Sex robots are pure click bait. They don’t even really exist yet (what we have are ‘smart sex dolls’) and are likely decades away in any meaningful form, yet online news sites are carrying stories about them nearly every day, and all because the public just can’t get enough of them. Even academics are finding that any paper or even comment on sex robots will get you a maybe once in a lifetime mention in the news, perhaps even a research grant and a lift to your career. Some academics are even making careers out of being ‘experts on the ethics of sex robots’.
So another week and another ridiculous academic paper on sex robots. This time a pair of Scandinavian professors have published a paper suggesting that the robots be given ‘consent modules’ allowing them to give and withdraw consent to their owners, apparently creating more virtuous behavior from both the robots and their lovers.
Unfortunately, few places online exist that will call out the nonsense underlying stuff like this, but one news site prepared to do so is Russia Today, and in an excellent op-ed subtitled – ‘Even Our Fantasies Aren’t Safe From The Virtue Police’ – the writer articulately takes apart the disturbing desire from these academics and activists to regulate even our sexual interactions with what are still ‘glorified sex toys’.
“Consent culture” has long since lost touch with reality. Forcing first-year college students to sit through a “consent course” to learn something as obvious as “no means no” suggests admissions staff don’t trust themselves not to pick a herd of rapists – it’s equivalent to making students sit through a film on proper toilet hygiene. Must the virtue police impose their infantilization of the bedroom even on people’s interaction with glorified computerized sex toys?
The pair admit that merely programming a sex robot to give or not give verbal consent hardly addresses the totality of the phenomenon – humans can be pressured into sex, or too intoxicated to understand what’s going on, both scenarios that would be difficult if not impossible to replicate with AI. Yet they still suggest “compassion cultivating sex robots” could be used to teach sex ed to teenagers – as if “programming” young people to expect a predictable series of behaviors from their sexual partners isn’t setting them up for disappointment, even shock when faced with the real thing.