September 22, 2015

Fatal Error: A Ban on Robot Sex? Already?

Shouldn't we be more concerned that Roy is going to hurt *my* feelings?
Shouldn’t we be more concerned that Roy is going to hurt *my* feelings?

By Alexa Day

Longtime visitors to this blog perhaps remember a post I wrote a while back about robot sex. I am, not surprisingly if you know me, very much in favor of robot sex, and I’m pretty excited about the possibilities emerging in the field.

So this Saturday, I found myself a little conflicted by the very first link in our Sexy Saturday Round Up. My esteemed colleague, Madeline Iva, directed me to a story about a call for a ban on robot sex.

A ban on robot sex. To my knowledge, no one is actually having robot sex at this particular time. But no matter. Someone still stands ready to deny you that pleasure.

I tried to keep an open mind. I popped open a frosty cold beverage and considered why a person might want to ban robot sex before it really got off the ground. Maybe we’re concerned about safety. That made sense. In the last post, I mentioned that Our Robot Sex Partners might be heavy and cold and pinchy. We’ve all heard the awful stories about how they don’t always know their own strength. And Westworld. Remember Westworld? Nobody planned for that fairly predictable brand of unpleasantness.

Safety matters. No one wants to start out in a cute little robo-romcom and end up in the latest Terminator movie. I get it.

Beverage in hand, I clicked on over to that news story, curious to see what people were doing about banning robot sex until a specific time in the future when it could be made safer.

Except that’s not what these folks are worried about. Robot ethicist Dr. Kathleen Richardson says she’s concerned that the new sex robots promote detrimental stereotypes about women and encourage potential users to think that relationships are just about sex.

Okay. I think I can see why she’s upset about this. And I love that we have robot ethicists now before Westworld and Terminator. So I’m not going to laugh this off. I just want to make a couple of observations.

First, I had not considered the possibility of promoting detrimental stereotypes about women. I’d been thinking of my own little heterosituation, for one thing, which does not involve female robots. I know this is awful. There’s no excuse.

Further, if we start banning everything that promotes detrimental stereotypes about women, there’s ’bout ta be a whole lotta bannin’ stuff. I hate to be that cynical, but what do we have right now that doesn’t promote these stereotypes? Anything?

I also have to admit that I’m confused by the idea that robot sex had to lead to a robot relationship. I will stand up right now and confess to all of you that I had absolutely planned to play Hit It and Quit It with the robot. That’s really what makes the robot sex so intriguing to me — not having to worry that my robo-booty call was going to catch feelings. All the robo-decadence with none of the robo-emotions. I know this is awful, too.

As for those of us with flesh-and-blood partners and a little hot robot action on the side, isn’t that a totally separate relationship issue? I mean, cheating on a partner with anybody, bot or not, is best addressed by those persons involved. I don’t see that banning robot sex is the best way to prevent adultery. What about those of us who might be trying to bring a robotic third into our coupled-up lives to spice things up a bit, in the most objective way possible?

Now, I’m all for protecting the civil rights of our special robot friends. After all, botsploitation is at the root of many a sci-fi dystopia. But I have faith that Our Robot Sex Partners are okay to look out for themselves. I think they would reject this paternalistic human ban on the exploration of robosexuality. How dare we presume that they can’t fend for themselves?

Mostly, I’m a little annoyed that someone wants to put a stop to my robotic good time before it even gets started. This is why we can’t have nice things.

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  • Post authorKemberlee

    Just curious, aren’t vibrators and other fake penises and vaginas a form of robotism? They’re electrified…brought to life, as it were. Just because they don’t have faces attached to them…What makes a robot a robot? And if the nosy nelly puritans are going to ban a theory, couldn’t that lead to banning adult toys?

    Reply to Kemberlee
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      I absolutely think that could lead to restrictions on the more advanced forms of sex-related AI. You know, of all the ways I feared that might happen, I never considered that robot exploitation would put that nail in the coffin.

      Reply to Alexa Day
      • Post authorKemberlee

        At what point to we call a piece of machinery a robot? And what capabilities make a sexbot a good sexual partner? Do you think it matters more if a robot has a face or has a vague human form? Once anthropomorphized, I can see how some might consider it exploitation.

        There are a few guys out there making sex machines out of just about anything that is mechanized. They attach a dildo to it and you lay back and literally take it. Are those sex robots?

        Reply to Kemberlee
        • Post authorAlexa Day

          You make an excellent point about the f*cking machine! I hadn’t thought about those, either, but I can definitely see how, in the strict sense of the word, it would be a robot.

          I can also see — kind of — that some people are so afraid of defining the line between mere machine and entity with feelings that they want to call the whole robot sex thing off before it gets started. But I would love to explore the larger question of how far we can go with robotics generally before we stop talking about a mechanized convenience and start talking about an underclass of potentially disposable people.

          There might be a story idea in there somewhere. 😉

          Reply to Alexa Day
      • Post authorKemberlee

        Write the book, Alexa, and I’ll buy it 🙂

        Reply to Kemberlee
        • Post authorAlexa Day

          You know, I spent part of the day on some character sketches. 🙂 This might just end up being something. Or something else.

          Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authormadeline iva

    I assume what would make a robot more of a ‘person’ rather than just a walking talking dildo would be artificial intelligence.

    Yes, it’s not good when anything in the guise of female persons are treated like consumable objects and not–you know–female persons. So boo to — robot prostitution? Robot sex rentals?

    But who’s to say that the robots won’t want to have sex, eh? Who’s to say that a robot wouldn’t want want it and want it and need it? Why is this ethicist assuming that sex is always about exploitation and a one way road of consumer/abuser desiring objectified female/victim? As you said, Alexa, some of us have been imagining *quite* different scenarios.

    Reply to madeline iva
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      Yes! To the extent the robot wants anything at all, why are we presuming that it does not want to have the robot sex with me? Isn’t that kind of condescending?

      And I join you in asking why this obviously learned person is presuming that all botsex is exploitative. What is that about?

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authormadeline iva

    If I was a robot, *I’d* want to have sex with you! But I think the idea is that persons (even artificial persons) without power are exploited and disenfranchised. Which is true, sure. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t have needs/curiosity and wanna git some.

    Reply to madeline iva
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      Aw, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to me all day! 🙂

      I totally agree that even the disenfranchised are DTF. Just think of how fraught the robot sex would be if it were curious and sweet or angry and disenfranchised.

      Their world would be just as complicated as ours! It might end up being a great deal like having sex with other humans after all.

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorAlexa Day

    Reblogged this on Alexa J. Day and commented:

    The Robot Sex. A polarizing issue. But should it be? Shouldn’t we just capitalize it and call it a day?

    Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorSofie Couch

    This is a HI-Larious topic, Alexa! (And you thought I was all about the “sweet romance”. 🙂 I think our ethicist in question is going to have to look hard at how robo sex promotes detrimental stereotypes about women. While it might be wrong, there aren’t really laws banning it. It’s like banning thoughts. We fall into a sticky quagmire of ethics every day. “Put those melons down, young man! Don’t you know you can only buy them one-at-a-time?”
    And what about detrimental stereotypes about men? I mean, seriously, cucumbers unite! You’re being objectified. That goes for you too, bananas. Ban together. (Oh, that’d be a “bunch together”.)
    Until our robots develop sentience, I think we’re safe on the robo-sex front. After we pass the point of robo-sentience, then we can talk about bans. (But then what about robo-human consenting couples?) Slippery, slippery slope. (Where’s my rhoomba?)

    Reply to Sofie Couch
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      The double standard you’re describing is part of the robot sex story I’m working on (because I just have all the time in God’s green creation for that right now), but I also think it’s interesting that no one has stopped to ask about detrimental stereotypes about men. Indeed, the notion of the male sex robot is way under the radar, I think. I watched a documentary on robot sex the other night, and the one male sex robot I saw was like an afterthought. This is why we need girls in STEM!

      Having said that, I can see the advantage to having a plan in place well before robo-sentience. Sci fi is not filled with stories of robots who were okay with our treatment of them, and I think they’ll be pleased to know we at least considered all the thorny troubles that go with the robosexytimes.

      Good luck finding the Roomba! Rumor has it that they like to get … involved … with smartphones, but that might just be big talk. 😉

      Reply to Alexa Day
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