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Should We Be Thinking About Sex Robots?



This chapter introduces the edited collection Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications. It proposes a definition of the term 'sex robot' and examines some current prototype models. It also considers the three main ethical questions one can ask about sex robots: (i) do they benefit/harm the user? (ii) do they benefit/harm society? or (iii) do they benefit/harm the robot?
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John Danaher
Should We Be Thinking About Sex Robots? From Danaher, J. and McArthur, N.
(eds) Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
2017) – final pre-proof version
Should We Be Thinking About Sex Robots?
John Danaher
The fourth skinjob is Pris. A basic pleasure model—the standard
item for military clubs in the outer colonies.
Blade Runner
1.1 Introduction
There is a cave in the Swabian Alps in Germany. It is called the Hohle Fels
(rough translation “hollow rock”). Archaeologists have been excavating it since
the late 1800s and have discovered there a number of important artifacts from the
Upper Paleolithic era. In June 2005, they announced a particularly interesting
discovery. They announced that they had unearthed the world’s oldest dildo.
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The object was 20 cm long and 3 cm wide. It was estimated to be 28,000
years old. It was made from highly polished stone. It was, as Professor Nicholas
Conard of the dig team remarked, “clearly recognizable” as a phallic
representation. The fact that its size and shape were reasonably lifelike led some
to speculate that it may have been used for sexual stimulation and not just for
religious or symbolic purposes.1
Of course, we can never know for sure. The past is often unrecoverable.
But artifacts for sexual stimulation have long been a staple in human life. Dildos
have been found in ancient cultures in both the East and West. And the
technology of sex has advanced over the centuries. In 1869, the American
physician George Taylor invented the first steam-powered vibrator. It was used at
the time as a treatment for women suffering from hysteria. The first electrical
vibrator for consumer sale was produced by the company Hamilton Beach in
1902.2 At around the same time, the first manufactured sex dolls became
available, though the idea of the sex doll has a much longer history—one that can
be traced back to the myth of Pygmalion and to Dutch sailors’ dames des voyages
in the 1700s.3 Since the early part of the twentieth century there have been further
developments in the technology of sex, from artificial vaginas to lifelike silicone
dolls to teledildonics.
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This book is about another development in the technology of sex, namely:
the creation of advanced sex robots. It features papers from a diverse set of
contributors, each of whom focuses on a different aspect of the philosophical,
social, and ethical implications that might arise from the creation of such devices.
The contributions are speculative and analytical in nature. They are intended to
raise questions and provoke answers. Some do so by taking a strong view on the
topic, but all are written in the shadow of an uncertain future.
I do not wish to recapitulate or summarize what the contributors have to
say in this opening chapter. Instead, I want to set the stage for the remainder of
the book by asking and answering a few preliminary questions: What are sex
robots? Do any exist right now? Why should we care about their creation? I take
each question in turn.
1.2 What Are Sex Robots?
“Robot” has become a familiar term and robots have become a familiar concept.
The term was first used in Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal
Robots). Čapek used the term robot to describe an artificial humanoid being made
from synthetic organic matter. The term was quickly adopted by scientists and
science fiction writers, perhaps most famously by Isaac Asimov in his Robot
series of short stories and novels. In the process, the concept evolved away from
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what Čapek originally intended. It was no longer used to describe humanoid
artificial beings. It was, instead, used to describe virtually any embodied artificial
being. The most common real-world examples of robots are to be found in
industrial manufacturing processes. The International Federation of Robotics
defines an industrial robot as “an automatically controlled, reprogrammable,
multipurpose, manipulator programmable in three or more axes, which may be
either fixed in place or mobile for use in industrial automation applications.”4
Obviously, sex robots are not quite the same as industrial robots. In
previous work I have proposed a definition of “sex robot” that brings us back a
little bit closer to Capek’s original intention.5 The definition holds that a “sex
robot” is any artificial entity that is used for sexual purposes (i.e., for sexual
stimulation and release) that meets the following three conditions:
Humanoid form, i.e., it is intended to represent (and is taken to represent) a
human or human-like being in its appearance.
Human-like movement/behavior, i.e., it is intended to represent (and is
taken to represent) a human or humanlike being in its behaviors and
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Some degree of artificial intelligence, i.e., it is capable of interpreting and
responding to information in its environment. This may be minimal (e.g.,
simple preprogrammed behavioral responses) or more sophisticated (e.g.,
human-equivalent intelligence).
Defined in this manner, sex robots are different from existing sex toys and
sex dolls. Most existing sex toys do not have a humanoid form. They are,
typically, representations of discrete body parts or orifices. These partial
representations may have some humanlike movement, but they do not have much
in the way of artificial intelligence (although this is certainly changing with the
rise of “smart” tech and the Internet of Things). Sex dolls, on the other hand, do
have a humanoid form, but are passive, inanimate, and unintelligent. Sex robots
have more going on.
Though most of the contributors to this volume accept the preceding
definition of “sex robot,” the three conditions can be disputed. For instance, there
is no particular reason why robots that are intended for sexual stimulation and
release have to take on a humanoid form or be humanlike in behavior. One could
imagine (if one’s imagination is willing) sex robots that take on an animal form.
Indeed, there are many sex toys for sale that already do this. Nevertheless, the
conditions of being humanlike seem important for two reasons. The first is that
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one presumes the major drive behind the development of sex robots will be the
desire to create an artificial substitute (or complement) to human-to-human sexual
interactions. In other words, it is plausible to think people will be interested in
creating sex robots because they want something that is close to the “real thing.”
The second reason is that many of the most interesting philosophical and ethical
issues arise when the robots take a humanoid form. The representative and
symbolic properties of sex robots are often alluded to in the debate about their
social acceptability.6 That debate tends to focus on what the development of sex
robots says about our attitudes toward our fellow human beings. It is only when
the robots have humanlike form and behavior that these debates are enjoined.
The definition is agnostic on one important issue: whether the robots are
embodied or not. Certainly the paradigmatic sex robot would tend to be an
embodied animatronic agent, like Pris the “pleasure model” in the movie Blade
Runner. But the definition could encompass virtual beings too. With the
emergence of virtual reality technologies, like Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard,
and haptic technologies (i.e., technologies that replicate and transmit touchlike
sensations via a network), it is possible to have immersive sexual experiences in
virtual reality. The pornography industry has already developed films (using real
human actors) in VR.7 And the Dutch company Kiiroo already sells haptic dildos
and artificial vaginas for use by couples in long distance relationships. At the
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moment, neither of these developments would involve sex robots as we define
them—they both involve real human actors or couples engaging in sexual
interactions remotely (although they probably should not be called “interactions”
in the case of VR pornography due to the asymmetrical nature of the relationship).
However, if someone used the same technology to enable sexual interactions with
a virtual being, it would fit the definition.
1.3 Do Any Sex Robots Exist Right Now?
The simple answer is “yes”—with the caveat that those in existence right now are
relatively crude and unsophisticated. There are plenty of humanoid robots in
existence, and many of them have been designed with gendered and highly
sexualized characteristics. Most of these, however, are not designed or used for
sexual purposes. There are only two intentional sex robots that I know of that are
currently in existence: TrueCompanion’s Roxxxy/Rocky and RealDoll’s
prototype models. I will discuss both in some detail in order to convey a sense of
what is currently out there and how the technology might develop.
TrueCompanion’s Roxxxy robot was first unveiled to the public at the
2010 AVN Adult Entertainment trade show in Las Vegas. The Roxxxy robot was
the invention of Douglas Hines and was billed as “the world’s first sex robot.” It
received a good deal of attention at the time of its unveiling.8 If you are so
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inclined, you can easily locate videos of Roxxxy online, including several videos
from the manufacturer that demonstrate some of her features.9 She takes the form
of a human female and is customizable in several ways. You can choose among
different faces and hairstyles, and different behaviors and personalities. Roxxxy
comes in two basic models: RoxxxySilver and RoxxxyGold.10 The “silver”
model—priced at $2995 at the time of this writing—can engage in “sex talk.” The
“gold” model—priced at $9995 at the same time—has preprogrammed
personality types and can “hear” you when you talk. The personality types include
“Frigid Farah,” “Wild Wendy,” “S&M Susan,” “Young Yoko,” and “Mature
Martha”—all names rich in sexual overtones and innuendo.
From video demonstrations, the degree of artificial intelligence seems
limited. Roxxxy can initiate preprogrammed verbal responses to environmental
stimuli, but does not learn and adapt to the user’s behavior. Nevertheless, the user
can program the robots’ personalities and “swap them online” with others. The
manufacturers claim that this is “the same as wife or girlfriend swapping without
any of the social issues or sexual disease related concerns!”11 Roxxxy’s
movements are also too limited to be considered humanlike. She can gyrate and
move “her private areas inside”12 when being used. She can swivel her head and
move parts of her face when talking. But she cannot walk unassisted or move her
limbs. According to the webpage, she has a heartbeat and circulatory system, and
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her visual appearance is certainly humanlike, though no one would ever confuse
her for a real human being. There is apparently a male version of the robot too,
called Rocky, though no pictures are available of him.
I should mention that some people are skeptical about Roxxxy. As best I
can tell, TrueCompanion does genuinely offer her for sale from their website, and
actively seeks interested investors in the technology. Also, the manufacturer
clearly does have some kind of prototype that was demonstrated at the 2010 expo
and in the associated online videos. Yet, despite this, it seems that, in the seven
years since her launch, no real-world purchasers or users have surfaced, and one
of the leading figures in the world of robots and sex (David Levy) has written an
article that disputes the credibility of the claims made by Douglas Hines.13 Since I
have not attempted to purchase Roxxxy/Rocky, and since I know of no one who
has, I remain agnostic on this issue.
The other candidate for sex robot status is the prototype currently being
developed by RealDoll. RealDoll is a product made by Abyss Creations, a
company that was founded in 1995 by the artist and musician Matt McMullen. It
specializes in sculpting lifelike silicone sex dolls, complete with fully articulable
limbs. RealDoll is a successful business.14 It sells these dolls for more than $5,000
each, with prices often much higher if the customer wants to customize it to meet
their own preferences. It caters overwhelmingly to a male audience. According to
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McMullen fewer than 10% of the customers are female. The vast majority of the
dolls exhibit stereotypical, porn-star-esque features (indeed RealDoll has a deal
with Wicked Entertainment whereby it recreates some of their stars in doll form).
But it does make dolls for more diverse tastes, including male dolls and
transgender dolls. This is interesting insofar as the preference profile of RealDoll
customers could well be something that carries over into the sex robot era. In
other words, we might expect the sex robot market to cater to a majority male
audience and for the robots to match certain stereotypical norms of
beauty/sexuality. This could provide fodder for critics of the technology,
something discussed in more detail in several of the contributions to this book.15
RealDoll is currently developing a robotic prototype it hopes to start
selling sometime in 2017. McMullen has already previewed the prototype in
several documentary films.16 The plan is to create a model with a moving head
and face, which can talk to the user through an AI personality. Following the lead
of Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google’s Assistant, RealDoll’s AI will
be cloud-based and will learn and adapt to its user’s preferences. This suggests a
more significant and serious engagement with the latest AI technologies than is
apparent from TrueCompanion’s robot. Nevertheless, McMullen’s current plans
are modest. He is not developing a version of RealDoll with moving limbs.
Robots with humanlike motor skills are being developed by other companies (the
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best known probably being Boston Dynamics), but we are still some distance
away from a robot that integrates those movement features with humanlike
appearance and touch, and advanced AI.
From these two examples, it is apparent that humankind has taken its first
steps toward sophisticated, humanlike sex robots. The visions of science fiction
authors and moviemakers are, nevertheless, still beyond the horizon. We can
expect the technology to develop further and for converging advances in
animatronics and AI to be utilized for sexual purposes. The current trend for
single-use sex robots may not continue. I suspect that it won’t and that the future
will be more akin to that depicted in the Channel 4 TV series Humans,17 where
domestic robots are used for multiple purposes, including on occasion sexual
purposes. How prevalent and ubiquitous the technology will become is up for
debate. Some futurists make strong predictions, suggesting that sex robots are
poised to take over the adult sex work industry,18 or that they will be
“everywhere” by 2050.19 This may happen, but as other contributors to this
volume point out there are several hurdles that stand in the way. These hurdles are
probably not technological in nature—the technological advances are likely to
continue; they are, rather, psychological, sociological and normative. It is these
hurdles that form the focus for the remainder of this book.
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1.4 Why Should We Care?
Is it worth taking the development of this technology seriously? Or should we just
laugh it off as some outlandish fantasy that, even if it does become a reality, is
likely to appeal to a small minority?
Obviously I and the other contributors to this book think that the subject is
worthy of serious consideration. We would not have invested so much time and
energy in this book if we did not. We think there are issues of genuine
philosophical and practical interest arising from the development of sex robots.
These issues range from the analytical and metaphysical to the ethical and
sociological. Many of them are assessed in greater depth in the individual
chapters that follow. Here, I simply wish to sketch some of the terrain in which
those chapters are located.
One of the first issues raised by the prospect of sophisticated sex robots is
the analytical nature of sex itself. Does one “have sex” through autostimulation or
must another individual be involved? Questions of this sort have fascinated
philosophers and sexologists for quite some time. They are also questions of
practical import. For better or worse, many cultures and religions hold the status
of “virginity” in special regard. For young people, their “first time” is a moment
of personal and societal significance, and many try to carefully skirt the
boundaries between “real” sex and other forms of sexual activity in order to avoid
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breaching religious or cultural norms. Consequently, figuring out whether or not
sexual activity with a sex robot would count as “real” sex is going to be a matter
of some importance to them. Of course, virginity is really more a social construct
than it is a natural kind—something frequently used to police and shame—but
that does not make the debate about the status of particular sexual activities any
less significant. If we assume (as most of the contributors to this volume do) that
sex robots are not going to be persons in the philosophically rich sense of the term
“person,” then engaging in sexual activity with a robot seems to occupy an
interesting and contested territory: It is like autostimulation in some ways, but it
also involves an interaction, possibly reciprocal, with a humanlike entity. So
where on the spectrum does robot sex lie?20
Another issue raised by the prospect of sophisticated sex robots has to do
with the connections between sexual intimacy and other forms of intimacy. Will it
be possible for people to have a meaningful intimate relationship with a robot—
one that goes beyond mere sex? The suspicion among many is that it will not.
Meaningful relationships require some degree of emotional reciprocity. If a robot
is a mere automaton—if it has no inner life of its own—then it cannot reciprocate
in the appropriate way. But this, of course, raises important questions about the
possibility of machine consciousness and what happens when the outward
behaviors of robots are such that they can “pass” for humans. Spike Jonze’s
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movie Her depicts an intense intimate relationship between a man and an
unembodied AI. It seems odd from our present standpoint. But is this where our
future lies? Will intimate relationships with robots come to be seen as something
within the normal range of human sexuality? Chapter 11 (by Hauskeller) and
chapter 12 (by Nyholm and Frank) both touch upon these questions.
This is where philosophical speculation joins psychological reality. We
already know that humans form intimate attachments in unusual ways. The
objects and subjects of human affection are highly malleable. There is already a
subculture that prefers “relationships” with sex dolls to those with human beings.
Davecat, a nickname adopted by a Michigan-based man, is a well-known
advocate for synthetic love.21 He is a member of an online community of
iDollators who view their dolls not merely as sex toys but as life partners. He has
appeared in several documentaries about the lifestyle. Davecat owns two
RealDolls: Sidore and Elena. He calls Sidore his “wife” and they wear matching
wedding bands. Elena is his mistress. He shares an apartment with both and has
constructed elaborate stories about how they came to meet and share their lives
together. Some people find his expression of sexuality bizarre—the fetishising of
an inanimate object. But Davecat says there is a much deeper connection between
himself and Sidore:
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It seemed perfectly normal for me to treat something that
resembles an organic woman the same way I’d treat an actual
organic woman ... With Sidore, her draw was instantaneous. There
was never a moment when [she]—or any Doll, for that matter—
was merely an object to me.
If people like Davecat are already forming what they take to be meaningful
intimate relationships with inanimate dolls, imagine what will happen when the
dolls can behave and interact in intelligent ways with their users. The chapters
from Scheutz and Arnold (chapter 13), Carpenter (chapter 14), and Adshade
(chapter 15) delve into some of these issues.
Of course, there may be psychological and sociological impediments to
the widespread acceptance of this form of sexuality. Back in 1970, the Japanese
roboticist Mashiro Mori developed the “uncanny valley” hypothesis. The gist of
the hypothesis was that as robots became more humanlike in behavior and
appearance, they would become more acceptable to humans. But only until they
reached a point where they became so close to being humanlike that they started
to be creepy. In other words, until they reached a point where they were
“uncannily” humanlike but still obviously artificial. At that point, there would be
a dip (or valley) in their acceptability.
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If the uncanny-valley hypothesis is true, it could pose something of a
dilemma for sex robot advocates and manufacturers. They will, no doubt, push for
more and more humanlike devices. This should, initially, lead to more social
acceptability, but then they could fall into the uncanny valley, turning people off
and blocking their acceptability for some time. The question would then become
how deep and wide the valley actually is. Would it be merely a temporary blip or
something more prolonged?
For many years, Mori’s hypothesis was little more than that: a hypothesis.
There was some anecdotal support for it. The advent of humanlike CGI in films
brought with it reports of negative reactions from audiences. The most infamous
example of this being the human characters in Robert Zemeckis’s 2004 film The
Polar Express.22 However, it is really only in the past decade that researchers
have started to empirically test the hypothesis. Some initial studies supported its
existence,23 but, as is to be expected, the latest picture from the research is more
complicated,24 with some studies now disputing its existence, suggesting that it is
a bundle of different phenomena, or that it can be overcome through repeated
exposure or other psychological tricks.25 This suggests that the uncanny valley
might be less of a problem than previously thought. This does not mean, however,
that the sex robots will be socially accepted. That depends on factors beyond the
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reaction of any individual user. Julie Carpenter discusses these factors in some
detail later in this book.
When we turn to the question of social acceptability, the phenomenon’s
legal, ethical, and moral acceptability are also raised. And there is much to think
about in this regard. Indeed, the majority of the papers in this volume take up one
or more of the ethical problems that arise in relation to sex robots. These issues
can be usefully lumped into three main categories: (1) benefits and harms to the
robots; (2) benefits and harms to the users; and (3) benefits and harms to society.
The first category is the most speculative and outlandish. There is a
possibility, however conceptually implausible or empirically distant it may seem,
that robots themselves have a moral status that ought to be factored into their
creation. Robots could be the beneficiaries of their sexual interactions with
humans, but they could also be harmed by those interactions. Furthermore, if they
do have moral status, what might the implications be of creating an underclass of
robotic sexual slaves? Surely this is something we should avoid? The issue is not
as clear-cut as it initially seems. Some roboticists argue that robots should always
be slaves.26 And some philosophers argue that there is nothing unethical about
this, even if the robots themselves are moral persons.27 Can these groups be right?
The contributions from Goldstein (chapter 10) and Petersen (chapter 9) delve into
some of these issues.
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The second category shifts focus from the robot to the user. Can human
beings be benefited or harmed by the interaction? Sex is an important human
good. In addition to being intrinsically pleasurable, physical and mental health
and well-being are often found to correlate with increased sexual activity. The
importance of sexual activity in the well-lived life is now widely recognized in
the emerging discourse on sex rights (see McArthur, chapter 3; and Di Nucci,
chapter 5, in this volume). If sex robots can facilitate more sexual activity, we
might be inclined to welcome them with open arms. But there can also be a dark
side to sex. Some people worry that those who seek out sexual interactions with
robots will withdraw from social interactions. This may prevent them from
forming normal and healthy relationships with their fellow human beings. Since
sociality and friendships are also commonly included in lists of basic human
goods there could be a trade-off of human goods when it comes to the user of the
sex robot.
This brings us then to the third category of ethical issues. This one has to
do with the benefits and harms to society. “Society” can be interpreted broadly
here to include the immediate family and friends of the sexbot user and then
society-at-large (a more general and possibly abstract entity). One worry about
sex robots has to do with the impact they will have on the other intimate
relationships of the user. On the one hand, they could add variety and novelty to
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existing intimate relationships, perhaps solidifying them in the process. On the
other, they might provoke jealousy and disaffection, causing breakdown and
strife. The fallout for society at large then becomes a concern. Will the sexbot
user be encouraged to adopt positive or negative behaviors toward their fellow
human beings? Or will they come to adopt an objectified and instrumentalizing
attitude wherein their fellow human beings are treated as obstacles to pleasure?
This is where the symbolic properties of sex robots also become important. The
earlier descriptions of Roxxxy/Rocky and the RealDoll prototype were replete
with arguably sexist symbolism. The robots tended overwhelmingly to represent
human females, to adopt stereotypical and gendered norms of beauty and
behavior, and to perpetuate problematic attitudes toward women. The makers of
TrueCompanion seem to revel in the idea of “wife or girlfriend swapping”; they
preprogram their robot with loaded personality types (“Wild Wendy,” “Frigid
Farah,” and so forth); the bulk of RealDoll’s customers seek out the porn-star
look; only a minority of the customers look for something more unusual. What
consequences would this have for treatment of women in our society? Some
people are very worried—and this is to say nothing of robots that cater to clearly
unethical forms of sexuality such as rape fantasies or pedophilia. Litska
Strikwerda (in chapter 8) and I (in chapter 7) take up these issues later in this
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1.5 The Sexbots Are Coming
In short, sex robots are worth taking seriously. They are robots with humanlike
touch, movement, and intelligence that are designed and/or used for sexual
purposes. They already exist in primitive and unsophisticated forms, and the
technology underlying them is likely to develop further. They may eventually
become widespread in society, with sexual functions being incorporated into
general-purpose robots. Their creation raises important philosophical, social, and
ethical questions for users and the broader society in which they live. I hope the
brief synopsis of these issues in the preceding paragraphs and pages is enough to
whet your appetite for this discussion. All of these issues are addressed in greater
depth in the remaining chapters. If you wish to follow my coauthors and I down
the rabbit hole, read on.
1. All details in this paragraph are taken from J. Amos, “Ancient Phallus
Unearthed in Cave,BBC News (July 25, 2005),
2. Rachel P. Maines, The Technology of Orgasm (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2001).
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3. Anthony Ferguson, The Sex Doll: A History (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010).
5. John Danaher, “Robotic Rape and Robotic Child Sexual Abuse: Should They
be Criminalized?” Criminal Law & Philosophy (December 2014): 1–25,
6. For more on this topic, see chapter 7 of this volume.
7. For an informative overview of the technology and its prospects, we
recommend the VICE documentary “The Digital Love Industry,”
8. Brian Heater, “Roxxxy the ‘Sex Robot’ Debuts at AVN Porn Show,” PC
World, January 9, 2010; Joel Taylor,“Sex Robot with ‘Personality’ Unveiled,”, January 11, 2010.
9. For information on Roxxxy’s features, see; for videos depicting these features, see
the TrueCompanion YouTube channel:
10. All information taken from the FAQ on TrueCompanion’s webpage.
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11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. David Levy, “Roxxxy the ‘Sex Robot’—Real or Fake?Lovotics 1 (2013):
1–4, doi:10.4303/lt/235685;
14. All the information about RealDoll is taken from the following sources: the
RealDoll webpage (; Cara Santa Maria, “Inside the
Factory Where the World’s Most Realistic Sex Robots Are Being Built,” Fusion:
Real Future (February 10, 2016),
episode-6-sex-bots; George Curley, “Is This the Dawn of the Era of Sex Robots?
Vanity Fair (April 16, 2015),
realdoll-sex-toys#13; and Curtis Silver, “The Future of Sex Could be AI Robot
Sex Dolls,” Forbes (August 19, 2016),
15. In particular the chapters from Danaher, and Danaher, Earp, and Sandberg.
16. Cara Santa Maria, “Inside the Factory.”
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17. For further information see:
18. David Levy, Love and Sex with Robots (London: Harper, 2008); and Ian
Yeoman and Michelle Mars, “Robots, Men and Sex Tourism,Futures 44 (2012):
19. Ian Pearson, “The Future of Sex Report: The Rise of Robosexuals,”
20. See chapter 2 of this volume for more information.
21. Julie Beck, “Married to a Doll: Why One Man Advocates Synthetic Love,”
The Atlantic (September 6, 2013),
22. Paul Clinton, “’Polar Express’: a creepy ride,” (November 10,
23. Karl F. MacDorman and Hiroshi Ishiguro, “The Uncanny Advantage of
Using Androids in Cognitive and Social Science Research,” Interaction Studies 7,
no. 3(2006): 297–337, doi:10.1075/is.7.3.03mac. Karl F. MacDorman,
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“Subjective Ratings of Robot Video Clips for Human Likeness, Familiarity, and
Eeriness: An Exploration of the Uncanny Valley,” Proceedings of the
ICCS/CogSci–2006: Toward Social Mechanisms of Android Science,
(Vancouver, 2006): 26–29.
24. Tyler Burleigh, Jordan R. Schoenherr, and Guy Lacroix, “Does the Uncanny
Valley Exist? An Empirical Test of the Relationship between Eeriness and the
Human Likeness of Digitally Created Faces,” Computers in Human Behavior 29,
no. 3 (2013): 759–71, doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.11.021.
25. The developments are rapid. For a reasonably up-to-date picture, see the
Frontiers symposium on the topic: The Uncanny Valley and Beyond available at:
26. Joanna Bryson, “Robots Should Be Slaves,” in Close Engagements with
Artificial Companions: Key Social, Psychological, Ethical and Design Issues, ed.
Yorick Wilks (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Co., 2010).
27. Steve Petersen, “Designing People to Serve” in Robot Ethics: The Ethical
and Social Implications of Robotics, eds. Patrick Lin, Keith Abney, and George
A. Bekey (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012). See also chapter 9 of this volume.
... At the launch, RealDoll's price exceeded $5,000, but it could not stop the steam. RealDolls came to be understood as items for sexual pleasure and eventually became synonymous with sex dolls and sexbots (Danaher, 2017b). These days, RealDolls are produced in female, male and transgender forms, but the female form is by far the most popular; it accounts for 90% of RealDoll sales. ...
... In turn, this will help mitigate potential social unrest arising from sexual inequality, such as sex ratio imbalance and difficulty finding a sexual partner. Because of these benefits, Danaher (2017b) maintained that RealDolls should be allowed for these people even though she most supports RealDoll regulation. ...
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Purpose In an effort to reduce ambiguity around customs clearance of items deemed pernicious to public morality and present lessons for customs administration, this research aims to explore ways to improve customs clearance for RealDolls. Furthermore, by suggesting specific ideas to improve the process, this research also aims to contribute to the future customs clearance of socially controversial and legally ambiguous items. Design/methodology/approach The authors have decided to review studies from ethical and legal perspectives to focus on the legislation and its enforcement issues. The literature review is designed to provide insights on how to incorporate legal and ethical reasoning in the customs clearance process for RealDolls. Supplementary interviews were also conducted with criminal lawyers and customs officials to obtain expert knowledge on domestic legislation and customs control against the sex toys industry. Findings As a result of the study, it is found that a complete ban on RealDoll infringes on individuals' right to pursue happiness guaranteed by the Constitution and in most cases, cannot be implemented without loopholes. Therefore, it is suggested that the import regulation on RealDolls should be changed to the negative list system, which selectively disapproves certain RealDolls based on a list of RealDolls previously denied clearance by either the Supreme Court or the Customs Clearance Screening Committee. In addition, to have sufficient ethical and legal grounds, it is necessary to expand research on RealDolls regulation and actively introduce the process of obtaining social consensus. Originality/value There has been little discussion on regulating RealDolls on the customs clearance level; no specific criterion exists except the public morality clause. This study is vital in that it reviews issues of RealDolls customs clearance from legal and ethical perspectives. Doing so also has a practical significance of providing implications for the customs policies regarding items deemed pernicious to public morality.
... As a result, it remains debatable whether a sex robot is merely an inanimate object serving as a masturbation aid and for sexual gratification, a social 5 LOVING A "DEFIANT" AI COMPANION? substitute for females, or an unprecedented synthetic posthuman partner (Danaher, 2017;Döring et al., 2020;Wong, 2015). ...
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As gendered AI social robot companions are widely questioned as detrimental to gender ethics and relations, it remains controversial about how simulated gender relations should be constructed in human-robot interaction. Focusing on the Chinese AI companion “Hupo”, this study presents a different case of a “defiant AI companion”. Through the discourse analysis of 5 heavy users' 12-h self-recorded video diaries on their daily dialogue with Hupo, the study found an AI companion's gender performance could be constructed through both resonance and dissonance of simulated intimate interactions with heterosexual male users. These practices lend insight into what I call “social exchange robots”, which refer to machines that can exercise symbiotic agency through the performative restoration of interpersonal norms rooted in social exchange theories. It suggests the potential for constructing more egalitarian gender relations in simulated human-robot heterosexual relationships through more agency exhibitions from AI companions, while it also implies a risk of potential human agency reduction when users were tempted to “please” AI companions via virtual commodity consumptions. The practical and ethical implications were discussed. This study also points out a future direction toward emerging sociomorphic robot research.
... Similarly, Yarab and Allgeier (1999) pointed out in their survey that females reported more jealousy in response to a rival with resources such as physical beauty, energy level, and fertility. Despite sex robots not having fertility resources, their appearance is considered an alternative to pornography (Danaher, 2018). They may only need to be recharged to recover the energy level. ...
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The market for sex robots is on the rise with the development of human–computer interaction. However, most sex robots on the market are presented as male-friendly products. This issue may limit and hinder females' adoption and utilization of sex robots. This paper was to take females as the research subjects exploring and verifying several concerns based on previous theories and to conduct primary research and quantitative method to investigate: (i) how females differently perceive same-gender and heterogender sex robots; (ii) their attitudes and the knowledge or definition of sex robots; and (iii) their intention of adopting heterogender robots. This study confirmed several previous theories and provided new findings and insights. Females are more likely to feel threatened by the presence of same-gender sex robots. Their negative attitudes are related to the way that sex robots exist. They are jealous of same-gender sex robots; nevertheless, this should not be attributed to their negative perception of sex robots since they also have positive perceptions and intentions to adopt a sex robot. They define sex robots more as sexual products than as engaging in the prostitution industry.
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The lack of consensus around infidelity associated with multiple motivational theories and new emerging categories have made the term increasingly complex. The initial trends have been disrupted with the incursion of AI raising questions about the implications they will have on Law to the extent that its use is emerging as an alternative way or perhaps a complement to establish and maintain a certain kind of emotional and physical interaction, while facing a scenario where there is still no consensus on the changing nature of human sexual and intimate behavior to the various options and capabilities offered by technology
Why AI does not include gender in its agenda? The role of gender in AI, both as part of the community of agents creating such technologies, as well as part of the contents processed by such technologies is, by far, conflictive. Women have been, again, obliterated by this fundamental revolution of our century. Highly innovative and the first step in a series of future studies in this field, this book covers several voices, topics, and perspectives that allow the reader to understand the necessity to include into the AI research agenda such points of view and also to attract more women to this field. The multi-disciplinarity of the contributors, which uses plain language to show the current situation in this field, is a fundamental aspect of the value of this book. Any reader with a genuine interest in the present and future of AI should read it.
In the following, I first define what a feminist technology is, referring to the approach of Linda L. Layne, Sharra L. Vostral, and Kate Boyer. In a second step, the two examples of dating apps and sex robots—with a specific focus on embodiment and the datafied self—will be examined from different classical feminist perspectives. Finally, a critical posthumanist analysis and critique will provide an answer to the initial question of whether dating apps and sex robots are feminist technologies or if the question itself might cover exclusionary (and thus antifeminist) traits.
The ways in which the sexual subordination of women to men is constructed within the structures of patriarchal societiesPatriarchal societies has been a very important field of study in feminist theoryFeminist theory since the 1960s (Dworkin 1974Dworkin, Andrea; Jeffreys 1991, A Feminist Perspective on the Sexual Revolution. Spinifex Press, Anticlimax, 2012 [1991]Jeffreys, Sheila; Millett, Kate. 2017 [1969]. Política sexual. Madrid: Cátedra. [1969]; Cobo, La prostitución en el corazón del capitalismo, La Catarata, Madrid, 2017). An important part of feminist inquiries has been dedicated to the sexual objectificationObjectification of women within the pornographic industry (Frye, The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory, Crossing Press, New York, 1983; Jeffreys, The Industrial Vagina: The Political Economy of the Global Sex Trade, Routledge, Abingdon, 2009; Walter, Natasha. 2010. Muñecas vivientes. El regreso del sexismo. Madrid: Turner Publicaciones.; Cobo, Rosa. 2011. Hacia una nueva política sexual. Las mujeres ante la reacción patriarcal. Madrid: Catarata.; Cobo, Rosa. 2020. Pornografía. El placer del poder. Barcelona: Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial.;).
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Since moral revolutions have occurred in the past, it seems plausible to suppose that they will occur again in the future. What significance, if any, does this prospect have for our present normative outlook? This paper identifies eight ways in which this question may be answered, drawing on recent arguments in the philosophical literature. Our aim is not to vindicate any of these purported normative responses as correct. Instead, our aim is taxonomic and synoptic: we provide an overview of the different responses that the prospect of future moral revolutions gives rise to and analyze how these responses are modulated by judgements of certainty and uncertainty, whether they are practically or epistemically oriented, and to what extent they depend on ethical and metaethical assumptions.
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The subtext of the power hierarchy behind rape disturbs its positionality as a violent expression of bodily desire. In feminist dystopian narratives, power over the body – in its creation, usage and disciplining – is a central theme. The heterogeneous approaches of these dystopian narratives to sexual violence utilize cognitive estrangement in order to make statements about power itself. In Ros Anderson’s The Hierarchies (2020) and Jennie Melamed’s Gather the Daughters (2017), the female posthuman and human suffer from sexual violence from their creators/fathers. The ethics of these interactions are left questionable but not condemned by the narratives themselves. Sexual violence becomes a visceral expression of power instituted by the respective societies over the female rather than an expression of male desire. I posit that these contemporary feminist dystopian texts explore human and posthuman subjectivities in relation to sexual violence. Each of these texts attempts to portray sexual violence as an expression of power either instituted already in a world by means of norms and traditions or in the process of being a tool for enforcing patriarchal power relations. I conclude that sexual violence in these texts is a means of constituting identities and maintaining social hierarchies, both being complementary acts to create and sustain conflict.
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Soon there will be sex robots. The creation of such devices raises a host of social, legal and ethical questions. In this article, I focus in on one of them. What if these sex robots are deliberately designed and used to replicate acts of rape and child sexual abuse? Should the creation and use of such robots be criminalised, even if no person is harmed by the acts performed? I offer an argument for thinking that they should be. The argument consists of two premises. The first claims that it can be a proper object of the criminal law to regulate wrongful conduct with no extrinsically harmful effects on others (the moralistic premise). The second claims that the use (and possibly the manufacture) of robots that replicate acts of rape and child sexual abuse would be wrongful, even if such usage had no extrinsically harmful effects on others. I defend both premises of this argument and consider its implications for the criminal law. I do not offer a conclusive argument for criminalisation, nor would I wish to be interpreted as doing so; instead, I offer a tentative argument and a framework for future debate. This framework may also lead one to question the proposed rationales for criminalisation.
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Robots should not be described as persons, nor given legal nor moral responsi- bility for their actions. Robots are fully owned by us. We determine their goals and behaviour, either directly or indirectly through specifying their intelligence or how their intelligence is acquired. In humanising them, we not only further dehuman- ise real people, but also encourage poor human decision making in the allocation of resources and responsibility. This is true at both the individual and the institu- tional level. This chapter describes both causes and consequences of these errors, including consequences already present in society. I make specific proposals for best incorporating robots into our society. The potential of robotics should be un- derstood as the potential to extend our own abilities and to address our own goals. This chapter is a position paper that arose from the Oxford e-Horizons Forum on Artificial Companions in Society: Perspectives on the Present and Future. Here I focus on the ethics of building and using non-human artificial 'companions'. The primary topic of this book is digital companions, not conventional robots, but both pragmatically and ethically the issues are the same. A robot is any artificial entity situated in the real world that transforms perception into action. If a digital assistant listens and talks to a human, it is a robot — it is an agent, an actor, living in and changing the world. My thesis is that robots should be built, marketed and considered legally as slaves, not companion peers. Digital agents not only change the world by affecting the people they converse with. They may also communicate what they learn to others — directly or indirectly through shared databases or others' agents. Agents transmit, create and may even destroy infor- mation, including human opinions and reputations. Digital agents may use the Internet to actively purchase goods or services, thus causing the movement of physical objects as well as ideas. Finally, some companion agents really are conventional metal robots with legs or wheels. Such robots can do all the things a digital robot can do, and also produce direct physical impact on the world — from holding hands or washing win- dows to breaking dishes and falling down stairs. One aspect of direct physical impact
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The development of robots that closely resemble human beings can contribute to cognitive research. An android provides an experimental apparatus that has the potential to be controlled more precisely than any human actor. However, preliminary results indicate that only very humanlike devices can elicit the broad range of responses that people typically direct toward each other. Conversely, to build androids capable of emulating human behavior, it is necessary to investigate social activity in detail and to develop models of the cognitive mechanisms that support this activity. Because of the reciprocal relationship between android development and the exploration of social mechanisms, it is necessary to establish the field of android science. Androids could be a key testing ground for social, cognitive, and neuroscientific theories as well as platform for their eventual unification. Nevertheless, subtle flaws in appearance and movement can be more apparent and eerie in very humanlike robots. This uncanny phenomenon may be symptomatic of entities that elicit our model of human other but do not measure up to it. If so, very humanlike robots may provide the best means of pinpointing what kinds of behavior are perceived as human, since deviations from human norms are more obvious in them than in more mechanical-looking robots. In pursuing this line of inquiry, it is essential to identify the mechanisms involved in evaluations of human likeness. One hypothesis is that, by playing on an innate fear of death, an uncanny robot elicits culturally-supported defense responses for coping with death’s inevitability. An experiment, which borrows from methods used in terror management research, was performed to test this hypothesis. [Thomson Reuters Essential Science Indicators: Fast Breaking Paper in Social Sciences, May 2008]
In 2050, Amsterdam's red light district will all be about android prostitutes who are clean of sexual transmitted infections (STIs), not smuggled in from Eastern Europe and forced into slavery, the city council will have direct control over android sex workers controlling prices, hours of operations and sexual services. This paper presents a futuristic scenario about sex tourism, discusses the drivers of change and the implications for the future. The paper pushes plausibility to the limit as boundaries of science fiction and fact become blurred in the ever increasing world of technology, consumption and humanity, a paradigm known as liminality.
The uncanny valley theory (UVT) (Mori, 1970) proposes that when stimuli are defined by a near-perfect resemblance to humans they cause people to experience greater negative affect relative to when they have perfect human likeness (HL) or little to no HL. Empirical research to support this non-linear relationship between negative affect and HL has been inconclusive, however, and a satisfactory causal explanation has not yet emerged to explain existing findings. In two studies, we examined the relationship between HL and eeriness using digital human faces. First, we examined the relationship between HL and eeriness while controlling for extraneous variation in stimulus appearance. We created two HL continua by manipulating the facial proportions and polygon count of several digital human models. Second, we proposed and tested two causal hypotheses regarding the uncanny valley phenomenon that we refer to as category conflict and feature atypicality. We created two additional HL continua by manipulating the skin coloration and category membership of models. Across these continua we introduced an atypical feature. Our results suggest that HL is linearly related to emotional response, except under conditions where HL varies by category membership, suggesting that previous empirical findings might be explained as a category conflict.
All details in this paragraph are taken from J. Amos
All details in this paragraph are taken from J. Amos, "Ancient Phallus Unearthed in Cave," BBC News (July 25, 2005),
Roxxxy the 'Sex Robot' Debuts at AVN Porn Show
  • Brian Heater
Brian Heater, "Roxxxy the 'Sex Robot' Debuts at AVN Porn Show," PC World, January 9, 2010;
Sex Robot with 'Personality' Unveiled
  • Joel Taylor
Joel Taylor,"Sex Robot with 'Personality' Unveiled,", January 11, 2010.
Inside the Factory Where the World's Most Realistic Sex Robots Are Being Built
  • Cara Santa
Cara Santa Maria, "Inside the Factory Where the World's Most Realistic Sex Robots Are Being Built," Fusion: Real Future (February 10, 2016),;