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It’s not clear at this point whether sex robots would be a successful therapeutic tool for pedophiles or if they would merely encourage such desires to blossom.
(Past studies on increased statewide access to online porn has been correlated with a decrease in sexual assaults, although there’s little consensus in the scientific community to bolster the hypothesis that porn in general serves as an outlet for deviant sexual desires.) Yet to dismiss offhand the mere possibility that sex robots could serve a greater good not only does innovators in the field of artificial intelligence a disservice, but also society at large.
Our collective freakout over sex robots is yet another example of how our culture is terrified of technology — even though history has consistently proved that technology in the bedroom is rarely, if ever, something to be feared.
From cultural commentators writing alarmist think pieces about how Tinder is ruining our sex lives to men panicking about their girlfriends’ vibrators to parents wringing their hands over their kids watching online porn, there’s a precedent for our anxiety over sex and technology.
(The Campaign Against Sex Robots does not appear to acknowledge the possibility that sex robots might also exist to please women, even though companies such as Real Doll are already offering male versions for gay or female customers.) Even though on-demand sex already exists in the form of online porn and escorting apps such as Ohlala, it’s admittedly unsettling to envision a future where men can purchase a big-breasted plastic woman online and use her to his own ends, even if that woman is incapable of thinking or feeling.
It’s true that the widespread availability of online porn, for instance, has changed the game in terms of how we learn about sex.
Many studies have concluded that sites such as Pornhub have essentially supplanted traditional sex education, resulting in young people having unrealistic expectations about sex.
Yet when you take a close look at many of the claims being made about sex and technology, it’s clear that much of the panic is baseless.
Of course, it’s important to note that sex robots won’t be able to provide one crucial thing that a human partner can: informed consent.
To many feminists, having sex with a piece of hardware that is unable to provide consent encourages men to view sex as a commodity, while the “sellers of sex are not attributed subjectivity and reduced to a thing,” according to the Campaign Against Sex Robots.
To an extent, there’s existing technology that is already doing this, albeit in nonsexual forms: The robotic seal Paro (as seen on Netflix’s “Master of None) is currently used to treat depression in the elderly.