I’ve been reading into a lot of studies that delve into the rationales offered by governments and states looking to ban child sex dolls and other outlets, and they’ve all found that they’re based either on morality or a misinformed take on the harm principle, or a mix of both, or some “better safe than sorry” approach.
The issue with taking either a ‘better safe than sorry’ or moralism approach is that they’re both motivated by fear and emotion. Not only that, but these legislative bodies don’t seem to actually consider, seriously, the harms caused by these types of regulations and how they affect people’s right to live comfortably and safely, how they mitigate risk of perpetration, etc.
Literally zero evidence exists supporting the argument that they pose a risk. Zero. Incidentally, zero evidence also exists linking virtual child pornography to actual abuse perpetration or any other type of harm.
I’ve spoken with a handful of researchers who’ve pondered the question, and they all unanimously agree that they could serve as protective inventions, but are mixed on whether or not they may constitute risk. Only one researcher argued that they could increase risk, while the others were either unsure of it or unconvinced by the same body of evidence.
My contention is that they don’t cause harm, nor do they increase risk in those who are at risk. Associations between offending behavior and preoccupation of this type (dolls, fantasy, etc.) do not seem to conclusively support a risk-escalation or heightening effect when properly scrutinized, suggesting nuance.
In any case, such complexity would be lost on most statesmen, and even worse so, any actions taken against dolls or fiction in the absence of such a consensus or body of supportive, conclusive evidence are acts of ignorance, motivated by a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ mentality that must be moderated against.
I feel as though these lawmakers need to be convinced as to the harms these prohibitions would cause, namely in how they would perpetrate or further stigma and contribute to an interpersonal stigma whereby those who live in areas where such materials are on the same legal standing as CSAM would feel less incentivized to consume the harmless, victim-free content if it would carry the same degree of risk, while also furthering other self-destructive ideations and emotions about their prolonged engagement with such materials, i.e. self deprecation/loathing, or even the false belief that it could propel them towards CSAM because that’s the only presumption they’re aware of. These restrictions rob people of the emotional and intellectual privacy necessary to determine for themselves whether this content constitutes harm. And in all locales or regions where they are legal, we see a steady inverse correlation between sex crimes against children and these materials (assuming engagement is also high).
Moreover, we also need to remind these legislative bodies that criminal restrictions on things like this are not easy, nor attractive. The law is not a surgical instrument, it is a blunt object, and both understanding and enforcement tend to both be equally as complex.
A law that is popular but difficult to enforce carries with it an unusual set of burdens likely shaped by the complexity or nuances present, while a law that is unpopular but easy to enforce will share the same things.
They are not pretty, and not enough consideration seems to be shown for those whose who are harmed by laws. What is there to say about them? Is the person whose life has been irrevocably shattered and destroyed over a criminal statute that is unfounded or unjustified supposed to just accept that they are a casualty in a culture war?
What about the way these laws shape perception?? Part of what made the war on drugs so convincing was the ‘gateway drug’ fallacy, whereby marijuana users would eventually yearn for ‘harder stuff’, with such cases following the trajectory. Contrary to these claims, it wasn’t the yearning for ‘harder stuff’, but rather the environment which cannabis was limited to which set the stage for this association. States or jurisdictions where cannabis is legal did not and does not face such strong associations.
We are seeing a similar thing happen with virtual child pornography and child-like sex dolls in these locations where they are illegal, but not so much in countries where they are legal, like Japan and the United States.
One of the things I think Prostasia ought to study (or put out a call for) is how restrictions themselves affect risk.
Pinging @elliot for good measure.