Bots with Benefits? Study Shows Women Seek Robot Friendships, Men Prefer Sexbots
Examining the links between gender and social dominance in relationship style.
How does gender influence the likelihood of someone preferring friendship over a sexual relationship with a robot?
In an earlier article, I discussed my thesis findings that indicated a positive effect between a participant’s level of hostile sexist beliefs and their interest in robot sex partners.
As part of this study, I also looked into the gender differences regarding who might want a robot, and if participant sex could be a predictor of engagement with robots.
Here, I will share my findings from this section on gender and how it intersects with social dominance and relationship preference. If you would like more information, the full article “Technically in love: individual differences in desire for intimacy with robots” is available to read for free on Google Scholar.
Robo-friendships, sex, and gender
Participants were students from a university in Western Canada. The sample was about ¾ women, and about ¼ men. While non-binary participants also responded, there were too few responses to draw any conclusions from. The average age of participants was about 21.
The questions examined questions about whether people would think robots would make good friends, and if people might want to have sex with robots. Male participants responded that they would be more interested in sex with robots than women. Female participants were higher than male participants in their interest in robot friendship. This finding suggests that there may be a sex difference between wanting sex with a robot, and wanting friendship with a robot.
The role of social dominance
An important caveat was related to the variable “social dominance orientation”. Someone who scores low on social dominance orientation is likely to believe in group equality, while someone who scores higher will believe some groups are less-deserving than others.
At low levels of social dominance orientation, men were more interested in sex with robots, and women were more interested in friendship with robots. However, for women who were higher on social dominance orientation, they were more interested in sex with robots, and about equal with men (women’s scores were higher, men’s scores were the same regardless of beliefs).
For both men and women who were high on social dominance orientation, there was equal interest in friendship with robots (women’s scores came down, men’s scores went up).
Overall, in this sample, men were more interested in sex with robots, and women were more interested in friendship with robots. While social dominance orientation affected women’s interest, women were, on average, lower on social dominance orientation, so overall, they were less interested in sex with robots.
What this suggests is that social dominance orientation might play a role for both men and women, in that they view robots as a different group. If they view robots as lesser, they might be open to using robots for sex and friendship.
Women might be more interested in sex with robots if they can use them like a sex toy, while men seemed as interested regardless of social dominance orientation.
At the same time, higher scores on social dominance orientation suggested less female interest and more male interest in robot friendship. This could mean that women may want to have equal status among friends, while men might prefer unequal status among friends. Further research will have to unpack these findings, as this is just the first in what I anticipate will become an interesting direction in human-robot research.
These findings were presented at the International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots. To support research in this area by a variety of impressive academics and sex tech researchers, I hope you will visit the congress website to learn more and join us at future conferences.