Policy Report: Sex Dolls and Sex Robots – A Serious Problem For Women, Men & Society

cropped-backdrop-copy_newtext5.jpg

Policy Document

 

Preamble

 

Robots and AI are set to impact on economic, social and personal ways of organising in advanced industrial economies. This report is about the dangers of sex robots and AI on interpersonal relationships, and the detrimental impacts on women and girls.

This policy document sets out the problems with sex robots and their related artefacts of sex dolls. We believe the UK and European government should take the issues of sex dolls and sex robots of women and girls seriously and work to introduce a ban on these artefacts.

The rise of sex robots (animated dolls), and the promotion and widespread normalising of sex dolls; epitomised by a growth in ‘sex doll brothels’ in European cities; are an ethically problematic development in society. While sex robots (dolls with robotics or AI features) are not commonplace, we should not be complacent about the rise of sex robots. Rather than see sex dolls and the emerging market in sex robots as harmless ‘sex toys’, we argue that these represent a misogynistic development. We are campaigning for legislation to ban these artefacts.

 

Introduction

 

Films and TV shows such as Ex Machina, The Stepford Wives and Westworld feature stories in which men are powerful and have built sex robots in the form of women to control and dominate. None of these films or TV shows actually feature robots, but actresses or actors playing in the role of robots. Though robots will never match the fiction (that’s why it’s called ‘fiction’) there is potential to build simple machines which utilises ongoing developments in robotics and AI (motors for movements, or voice apps similar to Siri) to produce mechanical puppets.

We should not wait till sex robots become normalised in our society through the rise of sex dolls but take a step towards banning pornographic dolls in the form of women and girls. Anthropomorphic dolls of women and girls are already increasingly commercially available.

As women and girls suffer significant sexualised violence, the addition of the dolls normalises a culture in which female bodies are seen as nothing more than the property of men. The dolls become a new way in which the pornography industry has gained its grip on wider culture promoting an idea that viewing porn and masturbating into dolls and calling it ‘sex’ is harmless, even beneficial to society, particularly to men. The makers of these dolls are situated within the pornographic sphere. Dolls are now promoted on the Adult Expo circuit, alongside pornography, virtual reality and torture implements of Bondage-Domination Sadism-Masochism (BDSM). Here is one image from the Asia Adult Expo Fair:

Screenshot 2018-05-08 00.14.21

The pornography industry is enthusiastically promoting dolls as the new fetish for the porn industry. There is already a growing doll porn viewership (and these sites features dolls the size of five-year-old girls). Prostituted women have already discussed how they are now asked to carry out commercial sex acts with dolls. Women in porn are also increasingly featured as performing with dolls. And several paedophiles who have been found with dolls, also possessed rape and sexual abuse imagery of children. It won’t be long before child sex offenders enrol the dolls in childhood sexual exploitation – but I suspect this is already happening though no reports have come to light to qualify this statement. What we do know from research and criminal evidence is that what happens to adult female bodies in pornography, is also acted out on the bodies of children.

While there are some sex dolls in the form of men, male dolls are rarer, and it is males who primarily buy them. There are no publicly known dolls in the form of young boys – but again this is just a matter of time if this industry is not addressed.

We propose to ban the production and sale of all sex dolls and sex robots in the UK with a move to campaign for a European ban. Regulation is not the answer in this domain, due to the intimate connections between misogyny, child sexual exploitation and male violence. Sex dolls and sex robots become new ways in which predatory and non-empathetic behaviours are expressed and practiced in society with the victims of this primarily women and girls. Moreover, widespread pornography has decreased male empathy towards women and girls, and therefore objects that further reinforce the idea that women are programmable property can only destabilise relationships in society further.

 

 

 The Future of Humanity: A growing attachment crisis

 

 

 The rise of sex dolls cannot be dissociated from porn and worldwide misogyny and femicide, sex trafficking, and ‘mail-order’ brides. In China, the misogynistic effects of the one-child policy will produce a surplus of 30 million men by 2030. In these countries, dolls, alongside increased sex trafficking, and mail order brides means that female existence in China carries a real existential risk, more real than any AI or robot uprising. Some propose to use dolls to compensate men for their lack of females (which have been killed before birth), but will only intensify misogyny. In other countries, there is a crisis brewing in human attachment. Attachment is the ability for humans to form stable, long lasting, meaningful interpersonal relationships that support mutual co-existence throughout life. A turn-away from each-other towards an increasingly isolated existence, supported by online porn, and social life online has produced a new historical situation – the abandonment of human relationships.

A survey of 18-34-year olds in Japan found 61% of unmarried men and 49% of unmarried women were not in any kind of romantic intimacy and an astonishing third of people under 30 had not had any kind of close pair-bonding relationship. In a study in 2011 found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship, a rise of almost 10% from five years earlier.  Men view online pornography and play computer games, visit prostitutes as an alternative to civil relationships with women. Women are put off by Japanese men because they are expected to be subservient in a relationship.

These issues are not confined to China or other Asian regions. In North America and Europe similar trends are starting to emerge. The recent reports of incels (involuntary celibates) have found a generation of males who are spending more time alone, watching hardcore pornography and unable to make intimate relationships. These sub-communities are growing in number. A survey published in The Times found one in eight British 26-year olds are virgins. Pornography is, significantly contributing to an attachment crisis among human beings. Hierarchical male loss of power that is organised through traditional power structures have been diminishing over the last 100 years, the 1960s which marked the rise of feminism aimed to improve equality between the sexes, yet a commercial prostitution and porn trade grew up in parallel, that was open and legal. As porn is about a physically intimate act, as an industry it has poisoned intimate relationships between men and women.

Therefore, we have to address three significant reasons for this:

  1. Widespread misogyny and objectification of women and girls
  2. A commercial prostitution trades that legally permits the dehumanisation of women in pornography and prostitution.
  3. A failure to address male predatory behaviour by blaming male biology rather than exploring the social, economic and political roots of male sexual exploitative behaviours.

Sex dolls ‘brothels’ are paving the way for normalising sex robots, and also producing a distorted dehumanised culture in European society where objectification, violence towards women is now becoming the norm. These attitudes are at odds with a humanistic inspired civil society approach to political life, in which relationships between humans are valued, protected and supported in our political cultures. The rise of sex dolls and sex robots are telling us the reverse is occurring.

 

 

Summary of Popular Arguments in Support of Sex Dolls and Sex Robots

 

 

There are a number of arguments that promote sex dolls and sex robots as harmless and/or beneficial for society. We do not address all the arguments here but some of the popular ones promoted in academia, the tech industry and the press.

Sex dolls/robots are the same as vibrators and dildos

Advocates of sex doll/robots argue that they are just akin to popular ‘sex toys’ of vibrators and dildos, objects that are used on the body to be pleasurable, but everyday items could also perform the same function. Firstly, there are fundamental differences not only in the forms of these objects, one is a shape for contact with an orifice, the other is a mannequin figure of women or girl (or adult male). Secondly, advocates of sex dolls/robots do not merely promote them as ‘sex toys’ (objects to rub on the genitals or body) – but promote them as ‘just like women’ and argue these dolls can become their girlfriends or wives (experts predict by 2030 humans will be able to legally marry artefacts). Thirdly, these dolls come in the form of girls, but soon (if they do not already exist) be infant dolls or male child dolls. Finally no one proposes that women have ‘sex’ with vibrators, but masturbate with them. The fact that men are told they are having ‘sex’ with a doll should be seen as a worrying sign that masturbation and rape is now seen as ‘sex’ (intercourse involving another) for males.

Sex dolls/robots are not real

Advocates of sex dolls/robots argue that these are artefacts and therefore not real and can not be harmed. This is a powerful argument because they are correct. We are talking here about dolls, and possibly robotic dolls not women or girls. However, this argument is problematic for two reasons, the first is the uncertainty about the status of the objects and their impacts on wider interpersonal relationships will mean that once these dolls have become ‘normalised’ in brothels, on web forums and in porn and prostitution, we will see them increasingly on the streets, in libraries, in the workplace. These dolls will pave the way for new kinds of commercialised relations between people. We cannot know all the unintended consequences of these dolls. What we know for sure male isolation is occurring in tandem with a thriving commercial prostitution, porn and child sexual exploitation culture. Dolls will not reduce this horrific world problem, but increase human isolation, and contribute to reduced empathy among males (particularly younger disenfranchised males) in wider society.

Sex dolls/robots can help stop prostitution

Prostitution relies on an asymmetrical sexual encounter between buyers (statically males at 95 per cent) contracting access to female bodies as sexual merchandise. This asymmetrical relationship has breed a culture where (some) men use women like objects and are permitted to treat the prostituted in ways that would be illegal in civil life. Studies including a report by Farley et al. (2009)[1] showed how a deficit in empathy of sex buyers towards the prostituted underlined the reason why men were unable to see the suffering or distress of the women in prostitution, comparing these women in prostitution to commercial goods. If empathy is one of the core deficits underlining an asymmetrical sexual exploitation culture, then giving these men dolls will compound the problems further. Moreover, evidence that sex dolls or sex robots will reduce prostitution is not borne out by evidence. In fact, there is now a new market developing with Sex Doll ‘Brothels in Germany, the UK, Austria, Spain and France. The French government recently passed a sex-buyers law based on the Nordic Model of prostitution (penalise sex buying and pimping and decriminalise those selling sex). In order to get around this law, sex doll company XDolls promoted the sex doll house as a ‘brothel’ (feeding in directly to the idea that women in prostitution and dolls are interchangeable). Moreover, in European countries of Austria, Germany, Denmark and Holland (to name a few), the Nordic Model is not the primary mode of dealing with prostitution instead these countries have legalised or decriminalised prostitution regimes. Dolls are added to the options that men can purchase. Sex dolls are promoted as another option to male sex-buyers alongside marginalised women that are primarily from the poorest regions of the world including Romania, Bulgaria and Nigeria.

Sex dolls/robots can help stop child sexual rape and exploitation

Studies report that sex offenders of children have a problem in empathetic relationality (Hanson 2003)[2]. Empathy, according to psychology experts, is crucial for understanding the thoughts, feelings and responses of others, and responding appropriately. In 2017, Kathleen Richardson supported the Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots (CREEPER) Act proposed by Republican Daniel Donovan Jr in December 2017. The act is supported by a number of organisations dealing explicitly with child sexual exploitation. Evidence does not provide any robust case that adults who sexually abuse and rape children will learn empathy towards children via a doll with anatomical sexualised parts which can be penetrated by the adult. Quite simply, how can this help someone who is not able to respond appropriately to the distress of a human child, able to learn empathy from a doll or programmable machine?

There are also concerns that voice-based AI could make the infants and child dolls more lifelike therefore matching the fantasies of the adult perpetrators, or dolls that are programmed to cry or show distress to excite the perpetrators.

Sex dolls/robots are substitute relationships

The myth that dolls or robots are substitutes to human relationships have formed the core of my research over the last 17 years. The widespread idea that machines can be friends, companions or therapists has been promoted by researchers in engineering, computer science, AI and robotics. The academic disciplines that developed these ideas are primarily male in their make-up. There is now widespread critical attention directed towards the inherent sexist bias in the making of robots and AI. The assumption that dolls or robots can be substitute ‘intimate’ or ‘caring’ relationships does not arise from a feminist equality perspective, but a male dominated culture of engineering and techno-science. In robot labs, male researchers talk about robots as being ‘their children’ while having children at home in which they are not the primary carers. They also speak of ‘robot companions for the elderly’ while many of them have never performed this role and do not carry out significant interpersonal caring responsibilities. Therefore, we must question a male dominated culture that speaks about ‘care’ and ‘companionship’ with machines while simultaneously disengaged from significant responsibility of caring roles in their actual lives.

 This I believe is what underscores the rise of the myth of ‘companion robots’.

Moreover, we cannot disentangle the influence of porn on male researchers in robotics and AI. There is evidence for this including the use of porn imagery informing decades of research in computer vision research. Lena Söderberg, a 1972 playboy centrefold features in many vision textbooks, presentations and conference papers. 

220px-Lenna.

 

 

Why a full Ban and not Regulation is the Answer

 

Across European cities the emergence of ‘sex doll brothels’ should be seen as a worrying sign of what is happening to sex and sexuality in our society as a result of pornography and prostitution. It would seem that some regulation is necessary, otherwise sex dolls and sex robots could become a commonplace feature of our public places – the school run, libraries, supermarkets, nightclubs. But regulation will not be enough. If this problem is not addressed early on it will produce a culture of intolerable detachment and isolation in the next decade. Moreover these developments are likely to significantly impact on the psychological and relational development of young people – who will become embroiled in this drama.

If you think this prediction seems far-fetched it is already happening. In a feature broadcast in 2017 on This Morning, doll enthusiast Arran Lee Wright added some tech to his sex doll.

 

Screenshot 2018-05-08 13.12.45

Below is a short extract of the interview with Arran, Holly, Philip and a Psychologist.

Holly: Why is this necessary?

Arran: We believe as a company that sex robots, it’s not to replace people, like women, but as a supplement… it’s a supplement to help people, and I believe it can do that. I think it can help people enhance their relationship.

Philip: What does she do?

Arran: You can interact with her, tell her you love her…

Philip: And she’ll say this…

Doll: I love you

Later in the interview

2.49

Holly: You’re saying that females have sex aids and vibrators are accepted in our society…

Philip: … but you can fit them in a drawer…

Holly: …they fit in a drawer -that is my point – where are you going to hide that? People have children around, it would be quite frightening if a child saw that in your wardrobe.

Arran: I have two children myself and Samantha [doll] has a family mode [my emphasis].

Philip: What she’s going to read the kids a bedtime story?

Arran: She can talk about animals, she can talk about philosophy, she can talk about science. I’ve programmed a thousand jokes which she tells at random. I don’t know all of them. There’s a lot to Samantha [doll]. She’s advanced.

Philip: So, you can switch her over to the family mode and have her on the sofa among the family?

Arran: Yes! My children they say ‘where’s Samantha?’ [sex doll] so she can be at home. You could ask her for example tell me something about animals, and she will…

Holly: They’re going to know, how old are they?

Arran: They are 5 and 3…

Philip: So, they ask where she is?

Arran: Yes. And when I put her in the car they really enjoy…

Holly: But at some point, they’re going to go ‘now I’m old enough to realise, Samantha [sex doll] that ‘daddy has sex with Samantha’ and ‘Samantha’s not mummy’.

Arran: No, I think the world’s changing…. I believe the world’s changing

Emma (psychologist): But it doesn’t mean the world is changing for the better does it, and I think with AI particularly, one of the things we’re realising is as psychologists is just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should do it. I think sex dolls are a perfect example. Because when you look at Japan, for example, and that is the place we can identify as being leaders in this field, they’ve created child sex dolls, they’ve also created dolls that you can set to a particular setting which is an unwanted response. And what we’re saying is we’re objectifying women, we’re commercialising them, becoming consumers of women’s bodies…This is not real, she’s not called ‘Samantha’ she’s a piece of whatever you need, she’s got voices that are simulated that are not human. Certainly, having your children around, them [is interrupted by Holly] …

Holly: …but are they doing any harm? Because in YOUR relationship with your wife [ who is in the studio but not participating in the discussion] …you incorporate her into your ‘lovemaking’ she’s part of it [camera moves to wife off-stage – image below]

Screenshot 2018-05-08 13.13.02

Holly and Philip Meet Samantha the Sex Robot: This Morning published September 12 2017. 4,560,485 million views (as of 8th May 2018).

Philip and Holly ignore the fact Arran has just explained that his children see and interact with this sex doll. They finally ask ‘what’s the harm?’ while ignoring that Arran already has eradicated the boundary between adult sexual activities and children’s lives. As the dolls are ‘not real’, Holly and Philip also dismisses the concerns raised by the psychologist about objectification of women. In a research survey recently conducted by CASR, we found that our female participants are extremely concerned about this new addition to a bloated sex trade where misogyny rules.

 

 

The benefits of human relationships

 

Overwhelming evidence supports the social and personal benefits of a culture which values mutuality, co-experience and a shared humanity. In the commercial model of the human, underlined by a dehumanising philosophy, the new frontier of commercial exploitation is human intimate relationships. In the 1960s and 1970s, women had less representation in political life to stop the legalisation of pornography and an expanding commercial sex trade. Women are not on the margins any longer, and we can face head on this attack on female humanity by male dominated robotics, AI and sex industries.

If there is empirical evidence for human loneliness and detachment, we must use politics – which is inspired by human co-experience, not machines, to resolve these problems. If contemporary males are not able to form relationships we should as a culture be thinking about new ways to address male alienation. Pornography is fuel to a fire of misogyny. Sex dolls are like putting another flammable liquid on the fire in the hope that it will somehow lessen it to tolerable levels.

In the year to celebrate female suffrage for women over the age of 21 in the United Kingdom, women are again attacked on a new front. But this front will not help men either, as men are also dehumanised by believing their humanity is met with dolls, machines or programmes. Men will become increasingly isolated and this is not good for women, men, adults or children in society. Women seen as less than human, and are threatened with existential risk in every single country of the world. Now is the time to take a turn to each-other.

——-

Professor Kathleen Richardson

Founder, Campaign Against Sex Robots!

 

Additional References:

[1]Farley, M., Bindel, J., & Golding, J. M. 2009. Men who buy sex: Who they buy and what they know (pp. 15-17). London: Eaves.

[2] Hanson, R. (2003). Empathy deficits of sexual offenders: A conceptual model. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 9(1), 13-23.