As the sex robot industry continues to grow, so does the long lists of claims about why we should have sex robots.
We’re talking safer sex, helping with sexual dysfunction, treating paedophiles and sex offenders, alleviating loneliness, meeting people’s needs and desires, having therapeutic potential and changing societal norms. And recently a professor from the University of British Columbia claimed that sexbots could improve marriages as they would be more about love and less about sex.
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According to Dr Bruce Y Lee, an associate professor of International Health at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health this could pose a problem. “The concern is that sexbots may do the opposite by reducing real human contact, blurring reality (programming someone to do exactly what you want is not reality), encouraging unsafe practices that may then be used on humans, and creating unrealistic expectations of mates.”
“The overwhelmingly predominant market for sexbots will be unrelated to healthcare. Thus the ‘health’ arguments made for their benefits, as with so many advertised products, are rather specious,” wrote a pair of UK researchers Chantal Cox-George and Susan Bewley. They hunted down every study they could find on sexbots and their report was recently published in BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health.
“As Cox-George and Bewley indicate, opponents of sexbots have raised ‘concerns about the potential for harm by further promoting the pervasive idea that living women too are sex objects that should be constantly available – ‘misogynistic objectification’ – and intensifying existing physical and sexual violence against women and children,’” says Dr Lee. “Moreover, if you think Barbie dolls can lead to body image problems, what about life-sized Barbie dolls that can talk and do other things?”
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And this is a genuine concern. These robots have impressive technology that are made to mimic human interactivity and form the perfect partner. RealDoll’s sexbots has Artificial Intelligence software so that it can “hold long-term persistent conversations”. This means it can ask questions and remember the answers to bring up in conversation at a later stage. Almost like, I don’t know, a real human with super good memory.
But while there are concerns that these sexbots could increase violence against women or negatively impact human-to-human romantic relationships, the UK study found no evidence of that either. So basically, there’s no concrete evidence about anything to do with sexbots, except for the fact that they are growing in popularity. Sounds like the opening scene of a sci-fi horror movie.
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Sure, you’re probably thinking you would never have sex with a robot. But you might want to think about that again. In a survey of 263 heterosexual men, 40% of them could see themselves buying a sexbot in the next five years. And in an even larger survey of 2 000 US men and women, 49% of men were open to a night between the sheets with an “enhanced, hyper-realistic” doll.
Thus far, only female sexbots have been made and they can range from between R65 000 and R195 000. It’s a large price to pay considering real human contact is actually free.
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But if you’re worrying the sexbot industry might go up in a flame of wires and rubber before South Africans have even had a chance, there’s no need. At least that’s what Dr Lee, thinks. “If you think that lack of scientific evidence will prevent people from making claims about sexbot benefits, then you need to connect better with reality. When has lack of evidence prevented everyone from saying something?”
This article was originally published on www.mh.co.za
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