Ethics of Out-Species Sexual Relations ("The Harkness Test")

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Ethics of Out-Species Sexual Relations ("The Harkness Test")

Postby Merle » Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:19 pm

Ran across this on Reddit and it got me to thinking:

Image

I personally have to agree with these guidelines - but what do you guys think? Are these, generally speaking, good rules to follow if you were to find yourself in a fictional/sci-fi/fantasy universe?

EDIT: Wow, didn't realize the picture was that darned big. You can just click this link to see it in another window.
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Re: Ethics of Out-Species Sexual Relations ("The Harkness Te

Postby Alex Starkiller » Thu Mar 28, 2013 6:35 pm

I've come across it before and found it acceptable. Assuming, of course, "human intelligence" is somewhere near enough to average, and not some sort of outlier. The pictures are dumb, though. It's possible the first drake is speaking in his native tongue, and we just can't understand it. English, or our native language, is probably not necessary, though obviously it makes it harder to figure out consent if that's not the case. Assuming the first drake is saying the exact same thing with the same amount of intelligence as the second, it's still "OK". Again, assuming you can figure that out legitimately.
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Re: Ethics of Out-Species Sexual Relations ("The Harkness Te

Postby Merle » Thu Mar 28, 2013 11:38 pm

Alex Starkiller wrote:I've come across it before and found it acceptable. Assuming, of course, "human intelligence" is somewhere near enough to average, and not some sort of outlier. The pictures are dumb, though. It's possible the first drake is speaking in his native tongue, and we just can't understand it. English, or our native language, is probably not necessary, though obviously it makes it harder to figure out consent if that's not the case. Assuming the first drake is saying the exact same thing with the same amount of intelligence as the second, it's still "OK". Again, assuming you can figure that out legitimately.


I believe the implication is that barring a common language if some sort, it is nigh impossible to establish intelligence and consent. More practically, it makes it more difficult to ask pertinent questions like 'Your species doesn't eat their mates, do they?" or "What chirality are your species' proteins again?"
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Re: Ethics of Out-Species Sexual Relations ("The Harkness Te

Postby Alex Starkiller » Fri Mar 29, 2013 12:15 am

I'm also assuming that others in the species can communicate with you, and this particular person just hasn't learned your language. That sort of scenario. It exists. In fiction. Like I said, though, still not advocating guesswork...

Guess what? That asterisk at the bottom of the picture is basically saying what I'm saying. Specifically the third sentence. Oops.
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Re: Ethics of Out-Species Sexual Relations ("The Harkness Te

Postby Merle » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:51 am

Alex Starkiller wrote:I'm also assuming that others in the species can communicate with you, and this particular person just hasn't learned your language. That sort of scenario. It exists. In fiction. Like I said, though, still not advocating guesswork...

Guess what? That asterisk at the bottom of the picture is basically saying what I'm saying. Specifically the third sentence. Oops.


No worries, everyone misreads stuff or misses it occasionally :)
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Re: Ethics of Out-Species Sexual Relations ("The Harkness Te

Postby Lorick » Thu Apr 04, 2013 5:08 pm

So is sex with Koko the Ape acceptable, assuming consent? I'm being flexible with "Human Level Intelligence", but I assume they mean a range she would fit into, not based on the average human. After all, just because the average human is smarter than the average alien doesn't mean sex with that species should be outlawed. If you say no to the Koko bit, then what baseline should be used, or do you agree with the average human intelligence clause?
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Re: Ethics of Out-Species Sexual Relations ("The Harkness Te

Postby Merle » Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:34 am

Lorick wrote:So is sex with Koko the Ape acceptable, assuming consent? I'm being flexible with "Human Level Intelligence", but I assume they mean a range she would fit into, not based on the average human. After all, just because the average human is smarter than the average alien doesn't mean sex with that species should be outlawed. If you say no to the Koko bit, then what baseline should be used, or do you agree with the average human intelligence clause?


I'm not certain, but I would tend to err on the side of "not really" - she is intelligent but I don't think she quite fits as "human level".
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Re: Ethics of Out-Species Sexual Relations ("The Harkness Te

Postby snowyowl » Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:12 pm

The Harkness Test is a good start if you live in a soft-sci-fi universe. But it's not perfect: some of the terms used are vague (not even just the question of "≥ Human Intelligence"), and it only defines what is acceptable to human ethics, not alien ones.

A simple example: Suppose that the alien is a sentient AI. Its reproductive process is as simple as "Insert USB stick, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, eject". Even an AI that knows nothing about the world - that is at a stage of life equivalent to a newborn baby - would be "sexually mature" by the most reasonable definition. But that does not mean that it is emotionally mature or capable of fully understanding the consequences of its actions. It passes the Harkness test, but it really shouldn't.

Sex is complicated. Incredibly moreso when you throw aliens into the mix. There's no guarantee that sex is even tangentially related to childbirth, let alone romance or (god forbid) happiness. Just think about how flowering plants reproduce, and imagine a sentient version of that. It's not even guaranteed that the alien is naturally capable of reproduction - maybe they're grown in vats, maybe only the queen lays eggs, or maybe it's a single entity that has existed since the dawn of life, never developing any reproductive capabilities because it never needed them. I know the Harkness Test only serves to narrow the field from "sex is possible and desirable" to "sex is appropriate", but there are still far too many additional variables to consider.

Those for whom the words "thri-keen erotica" mean nothing will want to read the discussion thread on comic #74.

The webcomic Spacetrawler features a scanner for "Sexual compatibility" that gives a rating between 0% and 100%. I like to think that its designer encountered this sort of problem before, and determined to fix it. The closest match in the comic - 94%, between a human and a fahldwian - certainly doesn't seem to be based on physical appearance.
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Re: Ethics of Out-Species Sexual Relations ("The Harkness Te

Postby Merle » Sat Apr 06, 2013 9:24 pm

Hello, new archive binge material!
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Re: Ethics of Out-Species Sexual Relations ("The Harkness Te

Postby abcd_z » Mon Apr 15, 2013 1:21 am

So what about a species with social nuances that humans can't pick up on?
Like some people can't pick up on sarcasm, what if there was a specific sort of modulation that humans were incapable of picking up on? Like some weird pheromone or radio wave or something.
So an alien could say "no" one time and mean it, and say "no" another time and actually mean "let's have some fun".

AND A HUMAN WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE.

I can't even begin to imagine what sort of stereotypes would develop between the two species. They'd probably view our males as rapists, for starters.



Or what about a species that can only reproduce by rape?
They look similar to humans, but for whatever reason their females violently resist any and all attempts at reproduction.

Carrying that hypothetical forward, I would think we would stereotype THEM as rapists, even though such behavior is literally necessary for their species' continued survival.

Hell, we'd probably wind up bombing the fuck out of them if we thought we could get away with it.
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