A UK academic is campaigning against sex robots, arguing they are dehumanising, isolating and will encourage people to consider women as property.
Hyper-realistic sex dolls are already widely available, but sex robots are still in development.
Abyss Creations, the maker of life-size sex dolls RealDoll, has told The New York Times they are bringing the future of sex dolls closer by building animatronics into its creations.
Kathleen Richardson, a senior research fellow in the ethics of robotics at De Montfort University, started the Campaign Against Sex Robots.
“I want people to stop thinking about the word ‘robot’ and think about the word ‘property’, and what we’re being encouraged to do is have relationships with property,” she told the ABC’s Lateline program.
“So it’s really a new level of consumerism that we have entered into now.”
She argues that not only are sex robots “dehumanising and isolating”, they are also inherently sexist.
“While we live in a world which still considers women as property, then it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to start creating property that looks like women and then encouraging people to have the same sort of relationships.”
Dr Richardson is concerned that there is a strange complacency when it comes to sex robots.
“Let me put this way: If we were to create a robot that looked like an 18th century slave, there would be horror.
“But we can look upon women as these over-sexualised images in pornography and in prostitution and it doesn’t raise an eyebrow.
“And the reason why it doesn’t raise an eyebrow is because people still think that is socially acceptable to view women as nothing more than a sexual object.”
Therapy or deviancy?
Sex robots will be a topic of serious discussion next month at the Second International Congress of Love and Sex with Robots at the University of London.
Cybersecurity experts will debate the ethics of a future in which fully fledged walking and talking androids will take over menial tasks in the home, act as companions, and yield to our sexual fantasies.
Dr Kate Devlin, who will chair the congress, believes the arguments put forward by the Campaign Against Sex Robots group are narrow-minded.
“This sex work view is actually a very narrow perspective on the whole field, and also this emphasis that it’s objectifying women.”
She said robots can have a use far beyond just offering physical pleasure.
“This could have amazingly good therapeutic benefits.
“We’ve seen things like virtual reality being used to treat issues such as social anxiety.
“Taking that a step further into a physical realm, sex robots could be a really useful thing.”