Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 25–34 | Cite as

Pornography, ethics, and video games

Original Paper


In a recent and provocative essay, Christopher Bartel attempts to resolve the gamer’s dilemma. The dilemma, formulated by Morgan Luck, goes as follows: there is no principled distinction between virtual murder and virtual pedophilia. So, we’ll have to give up either our intuition that virtual murder is morally permissible—seemingly leaving us over-moralizing our gameplay—or our intuition that acts of virtual pedophilia are morally troubling—seemingly leaving us under-moralizing our game play. Bartel’s attempted resolution relies on establishing the following three theses: (1) virtual pedophilia is child pornography, (2) the consumption of child pornography is morally wrong, and (3) virtual murder is not murder. Relying on Michael Rea’s definition of pornography, I argue that we should reject thesis one, but since Bartel’s moral argument in thesis two does not actually rely thesis one that his resolution is not thereby undermined. Still, even if we grant that there are adequate resources internal to Bartel’s account to technically resolve the gamer’s dilemma his reasoning is still unsatisfying. This is so because Bartel follows Neil Levy in arguing that virtual pedophilia is wrong because it harms women. While I grant Levy’s account, I argue that this is the wrong kind of reason to resolve the gamer’s dilemma because it is indirect. What we want is to know what is wrong with virtual child pornography itself. Finally, I suggest alternate moral resources for resolving the gamer’s dilemma that are direct in a way that Bartel’s resources are not.


Pornography Video games Ethics Gamer’s dilemma 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Religion and PhilosophyOtterbein UniversityWestervilleUSA

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