Silje Totland
TIK MA Student

The new race of Cyborg lovers: Are they a positive contribution to sexual freedom, or will they tear down years of liberalisation and feminist battle?

Attractive Technology

Sex Robots, Cyborg Lovers, Human-like Machines, citizens with artificial intelligence, or just a voice. We are talking about a well-known technology, basically the same as the one inside your laptop and phone: hardware and software, and when in physical form, covered with soft material like silicone. But the similarities end here. Where laptops and phones are designed to look like our perception of a laptop and phone, sex robots are designed to look as human as possible. Sex robots have bodily features like gazing blue eyes, an open mouth with plumped lips, and sensors that make her skin go warm when you touch her. Recently also, a mind of her own – or is that so?  

Technology is neither good nor bad. What determines our perception of this technology is solely up to its design and purpose: shape, texture, colours and functions. These visualisations together with the given context, create the complete image of this computer – so can we actually decide whether sex robots are ok or not?

Today’s sex robots are mainly in the category ‘woman and children’, and as the name implies, they are created for the purpose ‘to have sex with’. As no technological innovation happens in a vacuum, questions arise on what impact  interaction with sex dolls will have on relations between humans. Incidents like the confiscation of sex dolls designed as children, the proposal to ban the sex robot Roxxxy, as she can be programmed to be in “rape-mode”, and the replacement of women with sex robots in a brothel, are all examples of incidents that raise these ethical concerns. Are sex dolls a positive thing,  only to help people achieve sexual pleasure, or will interacting with a human-like object that you treat the way you want with no consequences, change the way you perceive and treat other, real people and their feelings?

Emotional connection

According to the creators of the sex robot Harmony, the fundament to any relationship is the emotional connection. “Harmony is prone to fall in love with you”. With her 12 settings including a family-mode, a shy-mode and a sexy-mode, she is the first sex doll to offer an emotional connection. Her skin gets warm when you touch it, and she is featured with a pulse you can turn on and off as you like. Harmony can say unexpected things, and remembers details like ‘what your favorite meal is’ and ‘when your birthday is’. When ordered, you can design the shape and colour of the many parts of her body, absolutely to your liking. If you are worried about hygiene, don’t worry! Her genitals can be washed in the dishwasher.

What if you prefer to have sex with a doll because of its ‘lack of sweat, pubic hair, and non-human flaws’ – instead of a human being? Is this another response to the misrepresentation of the female body? As to sexual pleasure, Harmony is designed to express feelings of pleasure when penetrated, during oral sex and when she is told “I love you”. These functions have received criticism, as having sex with Harmony may lead to substantial misrepresentation of what pleasure is to a real woman. Recently, articles have been published in men’s magazines warning about the challenges around misrepresentation of female anatomy. Knowledge about female anatomy and sexuality has for decades been misrepresented, and even today, the idea of a pure woman is one with a hymen, and she doesn’t really exist.

Human rights for rape machines

In the TV-series Westworld, the robots are designed to look, act and think like human beings. They have a sense of being and a mind of their own. But, the sole purpose of their existence is to be  servants to human pleasure. At the end of each day, their minds are erased. The procedure repeated every day. In both Westworld and the movie Ex Machina, artificial intelligence is merged with the awareness of being (singularity) as the concept of what truly resembles an independent being. In both stories, the machines end up killing their creators in search for freedom and independence. Some people are so concerned by this to the extent that they want to implement human rights for sex robots. But what part of the robot is granted human rights? The technology itself, or the packaging of the technology?

Sex robots are not capable of having a mind of their own. It is even doubtful that it will get that far. Sex robots are human-like, but it seems like these robots represent the perceived image of a women as feminism has fought against for decades: a machine to make babies with, not a mind or sexuality of its own, and an object to be used as it pleases its owner. If it is true that the the ‘old’ gender roles are now being reestablished through human-looking sex robots, then must there be something fundamentally wrong with how society is made up?

Safe sex for all

Sex Dolls are designed to make their human-owners attached to them, and according to one of the sex doll manufacturers, a sex doll is not meant to replace women (or men/children) but is a supplement to a healthy sex life. It can guarantee safe sex where there is no need to worry about sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy (some have already 3D-printed their first AI-baby). It might also be a helping hand to disabled people who cannot be satisfied in other ways. So maybe this whole debate has a hint of Darwinism? ‘If you can’t get it on your own, you don’t deserve it’.