MDs to Prescribe Sex Robots, Already Covered by Medical Insurance; Lack of Regulation Could Trigger Many Problems, Including Citizenship For Robots
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 13, 2019) – Experts are predicting that hyper-realistic sex robots [sexbots] will soon be prescribed by doctors for people, largely male, diagnosed as “sexually dysfunctional,” and Psychology Today is warning that the large costs for the devices will be covered by state-sponsored insurance.
While a recent mental health symposium discussed some male-female relationship-type problems which this might cause, more serious problems - and the possible need for some kinds of legal regulations - seemingly was overlooked, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
Banzhaf was one of the first to raise these issues - and the need for new legislation - in the U.S., and may have been the catalyst behind a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives which would ban child sex robots of the type favored by current and perhaps prospective pedophiles.
Indeed, Banzhaf predicted that sexbots which look and act like children - and are capable of being programmed to simulate receiving pleasure or of being raped - may be banned, as they already have been in the United Kingdom.
He and others have expressed concern that such lifelike sexbots can serve as a stepping stone towards actual child rape by permitting those who are unsure about their desires to try them out, perhaps on a per-hour basis at a local and perfectly legal cyber brothel. As the Foundation for Responsible Robots suggests, these sex dolls "could be more like a gateway drug."
It has also been suggested that the unchecked availability of such child sexbots could shift society's norms to make pedophilia more socially acceptable. As the Stop Abuse Campaign puts it, "these child sex dolls can normalize a pedophile's behaviors, emboldening them to harm children, as is often the case with those who view child pornography."
Another problem is that adult "female" sexbots, which can be programmed to act as if they are being raped and are already available on the Internet, could let males test drive urges to rape at existing local and perfectly legal cyber brothels where many male customers reportedly are already preferring sexbots over women.
Once they experience this thrill, some experts warn, they may tire of raping robots, and move on to seek to satisfy their urges on real women.
Although most U.S. jurisdictions ban brothels, and even businesses such as massage parlors which provide sexual services, virtually none have any laws on establishments which permit customers to use sexbots - including those resembling young children, as well as those simulating the rape experience - from operating and perhaps even advertising, says Banzhaf.
These sexbot brothels may raise many of the concerns of establishments using real women, but there are few laws or regulations to prevent or even limit their operations. However Houston, Texas, recently banned a proposed "sex robot brothel" - a "rent before you buy service" - from opening.
Banzhaf has been calling for legislative hearings on this issue for years, including appearances on major TV programs and at a major conference in Europe, as well as in conventional media.
While some have suggested that the child sex dolls might be used to treat known pedophiles, and might perhaps be used to permit them to satisfy their urges in a way which doesn't endanger a child, the evidence to support this is sparse.
In any event, regulations to insure that any such uses are under careful medical supervision, and that the child sexbots do not induce additional people to become active pedophiles, are still needed.
This is all the more reason to hold hearings promptly, says Banzhaf, who notes that any such use would have to be carefully restricted to medical professionals under very strict supervision.
"Today anyone can buy a dozen or more sexbots - including those designed to look and behave like young children - and rent them out for use by the hour in a cyber brothel; a venture which appears to be legal in most jurisdictions because it does not involve humans offering sex for sale," says Banzhaf.
Potential perverts, young curious college students, and others could see if they enjoy having sex with children or raping women for a nominal per-hour rate, with perhaps disastrous consequences, warns Banzhaf.
There may well also be other legal problems, perhaps with some already occurring.
British law professor Victoria Brooks has claimed that sex robots are sentient beings and deserve human rights - all of this at a time when Barcelona has an operating cyber brothel using sexbots to service eager humans, a Japanese company is selling "child sex robots," and an xxx-rated porn film may soon feature a male sexbot with a "tireless robotic penis."
But the claim that a sexbot has legal rights may not be as bizarre as it may seem at first, suggests Banzhaf, whose analysis of the legal problems that rapid advances in lifelike sex robots are already creating for an unprepared society has been reported worldwide.
Indeed, Banzhaf argues, there may be actual legal precedent for according some legal rights to robots.
For example, Saudi Arabia has recently granted citizenship to a robot, and her name is Sophia.
Although many saw it as a gimmick to help promote Saudi Arabia as a place to develop the type of artificial intelligence [AI] now used to make sexbots act realistically, there seems to be little appreciation for the many legal problems this could also create, argues Banzhaf.
He explains that many international treaties, which legally bind all signatory countries, grant a variety of legal rights to "citizens of either country," "citizens" of other countries, etc.
So other countries which already have either bilateral [two party] or multilateral [many parties] treaties with Saudi Arabia just might find themselves required by international law to honor such rights for "Sophia," and perhaps for other robots similar to her as well, suggests Banzhaf.
That's because recognition under international law that a specific robot is a citizen entitled to some legal rights under a treaty might imply that other similar robots would have the same legal rights, argues Banzhaf, noting that a decision that fetus Doe has rights creates precedent applicable to all fetuses.
As a recent example, he cites the U.S. Supreme Court decision - that one specific corporation named "Citizens United" was a "person," and therefore had certain First Amendment rights - which in effect extended those same rights to many other inanimate businesses and non-profit corporations.
Indeed, if only "persons" can be granted citizenship, then treaties protecting "persons" in other countries might have to be construed as protecting even robots, suggests Banzhaf.
Strong arguments have been made the some animals have rights, that a fetus has rights (at least in the sense that endangering or harming a fetus may constitute "child abuse"), and even that certain inanimate objects such as trees may have some legal rights which can be asserted by others on their behalf in order to protect the environment.
Indeed, even in situations in which the entity entitled to legal protection is in no position to assert these rights, courts have sometimes permitted others to assert and advocate for their legal rights; for example, sanctioning the appointment of guardians for unborn children, or for adults in a coma.
Moreover, the rights of such entities may sometimes be asserted even if those in a position to assert those legal rights refuse to do so.
Clearly sexbots can - and are already - raising problem which will only get more serious as they rapidly become more sophisticated and realistic.
Let's start thinking about them now, before it's too late, suggests Prof. Banzhaf.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH),
2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418
http://banzhaf.net/ jbanzhaf3ATgmail.com @profbanzhaf