Our Sexual Future with Robots (review)

frr-sexbotAlmost every recent article on sex robots is quoting Dr. Noel Sharkey from the report Our Sexual Future with Robots. For example, he is quoted as saying “submissive sex robots could encourage sickening sex crimes – including abuse, rape and paedophilia”, according to the Daily Star. What does the report actually say, and what evidence is provided? The report, linked above, is 44 pages long. I’m going to quote what I think is relevant and comment.

Question 4, on page 20 of the report, begins delving into the ethical questions raised by sex robots: Will sex robots change societal perceptions of gender? No evidence is presented to support any of the opinions quoted. These include those of self proclaimed “campaigners” who appear to be driven by their ideologies. The author’s own anti-male bias is clear as well, as evinced by statements such as “It is certainly an unfortunate fact that males dominate the Engineering industries.” The  emphatically drawn conclusion is completely unsupported by evidence:

There is no question that creating a pornographic representation of women’s bodies
in a moving sex machine, objectifies and commodfies women’s bodies.

Question 7, on page 25, is: Would sex robots help to reduce sex crimes? Again, no evidence is provided, merely opinions.

On the subject of childlike robots, for example, Peter Fagan from the John Hopkins School of Medicine is cites cognitive-behavioural theory to claim sex dolls would have a reinforcing effect on paedophilia and “in many instances, cause it to be acted upon with greater urgency. But this is mere theorizing, and, as pointed out by Kate Darling, “we can’t research it. Funding is scarce, and it isn’t easy to find a group of paedophiles willing to participate in research. Such a line of inquiry would also be likely to provoke objections from many corners.”

On the subject of rape fantasy, the study examines positive and negative opinions, but concludes:

This … is a very dangerous path to tread. It may be that allowing people to live out their darkest fantasies with sex robots could have a pernicious effect on society and societal norms and create more danger for the vulnerable.

I’ve given my opinions on these issues in previous articles. People indulging in rape fantasies with an inanimate object is preferable to them doing so with a prostitute, who could be injured or even killed. In the unlikely event that childlike robots are not banned, use of them is infinitely preferable to the alternative, the abuse of child prostitutes.

I find this paper full of interesting opinions, but almost completely free of any evidence. Based on the authors’ own opinions and those they’ve chosen to quote as credible, I believe they show a clear bias against sex robots. Though the paper is being quoted out of context, I would say it does promote the idea that sex robots would lead to more sex crime. Where is the evidence of that?

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About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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