The Ethics of Virtual Sexual Assault

In Oxford Handbook of Digital Ethics. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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This chapter addresses the growing problem of unwanted sexual interactions in virtual environments. It reviews the available evidence regarding the prevalence and severity of this problem. It then argues that due to the potential harms of such interactions, as well as their nonconsensual nature, there is a good prima facie argument for viewing them as serious moral wrongs. Does this prima facie argument hold up to scrutiny? After considering three major objections – the ‘it’s not real’ objection; the ‘it’s just a game’ objection; and the ‘unrestricted consent’ objection – this chapter argues that it does. The chapter closes by reviewing some of the policy options available to us in addressing the problem of virtual sexual assault.
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