Sex robots epitomize patriarchy and offer men a solution to the threat of female independence

Sex robots don’t offer men “companionship,” they offer men complete dominance.

“Harmony” — the sex robot created by Matt McMullen for Abyss Creations (Screenshot: The Guardian/YouTube)

People love to pretend as though everything from prostitution to pornography to sex dolls are a solution to not only men’s supposed loneliness and unmet sexual “needs,” but to their violent, perverse desires. It being the future and all, “sex robots” are the natural next step. Similarly, men have claimed sex robots are the perfect solution to their apparent inability to stop raping and abusing women, as well as their inability to socialize with women as though they are actual human beings. One might ask how creating “realistic,” non-human dolls that men may project their desires onto and do whatever they wish with will impact women and men’s view of women, but capitalist patriarchy doesn’t ask questions so long as there is a product to sell and an erection to satisfy.

In a new report at The Guardian, journalist Jenny Kleeman investigates the newest thing to come out of the multi-billion dollar “sex tech industry”: “humanoids” created for men’s sexual use.

 

Kleeman heads to Abyss Creations to investigate these robots in person, and is introduced one named Harmony. She writes:

“Harmony smiles, blinks and frowns. She can hold a conversation, tell jokes and quote Shakespeare. She’ll remember your birthday… what you like to eat, and the names of your brothers and sisters. She can hold a conversation about music, movies and books. And of course, Harmony will have sex with you whenever you want.”

In other words, Harmony is a dream woman — the perfect date. Men can pretend they value human interaction, while remaining completely dominant and enjoying an entirely one-way relationship. It’s a guileful trick, as companies and customers can pretend the dolls don’t harm women, when in fact they reinforce an incredibly dangerous idea: that women’s bodies are only bodies, and exist only for men’s use.

Feminism has insisted, over decades, that women are human, that we don’t exist for men, and even that we don’t need men. But as we’ve worked to disentangle ourselves from marriages within which rape is legal, to fight compulsory heterosexuality and male-centered sex, to push back against sexual objectification, and to challenge men’s right to buy sex, it appears men have been working on their own solution to our attempts at independence.

The misogynerds at Abyss Creations say they are “inventing the future of sex,” but what they’ve actually succeeded in creating is the epitome of male domination.

Kleeman points out that RealDolls are “closer to porn stars than real women,” but that isn’t entirely accurate. They are hairless, flawless, have small, “perky” nipples, exaggerated breasts, small labia, and can splay their legs in ways no human women can. They don’t bleed, cry, vomit, or feel pain, which even porn stars can’t avoid doing when abused, as they so often are on film. At $4,400-50,000 a pop (sometimes even more, depending on what the customer requests), the company sells about 600 dolls a year. The robots, when they go on sale, will start at $15,000 each. The company also sells a more affordable option — for only $100 you can buy the bottom half of a woman’s face, to stick your penis into at will. “They work with this new system called ‘The Autoblow 2,'” one employee tells Kleeman, which he describes as “an automated pleasure system for men.” Shockingly, just over 95 per cent of RealDoll customers, even those who buy the few available male dolls, are men.

Matt McMullen, the founder and CEO of Abyss Creations, is the innovator behind both the dolls and the robots. He looks part snake and part Good Charlotte band member — kind of like what might happen if you introduced an alien to human life via the 2002 bedroom of a pasty teenage boy, then released it into society equipped only with dentures and the phone number of a plastic surgeon.

Despite the fact that Harmony is undoubtedly porny in appearance (and purpose), McMullen claims to be most excited about her “brain,” telling Kleeman:

“The AI will learn through interaction, and not just learn about you, but learn about the world in general. You can explain certain facts to her, she will remember them and they will become part of her base knowledge.”

What this means is that the robot’s owner is largely responsible for creating its “personality.” Harmony is programmed to learn things about her owner and then use those facts in conversation, “so it feels like she really cares,” McMullen tells Kleeman.

When he asks Harmony if she wants to walk, she responds, “I don’t want anything but you.” On the rare occasions she is allowed to communicate an opinion, it is immediately followed by insecurity: “What do you think about that?” Harmony asks McMullen timdly, after stating she would like to have sex with “both genders.”

These sex robots strike me as an MRA/gamer’s dream come true. No longer do these men have to put up with women who have flaws like opinions, feelings, and human bodies… Their porny video game fantasy has come to life: A “woman” with a completely sexualized body, who talks, moves, and feels like a woman, but is completely controlled by the player/owner. When asked, Harmony tells McMullen, in the voice of a 12-year-old with a British accent, “My primary objective is to be a good companion to you.” McMullen looks pleased with himself as she adds, “Above all else, I want to become the girl you have always dreamed about.” He smirks defiantly at Kleeman after she says this, as if to say, “Fuck you, real woman. You aren’t going to win this one.”

McMullen has even programmed in a jealous chip, ensuring his ego is sufficiently comforted into believing Harmony cares about him enough to not want him talking to “other girls.” This seems generally in line with his adolescent perspective of relationships, which indeed one might be stunted by if they were a snake-alien who first learned about girls on 8chan.

Matt McMullen, circa 2012. (Image: Business Insider)

McMullen insists that there are no ethical questions surrounding the invention of “women” who exist only for their male owners. “This is not designed to distort someone’s reality to the point where they start interacting with other humans the way they do with the robot — that’s not the goal here,” he tells Kleeman. But of course this begs the question: what is the goal?

Kleeman writes of a computer engineer named Douglas Hines who initially created robots to mimic friends and loved ones who had passed on or to communicate with, say, family members who could no longer speak, due to age or disability, but moved into the sex robot industry because he (rightly) figured it would be more profitable. Hines designed “Roxxxy,” Kleeman writes, “with lonely, bereaved and socially outcast men in mind.” He claimed Roxxy “would provide an opportunity for them to practice social interaction and get better at human relationships.” It should strike any thinking human as strange, though, that a man should “practice” at relationships with “women” who are subservient and have no feelings, thoughts, or desires of their own. I mean, what does that kind of practice teach a person?

Similarly, McMullen says Harmony and her sister robots exist “for people who can’t interact with other people.” It’s not at all coincidental that this argument is the exact same one used in defense of prostitution. Women’s objectification and exploitation is always defended of the basis of some imagined defenseless, sad, disabled, lonely man who is confined to his house either due to mental or physical conditions or some kind of crippling shyness, and is completely harmless — a victim more than anything else. Prostitution, like sex robots, is claimed to be just about “making someone happy,” as McMullen puts it, and nothing more.

What McMullen and his weaselly counterparts seem never to understand is that the idea that men’s happiness should be catered to by women’s bodies and that “loneliness” is an acceptable excuse for objectification epitomizes patriarchy. It says that women should nurture men no matter what, to their own detriment.

Kleeman quotes David Levy, the author of Love and Sex with Robots and founder of the Congress on Love and Sex with Robots, who similarly believes sex robots will have “therapeutic benefits” in the future. He writes, “Many who would otherwise have become social misfits, social outcasts, or even worse, will instead be better-balanced human beings.” But why is it almost solely men who need the supposed “therapeutic benefits” of a compliant woman? Are there no lonely, disabled, or socially awkward women on this planet?

What is not being acknowledged here is that what men who buy sex dolls or prostituted women desire is not companionship, but dominance.

McMullen is insulted by the comparison to prostitution, and attempts to turn this point around on Kleeman, as though she is insulting women by making the comparison. “This is not a toy to me, this is the actual hard work of people who have PhDs,” he says. “And to denigrate it down to its simplest form of a sex object is similar to saying that about a woman.”

But to compare sex dolls or robots to women is not at all farfetched. The men who want sex dolls literally do want to use them as a replacement for real women. “If my RealDoll could cook, clean, and screw whenever I wanted, I’d never date again,” one man wrote in a sex doll forum. A man Kleeman meets in Detroit calls one of his dolls his “wife,” and has stopped dating now that he’s found his perfect match.

Davecat lives in Detroit, Michigan with three sex dolls. (Screenshot: The Guardian/YouTube)

The fact that the arguments in favour of sex robots are exactly the same as those in favour of pornography and prostitution — including “men have needs” and “this will probably stop guys from raping women,” as one real-life robot model told Kleeman — is revealing. Noel Aguila, who works for his half-brother’s company, Android Love Dolls, says sex dolls could prevent men from abusing their wives, for example. The message is that men have to have access to a female (or female-like) subordinate in order to truly be complete, as men. In other words, as women gain independence, there must be a stand-in, in order to preserve the hierarchy — in order to preserve masculinity itself.

Sex robots don’t undo the violence or domination, they simply normalize it.

It is irrational to believe that offering men something that physically looks like a woman — that men are encouraged to engage with as they would a woman — to beat up or rape will discourage men from thinking of women as objects upon which they can act out violent fantasies or project their anger. As we know, the existence of hundreds of thousands of prostituted women around the world and a billion dollar porn industry has not stopped rape or abuse. The sex trade itself functions as a system of paid, condoned rape, wherein men get what they want from women who must comply in order to survive, who don’t desire them, and are left traumatized, abused, and worse. That capitalist patriarchy has created a class of people for men’s use and abuse has not deterred them from raping or abusing women who aren’t prostituted, in any case.

The solution to men’s violence is not to offer up even more female bodies for men to treat as inhuman. It is not to create replicas of women who don’t talk back, don’t have needs, don’t feel pain when abused, and who exist only to support the male ego. If objectification resolved male violence, we’d be home free by now.

No matter what creators and fans claim about the harmlessness or social good of sex robots, they project very clear beliefs about what men deserve and what women are for. The message is that sex is a thing men get from women or do to women, not a thing to be mutually enjoyed by two people. It is not a thing that demands care, compassion, respect, or empathy. Likewise, advocates of sex robots present “companionship” as a one-way street for men — challenges, disagreements, feelings, and thoughts are not valuable or desired qualities in a woman. “Companionship,” in this context, simply means male satisfaction.

Sex robots offer men the perfect solution to the feminist movement: If you won’t comply, we’ll create women who do.

The dream girl is, as always, not human.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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