Terminator 2 was my sexual awakening. The sleek, mercurial body and indomitable will of the T-1000 is pinnacle sexy. Think of all the potential, girth expanding tentacles. Coupled with my obsessive love of Her Holiness, the Xenomorph Queen, I think it would be safe to say I’m very interested in human-nonhuman relationships. Or at least nonhuman-human sex. Relationships might be a stretch. But here we are in glorious 2018. A new sexual revolution is coming and it has silicon fun parts and a basic operating system.
Let’s divorce the conversation from science fiction as much as possible. These are not the sex-bots from Blade Runner or any other science fiction universe. Thank God. The horrors that we create will have real world implications, a real god-damn dystopian fuck-bot. There are true ethical questions which must be asked here and they have mostly gone unspoken because, quite simply, no one thinks ethics are sexy. But most people are wrong. Robo-sex ethics are undoubtedly thicc.
When I first heard that virtual reality proxies were being developed for pornography, I practically died of joy. It is no secret that I am obsessed with sex and sexual culture. But if you think “virtual reality sex” and only go so far as porn, you have very little imagination. Many people use sexual peripherals to explore sexy aspects of themselves or foster more intimacy in their relationships. For some, masturbating with an energy infused crystal dildo is comparable to a spiritual experience. Can you imagine how a peripheral such as VR could help with long distance relationships? Or let’s get holistic in this fucker. As someone who has experienced a healthy dose of sexual trauma, I still have all of the PTSD hiccups that come along with physical intimacy. There are people who are practically debilitated by past trauma but still crave intimacy. VR and sex robots could be a vital aspect of sex therapy, giving folk a safe, virtual space where they could work through their trauma without all of the uncomfortable, and often times damaging, human interactions. I imagine a world where people use these technological innovations to create a better standard of living for those who have undergone trauma, where technology fosters tighter bonds of intimacy to withstand the issues of our fractured, capital driven society, I imagine a place where I can finally live out my fantasy of being fucked by a tentacle alien who is going to lay brain eating eggs in my mouth. But those examples probably won’t happen. Why? Because people are fucking shitty. But really, why? Misogyny and good, ol’ American capitalism, that’s why.
So let’s be straight up. No one is developing sex robots for therapy. The personal robot industry is damn near 30 billion dollars. It’s also exclusively composed of male creators. That’s a hefty amount of bullshit to unpack. These dolls (and I mean dolls) are the visual representation of what men want in women. This is taking the male gaze to a whole new level. This is the “male” as Maestro of his ideal of perfection. This is a post-Pygmalion cluster-fuck. On one hand, sure, why the hell shouldn’t people be able to craft their own fantasy lover? Where’s the harm in that? Two-fold: creating an ideal lover based purely off of physical characteristics only further encourages the notion of woman’s bodies as commodities. Secondly, the verbal and pre-sexual physical handling of these silicon cadavers amounts to nothing but a hollow shell of an interpretation of person-hood. The most these robots come with are a set of “personalities” such as shy, naive, brainy, or gutsy (these are cringe worthy but I’ll get into why later). These one-dimensional personalities only further contribute to the dehumanization of women. They create a vestige of reality, a simulacrum of male-perceived cis-hetero-normative womanhood, created through the dick shaped glasses of 21st century misogyny. Don’t even get me started on the “Ghetto Black Booty Ho” lineup that I know will eventually be pitched by Brazzers. Or that no developers want to even touch the cultural conversation of gender identity and our ever evolving concept of gender/sexual fluidity – OR THAT THERE IS NOT A SINGLE MALE SEX-BOT IN CONCEPTION OR PRODUCTION. But anyways…
I don’t trust scientists but in the same way I don’t trust my brothers. They’re good folk but they might steal my beers. But this is an occasion that I’m worried the scientist aren’t sciencing hard enough. The AI of these robots are rudimentary (AI research is still in its infancy) but are being built along the lines of how best to offer satisfaction for their owners while holding the illusion of real connection in place. So the AI is reductive. It is built around male fantasies of what they believe women want or what they believe will turn women on. This is the true horror of the sex doll. It isn’t that we are going to create a slave caste of robots who only live to drain us of orgasms. The horror is that we are going to create a line of AFFORDABLE manifestations of misogynistic rape culture. Case and point, a sex doll was released into the male wild at a convention in Germany. Men tore her apart as if it were a Dionysian frenzy. Men will try and play God again and will create an image of their fantasies, which let’s be frank, are often frightfully dehumanizing. It’s like an art history lesson on the male gaze gone awry.
Because it’s companies that are developing these robots and not curious, gender inclusive scientists, these bots are being developed with end figures in mind. So here comes the marketing. Realistically, these are giant fuck toys. Which I have no issue with. Have you seen horse dildos? They are huge fuck toys. And they don’t hurt anyone, if used properly. But these robots are being marketed to the public with words such as “intimacy” and “sexual connection” and so forth. But these are lies which prey upon the general issues of those who are purchasing them. And I mean issues as defined by these companies who bill their products as tools for those who have “intimacy or anxiety issues”. But you cannot have a relationship with a robot. A robot does not have any self-awareness. It cannot consent. It cannot feel. The experience that you are having with a sex-bot is a singular experience, not one of connection. But that isn’t what these companies are trying to sell. They aren’t trying to sell a masturbation tool. They are attempting to blur the distinction between what an intimate relationship can be and what going fucking the uncanny valley is. The question of agency becomes null and void. Passivity reigns supreme. And these people who turn to sex dolls because the sheer anxiety of interacting with people, of wanting to feel or give affection, of wishing to be sexually desired is too much to handle (I relate on this level), these people will be taken advantage of and turned into big bucks. Lars and the Real Girl was only a touching story because Lars was in therapy. It was not a romantic comedy about a man who actually fell in love with a sex doll.
Our sexuality can be a wonderful aspect of our humanity, however that sexuality is healthily voiced, explored, or expressed. But these robots are coming before we are ready for them. There are healthy ways for these sex-bots to be used (and who the fuck am I to say what is healthy or not) but I find it hard to believe that exclusively male created, male marketed, and male purchased sex bots will be good for anyone other than the companies creating them. Because at the end of the day, misogyny is about power and there are no folk in this world better suited for garnering and exploiting capital for the sake of power as rich men seem to be. So I’m gonna hold off on getting freaky with the machines until further development. It will be difficult but I will be strong. I will not be seduced.