By John Chandler
This fall, the Pew Research Center projected that we will see robotic prostitutes by 2025. In the words of University of Tennessee law professor and author Glenn Harlan Reynolds, “Terminator robots won’t stalk the earth massacring humans; they’ll slink into our bedrooms and hijack the drive that keeps humanity growing.”
Until recently, this was the stuff of science fiction (see Alice Sheldon’s story, The Screwfly Solution). But USA Today reports on Japanese advertisements for sex dolls with artificial intelligence, and Matt Groening’s Futurama series has already featured an episode about a boy creating “Marilyn Monroebot.” Perhaps Brad Pittbot isn’t far behind.
To be clear, our topic here is not alien invasion. Nor is it about robots taking away human jobs. It is, however, about the dark intersection of technology and sexuality. More specifically, it is about how technology enters the conversation following the redefinition of human sexuality. Widespread use of the birth control pills in the 1960s began to separate human sexual expression away from procreation. That spurred a cultural sexual revolution. Human sexuality was no longer connected to procreation (a theological term), and the new conversation was instead about reproduction (a commercial category). The original biblical command concerning sexuality — “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” — now became a conversation (in part) about technological possibilities. Some of the new possibilities have been wonderful.
However, as technology continues to evolve — think artificial wombs — sexuality will continue to be thought of in terms of categories of commerce and technology. Robo-sexuality is not far-fetched. As Reynold writes, already Katy Perry has said she doesn’t need a man to have a baby. Will the day be far behind when a man does not need a woman to have a baby? Does anyone need anyone else to have a baby?
The intersection of sexuality and technology has enabled worthy but previously unable to conceive couples to become parents. The same intersection of technology and sexuality has also fueled record levels of accessibility to the most dehumanizing pornography in human history. Already one in five people in a United Kingdom survey say they would get “dirty with a droid.” Expect those numbers to go up. And get ready to have more conversations about sexuality and technology.