The Controversial Campaign to Save Underage Sex Dolls and Sexbots

US bill seeks to limit potential child-like characteristics in love dolls.

Is this a much-needed adjustment to the law? Or heavy-handed interfering in the private lives of the owners of sex dolls and sexbots?

Sex dolls and sexbots are becoming increasingly popular worldwide. Technology is not only driving new possibilities for customization, but also enhancing their look and feel to be ever-more realistic.  

However, some companies have created dolls and sexbots that appear young and arguably resemble children, which has sparked the creation of a bill (H. R. 4150) in the US Congress, intended to prohibit their import and distribution.  

The campaign aims to halt the ban to allow for more research to be completed

In August 2019, Protasia Foundation, an organization that aims to fight child sexual abuse within the lens of human rights and sex-positivity, started an online fundraising campaign to stop the bill that would result in the banning of certain forms of sex dolls and sexbots.  

According to the foundation, money raised will be put towards lobbying, conferences, research, and legal costs for fighting the ban, including assisting anyone prosecuted, if the bill were passed into law.

The foundation claims it is “only child protection organization that is actively raising money to have this question answered scienti­fically, explaining its focus is also on evidence-based approaches to reducing child abuse, including examining possibilities of new technology to tackle this issue.

The bill in question is built on the premise that sex dolls and sexbots “lead to rape” and can “cause the exploitation, objectification, abuse, and rape of minors,” which the Protasia Foundation says directly contradicts research findings.

Instead, it argues that these dolls and sexbots provide people with a sexual interest in children with an “essential tool in the management of that condition, preventing them from acting out against a real child”— a concept that is seen as extremely controversial.

In a letter to the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nayler, the foundation urges proceedings be halted for the purposes of gathering more data, including research on how a ban on these sex dolls could have potentially harmful consequences.

The letter claims that the ambiguous language used in the bill could lead to dolls that do not represent minors being banned. The foundation continues to argue that the supposed age of dolls and sexbots is too subjective. 

Features such as smaller breasts, larger eyes (which they claim is popular due to anime), or even that dolls were made smaller (which allows for easier manipulation from the user), all could be said to make the dolls look under the age of 18.

The campaign claims that this law would not have any effect on reducing the abuse of children, but would instead create an unnecessary new classification of sex-offender.

The letter was signed by the executive director of the Protasia Organization, Jeremy Malcolm, but also features signatures from the founder of The-Doll-House, Phil Bass; Ian O’Brien, from the Free Speech Coalition; and Don Delano, the founder of Mon Amour Toujours.

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The UK has already banned child sex dolls

Although this bill is only in the early stages in the US Congress, the UK has already implemented a ban on the selling and distribution of sex dolls resembling children, which is punishable by up to five years in prison—a move welcomed by charity The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

In an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live, NSPCC’s Head of Development, said the main concern with these dolls and sexbots is their role in encouraging criminal actions, as the behavior becomes “desensitized” through regular use. 

They argue that this could then lead to both non-contact offending (such as the accessing and downloading of obscene sexual images of children) as well as contact-offending (direct child abuse). This idea is referenced in the US Congress Bill, which states that sex dolls “normalize submissiveness and normalize sex between adults and minors”.

The UK policy on sex dolls first considers the use of the dolls or sexbots and confirms if it’s intended for sexual purposes. It then examines the item for child-like characteristics, but again, these criteria remain vague—an issue that particularly concerns the Protasia Organization.

Weighing the arguments

Overall, the debate on sex dolls and sexbots that resemble under 18-year-olds, is not as clear-cut as either side tries to convey it.

The Protasia Foundation highlights the lack of interest in finding solutions to the issue of sexual interest in children. It demonstrates the resistance to research regarding the use of sex dolls or sex technology as a possible approach.

Its campaign raises questions about the anthropomorphization of technology that causes this issue to create such emotional responses from both sides of the debate.

If we were to view sex dolls and sexbots as tools for human beings to use, instead of surrogates for human beings, it is possible that such dolls would be less controversial and could instead be seen as a potential approach for managing the issue of sexual interest in children. 

When discussing the issue of consent regarding sex dolls, Matt McMullen (the creator of Harmony, a sex doll from the company Realbotix) succinctly argued: 

I could just as easily ask you is it ethically dubious to force my toaster to make my toast

However, organizations such as the NSPCC are concerned about the effects of desensitization and the normalization of sexual interest in children, which could be the result of regular use of these sex dolls and sexbots, leading to non-contact or even contact child abuse.

Regardless of the outcome of the Protasia Foundation’s Campaign, it has raised important questions about the future of sex technology such as sex dolls and sexbots, and how we understand the subjectivism of design, which will doubtlessly affect future endeavors from sex doll and sexbot companies. 

Image Source: SA 3.0/DSDoll