The Navy and Kinect: “Stopping Sexual Assault”

Xbox One Kinect

The Kinect will make sure you’re not a sexual abuser.

The Kinect never ceases to be a great source of unintentionally hilarious entertainment, and that’s not even considering actually playing the thing, necessarily.

Though in this case it has less to do with the Kinect itself, and more to do with a management and higher brass that seems hopelessly out of touch. Kotaku sheds some light on the idea of the U.S. Navy using Kinect software as a proxy for sexual harassment/assault training and deterrence:

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“Sailors are going to learn how to read another person’s verbal cues and body language with a Kinect training game meant to curb a sexual [harassment]/assault issue that has become increasingly embarrassing to the armed services.

Like all great things in the military, this game has a very literal and no-fun title: ‘Avatar Based Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Training.'”

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Before continuing, watch the video from the original Gamespot article.

It is especially noteworthy that they included Mr. Lewis’ account, and his noting of the “gender neutral” viewing of the issue is also in good measure. Due to the emotionally charged nature of the discussion, many people tend to try and overlook the fact that victims exist on both sides of the gender spectrum.

Of course, sexual assault and harassment are serious problems. No normal, healthy minded individual is going to deny this, and that’s the problem with this whole idea.

Namely that no normal person, under most circumstances, is even going to consider taking part of sexual assault of any kind.

The few people that do have this unhealthy predisposition are not going to be stopped by a toy and its $83,000 software:

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“The Naval Supply Systems Command is giving $83,000 to developer Organic Motion Inc. to produce the software, which will allow sailors to act out ‘scripted scenarios.’

The program is called ‘Avatar Based Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Training.’ Sexual assault in the military has become a hot-button issue of late, with victims reporting difficulty pursuing justice in the military chain of command.

‘The system shall allow a subject matter expert to determine the appropriate response to both verbal and non-verbal cues so that the student receives improved feedback regarding their actions,’ the contract reads. ‘It shall also provide the ability to change characters (gender, race) and environments facilitating greater student engagement.'”

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The question is,who exactly is the “subject matter expert” and what exactly constitutes the criteria for “determin[ing] the appropriate response to both verbal and non-verbal cues[? …]” This seems like a slippery slope, diving into the vague territory surrounding the question of “what exactly constitutes sexual assault?” If things as simple as “hanging around a person,” “staring at someone,” or “[non-verbally] staring at someone” can be considered sexual assault, then what about this software? Is it going to be able to pick up on all of the little nuances and impossibly quantifiable gestures and movements that constitute everyday socializing, and separate the “good” social behavior from the “bad,” whatever that really is? As previously stated, aside from the most obvious and blatant forms of sexual harassment, what will this device be doing that isn’t already being done or should be done?

Considering my own experience in the military (being born overseas to Navy parents, and then myself previously enlisted in the Army’s Infantry program), most (though not all) of the people that enlist are either too young to know any better, old enough to be desperate, or both. Right out of the gate, it isn’t exactly “quality patriots” as far as the eye can see.

Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots

I can’t say the word patriot anymore without thinking about these games.

Unfortunately, the problem is only compounded by the fact that topics such as these are often brimming with an emotionally charged lexicon; words such as “oppression,” “sexism,” “women,” or even “objectification.” With discussions such as these, most will have an instantly knee-jerk reaction to any viewpoint or opinion that isn’t merely adding to the echo chamber of agreement and self-assurance. This is where the loudest and most emotional tend to dominant. It does, however, at least attract attention and spark discussion if nothing else.


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