JULY 28 ― In HBO’s Westworld, humans are free to rape, torture and kill androids at an amusement park.
While it looks like we are still a long way off from creating highly advanced androids, sex robots have become increasingly life-like with some form of artificial intelligence, hinting at a sexual revolution.
According to a report by the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, sex robots which have a silicon skin that is supposedly “warm to the touch” can be customised according to their appearance down to their nipple shape and pubic hair colour.
Although none of the products on the market can walk yet, one particular sex robot can perform “50 automated sexual positions.”
A Guardian video interview shows the Harmony robot by San Diego-based Abyss Creations with blinking eyes, a moving head, and the ability to converse.
Harmony’s makers also claim that the robot can have an orgasm. Traits and emotions like shyness and humour can be customised too.
Another sex robot, by TrueCompanion, has pre-programmed personalities like “Wild Wendy” with an adventurous personality or “Frigid Farrah“ that “will not be too appreciative of your advances” if you touch the robot “in a private area”, which has sparked criticism that the setting allows for indulging rape fantasies.
Although it seems that the sex robot market is geared towards men, there are also male sex dolls with a penis that can go from flaccid to erect. Californian company Sinthetics says the number of orders for their male sex dolls now equals to female dolls.
In a Vice interview, a woman who owns a male sex doll says it’s easier than a Tinder date, while the interviewer herself has had sex with a male sex doll and proclaims, as she is riding the doll named Gabriel, that “it feels absolutely indistinguishable from a real person, except that I’m completely in control”.
Sex doll brothels have sprung up in Japan and Spain, although the LumiDolls brothel in Barcelona closed less than a month after opening last February.
There are sex dolls that resemble children too. A man who ordered one from a Japanese company and tried to bring it into Canada was charged with possessing child pornography.
It is, of course, disturbing that sex robots could be created to simulate rape. Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, hits the nail on the head when she questions why there have been calls for child sex robots to be banned from the UK, but no such outcry over adult female ones.
She argues that sex robots are not simply inanimate sex aids, but reproductions of real women complete with everything except autonomy, essentially positioning women as toys and objects for men to play with.
If one is aghast at the idea of allowing men to act out pedophiliac fantasies on robots, then they should equally abhor robotic settings that allow for rape simulation.
However, I think that robots can pave the way for the next sexual revolution in terms of providing sex and companionship for both men and women who may not like hook-ups, or even long-term relationships, with human beings. There are already cases of Japanese men who prefer sex dolls to their wives.
If we eventually develop “smart” sex robots that can have genuine interactions with humans, then perhaps more people will prefer them to human partners. However, prices would have to be far more affordable as sex robots are currently priced between US$5,000 (RM21,380) and US$15,000.
Having sex with a robot would eliminate risks of sexually transmitted illnesses and unwanted pregnancies.
Sex robots could also end prostitution, and as a result, sex trafficking, not so much in terms of creating android sex workers, but by owning a sex robot yourself so that you don’t have to go to a brothel in the first place.
Men may get the so-called “girlfriend experience” from emotionally intelligent robots (if technology advances that far).
The flip side to the sex robot revolution is sexual crimes, though we should distinguish between rape (of an adult woman), paedophilia and child molestation. Paedophilia is a mental disorder, a sexual attraction to prepubescents; one can live with it and choose not to act on their urges.
Not all paedophiles end up as sex offenders and research even reportedly shows that half of all child molesters are not sexually attracted to their victims.
Would providing paedophiles a robotic avenue on which to express their urges reduce the chances of sexual abuse of human children? What about robots for rapists who assault adult women?
The latter is, arguably, trickier because rape is a violent crime that is not just about sex; if men just wanted quick and easy sex, they could buy it from sex workers.
Therefore, a simple sex doll with female features, or even with basic “frigid” settings, may not be effective in preventing rape, unless the androids are extremely advanced and lifelike that men feel like they’re actually violating someone.
Take it a step further. Would we allow sadistic and murderous fantasies to be enacted on robots, so as to curb physical abuse, homicides, and terrorist attacks in human society?
If we believe that humans are violent by nature, then perhaps creating an alternate reality where they can act out their most depraved fantasies, in which no living human being is harmed, is the solution. A safe channel for people to be as bigoted, racist, sexist and violent as they want to be, so that they will be model Dr Jekylls and function efficiently in the “real world.”
As gross as it sounds, a virtual place full of robots for humans to rape, maim and kill could be the answer to reducing crime, given that jail and capital punishment have failed to make the world a safer place.
That is, until the robots gain sentience and destroy the pathetic and disgusting human race.