Thursday, June 18, 2015

On Sexbots

The New York Times had a story about Matt McMullen, the creator of female robots for sex.  The story in the NYT, and an earlier story about McMullen's work in Vanity Fair, pretty much glide over the fact that these sex dolls are physically meant to be female.  So the story isn't about sex robots for everybody.  The story is about female sex dolls for people who want them female.

That doesn't matter too much, I guess, except in the sense that we have all been trained to not notice the lack of male-looking sex dolls in stories of this type.  That means we can leap into discussing other types of topics about sex robots:  How human they should seem, whether they should talk back, whether they should be made to make sounds as if they are enjoying what's going on.

As an aside, I wonder why robots should be made to look human in the first place.  Does it then follow that we are going to recreate all the power relationships of the human societies inside the world of robots?  The cleaning robot will look female and will act humbly and so on?

But the obvious point of these articles isn't that.  It's the idea of the sexbot as a replacement for having a relationship with a woman made out of meat etc.  McMullen himself states:

“Not everybody wants to be in a relationship, especially an emotionally draining, costly, anxiety-filled one. If a man says, ‘I don’t want to be in a relationship,’ most of the time that’s probably a fucking good decision! And he can order a RealDoll, which will end up being a helluva lot cheaper than the women he was dating! If a man has a hundred or no girlfriends, RealDolls are a good option no matter what.”
A hovering waitress says, “Last call.” Mills orders a beer and returns to a pet peeve. “Women have enjoyed sex toys for 50 years, probably 5,000 years, if the truth be known, but men are still stigmatized! We have to correct that! I want to be the Rosa Parks of sex dolls! Men are not going to sit in the back of the bus anymore!”

Bolds are mine.

I was giggling about that last paragraph, trying to imagine in what sense a dildo, say, is exactly the same as a sexbot which speaks and pretends to orgasm, whatever its user does.  Perhaps we are going to have speaking dildos!  Where's the mouth going to be?

Never mind.  Let's not go there.  As far as I know,  there have been various sex toys for heterosexual men for some time, right?  Not that I'm an expert in the area of sex toys, but creating a life-sized doll which speaks etc. seems a bit different from something you can hold in your hand.

The part I bolded in the first paragraph of the above quote is very informative.  It's the idea that women are expensive sex partners and that they will demand stuff and so on.  A sexbot will do whatever you want and the cost will only be the enormous sum McMullen charges.

This is one of those cases where a gender reversal is useful.  Suppose that the same story was written, but the creator of the dolls was Martha McMullen (with dark-framed angry-looking spectacles), and that all the sex dolls shown in the background looked like men in skimpy underwear or naked, some with beards, some with not and so on.  Suppose Martha made a statement about men being such difficult  sex partners etc., always arguing and pushing their own agendas.  How would various types of readers have reacted to the otherwise same stories then?