Worldbuilding: Nonconsensual Robot Sex

So, I saw this posted on G+ recently:

What’s New In The World Of Robot Sex?

Relevant excerpt:

But the worries remain. And last week, news broke of a robot called “Frigid Farrah” that’s meant as a sex companion for a person, but with a twist. According to The Independent, the robot was originally advertised in this way: If you touch Frigid Farrah “in a private area, more than likely, she will not be to [sic] appreciative of your advance.”

Some commentators, including Laura Bates writing in The New York Times, suggests this kind of interaction amounts to rape. The manufacturer, Roxxxy True Companion, issued a statement that, unsurprisingly, takes a different view.

Should the specter of human-robot sexual encounters only increase our robot anxiety, then? On Monday, I chatted by email about robot sex with Girl on the Net, a writer in the UK who has thought extensively about issues like this. She told me that she finds the discussion around Frigid Farrah fascinating:

“not necessarily because of the robots themselves, but because of the way it exposed some gaps in how people understand consent. In the UK at least there were quite a few commentators talking about sex robots as if they were already conscious, autonomous beings. We had a few headlines that said people could be ‘raping’ sex robots, implying that consent is inherently tied to behavior, rather than tied to understanding and desire.

In my opinion, laying aside the implications of someone who wants a sex robot to be reluctant, one could no more rape a sex robot than they could rape a Fleshlight [sex toy] or a toaster, because robots don’t yet have consciousness. Consent is not just about saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ — it’s about making conscious and active choices, in conjunction with another conscious person.”

I agree with Girl on the Net: Today’s robots are not conscious and thus “rape” is not the correct descriptor.

The point I made over there where I originally saw it addresses the non-trivial problem that early-21st century humanity is hilariously unequipped when it comes to deciding what has qualia/is conscious or not, inasmuch as we have no damn idea how said things work. Quoth I:

I mean, sure, I can’t prove that a bangin’ bot, or for that matter a Roomba, is conscious and can suffer, but I can’t prove that a human isn’t merely playing out a convincing simulation of pain while I’m peeling their skin off with red-hot pinchers, either. I just assume that since I’m conscious of my own consciousness and am the same sort of critter, they’re probably not a p-zombie.

(And, I note, the Descartean position that animals are automata without consciousness, pain, or the ability to suffer isn’t all that old, and one can still find plenty of asshole adherents to it even today.)

And so it might just behoove us to be sure and treat our robots well and with due caution, lest in the future we find out that we presumed incorrectly and have been merrily engaged in decades of atrocities.

But now to extend this to worldbuilding, since this ties in to another concept that I had and decided not to use a while back, regarding how this sort of thing ties into the Empire’s sex tourism market.

Yes, it has one – not so much for providing the sex, as for providing a place to safely have it. If you live in some polity which is peculiarly interested in controlling that sort of thing or a society which has any number of bizarre taboos – and so long as what you’re into is safe, sane, and consensual – various Imperial institutions are more than happy to provide you with opportunity, comfort, and whipped cream, while taking a child-like delight in obfuscating, flummoxing, and in extreme cases arranging tragic airlock accidents for the representatives of your local Committee for Public Pecksniffery. Be it gaiety or xenophilia, it’s welcome here!

except for that one group of ’em…

On the one hand, this ‘verse is one in which the above constraint doesn’t apply, since it has a good understanding of sophotechnology and cognitive science, and is thus capable of saying, yes, this sex robot is definitely a p-zombie or lower, neither sophont nor autosentient, and so none of the above scruples apply.

On the other hand, remember what was mentioned about “simulations of how slavers get their jollies” back in the Bondage is Bad trope-a-day, and how well that flies in a profoundly libertist society? Well, dial that up to eleven squared when you make that a literal rape simulation.

It’s not illegal, of course. There’s no choice-theft or other rights-violation involved, so it can’t be illegal. You’ve just brought the pessimal paraphilia into an environment that invites every legal sanction to be leveled against you by anyone who learns what you’re doing, which may well include a bunch of freelance vigilantes watching your every move for the millimeter over the line that’d give them an excuse.

Which would be why the brochures say “Don’t,” when the topic comes up, in large, friendly red letters. (“Also: see therapeutic psychedesign services.”)

 

Trope-a-Day: Fantastic Arousal

Fantastic Arousal: As I may have mentioned before, not everyone keeps their genitalia in the same place, and likewise, not everyone keeps their erogenous zones in the same place. (Or even in the same plane of reality. Like, say, AIs with unusual cognitive maps whose erogenous “zones” include things like n-dimensional geometric figures, but only if they include ratios of Mersenne primes.)

There is also the matter that they aren’t all sensitive to the same things, too. For example, those engaging in interspecies relationships with the kaeth, whose thick, multilayered skin contains an awful lot of metal – especially where the dorsal plates are concerned – and are not themselves members of remarkably kinesthetic species may well be advised to bring some power tools to the bedroom.

And, um… use protection.

Trope-a-Day: Bizarre Alien Sexes

Bizarre Alien Sexes: While the eldrae started out with the standard two (male, female), biotechnology has since added two more to their repertoire (neuter, hermaphrodite). And the standard taxonomy of sexes in their language, which has to cope with other species, includes two more – the most common mappings of other-species sexuality (prenuptial catalyst, postnuptial catalyst). And the language allows for an arbitrary number of other gender affices, because while most species can fit into that six-gender system, usually having no more than four and the mode being two, the one-to-couple-of-dozen-variants spread in how species divide into sexes means that… well. Yeah.

Pornography

Querying today’s new catalog entries in category:erotica; displaying (8) highest-rated results:

Meiose With Me
An esseli bioengineer rediscovers the wonders of sexual reproduction.

Naked Singularity: When Particles Collide
Those naughty, naughty particles.

Prompt Criticality IV
Further unbounded lust among the orgiasts of the Atomic Age.

Ricatra Today: Vol. CCXLVII
The galaxy’s finest xenophilia.

Thrusters Firing! 2: Engage the Retro-Rockets
The microgravity adventures continue.

Tunnels of Love
In the mines of the Mohorovicic, the passion runs as hot as the magma!

Warm, Sticky and Moist
Hilarity ensues when virtual lovers meet in the flesh for the first time.

You Spin Me Around
Erotic-comedy star Lalíríë Celestial discovers the Coriolis effect.

(more)

 

Trope-a-Day: Zero-G Spot

Zero-G Spot: If there’s a couple anywhere in the Empire that hasn’t, ah, joined the 100 Mile High Club, it’s because they haven’t yet finished treatment for a case of galloping cosmophobia. Sure, there were some special requirements to figure out w.r.t. anatomical docking maneuvers (mostly involving conservation of momentum), but that’s why they did science to it.

As for celestial polyamory, insert your own three-body problem joke here.

Trope-a-Day: Sex By Proxy

Sex By Proxy: The slinky (i.e., recorded full-sensory and emotional data) erotica market.  Also, possible by techlepathy (see: Psychic Powers) if you have the consent of the people you’d be eavesdropping on.

Also, in a more friendship/romance-oriented way than strictly sexual, a consequence of the metamind feedback system mentioned in Touched By Vorlons, and, relevantly, Angel Unaware.  If a lot of people like you (or one person’s liking, or indeed love, is particularly intense), this feeds back into the metamind’s opinion of you, which in turn feeds back into individual’s opinions of you… which then leads to people liking, or at the very least being predisposed to like, you even if they’ve never actually met you personally. As A Miracle of Science puts it, “Brazil has decided you’re cute.