The legality of sex robots has been debated time and time again in the recent past. Since 2010, the production of sex robots has increased rapidly through manufacturers such as TrueCompanion. com and Realbotix. (Metro 2010, Wired 2015, Daily Star 2017)
Writer/ Photographer Wen Hsieh 15.01.2020
The concern is that it could be used to satisfy certain sexual desires. Warnings from academics in robot ethics state that sex robots have a tendency to increase the objectification of women and children, as well as further dehumanizing those who are abused for sex. (International Society for Presence Research 2017, Forbes 2018) On the other hand, some deem sex robots to have therapeutic potential for sex addicts, paedophiles, isolated people and so on (Smith, Marquard P 236, 2013 and Devlin, Kate P249, 2018)). In my opinion, creating sex robots is a bit like opening Pandora’s box.
There is evidence to support both sides, focusing on the objectification and dehumanizing of women and children as well as the ethics of artificial intimacy and social anxiety.
According to an expert, Mr. Marquard (P241, 2013) the main reason RealDoll succeeds is because of customization. Clients can order any modification to be applied to their robot. This process leads men to implement the stereotypes of female beauty and behavior perpetuating “objectified female” attitudes toward women. It is arguably sexist symbolism. This is also true for childlike sex robots. Indeed, the creator of RealDoll is concerned by some of his clients’ behavior and how they treat the sex dolls, such as the male and female dolls having interchangeable genitalia with a selection of sizes. Other examples had the hands ripped off and the fingers missing. Such behavior suggests the owners might have sexually violent tendencies. (Smith P241-P242 2013)
John Danaher (2017) asked “robotic rape and robotic child sexual abuse, should they be criminalized?” It is an important social and moral issue for us. Positive opinion is that sex robots might be an alternative method for paedophiles, rape fantasies and fetishes as well as having therapeutic potential. Unfortunately, there is a lack of evidence for this theory. Furthermore, Professor Kathleen Richardson on ethical issues with sex robots argues that ” In turn, you would actually, inadvertently legitimise an area of child-abuse expression. You would actually create an infrastructure of child abuse expression.” (Forbes 2018)
How do we define a sex deviant? Psychologist, John Mcconnell mentioned in an interview that “ever-changing attitudes of sex deviants used to mean anything from homosexual sex to homosexuals having children, but now, a deviant sort of means anything that someone would do that I would not do.” (KPBS News 2018) Thus, it is not correct to forbid the manufacturing or research of sex robots simply based on human emotions and moral judgements, even if the subject is abhorrent (Kate P249, 2017)
On the other hand, do people with social anxiety feel anxious about interacting with a robot? As noted by the experiment from a Japanese research team (Nomura, T 2019) the high and low social anxiety groups, both felt less anxious when interacting with the robot. However, the lower social group preferred interacting with robots over humans and felt less nervous when doing so. Equally, we cannot deny sex robots might have therapeutic potential for curing socially isolated groups.
What was our first impression of sex robots? Creepy is the feeling from most people. Further opinions might consider banning them because they are erotic objects and could increase criminality. Through professor Masahiro Mori’s concept of uncanny valley (Freud, Sigmund 1899), I surmise most people have a wary first impression of sex robots, the reason might be the robots are similar to humans, but not exactly like real human beings. Thus, if in future sex robots are manufactured as real humans, humans will be able to increase their relationship with robots. Nowadays, sex robots have left their laboratory, their factories and moved into the real world.
The change I want to see is in the conversations going on right now, the conversations based on what the ethical law of sex robots is. How far should we really push this technology? How much autonomy do we want to give it? Even the semi- autonomous ones will be blamed for any accident. David Peters, family therapist(KPBS News 2018) mentioned that “one day sex robot users may be able to show their love more openly; we’re in an age where virtually everybody is coming out of the closet with whatever proclivity they have and wanting to be accepted
and this will be next in line.”
DailyStar, Rachel O’donoghue (2017) ‘I’m not a pervert’ Sex robot maker slams critics after live TV appearance with doll. Available at: https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/644741/sex-robots-samantha- this-morning-interview-dolls-Arran-Squire
Freud, Sigmund (1899) The Uncanny. Publisher: London: Penguin.
ISBN: 9780141182377 (P123-P161)
John Danaher (2017). Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications. Publisher: MIT Press,
ISBN: 9780262036689 (P3-P14)
Devlin, Kate (2018) Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots. Publisher: London: Bloomsbury Sigma. ISBN:9781472950864. (P245-P257)
Forbes, Andrea Morris (2018), Meet the Activist Fighting Sex Robots. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/andreamorris/2018/09/26/meet- the-activist-fighting-sex-robots/#4e2395286e79
International Society for Presence Research, Terri Murray (2017) Professor Kathleen Richardson on ethical problems with sex robots. Available at: https://ispr.info/2017/10/27/professor-kathleen-richardson-on-ethical- problems-with-sex-robots/comment-page-1/
KPBS News (2018) San Marcos-Based RealDoll Launches AI Sex Dolls. Available at:
Smith, Marquard (2013). The erotic doll: a modern fetish. Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN: 9780300152029. P235-P251
Nomura, T., Kanda, T., Suzuki, T. et al. AI & Soc (2019). Do people with social anxiety feel anxious about interacting with a robot? Publisher: Springer London.
Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-019-00889-9
Online ISSN: 1435-5655
Metro (January 9, 2010), Joel Taylor, Roxxxy the ‘Sex Robot’ Debuts at AVN Porn Show,” PC World. Available at: https://metro.co.uk/2010/01/11/worlds-first-sex-robot-with-a-personality- unveiled-as-roxxxy-23255/
Wired, James Temperton (2015) Campaign Calls For Ban On Sex Robots. Available at: