The next sexual revolution is in robotics

Sexual disorders, such as addiction, erectile dysfunction, trauma, and even pedophilia could be curbed with sex robot therapy. However, could subordinate playthings lead to further objectification of women and acceptance of sexual violence?

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
The next sexual revolution is in robotics - NewsMavens
sex doll. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

women's issues

As technology in the world of sex paints an uncertain future of the bedroom, the burgeoning sex robot industry is raising important ethical, moral and behavioral dilemmas. I had the pleasure of interviewing a range of experts with conflicting ideas on what the future with sex-bots may look like.

There are prospected plus-sides. Sexual disorders and dysfunctions, such as addiction, erectile dysfunction, trauma, and even pedophilia could be curbed with sex robot therapy. Equally, treatment with sex robots could help people suffering from loneliness or a lack of intimacy due to old age or disability.

But there are problems, as is the case with many technological, and sexual, revolutions.

Roboticist Noel Sharkey said that “most experts” think sexual intimacy with robots will actually lead to greater social isolation; “real” sexual relationships could become overwhelming compared to the ease of a relationship with a robot.

Sexualized and subordinate playthings could even lead to further objectification and acceptance of sexual violence, some believe. On top of that, there is no question that “creating a pornographic representation of women’s bodies in a moving sex machine, would objectify and commodify women’s bodies.”

There are already at least seven major players in the manufacturing of sex robots: Z-onedoll, BodAI, Synthea Amatus, Doll Sweet, TrueCompanion, and Realbotix.

Activists and anti-sex robot campaigners are anxious to lock in new laws and regulations before sex robots become the norm, however. Ethicist Dr Kathleen Richardson, founder of the Campaign Against Sex Robots, believes sex robots will cultivate gender inequality and encourage men to think of women as objects. She is one of many campaigners who want robots for sex banned.

But rethinking sex robots to be items that look less like overtly sexual women -- as most sex dolls on the market currently do -- could be the answer.

“What we’re seeing with sex robots is simply an evolution of sex dolls,” Devlin said. “From a design and innovation point of view, that’s pretty rubbish.”

She said the technology is there to play with and there is no need for robots to look human, but the sex robots that are being produced are ultra-real and humanoid. She sees the future of sex robots being best if they looked more like robots, perhaps without skin color or fake hair.

“The vast majority of current sex ‘robots’ are made by men, for men. But if we imagine sex robots as embodied, interactive sex toys, maybe we can change the market?”

Details from the story:

  • A sex robot industry is emerging, which evolves sex dolls to be moving, interactive sex toys.
  • There are already at least seven major players in the manufacturing of sex robots.
  • There are numerous ethical and moral dilemmas associated with the industry. Some activists worry that sex robots could enhance the objectification of women and normalize sexual violence.
  • Sex dolls and robots could treat sexual trauma or act as a form of therapy for people suffering from erectile dysfunction or sex-related social anxiety.
  • Sex robots are already being manufactured for pedophiles, a move which some think can stop the abuse of children. Others think it could encourage rape and abuse.
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