Mimesis Law
21 October 2017

The Legal Antidote To Virtual Sexual Assault

October 28, 2016 (Fault Lines) — “Groping,” defined loosely as “an act or instance of sexually fondling another person,” has the American public’s attention like never before thanks to off color remarks from a presidential candidate during an election season best described as a carnival sideshow. It is a form of sexual assault. Tennessee refers to it as “sexual battery” and New York calls it “forcible touching.” The problem with all these laws is they only address physical conduct in real life, and totally ignore virtual reality sexual assault (VRSA). Jordan Belamire, a recent VRSA survivor, is a case study in why these offenses must be criminalized immediately.

In case you might be triggered by a thorough discussion of the events Belamire endured, here’s a brief synopsis. Jordan and her husband went to visit a relative. During the visit, she had a chance to try out a game of “QuiVr” on her brother-in-law’s HTC Vive console. During a multiplayer game, someone with the handle “BigBro442” identified her as female due to her voice, and used a virtual hand to repeatedly touch Belamire’s virtual reality avatar without her consent. Despite this being a virtual world, and no actual physical contact occurred, Jordan “felt” violated by this video game’s “sexual assault.”

There I was, being virtually groped in a snowy fortress with my brother-in-law and husband watching….Of course, you’re not physically being touched…but it’s still scary as hell.

Put aside the fact that Jordan Belamire’s brother-in-law and husband should be in jail right now for idly standing by during her virtual sexual assault by a digital predator. This is outrageous conduct, right up there with real life rape. CNN Money, a credible bastion of legal information, is happy to explain why VRSA is a problem only the courts can solve.

No, sexual assault in the virtual world isn’t the same as in real life — but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an effect…”The men that make these games genuinely don’t seem to understand that it’s sexual assault,” game developer Brianna Wu told CNNMoney.

If it’s sexual assault, then there’s no need to design workarounds preventing players from a virtual groping. The necessary and ethical response is to design a virtual system of investigation, trial, and punishment of VRSA. Here is the proper, legal method of working through allegations of VRSA.

First, when a player allegedly experiences VRSA, he or she can make a hand gesture summoning a digital Catherine Lhamon. The player will then identify the alleged VRSA perpetrator, and describe the offense in enough detail to trigger an in-game Title IX investigation. If the game’s algorithm determines the accused to be a VRSA offender, he or she will be transported to a virtual courtroom, where they must defend themselves against the accusations by a preponderance of the evidence standard. An in-game conviction results in a real life felony on the player’s record, with mandatory registration on the VRSA sex offender registry.

The law is simply too slow to catch up with technology’s rapid development. While words mean things in a real life court of law, game developers like Briana Wu serve as a “voice of conscience” to those of us in the trenches. We can only defer to her judgment that such actions are deeply hurtful and require legal intervention, and respond accordingly with real world protocols for virtual infractions. It’s the only moral choice.

8 Comments on this post.

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  • DaveL
    28 October 2016 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Now, of course, the next logical step is to figure out who goes to jail for an AI’s virtual murder of a human player’s avatar in everything from Skyrim to Donkey Kong.

  • CLS
    28 October 2016 at 1:45 pm - Reply

    Outstanding idea. I nominate Jack Thompson to find a solution, since he thinks such games are “murder simulators.”

  • Terrence Koeman
    29 October 2016 at 2:35 am - Reply

    Brianna Wu is completely crazy and delusional. She’ll lie about anything to get attention, and her railing against “virtual sexual assault” is especially funny, considering as her (only and failed) game’s visuals are 1:1 taken from a rape comic he (when she was still a man) drew.

    It’s definitely wrong for CNN to enable a known mentally ill person in this way, both towards Wu (whose delusion gets fueled) and their viewers (who are getting her delusions as if it were information).

    There’s no debate about this, except between a handful of mentally ill people. I’d say you (and CNN) got borderline trolled 😉

    • Leroy
      31 October 2016 at 11:46 am - Reply

      Terrence, Revolution 60 is the only game from her studio. It is clearly not Pornographic or Rape. Do you have a reputable citation that it is based on Art Assets from a Rape Comic? Because your allegations sound like typical GamersGate/Puppies Trolling.

      Also, the Game is certainly not a failure by most reasonable standards. It received good ratings, and has made enough profit to keep the studio afloat and working on a sequel.

      • Terrence Koeman
        2 November 2016 at 5:28 pm - Reply

        Here’s the front cover of the magazine:

        https://s16.postimg.org/43y0sl7et/IMG_0569.jpg

        (You find the rest yourself if you have the stomach)

        Just because you haven’t heard of it doesn’t make it trolling. Why would GG trolls read memisislaw anyway?

      • Terrence Koeman
        2 November 2016 at 5:33 pm - Reply
    • CLS
      2 November 2016 at 6:05 pm - Reply

      This reply is to Terrence and Leroy both.
      This post is one of my weekly satirical/joke posts to leave readers with some laughter after a week of tribulations.
      This is not your personal forum to discuss GamerGate, Brianna Wu, or anything associated with the two.
      If you have something else to add, make it funny. Because right now I’m not laughing.

  • Virtually Horrifying | Simple Justice
    29 October 2016 at 6:57 am - Reply

    […] a stab at trying to find the right image to go along with Chris Seaton’s post at Fault Lines, The Legal Antidote to Virtual Sexual Assault, and ran head-long into Rule 34. I was fascinated and repulsed at the same time. Two thoughts ran […]