The age of sex robots has arrived. For a few thousand dollars, you can get your hands on a hyper-realistic, all-customizable, artificially intelligent, dishwasher-safe sexbot designed to satisfy your every desire.
But is this growing trend a positive application of science, the inevitable evolution of the blow-up sex doll, or a dark corruption of technology?
An editorial in BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health has taken a look at the health implications and social effects of the up-and-coming sex robot industry. All in all, it sounds pretty dystopian.
The authors argue that there is no evidence to suggest that robots can provide healthy outlets for users and any potential social benefits have been grossly oversold. They also believe that sex robots won’t make life more safe for vulnerable people, in fact, there is the potential they will make it more dangerous.
Optimistic advocates of sex robots claim they could help create a safer world free from sex trafficking and the exploitative aspects of the sex trade. The report pictures a hypothetical future with red-light districts filled with “robotic prostitutes made of bacteria-resistant fibre, flushed for human fluids after use.” Some claim this vision could lower the risk of violence and dampen the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
Not so, argues the new report. When it comes to data showing that sexbots could help make the sex trade safer, there is simply none.
“There are worries about blurred boundaries to consent and permission for enacted violence when sexbot ‘personalities’ can be selected that simulate non-consensual sex – that is, rape,” the researchers write.
Some even go as far as to argue they could be a “safe outlet” for pedophiles and sex offenders. A few companies offer customers a customizable child-like sexbot, designed to help individuals "redirect dark desires". The laws are hazy, but in the UK and the US it is not technically illegal to have these kinds of robots.
Many sexbot users can distinguish reality from fantasy, however, the report says that these products could easily blur the lines between right and wrong, fact and fiction. The report cites arguments that claim the devices could normalize sexual deviancy, escalate desires, further add to the objectification of women (or children), and even promote the control of vulnerable people.
Once again, there's a complete lack of evidence to suggest that child-like sex robots should be used as a “treatment” or “safe outlet” for pedophilia or any form of sexual act considered deviant. Likewise, the authors believe that researchers should avoid using the robots in any scientific, sociological, or criminological studies, at least until more evidence presents itself.
This is just one side of the debate. As the report itself contends, there is very little data or evidence on the issue yet, with much more research needed before any conclusions are reached. For the other side of the argument, check out the article: "In Defence Of Sex Machines: Why Trying To Ban Sex Robots Is Wrong."