“I don’t see technology as neutral — I see technology as driven by cultural forces. And the cultural forces that are driving this technology is the commercial [sex] trade.” — Kathleen Richardson
Kathleen Richardson launched the Campaign Against Sex Robots, but her aims are actually much broader than humanoids built for male pleasure. Richardson is an abolitionist, and sees sex robots as very much connected to the sex trade and a larger culture that treats people as tools and objects. Through the campaign, she says, she wants to “radically disconnect the idea of sex from rape.”
Sex robots have been in the media lately on account of a new prototype, developed by the Matt McMullen, the CEO of Abyss Creations and the man behind RealDoll. A recent report in The Guardian introduces us to “Harmony,” a humanoid that exists to service men. She is programmable, so that customers can choose certain “personality traits,” as well as physical details, like nipple size, colour, and shape. Harmony exists not only as a thing to-be-fucked, but as an ego boost for her owner, as she learns details about him, so her communication is wholly centered around his needs and interests.
While some claim sex robots are a solution to everything from rape to prostitution, Kathleen argues that sex robots exacerbate these problems.
Kathleen is Senior Research Fellow in Ethics of Robotics at De Montfort University, Leicester, the author of An Anthropology of Robots and AI: Annihilation Anxiety and Machines, and the director of the Campaign Against Sex Robots.
I spoke with Kathleen over the phone this week from her home in England.