Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
April 24, 2012 /
Amsterdam, 2050 – a world where men can buy their most filthy, debauched, brutal sexual fantasies without guilt, without STDs, without arrest.
At least according to New Zealand academics Ian Yeoman and Michelle Mars, visionaries of a world where sex robots replace prostitutes.
Truth be told, I actually see a little appeal. I quite liked Lars and the Real Girl. There are very few sexually transmitted diseases I’d want to catch. The love interest recently gave me a plush panda which I’ve attributed several human-like qualities. Sure, I can see some vague charm.
As interesting as I find the sexbot construct, however, I’m pretty sure that Yeoman and Mars’s conception of Amsterdam 2050 is pretty damn preposterous.
Just as Kubrick’s vision of 2001 was a little out and just as we probably didn’t quite party as hard as Prince imagined we would in 1999, I’m thinking that the Dutch dream is more delusion than prophesy.
Men buy sex for many reasons: one includes sex with a person. If prostitution was merely jazzed up masturbation, I dare say they’d just use their other hand or procure a Fleshlight. It’d sure be cheaper.
Even if those robots actually felt like flesh, even if their programming was advanced enough to dazzle physically, orally and aurally, they’re not human and few men will be deluded enough to forget that.
Most men in fact prefer sex with something that breathes, that has a heartbeat, that is alive. Hell, I’ll even go so far to suggest that some men even like the spontaneity that exists with a partner. That they like touches that can’t always be anticipated; that they appreciate moods and quirks and appetites that can’t be digitised.
The sexbot domination thesis paints men as bastards. As pigs who want women perpetually pliable, passive and plastic. That they’re interested only in their own pleasure. That their perfect woman is a Stepford Wife programmed to noddingly cater to their every whim.
To subscribe to the Yeoman and Mars vision of 2050 is to accept that men are as dumb as advertising suggests; that men are as misogynist and reprehensible as radical feminism too often casts them.
Problematically, Yeoman and Mars appear to consider prostitution a necessary evil. That men are so depraved, their needs so hideously persistent, that female sex workers exist purely to cater to their awfulness.
Such a premise ignores the sex work reality where women enter the industry for a multitude of reasons; very few are there to help manage the male sexuality ‘scourge’.
One of the strangest assertions proposed by the researchers is that sexbots are a superb way to manage guilt. That by bumping and grinding into a latex ‘lady’, men’s issues with remorse and embarrassment and repentance will somehow be remedied.
Guilt isn’t actually an internal organ. Men aren’t born with it. It’s learnt – through culture, through faith, through other people.
To pretend that God-botherers and right-wing conservatives and the thought police will be perfectly content with sexbots – you know, just like they’ve been such vocal advocates for other non-mainstream sexualities – is completely preposterous.
The absolved guilt fallacy also oddly, naively, assumes men would even want rid of the anxiety and learnt taboo of paid-for sex. People have sex for a multitude of reasons: pleasure is one, but others like debasement and debasing, sexual anxiety and feeling sexually renegade are others too.
Humans can feel and also gift guilt; robots can’t.
Sexbots might one day exist as a viable sexuality option much like masturbation, like human-with-human intercourse, like abstinence. They might even one day become popular.
But to pretend that sexbots will ever make a dent in sex work in Amsterdam or anywhere else is laughable, cynical and quite a bit bloody sexist.
© Lauren Rosewarne