Therapeutic Sexbots

Should Doctors Prescribe Sexbots for Patients with Sexual Dysfunction?

Ongoing debate explores potential harms and benefits.

Therapeutic Sexbots

Last month’s Applied Evolutionary Psychology Society’s Mental Health Symposium covered a wide range of topics, but one talk in particular would go on to be described in Psychology Today as a “showstopper.”

Its focus? Prescription sex robots.

Arguments against android lovers

Dr. Glenn Geher reflected on his attendance at the lecture by clinical psychologist and sex therapist Dr. Marianne Brandon, who spoke on the imminence of sex robots being prescribed to patients diagnosed with sexual dysfunction—and the possibility of this treatment being covered by insurance.

The problem, she argued, is that this easy access will lead to a laundry list of problems that—despite possible benefits for individual users—will be catastrophic for society at large.

Examples of such problems include the unequal production and consumption of this technology among users of different genders. The technology will be catered toward men, she says, and the possibility of covering the bots with insurance is already supported primarily by male lawmakers.

In the future, she worries that widespread usage of sex robots may even result in decreased marriage and birth rates, as fewer people choose to engage in “imperfect” human relationships. Reports on Brandon’s talk describe these consequences as a threat to human society as we know it.

Geher elaborated on the threat of sex robots in his own article, calling the technology an example of supernormal stimuli: something that exploits evolutionarily desirable traits in artificial ways.

According to Geher, in the same way that a Big Mac amplifies the desirable high-fat content of food that was advantageous for our ancestors to consume, sex robots amplify the desirable characteristics evolutionarily connected to reproductive success.

The trouble with this, he says, is that supernormal stimuli aren’t sustainable because they create problems down the road—even if they seem to produce improvements in the short-term.

On the other hand

However, not all experts agree on the dangers of prescription sex robots.

In fact, in 2015, Dr. Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist from the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, published a video on Medscape, suggesting that sex robots are actually capable of social good.

Among other possibilities, he cites sexual surrogacy or use as a social aid as reasonable circumstances for introducing sex robots in a therapeutic capacity. In comparison to benefits like these, he argues, the likelihood that sex robots have a negative influence on society is slight. The benefits for individual users, then, more than justify usage of the technology in medical treatment plans.

So, the question remains: who will we trust? Will lawmakers, medical professionals, and insurance companies heed the warnings laid forth by Brandon and Geher? Or will the promise of therapeutic success for individual users soon make prescription sex robots a reality?

What do you think?

Image source: Stefan Keller