Old Beliefs in a New World: Majority Says Robot Sex Is Not Okay for Married Folks

Should singles be the only people who enjoy erotic romps with robots?

Here’s an important question to ponder: do you think the world is ready for the changes new technologies will have on human sexuality?

In particular, those buoyed by developments in artificial intelligence and robotics?

So many opinions on robot sex

More than a few experts have weighed in on the topic of sex robots, many of them covered here at Future of Sex.

On one end of the spectrum, we have Erik Billing and Kathleen Richardson, who are, to put it mildly, against the idea. They’ve gone so far as to spearhead the Campaign Against Sex Robots.

Meanwhile, economist Marina Adshade says robots will save human marriage by having them take ease sexual pressures experienced by couples.

Then you have David Levy, who says that not only will robotic sexual playmates become common and accepted but that someday they will become our committed, and most of all legal, partners.

Cheating, brothels, and robots

But what about the rest of us? Well, according to a pair of surveys recently conducted by Academic Mika Koverol at the University of Helsinki many, respondents said they are fine and dandy with people having sex with robots.

The thing is, however, they seem only to be comfortable with it if the human part of the pairing is single.

The surveys, which were conducted with 260 and 172 people, queried those involved about their emotional and sexual histories, their sense of morality, and even if they’re science-fiction fans.

The next series of questions hypothesized a future scenario, taking place in 2035 in which a person—married or single, female or male—pays a visit to a certain establishment of sexual pleasure.

In one version, the sign over the brothel’s door read: “You cannot tell out robots from real humans.” In the other, it said, “All our workers are real humans.”

The survey then asked the respondents about their feelings on the matters. To put it simply, respondents who had a more expansive sexual history had no problem with either scenario. But women did have a tendency to judge the brothel visitor more harshly than did men.

A key part of the surveys involved health, in that the those who were concerned about contracting diseases were harsher about a visit to a brothel. Whether the workers were robots or humans, it didn’t matter.

But here’s the kicker: the negative response primarily occurred when the character in the story was married.

Robot sex cheating?

Koverol’s study really doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The question of whether having sex with a robot is cheating seems to be the first one asked by mainstream news outlets when covering sex robots.

In fact, Michelle Mars, who co-authored a paper on sex robots and tourism that has received a lot of media attention, told Future of Sex in 2015 that that’s the question she’s most tired of being asked. She thinks that sex robots could be good for monogamy.

Even Neil deGrasse Tyson has chirped in on the subject, saying during his appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden that, in his opinion, robot sex is perfectly fine as long as the human involved isn’t married.

The limits of marriage

The common question about fidelity and sexbots tragically narrows the scope of debate. It oversimplifies the subject by chiefly asking how sexual robotics or artificial intelligence down will or won’t hurt traditional marriage.

By doing so, the focus skates away from the bigger picture: the right to pleasure and, more importantly, the right to love. It’s more than a little disturbing to read surveys like this and hear more and more that people are passing judgment rather than expressing acceptance or even tolerance for alternatives to sex inside traditional marriage.

The future of relationships

Instead of asking questions about robots and marriage, why not instead find out why marriage, especially traditional structures of it, must be so important? Why can’t relationships change and evolve to include the option to have both humans as well as artificial lovers?

Polyamory, having multiple sexual and emotional partners, is gaining momentum worldwide. Taking this into consideration, by 2035 the big question may not be if robot sex is cheating but what to call your partner’s partner if they happen to be a robot.

Similarly, there’s the reality of Levy’s thoughts on robot marriage on people currently tying the knot with dolls, robots, and even holograms. This isn’t in the future, this is now.

The mind rocks with possibilities and even further questions: if a person who is married to a robot, or many robots, goes to a human brothel are they cheating on their plastic partner?

Are we ready?

Which leads us back to our first question: are we ready for the coming changes to human sexuality?

Looking at surveys like this one, it would be easy to say that because of this focus on condemnation and disgust rather than acceptance of sexual choice, that we have a long, very long, way to go.

But even though the answers raise concerns, the fact that the survey was conducted in the first place shows we still have to talk about the myriad ramifications of sexual technology.

Because if we just bury our heads in the sand, the changes will not just shake things up. They could very well push the pendulum back toward even greater levels of bigotry, intolerance, and denial of the right to consensual sexual pleasure.

And if that happens, 2035 won’t be an enlightened future full of erotic possibilities but a dark age: one where robots will be a threat, a shame, and not a possibly beautiful way to experience sex—and even love.

Image sources: Alex Bellink, Betsy Weber