A sex doll vendor’s insight on future human-robot relationships.
As part of our ongoing “Sexbot Perspectives” series, we’ve asked several experts this question: What is the potential or the possible pitfalls of developing sex robots? Our aim: To create dialogue and help shape the best possible future—one that will be deeply influenced by breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and robotics.
With the support of his loving wife, Massey Dollster (a pseudonym) sells sex dolls via his online store SexDollCo. He ventured into this niche market after coming across a love doll made from thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), a new and less expensive material than the traditionally used silicone.
While he only launched his TPE sex doll business in April, he says his interest in realistic, high-quality dolls goes back much further—and was something he used to feel weird about. Today, Dollster aims to help people who haven’t had the luck of finding a great partner or who want to spice up their existing relationships without involving another person.
Here is his take on the pros and cons of developing sex robots:
Recent articles published online have been very polarized along either the “sexual liberation” line and the “these will perpetuate sexual exploitation of women” line. I understand people want to shock others into thinking about the issue and making bold claims has a decent chance of winning people over to their side. I also think polarization stifles cool-headed debate so my response will try and be even-handed. Even though I sell sex dolls, I don’t think there is anything to gain by trying to dupe people by glossing over an obvious issue and raising on a pedestal a marginal benefit.
Others have already made claims about red light districts being converted to sex robot parlours within 10-20-50 years from now. They claim that the possibility of controlling STIs and breaking the pimp/prostitute abusive relationship among other things are proof that sex robots are to be looked forward to. Apart from the fact that prostitution isn’t going to be eliminated this way, and abusive relationships of all kinds will continue to exist as long as a true and frank sexual education isn’t on the school curriculum and taught at home, I think they have a point. I’m more interested in another angle to the issue.
Studies done in the UK have shown that the number of single people that remain single for long periods of time is on the rise. The proportion increases dramatically as you go up age groups. A lot of young people are increasingly uninterested in relationships as well. Similar studies exist in the States, Canada, and Australia that corroborate this trend. A lot of folk out there would assume that there is something wrong with them for either not being able or unwilling to be in a relationship. I don’t think that’s the case. These people are normal. A lot of them, however, report that they are lonely.
As a sex doll vendor, I try to stay abreast of the moods and motivations of this niche community. I have not studied these things from a statistical standpoint, so I might be wrong. But the general impression I’m getting is that people that are actually interested in these dolls fall in one of 3 camps: the photographers, those that see dolls as sex objects, and those that want them for companionship. No group is 100% clear cut of course. A few things we all share: we find them beautiful, sexy, and have a hard time just thinking of them as “it.” I think that’s important in relation to sex robots.
If an inanimate doll can elicit these kinds of emotions, if a doll that does not talk, move, or show any kind of volition at all can evoke an emotional response in people, how much stronger is the reaction going to be with a robot? I’m thinking the reactions will be strong for a few reasons. My assumption is that they will be beautiful. Just thinking of them as products for a second, to sell they’ll need to be attractive. That’s just the way things are. No one buys an ugly anything. So that means they will look like beautiful men and women. They will have pleasant voices and their behaviours will also be pleasing.
At the beginning, they will have to be appealing to as many people as possible while keeping costs low. So instead of many models that do a few things really well, there will be a few models that try and do many things well enough. They will conform to ideals of beauty the majority of people will accept and they will do what the majority of people will want them to do. Sex is an obvious “feature” they will need to have. Conversation, as well, since many will want a companion. Certain basic home maintenance tasks will probably also be included.
Just from these basic assumptions, here’s the potential I see:
Retirement homes are going to be hit hard. Why go live in a community of people you don’t know or care about if you can stay in your own home and be taken care of by someone who isn’t tasked with managing 60+ elderly people a day? You can talk to her/him, have someone to open the lid off that jar of beets and not worry about vacuuming. In an emergency, they can also at the very least contact emergency services.
They have great potential as therapy tools. They can behave according to a script that is meant to convey X lesson to the person in therapy. You can put a robot in a situation you would not feel safe putting a person into. Because they will elicit an emotional response, you can help draw out people that have behavioral issues and help them adjust their behaviours.
Young adults will be able to experiment with their own sexuality in a completely guilt-free environment. No STIs, no morning-after regrets, no unplanned pregnancies. They’ll be able to see if LGBT sex is something they like, if caring attentive play is more their flavour or they like something a bit more rough, etc. Oh, and sex robots could be built with legal/ethical/moral safeguards. If the individual is exhibiting dangerous behaviour, the robot could have some sort of reaction that would elicit a dampening drive on that behaviour. Isn’t psychology great?
We all know sex sells. And usually the tech that the porn industry adopts becomes the standard. If the porn industry adopts sex robots, a lot of funding into technical improvements etc. will flow towards them. We saw it with VCR vs Beta, Blueray vs HD DVD and a few others. Imagine better prosthetic limbs, or eyeballs for the blind, hearing aids for the deaf, artificial skin grafts for burn victims. All made possible thanks to initial investments into sex robot improvements.
People that don’t want an intimate relationship with a person will have a viable alternative. No need to date, to compromise on a lot of things or to feel bad if you decide you just want to be alone one night and binge watch that new mini-series on Netflix.
Human contact of some kind is healthy. A sex robot might further isolate people from one another by creating a dependency on the robot. Think of it this way: if you had all the convenience of your iPhone in a package that you could fuck, would you ever leave the house? Why go out and meet people when you can just sit home and talk to your robot: a robot that is designed to be pleasant. They probably won’t be programmed to tell you your idea is stupid and you look gross. This could foster self-awareness and isolation issues.
The argument could be made that people might prefer sex robots over actual human partners and just not bother with real relationships anymore. Of course, some might choose this path, but so what? If someone isn’t fit to be in a ‘real’ relationship, I think it’s best if we present them with a viable alternative. Fewer broken hearts that way.
Sounds rosy no? While you were reading all that, were you seeing some potential pitfalls? I sure was while I was writing it. Here are a few:
Honestly, I think it’s mostly the same debate and stigma that always faces people that have different sexual preferences: inter-ethnic relationships were a huge controversy in the 50’s and 60’s. Then same-sex relationships blew up in the 80’s (still looked down on in some parts for whatever reason).
Both of these were supposed to make the social fabric of society collapse but never did. The only thing that changed was that people became happier with who they were and now we have colorful parades every year. I really think the introduction of sex robots will have the same sort of effect of the world, which is to say nothing catastrophic in any way and a few more happy people here and there.
Image source: SexDollCo