What if the Dollhouse were real? Where would you fall in the debate of is it a good idea. In Japan there is a growing business called Hagemashi Tai. clients can rent someone for a scenario like being best man at a wedding or playing an uncle for a school event. At face value this sounds really cool, what a way to avoid awkward or embarrassing situations at social events, but is it ethical?
Part of me loves the idea of a real Dollhouse. To be able to rent someone for a short period of time to help out with whatever is kind of cool. But then there are the ethical questions we as SF fans must address. Is it Prostitution? When does it become inhumane to rent someone? Where do we draw the line?
Renting Someone: Prostitution?
Renting someone is prostitution if the renting is to have sexual relations with them. The Dollhouse definitely engages in prostitution one could also argue even rape since the dolls do not have the free will to chose whether they want to engage in the act.
Is prostitution unethical? That is a fun debate because there is data that supports prostitution lowering the quality of life for a society mainly through the tertiary criminal acts around it and the spiritual / self-esteem loss from being used and treated as a tool. There is data to support that it raises the quality of life by allowing the "Johns" an outlet that they may not normally have and providing a means for the prostitutes to pay their bills. To me it seems that prostitution could be ethical but there are too many pitfalls that lead most situations to be unethical.
Renting Someone: Ethical?
Renting someone is an uncomfortable concept for me at times. We rent people to collect our trash, wait on our tables, drive us around the city, and for many other tasks. The service industry is all about paying someone money to provide that service and most never even stop to think it wrong or even think that they are renting the person.
Why does the dynamic change slightly when it is renting a maid, or a chief for a weekend party? I would not think twice about renting a maid or a chief but then there is still a clear social delineation amongst my piers that the maid and chief is staff. For others they get uncomfortable renting a maid or chief and it may be just because we use the words rent instead of hiring a maid or chief.
How about upping the ante. Are you comfortable renting someone to give you a massage or to take you shopping and give social interaction while shopping? I always thought it would be cool to be a professional shopper so I never really looked at it as uncomfortable. It is still ethical because all parties are having their quality of life improved.
What if you are a working professional, haven't had time to persue relations with another and have a school reunion coming up. Is it unethical to hire someone to act as a significant other at the reunion so that you can avoid the social awkwardness? On one hand it's lie which is unethical to do but it is a small lie in order to not hurt another's feelings which is a white lie. Society has said it is alright to do.
When does renting another human being become unethical?
The Humanity Factor
To me it would be unethical if renting someone would lower their quality of life or took some of their humanity away. Part of being human is having free will. People should have the freedom to choose. This is where the Dollhouse dances a fine line and I haven't decided which side it falls under.
In the Dollhouse every one of the dolls have the free choice not to go in. Yet the alternative choice is not a good one either. How free is the choice to become a doll knowing that the alternate one is so bad? Is that a coerced choice?
Then once you are a doll you no longer have any free choice. That is a part I definitely take issue with. All dolls are programed with the desired personality to say yes to the scenario that the client paid for. There is no free choice there. A false choice is not a free choice.
With the Hagemashi Tai in Japan the staff have the choice to join, the choice to leave and I hope the choice to turn down assignments so it isn't as bad as the Dollhouse yet. There still exists the possibility of coercion to get staff to sign up but since they have free will to get away that is less likely. There is also the possibility of coersion to encourage the staff to not use their free will in taking assignments with the threat of being fired, I also hope that is not the real case.
Where do we draw the line?
Mainly for me I draw the line with when hiring another violates their free will and / or the scenario perpetuates an unhealthy lie. I think the Dollhouse is a dangerous idea but it is mainly for the removal of the dolls free will to chose and change their minds. Does that mean we abandon the whole thing? Heck no!
There is still value in providing that kind of service and I'm very intrigued by the Hagemashi Tai. I can only hope that they have a strict ethical guideline to keep them from going wrong.