Sex robots are on the rise, and for a long time, a lot of discussion around these artificially intelligent sex worker dolls has centered on the health benefits they supposedly provide. As it turns out, talk of these benefits might be nonsense.
The number of customers who purchase AI sex dolls is increasing despite some units selling for thousands of dollars. Some are simple sex dolls. Others boast more advanced functionalities, such as the ability to make movements or talk. Sometimes, customers can even choose their preferred nipples or opt for a dishwasher-proof labia. The point is, sex dolls are becoming even more realistic, and with their plight comes a spate of undisputed health claims.
Sex With Robots: Do They Have Benefits?
Such claims are not based on evidence, new research has found. Instead, they exist as somewhat of a complementary commentary to boost the allure of these sex dolls, aiming to normalize their usage.
"In a way [this research] is a sort of academic plea [not to] make false claims, and if there is something genuine in this beyond the creation and marketing of a new device, then let's study it properly," said women's health professor and study coauthor Susan Bewley, as The Guardian reports.
The findings were published in the BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health journal.
The Popularization Of Robot Sex Dolls
The robot sex craze didn't come out of nowhere. Given onscreen depictions of robots designed for pleasure in films such as Blade Runner 2049 and TV shows such as Westworld, the idea that one can form sexual relationships with a sentient but ultimately nonhuman entity is slowly being popularized within the mainstream.
The problem? In those films, the robots are portrayed by actual actors, meaning they're instantly humanized despite the context of fiction. Therefore, in that manner, sexual behavior between robots and humans are presented as normal — and we somehow inherently agree it is because in that moment, the robot isn't a robot at all.
The study introduces a much-needed level of complexity to the subject of sex robots that society must ultimately address and discuss. Not only does it suggest health claims around these sex dolls could be false but that we should also be careful about what we plan to do with them.
Four companies are already selling "female" customizable sex robots, notes Cosmos Magazine, and that's likely to increase. The market is overwhelmingly male, and marketers lure them in by spouting a number of bold but vague claims: sex robots make sex safer, they provide therapeutic experiences for couples, they help the anxious and the lonely, and they also help those with sexually deviant interests.
The study doesn't say those claims are false. However, it does point out that there is zero evidence to back them up.
The claim that sex robots can be therapeutic is questionable, and the research notes dependence on them could drive people to "become even more isolated by the illusion of having a substitute satisfaction."
Of all the claims, probably the most controversial is that sex robots can give pedophiles or rapists a safe proxy for their interests. In fact, one such company is already manufacturing child sex dolls, arguing such technology aids in redirecting "dark desires."
Given the lack of evidence, the researchers caution against the use of sex dolls for treatment.
Ultimately, all claims associated with sex robots "are rather specious," researchers Bewley and Chantal Cox-George argue.
"It is interesting for science and business to create artificial people. But we must not leave the people alone with the machines," said machine ethics expert Oliver Bendel, who notes that more research is needed amid the plight of sex robots.