable business. Check the prices: http://www.mckescorts.co.uk/. For those that it suits it’s quite a good lifestyle.

    Perhaps you’re biased by your view of the unsupported and unregulated street business where coersion and drugs are rife. One wouldn’t want to hire a drug addled coerced doctor to perform intimate procedures, usually. Poorly regulated industries are a danger to workers and customers alike. Better regulated industries less so.

    In the UK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_in_the_United_Kingdom. Note: “working as a prostitute in private is not an offence, and neither is working as an outcall escort”.

  23. Don,
    “where I could find a better pornography than on the World Wide Web.” – I’m only familiar with online porn, Erotica X could be a good start, their description: Erotica Videos & Romantic Porn for the Passionate Lover. Quite female/ couple centric, lots of foreplay, romantic situations, classical music, intimate sex, etc. Of course it’s still staged and fantasy, but that’s what entertainment is. If you’re looking for even more realism there’s intimate amateur couple porn and that’s the thing, we get served this one dimensional female exploitation porn concept by radical feminists, but in fact porn is so diverse it covers every taste imaginable.

    “Do you not not think how ever that we tend to be somewhat wary of people whom we know are regular indulgers in pornography or something like Dogging, a form of voyeurism, or exhibitionism, or are we just being pompously pious.” – I watch a lot of porn, but did not know about dogging, seems you have adopted a very negative one sided view of sex . If you look for negatives you will find them. If you look for positives you will find them also, but I’m pretty sure you’re not looking for positives. So lets not forget the true intent of sex including porn: to enjoy the intimacy of another human being!

    “…but one would not put on one’s CV when applying for a job unless of course you are proud of what you do.” – if you’re applying for a job in porn, porn experience is very valuable :) But in essence you’re reasoning is flawed, at a point in history it wouldn’t have helped your CV that you’re gay, that you’re black or even that you’re a women. Throughout history governments and societies have discriminated against people for the wrong reasons. Today sex and porn are demonized and therefore it’s shunned. The fact that you could have a man or woman who’s done nothing but share his/ her joy for sex be a reason decline a job is discrimination, plain and simple.

    “What does concern me currently is the increase in sexually transmitted diseases and how often those who have become infected seem to be indifferent to the problem knowing” – I think this is an educational problem and spreading fear around sex and porn will only worsen the issues, because less information is sought and discussed openly.

    “Not wishing to be disrespectful or offensive here I must tell you that almost word for word I have heard that passage frequently from other gentleman concerning their viewing of pornography. I usually think to myself, I suppose she has no option really. About time I went for a quick unrefined fix I think Ron.” – The fact that you have heard it before is neither reasoning for or against anything. I don’t understand the last 2 sentences. Are you saying women in porn don’t have a choice? If that’s really what you’re saying you know nothing about the porn industry. Porn today is legal. Women today engage as performers out of their own will. And as I said women are engaged at every level of the porn business not just performers. And if you’re saying they do it for the money, then give me ANY job that a person would do without earning money. There’s that negative double standard again. We appear to lose all rationality when it comes to sex and porn, it’s amazing how programmed we are to make sex evil at all cost.

  24. Re:- Frank 22nd Feb.
    I have examined the sites Erotica Videos and Romantic Porn. Nothing which I saw there, did I find offensive in any way. It appeared to be normal people carrying out a normal procedure which is accompanied by great pleasure. Is it sexually stimulating to view? My answer to this is yes. That said I have no desire to become a regular viewer of such procedures not that I am disgusted by anything I see but nevertheless I feel like an eavesdropper and someone who could be too timid or hung up to go for the real thing himself or herself. I hasten to add this is not the case with me and for want of something better to do, I could well view such pictures again. I think I would become concerned about myself were I to make a regular habit of viewing pornography. That said I am fully aware that we are all different in what we like and don’t like and what attracts us and what does not attract us in that connection, The concern that I might feel about myself does not necessarily extend itself to others whom I know are viewers of pornography.
    I take your point that we are inclined to make judgements about people on the flimsiest of evidence that sometimes triggers an almost subconscious impulse in us to make further enquiries which on occasions, do reveal something of which we do not approve, and I’m not referring to sex alone here. Say for instance your young daughter had a boyfriend and you suspected that he was frequently engaging her to view pornography with him; would you not feel somewhat anxious about this state of affairs and somehow diplomatically endeavour to ascertain exactly what was going on and why?
    I am certainly not saying that women in pornography are there because they have no choice. Certainly there are some poor wretches who are in this position but I’m sure that the vast majority are in it of their own choice and for what ever money it pays them. However I do feel sad when I see what I would say is a fine looking intelligent woman taking money for sexual activity are there not better ways in which she, or he for that matter, could put their talents towards earning a living. Perhaps there are, perhaps they do just that, out of porn come perks.
    It has been my experience that women as opposed to men are most often not especially interested in pornography. They are not necessarily hostile to it but their sexual desires I think are evoked in a substantially different way from that of men. As a rough example it seems to be generally agreed that women are influenced by what they hear and men by what they see. A woman is attracted to a man often as a result of his personality rather than, or in addition to his looks. She wants to be the only woman in his life and would prefer that his attentions, in particular his sexual tensions are focused on her and her alone. She may be prepared to view pornography with her man and find it arousing, but unlike the man, I don’t think she is so likely to view it alone. Not wishing to appear impertinent, I think the fact that your wife does not like porn as much as you do is probably for the above reasons. When I said that your wife has no choice it was based on what I have said above, there is an innate differing sexual response between men and women.
    I agree the fact that I have heard something before is not sufficient grounds claiming that something to be the case. How ever it does at the very least, provide a fragile pointer in a certain direction which may be worthwhile investigating.
    When I used the expression about going for “a quick unrefined fix” As Ron called it I found it amusing, and accordingly tried to make a joke by suggesting that all this talk of sex and pornography had driven me from the room, and my solitude, for “a quick unrefined fix”

  25. Doris Wrench Eisler

    I doubt that the reason more men go in for pornography is that women are generally more sexually possessive than men: it is perhaps more a matter of aesthetic tastes and a dislike of trite, predicable non-plots. There are quite a few really excellent movies, for instance, that have explicit and often unconventional sex included, but they are intrinsic to the plot, or at least,
    enrich and promote it. Sex drivel is understandable in young, immature men but does not indicate a very complicated mind in older men. Call me narrow and prejudiced but that’s the way I see it. And that’s to exclude ethical arguments concerning “free will”, or psychological arguments on obsession.

  26. Doris Wrench Eisler

    I don’t like using films to support arguments as a general rule but there are some supremely interesting ideas presented in some above-average movies, and in a very effective way. The Wolf of Wall Street seems pornographic on the surface but the exaggerated depiction of sex and drug addiction lends itself to the idea of a comic-book unreality in which the characters live. Of course, pornography and sex don’t have to go to this extreme, but this illustrates the obsessive, extreme, but not so rare case. Although the protagonist (antagonist?) finally loses everything, that does not seem to me the main point. The lifestyle is aesthetically revolting and even inhuman and represents the shallowest values. It is in that sense “immoral”.

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