XR Embodiment and the Changing Nature of Sexual Harassment

Societies 13 (36) (2023)
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In this paper, we assess the impact of extended reality technologies as they relate to sexual forms of harassment. We begin with a brief history of the nature of sexual harassment itself. We then offer an account of extended reality technologies focusing specifically on psychological and hardware elements most likely to comprise what has been referred to as “the metaverse”. Although different forms of virtual spaces exist (i.e., private, semi-private, and public), we focus on public social metaverse spaces. We do this to better explain how the concept of sexual harassment must be adjusted to such spaces and how approaches aimed at mitigating harassment must be sensitive to the type of metaverse spaces users utilize. We then offer a typology of sexual harassment for the metaverse focusing on three distinct forms of sexual harassment: (1) invariant (2) mixed variance or modified and (3) unique or metaverse specific. Although existing normative and legal frameworks may function well with respect to the first and, possibly, second forms of harassment, we argue such frameworks will not helpfully address metaverse-specific harassment. Ultimately, the changing nature of privately owned public spaces (POPS) which metaverses are likely to represent pose distinct ethical and regulatory challenges.

Author Profiles

Sydney Campbell
University of Oklahoma
Erick José Ramirez
Santa Clara University


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