Ethics in Sex Robots

Arguably, everyone has had a fantasy. Maybe it was a flash of things that could happen, such as going for a lifetime world tour, owning a luxury home, leading the nation, and many more. Nothing sounds bad with such fantasies, which motivational speakers can cultivate as a dream, and the holder of such a dream should not lose it. While that is all good, robotics philosopher professor Rob Sparrow finds that some fantasies are not morally permissible. The idea of programming sex robots is at the center of the ethical dilemma in the interview with the professor, which raised interesting yet critical arguments about whether fantasies are permissible and, if yes, where the debate can find the boundary for fantasies that are morally impermissible. I think that fantasies are morally permissible only to the point that the fantasy can cultivate a morally wrong desire.

First, I approach this issue from a consequentialist perspective. It is a place where I consider sex desires, whether with a robot or a human partner, as good or bad, depending on the person’s intention to have the fantasies. I find it plausible to say that desire for sex is intrinsic, and so fantasies around having sex are not wrong. However, we must interrogate the consequences of having such fantasies and judge them based on the impact they cause on the person having the desire of other people. This argument is in line with professor Sparrow asking whether people who play video games that involve brutal killings do necessarily act the same in the real world. Studies have found multiple times in America and Europe that violent video games are linked to aggressive and violent behavior (Morin, 2021). At this point, the existence of a link between desiring something and acting it is nondebatable, and therefore, immoral desires are linked to immoral actions. Nevertheless, how can fantasizing about something lead to desiring it and ultimately doing the action?

The answer is yes, and can be found in psychological studies such as Smith, Fischer, and Watson (2009) and McCreery and Krach (2018). The two studies specifically found that subjects who had aggressive fantasies were more likely to engage in aggressive and violent behaviors than those who did not. It seems then that fantasies feed desires, which lead to actions. In the case of the sex robots, I support that people who program them to resist sex are fantasizing rape to the point that they desire it and end up doing it. It is long known that desires are the driving force for actions as a basis of motivation to do something. That means raping a robot is a consequence of a desire to conduct rape, which is first fantasized by the engineer of the person to instruct the engineer of a sex doll to do that.

Therefore, I find the people who originally came up with the code for the sex doll to resist sex as immoral people. This is from virtue ethics, where a person’s character can be questioned rather than their future actions (Sakellariouv, 2015). A layperson would ask, “how could you think about something as bad as that?” concerning fantasizing about rape. While no answer will satisfactorily close the question, I believe the fantasies are rooted in people’s personalities. In one way or another, some people are predisposed to aggressive sex desires either by nature vs. nurture theories and are likely to desire more aggressive sex behavior like rape. From a virtue ethics perspective, such people are immoral. Further, they are more likely to rape people in real life, as proven by studies. It is, therefore, a matter of urgency to regulate such codes by law and mitigate adverse social consequences.


McCreery, M., & Kathleen Krach, S. (2018). How the human is the catalyst: Personality, aggressive fantasy, and proactive-reactive aggression among users of social media. Personality And Individual Differences133, 91-95.

Morin, A. (2021). Are Your Child’s Video Games Too Violent?. Verywell Family. Retrieved 10 April 2022, from

Sakellariouv, A. (2015). Virtue Ethics and its Potential as the Leading Moral Theory. Inquiries Journal. Retrieved 10 April 2022, from

Smith, C., Fischer, K., & Watson, M. (2009). Toward a refined view of aggressive fantasy as a risk factor for aggression: interaction effects involving cognitive and situational variables. Aggressive Behavior35(4), 313-323.