By Michael Ashcraft —
If you worry about the broad esplanade of pornography on the Internet, you’d better don your battle gear for the next chapter of the sexual revolution about to hit America.
Sex robots — which are becoming surprisingly more realistic than the inflatable dolls of yesteryear — will unravel the fabric of society more than ever before, according to observers both Christian and non-Christian.
Jewish ethicist Barak Lurie believes sex robots will be a greater threat to young people than iPhones or video games.
“You and I will have friends — mostly male — who are living with sex robots. And they will appear to be as lifelike as you can imagine, and they will have ‘relationships’ with these sex robots because they will be as beautiful as they want them to be, they will be as sexy as they want them to be, and as submissive as they want them to be,” Lurie says.
Robots were supposed to do our household chores. Not this.
Arguably, smartphones and pervasive pornography have significantly unhinged male social skills and upended traditional courtship. Why “work” at impressing women when you have an endless, easy supply of them over the Internet, Lurie says.
He says sex robots will degrade the social fabric even further. “One of the greatest impetuses for men to produce and to grow and to be productive members of society is, yeah, sex,” Lurie says. “When you take that impetus away — that main impetus that we have to achieve, to try new things, to explore and conquer — then he’s just going to stay in momma’s basement.”
Sex robots “will be worse (than porn) because they will create the illusion of a relationship, the illusion of actually tactile, skin to skin contact — which is very important for men,” Lurie warns. “It will give them the illusion that they are not just playing with themselves… that they’re losers.”
Sex robots — alternatively called sex dolls — will appeal because they don’t say no to a man, because they can’t accuse a man of rape or harassment and because they require no winsomeness to woo female emotions, Lurie says.
James Young is a BBC presenter who loves technology because robotics replaced two limbs he lost in a train accident. But in his recent documentary, “The Future of Sex | Sex Robots and Us,” he asks a disturbing question: “Could there be a darker side to AI (Artificial Intelligence)?”
“What effects might having sex with a robot have on men who use them?” he asks. “Could they create negative behaviors in men towards real women?”
Those questions haunt Noel Sharkey, a computer scientist and professor at the University of Sheffield, co-founder and co-director of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics. The burgeoning sex robot industry unsettles him.
“It creates an attitude of too easy sex because it’s always available,” Sharkey notes. “Although I love AI, I struggle that we must try to maintain a human culture, what is meaningful to us. We’re doing all these things with machines because we can and not really thinking about the societal impact and that this could completely change humanity and take meaning out of our lives and turn us into zombies.
“That’s the thing that keeps me awake at night” he admits.
Japan is leading the way in making sex dolls, but Sergei Santos’ company in Barcelona is taking the disturbing trend to even creepier levels by adding AI. His robots talk and respond based on sensors in different parts of the doll; they accumulate data and modify their behavior. A sex robot like this costs $20,000.
Because of the feel of the skin, the authenticity of the face and the human voice, these robots are being called “hyper-realistic.”
A brothel administrator in Barcelona in the documentary says: “In 30 years, scientists say, people will have more sex with robots than with humans. These kinds of dolls will improve a lot.” His prostitution house offers live women and dolls.
If this all sounds conscience-searing and grotesque, just wait. It gets worse.
When Young visited a factory where Hiro Okawa is mass-producing sex dolls in Japan, he happened across a model that appeared underage. Yes, it looked like a minor, not fully developed. Understanding the implication that people in Japan are buying “girl sex dolls,” Young broke down crying.
“Seeing such a young looking doll felt horrific. I had to get out of there,” Young says. “I wasn’t expecting that. I was really tired of it all. I felt pessimistic about what type of messed-up future we might be creating for ourselves.”
There are groups at work to ban the inevitable arrival of child sex dolls. Republican Congressman Dan Donovan from New York recently introduced legislation to ban such dolls. His bill is called the Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots — appropriately acronymed CREEPER — Act.
“Once a child sex abuser tires of practicing on a doll, it’s a small step to move on to an innocent child,” Donovan noted in The Daily Beast. “This isn’t just speculation. Psychologists and researchers believe that these dolls reinforce, normalize, and encourage pedophilic behavior, potentially putting more children at risk to harm.”
But his legislation — which screams of sensibility — may hit a roadblock with the First Amendment, says Lurie, who also happens to be a lawyer in Los Angeles. Though he finds the notion repulsive, he worries that the precedent set by pornography under the First Amendment might also protect child sex dolls.
“The simple purchase of a sex robot would create legal issues, no matter how disgusting and morally depraved you and I would think of it,” Lurie surmises. “Porn by way of the First Amendment is a First Amendment issue. I don’t think you can stop somebody from buying and keeping a sex robot, whether that sex robot is … (he breaks off) What are we going to do if they make a robot that looks 16 but they argue it’s 18? Honestly, what are we going to do?”
With child pornography, a real person is violated. But a legal case challenging child sex robots — with the right lawyer arguing before the Supreme Court — would probably be approved eventually, Lurie says.
There are even those who apply the hackneyed pro-porn argument to sex robots: it could be a safety valve. Juliet Grayson, chair of the Wales-based organization the Specialist Treatment Organization for the Prevention of Sexual Offending, said in The Independent that child sex dolls could provide an outlet and prevent rapes against real kids.
Professor Sharkey zaps that notion. He maintains that child sex robots will only create more appetite for perversion.
“I believe that a ban on the general use of child-like sex robots is necessary because of the dangers that they may create,” he says. “They could have a pernicious impact on society and potentially normalize sexual assault on minors. It would be relatively easy to make these as replicas of actual children from photographs. The way forward is to have international laws against them.”
For Lurie, the answer is a return to God — as well as the need for devout believers, Jewish and Christian, to resist the avalanche of evil and sound the alarm at every possible chance.
A woman administrator of a brothel in Liverpool on Young’s documentary issued the plea for discussion and study of sex dolls, which she has at her brothel.
“Don’t stick your head in the sand and pretend this is not going to happen because they’re coming,” she says. “What are we going to do to make sure it fits in well with our society and reflects our morals and our views?”
Michael Ashcraft pastors the Lighthouse Church in Van Nuys.