Sexbots – Revolutionising the Booty Call

Sexbots – different people have different names for the concept. Robot fetishism, technosexuality, the future of masturbation or simply perversion (by those who refuse to get on board), sex robots (sexbots) are robots explicitly designed to bring sexual satisfaction to humans.

While sexbots have been rampant in movies and television (Ex Machina, the Jon-Ritter bot from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, AI), they are not a reality for us until the distant future. And scarily enough, by distant future we mean in the next couple of years.

AI

What does a fully functioning sexbot require? Firstly, it requires sophisticated artificial intelligence technology, to create interactions that resemble inter-human contact. Great strides in AI are being made every single day.  Secondly, it requires the development of synthetic materials that feel and look like flesh and mucosal membranes. Almost half a year ago, Ras Labs, based in Sacramento, created a material that contracts like living muscle tissue under an electric current. The material is called Synthetic Muscle material, and is expected to give robots and Androids a sense of touch.

Futurologist Dr Ian Pearson, says that by 2030, virtual sex via devices such as sexbots will be as prevalent as porn is today, by 2035 the majority of people will own sex toys that work in conjunction with virtual reality sex, and by 2050 sex with robots will have overtaken human on human sex.

The advanced technology required to build a fully functioning sexbot is not far off, and machines for sexual use already exist, covering varying degrees of sophistication and complexity right from inflatable dolls to realistic-looking machines with built-in motion. There exists an entire website,  http://sexybots.com/ (no jokes) simply dedicated to catering to all your sex robot needs. The most  popular machines are sold in Japan and South Korea, where individuals rarely own them because they cost 6-figure prices, but rent-a-doll “escort” services make a profit by renting them out to customers. Sexbots are slowly becoming a reality, whether you like it or not, and it’s time we analysed the societal impact of such machines.

Turn-offs

If, in the privacy of your own home, and harming no other living being, you want to have sex with a robot that looks like a 10-year-old boy, is that wrong? Can it be considered to be the same as child pornography, given that as opposed to the production of child pornography, no real child is harmed here? It’s unclear whether giving paedophiles access to satisfaction of that kind is going to encourage them to move onto real children, or provide a release valve for those desires, keeping them off the streets. Besides ethical concerns, it’s difficult to draw the legal lines on production of sexbots. We’ve already obliterated the concept of consent, but do all sexbots need to appear to be above the age of 16?

Sexbots could also reinforce misogynist trends. The sexbot market is heavily male-dominated, creating machines targeted specifically for male pleasure.  Female bots are significantly more popular than their male bot counterparts, and they often possess traditional qualities desired by misogynists: submissiveness, adhesion to beauty ideals, and desire to please men without any desires of their own. Nobody is going to make a sexbot that has a complex personality, PMSs once a month, and isn’t always in the mood. This might have implications on the expectations of real women in society- by humanising objects, are we going to increasingly objectify humans? Sex with a robot could also seriously begin to damage real relationships.  Robot sex might work against building intimacy between partners, either by replacing the sexual desire they have for each other or by de-motivating humans from meeting a partner in the first place. Goodbye Tinder, these sexbots always swipe right.

Whether sexbots are ethical is a separate issue from whether they will allowed. For countries in the Middle East and US states that ban sex toys altogether, the decision will be obvious. Countries that ban prostitution, like South Korea or the UK, may have to carefully consider whether a robot can be considered a prostitute.

Turn-ons

Once we get over the novelty and creepiness, let’s not forget that there may actually be some advantages that sexbots could bring to society. As a human race, we can agree on three things: Kanye West would make a terrible president,  Jay-Z can never look at lemonade the same way again, and sex is a good thing.  

A greater level of sexual satisfaction contributes to better health. It correlates with weight loss, lower stress levels, healthier hearts and lower blood-pressure, lower rates of prostate cancer for men, and better sleep. People who have more sex quite simply tend to live longer, healthier and happier lives.

Besides the health issues, sexbots could also help promote equality and build confidence. Not only are humans generally under-sexed (ask the closest house wife living near you), sexual satisfaction is unevenly distributed. Usually, it is easier to obtain for those who are attractive, rich, intelligent, famous, on a ‘gap yah’, or those who live in university housing and other areas with concentrations of single young people.

The other end of the spectrum contains the mentally or physically disabled, and those living in male only environments such as the navy or mining camps. Indeed for the disabled, sexbots could also act as a gateway: disabled people could use a sexbot to build confidence and a sense of sexuality. They could also have great success in countries like India and China where selective abortion of the girl child has resulted in skewed gender ratios and a large proportion of men who have no hope of ever finding female partners. Sexbots may also lower the spread of STDs, reduce the number of unplanned births, and reduce cases of rape.

If we’re thinking about banning something right now, let’s focus on banning killer robots like this campaign in Norway.

It could be a lot worse – like the terminator. Heck, at least we’re making love, not war.

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