Everyone wants to fuck a robot. Our mechanical lovers have been all over our pop culture for years, as if our longing has conjured the tech: Battlestar Galactica, Blade Runner, and Star Trek, when Data and Tasha Yar had that thing. The sexbot is happening and, at least in our quiet, private moments, we’re pretty much all on board.
It triggers that salivating twinge: some object that can be all-satisfying, all-consuming, that we can get right up next to and do what we want with, but won’t judge us even just a little. A sexbot, custom designed and programmed to our own perverse specifications. A tool of masturbation unlike any other. More a companion, a cyborg lover, than a vibrator or Fleshlight, and wanted by men and women alike.
Who really needs relationships anyway? They’re a pain in the ass. Partners are difficult. They want us to be our best selves, to quit drinking, to stop leaving dirty socks in the bathroom. Partners have feelings, emotional realities, flatulence, bad breath, opinions, debts, wants, needs and desires than can clash with our own. Partners want things from us even when we just want them to shut up and get cozy. But the worst thing about partners, the worst part about romance, is the potential for rejection.
A sexbot that caters to your every kink won’t reject you. The 4th International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots just finished in Belgium, and there are so many new and varied models of sexbots, all dying to be turned on by you so they can turn you on. If you’ve got a fat roll of bills and a hankering for the perfect submissive, a sexbot will be on all fours very soon. If you can’t wait and don’t mind the smell of bleach, you can always hit the sex doll brothels. While AI isn’t yet standard, it’s well on the way.
Sex therapist Marianne Brandon believes that sexbots should be prescribed for those with sexual dysfunction. She thinks insurance companies should pick up the tab, so that folks with sexual dysfunction in the realm of flesh can pick up a habit for sex tech. But sexbots, like porn and shoot-’em-up computer games, are products of male fantasy, shaped, sized and ribbed for mens’ pleasure. And wasn’t it sex tech, and the porn-addict’s affliction known as ‘Death Grip’, that has caused an increased in male sexual dysfunction in the first place?
For anyone whose attention isn’t already raddled by digital masturbation, this spells doom for human life as we know it. Given the option between a difficult, demanding, independent and hence unreliable human, or a bot configured for pure pleasure, what would any denizen of the tech realm choose? We do not like personal conflict. We prefer Twitter spats to intimate squabbles. We like to turn tail, and run instead of working stuff out. We block, deflect and ghost, then stress. None of this would have to happen if we all got off with sexbots, and not real people.
If all we really needed from sexbots was a cure for sexual dysfunction, we’d ditch the unrealistic fantasy and get with something more down to earth. Prescription sexbots should not be modeled on male desire and the illusion of fulfillment. Sexbots that come with co-pays should prepare a person for a real life relationship, and all the risks that come with it.
Instead of a sexbot who is into all your kinks and moans at your slightest touch, add a mode where if she’s not satisfied she rolls her eyes and asks, ‘Do you mind if I finish myself off?’ — and then does it, maybe with her vibrator accessory, while the man reflects on his shortcomings. Instead of a doting male sexbot that stays hard all night, make one that complains he’s got to be up early, and can’t cater to your whims for hours at a stretch — and then comes too early because he’s stressed about work.
Another idea would be to forgo the AI component altogether, and open the sexbot industry on both sides. Not just to an interface where the body is used for sex by a consumer, but an interface in the brain side, where the body is used for sex by someone who can’t use their body for that purpose. Disabled people are often considered neutered and chaste, but of course they are not. Everyone is a sexual being, no matter what their physical limitations.
Japanese robotics company Ory Laboratory has created OriHime, a robot that acts as a real-world avatar interface for disabled persons who can’t undertake the same experiences that robots can. ‘Why should humans have only one body? Kentaro Yoshifuji of Ory told the BBC. ‘We have two eyes and two hands. If one isn’t working, then we can still use the other one. But we only have one body. To be honest with you, I’m not so into AI development. Humans should be number one and robots should be in the assistant position.’
Sexbots will not be the end of civilization if their development is towards bots whose minds are controlled by folks who want sex but don’t have the bodies for it, or want to date but can’t get out the house, or if the AI is configured to be like real humans than fantasy, virtual-reality components. Human relationships aren’t easy, but the best things in life never are. Projecting your emotional life onto a robot, a machine that cannot hold or reciprocate it, will not ease the void of loneliness, but increase it.