What do females want in a cyborg lover?
According to IEET readers, what were the most stimulating stories of 2011? This month we’re answering that question by posting a countdown of the top 12 articles that we published this year, based on how many total hits each one received.
The following piece was first published here on August 3, 2011, and is the 6th most viewed of the year.
Androids that provide erotic pleasure to humans, aka ‘Sexbots’, are destined to end up in our beds in the future. I explored this concept a couple of years ago in my H+ magazine article, “Sexbots Will Give Us Longevity Orgasms.”
Typically, such sexbots are regarded as machines designed for men. But don’t women also desire cyborg stimulation? When will their plastic paramours arrive? What will they look for in a mechanized lover? How will female lust for robotic romance impact relationships and society?
To investigate the XX attitude toward sexbots, I interviewed two women: IEET Program Director Kristi Scott, who wrote, “Andy Droid: Your Sex Doll Has Arrived,” and Dominique Mainon, author, screenwriter, and avid transhumanist. Ms. Mainon’s books include The Modern Amazons: Warrior Women On-Screen, Cinema of Obsession: Erotic Fixation and Love Gone Wrong in the Movies, and Femme Fatale: Cinema’s Most Unforgettable Lethal Ladies. She is currently completing Rise of the Machines: Androids, Robots and Cyborgs Invade Cinema.
Hank: What percentage of sales of sexbots will be for men, in your opinion, and what percentage will be for women?
Kristi: Just a guess off the top of my head would be 90% men, 10% women.
Dominique: Sexbots already have a large following of fetishists and “plastic lovers.” Most surveys agree that fetishists are most often male (from 80% to 95%), and fetishes and paraphilias are often rooted in separations from the mother and a resulting attachment to transitional objects. The percentage of females with fetishes is relatively small. Since the desire for transitional objects could possibly be fulfilled by sexbots, I’d guess that 90% of sales will [at first] be to men, but as time progresses and sexbots become far more advanced, the women’s percentage will increase.
Hank: Why would women want sexbots?
Kristi: When I was doing research for my article, I asked several female friends if they would be interested in a sexbot, and their first response was “Yes!”, but in reality… they wanted a companion.
Dominique: I think women may be interested in sexbots for therapeutic reasons, rather than just sexual. Qualities such as security and safety can be an erotic stimulant for women. I feel hesitant to also voice the cliché about women being nurturers by nature, but I do think there is often a latent tendency to care for things, from dolls and stuffed animals to men. I’ve read many interviews of women who employ male escorts, and they state that they enjoy being treated in a chivalrous manner for a change, being spoiled, and just having an all-around good time, rather than just the sexual act alone.
Hank: Do you think men will regard sexbots for women as a sexual threat?
Kristi: They could. Think of the scene in A.I. Artificial Intelligence where the man shoots his female partner because she is a regular customer of Gigolo Joe’s. If real pleasure is brought by someone or thing that looks like you and is better than you are, that is threatening. I think it is possible that both sexes could see sexbots as a sexual threat.
Dominique: Some men are threatened by women who simply use vibrators. Due to the unique issues men face with sexual performance and erectile dysfunction, I can imagine sexbots for women might cause anxiety for some men. Also, sex toys in general are not addictive, but a sex addict may overuse sex toys, pornography, etc, to the point of alienating their partners and damaging themselves. When pathological behaviors come into play, then sexbots may be threatening. But with a healthy self-esteem, sexbots might become a healthy outlet to experiment with for singles or couples.
[In general] I don’t think that sexbots will be any significant threat to men, at least not until they are very highly developed in intelligence. I envision women enjoying a sexbot more as a type of companion, pet, or luxury therapeutic service like a spa treatment.
Hank: Do you think sexbots will be opposed by society, perhaps being made illegal in many nations?
Kristi: Society will take some time to get used to the idea. The TLC show My Strange Addiction with the sexbot relationship is a very interesting first step to bringing sexbots to the consciousness of the mainstream. The guy on the show said he has gotten a lot of support over being in the media with his sexbot partner. Shows like that open up a dialog to work through what society’s fears are. Another good introduction was in the movie Lars and the Real Girl, a great narrative about how the idea of a sexbot might go over in a small town. The culture already exists; it is just a matter of society getting used to it. Illegal? In the U.S., it will depend on how open-minded we are and if it becomes a hot-button moral issue.
Dominique: I think sexbots will be embraced by society for the most part because they will become so ubiquitous that few will view it as any sudden intrusion into their bedrooms. Advanced sexbots could cut down on a country’s rate of STDs and HIV, as well as prostitution. There is also another valid use that sexbots could have, which follows the origins of modern day vibrators—that is, for medical therapy. A very interesting book titled The Technology of Orgasm outlines the rise of the vibrator in the late 19th century as a cure administered by doctors for female hysteria. Although “hysteria” is no longer an issue, today we have machines like the Sybian™, a saddle-like device with interchangeable attachments, which is so ideally constructed for achieving female orgasm that it has been of great help to women who are disabled, suffering from muscular diseases, and stress.
Hank: Do you think sexbots will impact dating, and marriage?How?
Kristi: Yes, for good and bad reasons. It could help those who are insecure with their sexual performance be able to perfect and improve on it. It could also help people who are unsure of what they want in a sexual relationship to discover what makes them happy. Both of these scenarios could enable a person to discover who they are sexually and allow them to relax with the person they are dating or married to. It could also allow them to play out scenarios that excite them, but that their partner is not willing to participate in. It’s a slippery discretionary slope, however, and ultimately could prove problematic for a relationship.
Dominique: In 2008 a Japanese man married the love of his life, Nene Anegaski, in front of a live audience and webcast. Nene is a character in the Nintendo DS game, Love Plus. Though many people laugh at the idea, the groom claimed that his feelings for NeNe were “real” even if she wasn’t. This is but one example of 2D love that has manifested in Japan over the last fifteen years or so. There is good reason to think that 3D love will become common, as long as people believe their “feelings are real.” Again I believe it comes down to fetishism.
Hank: Will sexbots will replace prostitutes? Is that ethically desirable or not?
Dominique: There are great benefits in having sexbots replace prostitutes from a health standpoint. But in some countries this would upset the economy and displace vast amounts of sex workers, women who are dependent on prostitution to feed their families.
[Also] there may be offshoot businesses that manufacture ethically-questionable sexbots. For example, what if a pedophile orders a child sexbot? Is this a good thing, to allow the pedophile to act out his fantasies in a “safe” method that doesn’t harm any real children? Or does this simply titillate the person and feed the illegal desire so as to make the person even more likely to violate a child?
Hank: Would you ever want a sexbot yourself?
Kristi: Ha-ha, no, I think I am good at this point in my life. My organic-husband model has worked just fine for eleven years. There is a magnet on my fridge with a man washing dishes that says, “I know what women want!” Personally, I fall in that camp, so a sexbot does not really appeal to me, but I can see the other side. I think if you offered to women not just a robot that is willing to do everything for you sexually at your beck and call, but a robot that stays home, looks stunning, does all your housework with a smile, AND is ready for your sexual needs at a moment’s notice…then maybe.
Dominique: Absolutely. But it will be a long time before one could be made that would appeal to me. I am a bit of a pheromone addict, and the other elements that stimulate me tend to be more cerebral. So I would probably want something closer to a cyborg—a mostly organic body with an AI “brain” that could be self-learning, building connections like a child’s brain, and developing advanced algorithms to constantly perfect its responses to me. I would also like to guide it with my mind at times. The latest prosthetic limbs in development are now brain-controlled, sending signals to artificial muscles to make the desired movement. I want that, but utilizing its entire body.
Another caveat is that my body has become paralyzed this year (due to cancer), and I have no sensation below my chest. My days of standard sexual intercourse are over, and most other alternate activities won’t do the trick either. Yet oddly, I still have desire. For people like me who are disabled, sexbots may end up being one of the only ways we can find pleasure, with some sort of a mental orgasm. Although by the time sexbots are developed to that advanced state, paraplegia will also be curable.
Hank: Do you think your lover would like it if you had a sexbot?
Kristi: No, I don’t think so. Wait, I’ll ask him… nope.
Dominique: If it was his idea, yes.
Hank: Would you like it if your lover bought a sexbot?
Kristi: No, but neither my partner’s preferences on sexbots or mine should be a gauge for others. Everyone’s relationships and personal desires are different.
Dominique: I fear sexbots might make men lazy. There is no need to satisfy a sexbot. It is a very one-way relationship. As it is, I think most pornography already breeds bad habits in men who think a woman will scream and moan like a porn star just because they are thrusting away like a jackhammer. Few women are able to orgasm without some type of clitoral stimulation, but you wouldn’t know that from watching the fake orgasms in most porn movies. With a sexbot, there is chance that the one-way relationship will not improve a man’s skills in that area, and perhaps would make him insensitive to boot. Maybe someone should develop “teaching sexbots” that help men perfect their knowledge of female anatomy.
Hank: Would you like a sexbot that also did chores around the house?
Kristi: Ha! In some fantasy, sure, but, like I said, I’m good with the organic model.
Dominique: Sure, why not?
Hank: Do you think it is ethically desirable for people to fall in love with sexbots, and marry them?
Dominique: Well, it makes one ponder what love really is. You could break it down to just a chemical reaction, and if that same chemical reaction occurs with non-biological humans, who is to say it’s not valid? Must love be reciprocated?
However, sexbots cannot give true consent if programmed without any “self-will.” Personally, I would prefer any companion to have some form of self-will. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want it to do whatever I want to please me. But I’d find it hollow without some level of choice on the part of the machine. I think it is more ethically desirable to marry a synthetic life form if it can truly say “I do” based on a compiled set of experiences that lead it to that decision.
Hank: Will sexbots destroy sex between humans? Or will they improve relations between genders?
Dominique: I don’t think anything will ever destroy sex between humans.
Sexbots could help certain people stay monogamous if couples are comfortable with them. For instance, one female user of the Sybian says her husband bought it for her before going overseas on military deployment. He wanted her to have an outlet for sexual release while he was gone, and no doubt probably felt it might keep her chaste when other men come calling. A sexbot could also assist disabled couples.
Hank: Which nations do you think will develop and accept sexbots first?
Kristi: Japan and the US…although I think there is a model made by a European company.
Dominique: Japan, Germany, and Europe in general. In 1951, Germany already was selling its patented Gymnastikapparat (a device for men), and a device that later would become the modern day vibrator was already in use in Europe in the late 1800s. First Androids™, a German company, currently produces a doll that appears to breathe, has a pulse, and distributes body heat. The doll even has a g-spot that responds to orgasm. The Japanese company Honey Dolls™ promises the “ultimate love doll,” incorporating relatively advanced oral sex skills (for males) and pressure sensors in the breasts that trigger a voice response when squeezed. Of course, these are all mainly intended for men. I fear Americans may not be as open minded about sexbots as Europeans, especially in the Bible Belt. Religion will be the greatest obstacle.
Hank: If you had a sexbot, would you want it to be intelligent, or not?
Kristi: I think this is a huge discussion to have with multiple layers and variables to take into consideration.
Hank: Are there sexual failings of men that a sexbot would not have?
Kristi: None in particular in comparison to the sexual failings of women.
Dominique: Sure, a sexbot won’t glance at its watch and run off right after the deed is done.
Hank: Would you name your sexbot, and would you take it out in public?
Kristi: Yes, I would name it, and no, I wouldn’t take it out in public.
Dominique: Yes, I would do both, especially if social interaction with others would help develop its intelligence. I would desire it to develop its own personality.
The author wishes to thank Kristi Scott for her assistance in conceiving of and developing this article.