Could We Use Child Sexbots to Cure Pedophilia? Law Researcher Says No

Scholar John Danaher argues that underage-looking bots aren’t a viable solution to prevent child abuse.

The rise of child-like sex robots is raising several ethical questions, not only in popular culture but also in the academic field. In 2014, roboticist Ronald Arkin argued that underage-looking gynoids could be used to treat pedophilia.

The logic behind this statement is that robots could provide patients with a safe outlet to explore their fantasies without harming actual children. Arkin believes that they could be prescribed to pedophiles by medical professionals, a little like methadone is prescribed to heroin addicts. 

However, as Forbes reports, the scientist didn’t warrant the effectiveness of this unusual kind of treatment. On the contrary, he stated that research still needs to be done on the subject. 

“I only believe it is worth investigating in a controlled way to possibly provide better protection to society from recidivism in sex offenders,” said Arkin. “If we can save some children, I think it’s a worthwhile project.”

Dr. Patrice Renaud, a psychologist from the University of Montreal, is already using VR to help pedophiles overcome their addiction to sex with underage individuals. According to NBC News, the researcher leads his patients into a virtual-reality park, filled with pre-adolescents, while teaching them coping mechanisms. 

As for Arkin’s theory, Renaud told the renowned media outlet that child sexbots could be “more effective as a tool for helping the men learn to control their urges in the face of temptation.” The psychologist added that synthetic children could be programmed to express fear, to help pedophiles develop empathy. 

According to Renaud, the encounters between patients and underage sexbots should be accompanied by cognitive behavior therapy and electric stimulation of the brain areas linked to empathy.

Certainly, doing research on child-like sex dolls poses several legal problems, as these erotic objects are illegal in some US states, like Kentucky and Florida.

Additionally, people who were trying to import underage-looking gynoids were legally prosecuted in many countries, including Australia and the UK. 

Legal ethicist contests theory

Arkin’s theory might sound reasonable, but not all scholars agree with him. John Danaher, a law researcher at NUI Galway, Ireland, recently published a paper to contradict the roboticist’s arguments. 

Danaher first points out that Arkin’s theory goes against current best practices to control pedophilia, which consists of trying to suppress desire toward children with cognitive behavioral therapy or chemical castration. 

Secondly, he argues that “repeated exposures to the same kinds of stimuli or repetitions of behavior tend to reinforce themselves, not ebb away.” 

The scholar states that there is evidence suggesting that pedophiles who masturbate to child abuse material are more likely to abuse real-life victims, “which is significant since the use of child sex robots could be viewed as a kind of extreme interactive and masturbatory pornography.” 

As a result, Danaher urges that “we should proceed with utmost caution when it comes to this technology.”

In a 2014 paper, Danaher explored the case for criminalizing the”creation and use” of child-like sex robots.

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