Meet the Sexbot That Rocked Tinder

Harmony sex doll gets wild interest on the popular dating app

So, there you are on an otherwise average Friday night cruising on Tinder in New York City, aimlessly flicking through endless possible matches—maybe her, maybe her, and maybe her.

Then you come across a very unique her.

Actually, unique doesn’t quite say it enough as this particular her isn’t human. Actually, she’s a picture of a state-of-the-art Harmony sexbot created by Realbotix/RealDoll.

But that doesn’t stop you from swiping right. In fact, it might be the very reason you did: joining over 92 two other men in about two hours who expressed serious interest in having sex with the robot.

Swipe right for the future 

Like many people, especially those who might be avid Future of Sex readers, filmmaker Jimmy Mehiel was curious about men interesting in having sex with an artificial woman.

Then he hit on an ingenious idea: why not use the dating app Tinder to find out? So he contacted Matt McMullen, the CEO of Realbotix/RealDoll, and asked if he could use a picture of McMullen’s star creation: the artificially intelligent sexbot named Harmony.

If Harmony rings a bell it’s because she and the technology behind her have made frequent appearances on Future of Sex as well as in the mainstream press.

Most of this attention has come from McMullen’s work to make the doll as lifelike as possible, with moving eyes and lips plus sophisticated artificial intelligence programming allowing users to make their own doll a perfect sexual companion.

Mehiel, too, was struck by Harmony, especially how it raised some interesting questions about sexual relations with robots like her.

For his project, he posted three pictures of Harmony to Tinder in New York City on a Friday evening with a description including “I’m an anatomically correct, sexually capable robot with the most advanced AI available.”

Hot to trot

The response was, to put it mildly, surprising: with 92 people expressing interest. As he explained to The Mirror, the next thing was to determine how much of an interest these men actually had.

So he followed up by asking each one if they would, indeed, have sex with a robot. In total 57 responded, 17 of them saying, yes, they would have sex with a robot like Harmony. While 15 respondents said they might consider it, 25 declined interest.

These responses, plus the Tinder experiment itself, then became the documentary project he is currently working on: I Want My Sex Machine.

Exploring our interest in sexbots

According to Mehiel, the finished film will feature interviews with a variety of experts, activists, and entrepreneurs plus an exploration of the growing popularity of sexbot brothels.

Speaking about his documentary, Mehiel to Future of Sex that reactions to it and his experiment have been all over the place but that most people have been fascinated by the subject, many of them saying variations of “That’s fascinating!” “You’re weird!” and “I didn’t even know sex robots existed.

When I asked my mom what she thought when she found out I was making a sex robot documentary she said, ‘I thought, of course, you are. There goes Jimmy,  doing something weird again.’

But the most common refrain has been ‘I don’t know if I’d try a sex robot, but I definitely wanna see the movie.’

Henry wasn’t as popular as Harmony

Mehiel, wanting to see if gender was a factor in interest, also posted pictures of Henry, a male version of the Harmony sexbot, on Tinder but the results were a lot less dramatic.

Advertising him as bisexual, Mehiel wanted to check out “straight men’s response vs straight women’s response and it seems that in general men are more interested at the moment, straight or gay.”

Though he has no plans to repeat the experiment or put Henry on queer dating sites like Grindr, Mehiel does think that having sexbots like Harmony and Henry available for people to actually see firsthand their sophistication would be interesting—and if it would change their minds about using them for sexual pleasure.

I Want My Sex Machine

Currently, I Want My Sex Machine is still in production but Mehiel says it should be finished shortly and that the experience of making it has been an eye-opening experience on sex and how we relate to technology.

I think the film will deliver an honest examination of the good and the bad associated with the arrival of sex robots. It’s not a commercial for sexbots and it’s not a condemnation. The interesting stuff is in the sexy but dangerous gray area and that’s where the film lives.

Mehiel further says that he feels sexbots like Harmony, while they won’t exactly become mainstream in the next 20 to 30 years, will become a common luxury for 20-somethings to try or to pay regular visits to a sexbot brothel.

Sexbots, women, and capitalism

Considering the proliferation of these kinds of establishments in the present day, he speculates that their popularity in the United States might be linked to its solid capitalist nature.

Capitalists love objects, especially tech stuff and the idea of being king or queen of your own world. We love control and the culture skews more toward individualistic every day to my eye. The idea that you could be in control of a world that serves you completely, in which you do not have to compromise any of your time or interests, is more appealing than people want to admit.

He also says that people like Dr. Kathleen Richardson and her Campaign Against Sex Robots, are misguided in their belief that the technology is a way for men to express their anti-women hostility. He points, particularly, to his own experience with a sex doll:

It seems to make sense at first, but I had “sex” with a doll in a brothel in Paris and one of the most impactful realizations was that—it couldn’t be less similar to sex with a real woman. If anything, I think the opposite could be true. After having an intimate experience with a bot or doll, the next time you’re in the company of a real person you’re so much more aware of their humanity.

A nuanced view of sex and technology

With people claiming to have the unshakable answer to everything, especially when it comes to the new world of sex with robots and sex dolls, Mehiel and his film project promises to bring a more nuanced and thoughtful view.

In a perfect way to close this brief look at Mehiel and I Want To Have Sex With Robots, and perfectly show his shades-of-gray attitude to this touchy subject, is with his own words on why there might be a reason for concern but no reason to panic

I think we are losing something as our intimacy shifts from people to things, but I don’t think it’s intellectually honest to say that we can/should ban sex robots.

Image sources: Lyncconf Games, Eden, Janine and Jim, Day 363- 10101, Viaggio Routard