Will Young Women of the Future Feel Pressure to Perform Like Robots?
If pornography sets up unrealistic expectations of sex, so can robots.
When talking about sex robots, it’s impossible to skip the conversation about pornography. That is because both pornography and sex robots are both means of representing sex.
In this article, I’ll discuss sex robots’ potential in forming our expectations from sex and the importance of improved decision-making in sex robot design.
Representation and how it relates to sex
Before going any further: Let’s define “representation.”
Representation is how something is described or portrayed by someone. For example, when the author introduces a female character, they’re contributing to how representation of women is done in literature.
We form representations of sex as well. But here is the thing: Representations can also form us, our expectations, desires, and success metrics.
Pornography can create unrealistic sex representations
For decades, researchers have discussed how pornography creates unrealistic expectations of sex—especially for young people.
This isn’t to say that pornography doesn’t have positive effects, such as increased sexual knowledge and tolerance toward other people’s sexual identities. But some drawbacks are hard to ignore:
- Research shows that exposure even to nonviolent pornography among young men leads to higher levels of hostility and sexism towards women.
- Another study found that men who use pornography regularly tended to desire abusive and dominant practices that demonstrate aggression towards women, while women tended to perform submissively.
- Women who watch porn also reported feeling dissatisfied with their bodies and pressured to perform up to the unrealistic standards they have seen in adult movies.
Does it mean that sex robots, as a much more tangible representation of sex, will set up even more unrealistic expectations (especially from women since most sex robots are assigned a female gender)?
Sex robots are more tangible representations of sex
Unlike video content, sex robots provide users with an immediate opportunity to interact with a human-like entity. Manufacturers are trying to make robots look and feel as close to real human beings as possible.
Except for one thing: Robots are always ready for sex.
Let’s look at how Emma the AI Robot, one of the most advanced sex robots on the market, is advertised:
Emma, the AI Robot is here to fulfill you in every way that you want her… she is able to learn from each interaction that she has in order that she can learn what your likes and dislikes are and provide you with a more pleasing interaction.
It is easy to notice from this message that Emma represents not just sex. She shows interaction with a woman that is always ready to enjoy sex.
Moreover, she is all about giving you pleasure, “learning about your likes and dislikes.” Some robots have the feature of imitating orgasm, but can we say that this is really about her pleasure? Or more about positive reinforcement for the user?
Representation is a portrayal of how someone sees something in a particular way. The representation shown in Emma’s advertisement isn’t how women see themselves. It is how men see women.
On the one hand, it’s clear: Most sex robot customers are men, and none of them wants to buy a robot that can refuse to have sex or criticize them in bed. Companies wish to make money, and users want to be satisfied, not frustrated.
But on the other hand, due to anthropomorphism, an innate tendency of human psychology to perceive non-living objects as living things, people tend to regard robots not as just human-looking things but as real humans.
If a digital woman at home is ready to satisfy you in every way and only cares about your comfort, why shouldn’t you expect that from a blood-and-flesh woman living next door?
These representations have a real impact
Experts predict that by 2050, relationships with robots might become so widespread that they will displace human-to-human sex. And if the sex robot market still has the gender imbalance it does now, women of the future will have to compete hard against ever-young, ever-pretty machines.
If we want to prevent this scenario, then improving decision-making in design is key.
Ethics isn’t an empty word when it comes to domestic sex tech. Representations have a real impact on our lives, and it’s essential to control what kind of representations we form—before they form us.
Image source: AI Tech