Putting the "Joy" back in joystick

A New Target: The Inevitable Ban on Sex Bots May Be Near

The future is here, and we’ve always been quite wrong about it what it would hold; Sci-Fi writers imagined grim dystopian worlds, hover technology by 2015, or deep space travel and fully sentient machines by 2001. While HAL 9000 isn’t quite a reality yet, we are making strides in the robotics sector.

Scientists, engineers and hobbyists have been building ever-improving robots for some time, and every year we move one step closer to a machine that beats the Turing Test. That test, for those of you who don’t know, is derived from the arguable hero of World War II – Alan Turing. Turing created the Turing Machine, a machine used to crack the Enigma Code that allowed the Allies to intercept, and most importantly transcode, German communications. Turing’s machine was so successful that the test was named in his honour, quite posthumously and quite a bit too late. Turing, the grandfather of computing, would die in 1954 by suicide after being convicted – for homosexuality.

We now move to present day, where Turing’s work has set us on a mechanical path to the future. Today, we can build intelligent robots; robots that can assess their surroundings, climb stairs, and even run. It should be of no surprise, since we’ve covered this topic in previous articles , that sex robots are coming, and in some cases are already here. People have talked about this possibility for some time: the golden age of the virtual waifu. That age is certainly on the horizon, with VR technology moving at a rapid pace towards the consumer market. The age of fully capable sex bots is probably a little further off, but that doesn’t stop people imagining what it would be like to own one. People already own Real Dolls, the ultra-lifelike dolls that function similarly to the blow up doll you got given as a gag gift, but with a thousand times the realism. Unfortunately, every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction, and now these robo-partners are coming under fire.

“Such a use of the technology is unnecessary and undesirable,” said Dr. Kathleen Richardson, a robot ethicist at De Montfort University in Leicester. Of course in reality, sex bots would absolutely be desirable, with people already attempting to create them and people willing to buy them. There is a market for everything and anything, as the Real Dolls can prove despite not even being robotic. Others working in the field would disagree with Dr. Richardson, stating that there is, in fact, a need and desire for them. “Sex robots are a growing focus in the robotics industry,” says Dr. Richardson, “how they look, what roles they play – are very disturbing indeed,” she concluded. Dr. Richardson believes that such robots would reinforce gender roles, stereotypes, objectify women, and so on, ignoring any possibility of male robots. She also feels that this would give the impression that relationships are entirely physical in nature, and sends the wrong message. Of course, most people will understand a sex robot is not a real relationship and merely an expensive sex toy ($7000!), but the campaign maintains this is the case.

Male masturbation toys have come under scrutiny in the past, with the Fleshlight being a good example. While dildos for women are seen as a beacon of independence and discovering sexuality, Fleshlights are often synonymous with virgins, men who aren’t really men. The argument has been made before that the “the disembodied female body part exists only for pleasure”, that since “the porn industry already caters to men,” there’s no need for these toys. Of course, the same thing can be said for a dildo, but in the world of double standards, this isn’t a credible counter argument. True Companions, the creator of Roxxxy, the first sex doll to hit the market, said that “we’re not supplanting the wife or trying to replace a girlfriend.” They added that “people can find happiness and fulfilment other than via human interaction.” This is true of most if not all sex toys; they are used for personal enjoyment or even incorporated into a relationship, but never do they replace the boy or girlfriend outright. If they were to replace the real thing, then that would generally suggest the relationship probably wasn’t that good anyway.

Dr. Kevin Curran, a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers said “We would be naïve to ignore market forces for intimate robots.” This goes quite against Dr. Richardson’s claims that we discussed earlier, and asserts that there is indeed a market, as expected. He continued on, however, by stating that he felt public backlash would follow. “There have been campaign groups actively voicing opposition to killer robots, but I forsee a time when humans are lobbying against robot companions.” Adding to Dr. Curran’s assumptions, David Levy, an author on the topic, believes that there’s likely to be high demand for these sex bots. “There are an increasing number of people who find it difficult to form relationships, and this will fill a void.” He added that he felt “it is not demeaning to women any more than vibrators are demeaning.” Unfortunately, nobody has told Mr. Levy that it absolutely is demeaning because someone said so, which is about all it takes in 2015.

So it was foretold, so it has become. Most things sexy are no longer safe from backlash; the age of free sexual expression is nearing its end. The fight was hard won by our ancestors, who did away with skirt length rules, the shaming of sexuality, and the separate beds. In a modern society such as ours, you would still expect us to uphold those ideals, but as a new wave of neo-puritanism draws closer, we’re finding it harder to do so. The women who fought for their rights to do as they please are no longer relevant, but the women who fight to take away that choice from women have centre stage. That choice has been taken away from men too, unable to indulge in any activities for the fear of backlash from people they will never meet. The argument remains that male sexuality negatively impacts women; that men see us only as objects to satisfy themselves. The story goes that we need to make men understand that it’s not all about the physical, but how can that happen when those same people use “virgin” as an insult?

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