Reflections on Moral Challenges Posed by a Therapeutic Childlike Sexbot

  • Marc BehrendtEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10715)


In this paper, I discuss the serious ethical issues that arise from the advent of childlike sexbots (CSB). The main question I will be addressing is: Is it morally and legally acceptable to create CSBs for therapeutic purposes to treat paedophilia?

Proponents of love and sex with robots would argue that a CSB could have a twofold interest: protecting children from sexual predators and by the same token, treating the latter. On the other hand, opponents to sexbots would contend that a CSB is not an effective therapeutic tool in treating paedophilia. It could even contribute to legitimizing or normalizing, in the eyes of the offender, the fundamental social, moral and legal transgression of having sex with under age children.

However, as a pragmatic observer of society, I believe that CSBs are inevitable due to the recent development of sexbot technology, but also because of existing demand. Thus, I think that a general ethical framework is necessary and should be drawn up, in order to help healthcare providers, lawmakers and judicial systems deal effectively with this technology.

Based on the loosely interpreted tenets of the harm principle, I argue that CSBs could be authorized under strict medical supervision and in accordance with guidelines issued by an ethics committee.

Moreover, I devote an entire section of this paper to exploring the social and moral attitudes towards paedophilia in very recent history. I shed particular light on the strange case of the defence of paedophilia, by several prominent French intellectuals in the 1970’s. How did this type of moral relativism supersede for a time a moral absolute?


Sexbot Therapeutic sexbot Sex offender Paedophilia Alternative therapy Ethics Bioethics Harm principle 



I wish to thank:

My (super) supervisor, Jean-Noël Missa, M.D, PhD, for his wholehearted support, patience and precious advice on writing this paper.

I would also like to thank warmly the following persons who, despite their busy schedules, very kindly and with no preconceptions, took the time to meet with me and answer all of my questions on this very quirky and touchy subject:

The Judge Mr. Luc Hennart, President of the Court of First Instance in Brussels (I thank him for his wit and for one of the most fascinating conversations I have ever had).

Dr. Brigitte Vantournhout, child psychiatrist at the care unit “S.O.S Enfants” of the “Saint-Pierre” University Hospital in Brussels.

Dr. Yves De Pauw, psychiatrist, specialized in the treatment of paedophiles at the “CHUVan Gogh” psychiatric hospital in Charleroi, Belgium.

Dr. Marc-Samuel Goltzberg, psychiatrist and court expert in Brussels, Belgium, who treated numerous paedophiles.

And finally:

The biggest thank you full of love goes to my Yiddishe Mame, who supported me in this endeavor and agreed to read and comment this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.FNRS (Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research)Université Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium

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