Monday, March 09, 2009

Are Rape Simulators and Rape Substitutes or Complements?

Now there's a title I never thought I would type. 

Apparently there is a Japanese "rape simulator" game that some are trying to stop from entering the U.S. At the moment no stores want to carry it, but it can be illegally pirated online. Would it be bigoted of me to say that Japanese culture is frequently strange and disturbing? Apparently the game is just part of a genre of similar games. 

Two questions come up. The first question, and the less interesting one, in my opinion, is "Does the First Amendment protect this?" I think the answer should be "yes". Whether the answer actually is "yes" is beyond my knowledge of pornography law. 

The more interesting question is "Should we want to allow this on utilitarian grounds?" I think the First Amendment should be used to protect unpopular speech, because it is the speech most in danger of being suppressed by the government, and because governments cannot be trusted to wisely get rid of dangerous speech. Not all speech is valuable; some of it is trash. If we had a benevolent bureaucrat god, he or she could presumably eliminate speech that does more harm than good. Would this game fit that description?

It's possible that it might. If simulated video game rape encourages rapists to go out and commit more rapes--that is, if rape simulators and rape are complements--then the rape simulator is probably, on net, harmful. On the other hand, what if some would-be rapists stay inside and play rape simulators instead? That is, what if rape simulators and rape are substitutes? Then we might, in the interests of womens' health and safety, and reduced use of the legal system, want to allow rape simulators. There is some evidence that pornography and rape may be substitutes. The same could be true of rape simulators and rape. 
So who wants to go out and join me in a protest in support of rape simulators? Anyone?