Column: Robot sex objects

Meet Roxxxy. She’s 5’7″, brunette, large breasted and white. She knows your likes and dislikes, has genitalia and even a heartbeat.

I know, doesn’t sound too out of the ordinary, but get this: Roxxxy is not human. That’s right, this lovely lady is really a lovely robot – a sex robot. If her initial description doesn’t sound like your perfect girl, know that she can have any other breast size and any other hair color or skin color you’d like.

When I first heard about Roxxxy I rushed straight to the website (TrueCompanion.com) where she can be purchased. I was appalled. I should note that Roxxxy is not alone and also has a male version named Rocky, but seeing as how the target demographic is for heterosexual men, he is much less advertised and not given as many features as Roxxxy.

Unlike Rocky, Roxxxy comes with five different personality settings. She can be any sexist stereotype you like, fellas! There’s Frigid Farrah, Wild Wendy, S&M Susan, Young Yoko and, last but not least, Mature Martha (not a joke, I swear). These “women” can be programmed to do anything their owner desires and never complain. That’s the supposed allure of it all. A machine that looks like a woman, but doesn’t come with all the “baggage” that real women have – like, oh, you know, their own motives and thoughts. The website even promotes owners to swap their sex-bots with other owners, saying, “This is the same as wife or girlfriend swapping without any of the social issues or sexual disease related concerns!” Is this the future or what?

Sex robots are not a new idea, and for decades there’s been a community of people who now refer to themselves as technosexuals and have had fantasies about the day they could make love to robots. However, until recent years this has been mostly the stuff of robot-romance fiction novels and films.

Now that Roxxxy has come along, I was under the impression that the fantasy has finally come true, but this is not exactly the case. David Levy, leader in the field of artificial intelligence research and author of the book Love and Sex With Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships, insists that a lot of technosexuals want more than just to make love to robots, they want these robots to be their girlfriends and perhaps someday their wives.

My first thought: Why?

In an interview conducted by Charles Q. Choi for MSNBC, Levy states that this is because robots are actually the perfect fit for “people who find it hard to form relationships, because they are extremely shy, or have psychological problems, or are just plain ugly or have unpleasant personalities.”

This is just sad. Levy is perpetuating the notion that certain people cannot find love if they are “social outcasts” of any kind, which presents an extremely narrow-minded view of what men and women look for in another partner. What’s worse is that technosexuals themselves are expressing similar sentiments. One anonymous technosexual writes, “you remove the possibility for rejection or mutual abuse or hurt or misunderstanding. Remove the human equation and all of that possibility for hurting another human being or being hurt goes away.”

So basically, many of the people who want a robotic partner fear the inevitable rejection and hurt that goes hand in hand with pursuing human romance. It makes sense in a way – people can be scary, are quick to judge and hurt one another frequently. If we were to avoid these kinds of people at all times though, we’d be avoiding pretty much everyone we know. Not just lovers, but friends and family, too.

Robot fetishism is evidently a more complicated matter than meets the eye. It appeals to a wide variety of people, most commonly heterosexual men. Some are purely misogynistic and seek to make love to a woman-like machine that will follow its owner’s every command without resistance. I might be sounding too much like a Defeated Debra, but perhaps it’s best they stick to their robots so women with self-respect won’t have to deal with them. Yet the others that are fond of an artificial partner because it will not reject them or bring them emotional pain I’m more on the fence about. It’s far too bleak to just let a person marry their robot under the pretense that this is the only type of love this person can have.

ALISON STEVENSON admits she is not fully immersed in this community like some of you readers might be, so if you have anything to add, dispute or clarify about the issue then please e-mail her at amstevenson@ucdavis.edu.

4 Comments

  • MrGreenbud
    November 20, 2010

    Dear Kiki,

    ‘Biological determinism’ is exactly what it sounds like: determined by biology. It is nice to think that we, as humans, can transcend four million years of selection for sex differences in behavior and tendencies. The truth is all around you and speaks for itself, however. No culture in the world is excepted from the fact that sexual intercourse is a female service (to be given, denied, or taken by force) and a source of power for women. A human being’s enlightened conscious is sometimes misaligned with their biologically-determined subconscious. Don’t be mad, though: that’s just how it is.

  • Kiki
    November 18, 2010

    MrGreenbud,

    With respect, I find your biological determinism extremely disappointing and frustrating. Women don’t understand rejection? Au contraire, my friend. There is no human being on earth that doesn’t know the sting of rejection, romantic or otherwise. Your extremely generalized view of courtship seems to cast women as the passive objects of sexual attention, and men as the busy bees flitting from flower to flower. It is attitudes like this that have kept women the decorative sex for centuries in Western culture, and given men license to give free rein to their sexual impulses, no matter how damaging the emotional consequences, because “boys will be boys”. And opinions like “ the problem for men is that those without physical, social or monetary attributes run the risk of never finding a willing sexual partner,” fosters the belief that women are essentially shallow baby makers looking to trap a man into marriage, and a man’s ultimate goal should be not to be a good human being but to make lots of money and have a hard body. I think I may have understated my problem with your argument. It’s not merely disappointing, it’s damaging, sexist, and frankly just stupid.

  • Yousaidno
    November 18, 2010

    I don’t think you understand how hard it is for some people to understand basic human interaction. You don’t turn to human analogues for love after an average romantic and social experience in life…You turn to it after abject failure, rejection and the feeling of humiliation. You may not even understand why or that you’re different. Some people don’t want to feel that way anymore.

    I’m ultimately unsurprised that you didn’t understand a product that is desired and purchased by desperately lonely men.

  • MrGreenbud
    November 18, 2010

    It is difficult for the author to understand the desire of these ‘social outcasts’ for a partner that will not reject or hurt them. Women are not familiar with rejection in the same way men are, and so tend to downplay its control over the psyche. It can be explained in part by sex differences in evolutionary trajectories. Successful reproduction (the meaning of life) requires only a tiny investment from a man while it requires a huge investment from a woman, in terms of time and physical involvement. Therefore, men are likely to engage in sex with pretty much any woman while women are extremely choosy of their potential mates. For this reason, there are vitually no women on Earth without suitors, no matter how hideous the woman. The problem for men is that those without physical, social or monetary attributes run the risk of never finding a willing sexual partner. Perhaps the robot mate may satisfy the low status male’s (subconscious) drive to procreate with a willing partner, but it may also remove these undesirable genes from the human pool, raising the bar for the rest of the men and shifting mean desirability.

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