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The rise of sex robots is real, and we should be concerned
Source: Johanna Legatt

Just when you thought 2017 couldn't get any weirder along comes a new report on the technological developments in the sex robot sector.

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The RealDolls and other sex robots can be customised according to traits the user finds appealing.

Yep. Sex robots are a big deal right now.

Recently, the Foundation for Responsible Robotics (FRR) released a report looking at the development of sex robots over the next five to 10 years. According to Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Sheffield and co-founder of the FRR, we need to start taking their rise seriously.

Customers can choose the robot's eye colour, nipple shape and fingernail type.
Customers can choose the robot's eye colour, nipple shape and fingernail type.    Photo: Facebook/RealDoll

"People snigger about them, but they [the companies] are actually shipping quite a lot and we are going to see them a lot more," Mr Sharkey said at the launch of the new report.

Modern sex dolls have evolved out of their blow-up counterparts into robots with a silicon skin that is warm to the touch – with deliberately human-like responses achieved by artificial intelligence.

The user can also "customise" their robot to suit their persuasions, choosing everything from the robot's eye colour, nipple shape to fingernail type or colour.

But it gets even more disturbing, with many of the robots possessing "personalities" that would make a Stepford Wife look progressive.

The RealBotix robot, for example, allows users to customise their robots according to the traits they find appealing, such as shyness.

Then there are the Roxxxy Gold sex robots, developed by True Companion, which come with pre-programmed personalities, including "Frigid Farrah" that gives the impression of shyness and "Wild Wendy" with an "adventurous" personality.

"Roxxxy Gold has a personality which is matched as much as possible to your personality," the True Companion website enthuses.

"So she likes what you like, dislikes what you dislike, etc. She also has moods during the day just like real people! She can be sleepy, conversational or she can 'be in the mood'!"

There are many disturbing aspects to the rise of sex robots – not least of which is the replacement of real, human relationships – but the subservient female traits, the rapey connotations of making a move on Frigid (read: resistant) Farrah, are the most concerning.

On its website, True Companion likened Roxxxy to a vibrator, but for men.

"If woman (sic) can have a vibrator, why can't men have a Roxxxy?" the website states.

However, these sex robots are not a mere fetish or just another sex toy. Their emergence and increasing sophistication points to something darker and deeper within our culture, a retreat from the ideal of gender equality toward a desire for sex with subjugation as an optional add-on.

Most men, naturally, are not going to keep sex robots, and while the FRR noted their increasing popularity, they remain, for now, on the outskirts of consumer culture.

But what seeps in from the fringes can be highly instructive as to the tenor of the era we're living in. And many people aren't weird or offensive until the free market gives them the permission to be so.

There is little coincidence that these sophisticated sex robots have emerged at a time when women's rights are under threat across the globe, when there is a president in the White House who has bragged about sexually assaulting women.

The most chilling aspect of the TV series The Handmaid's Tale isn't the graphic imagery, the noosed bodies and gouged eyes, but just how realistic that vision feels. The Republic of Gilead is a leap, but, right now, it doesn't feel like a large one.

The aim behind these sex robots is to create as much of a physical likeness to actual women (albeit with porn star proportions) as technologically possible. Their creators want them to feel human to the touch, for them to mimic the movement of a real body.

But, pointedly, when it comes to their "personalities" the robots do not represent real women. They cannot break up with their companion, or walk out. They have no agency or back-story, nothing to suggest independence or anything that may disrupt the fantasy of total servitude.

They are pleasant slaves, in other words. Or to put it into 2017 parlance: handmaidens.


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