Two years ago, the first sex doll-based brothel was opened in Spain. At the current time, is the growing fame and success of these brothels something to worry about? Are robot sex workers great tools to replace prostitution, or will they be the cause of further societal damage?
In 2017, Lumidolls, the first Robot sex brothel, opened in Barcelona, Spain. Following its success, the company expanded and opened new brothels in Turin (Italy), Moscow (Russia) and Nagoya (Japan).
The company produces and sells robot sex dolls, built to make the customers almost believe they are interacting with a real person. Lumidolls also provides customers with an additional option, to rent a sex doll. The price is currently around 100 Euros per hour.
This is a revolutionary idea, at least for a society that hasn’t been able to successfully fight against prostitution and sexual exploitation.
The advocates of the idea support the move by saying it is a progressive one, as it should help to reduce the demand for sex workers, thus tackling the business of both illegal and legal prostitution.
But is the opening of robot sex brothels really a positive innovation, or is it something bad for our society?
Starting from the positive end of our argumentation, robot brothels – in addition to reducing the request for prostitutes – may allow people with dangerous sexual perversions to find an acceptable solution to their problems.
However, it appears that this is a prime example of “objectification” of the woman’s body.
The woman, from being a figurative object in a patriarchal society, becomes an actual object, something to be used and abused.
In order to counteract this kind of criticism, Lumidolls has made male robot dolls available as well. Although this may render the two genders equal, it does so by objectifying them both.
This is however not simply a moral issue, but rather a practical one.
It has been demonstrated that frequent users of pornography develop “unrealistic” sexual needs that may constitute, in some cases, a societal danger.
A constant use of pornography has been linked to a decreased ability of feeling empathic towards potential sexual partners. Further, it also encourages the worsening of compulsive sexual behaviours, causes altered sexual taste (1), addiction and, eventually, decreased satisfaction when in a relationship (1).
It is obvious that what we have just discussed for pornography can be easily translated to sex robots.
The robot object-woman can easily become the real object-woman.
As consuming porn is by itself an “escalating behaviour” that tends to more and more violent forms, sex robots may similarly become a vector to encourage people to believe that sexual violence is somewhat acceptable.
The real issue comes with the number of those who would have sex with robot dolls. In the United States, 15 to 20% of adult men have had sex at least once with a prostitute. Regarding pornography, at least 56% of men in the UK watches porn occasionally, and 15% of them regularly. Although pornography features real people performing sexual acts in videos, it is still perceived as an “abstract” entity. Porn users do not have the perception of being confronted with real people when they watch online adult videos. Basically, actors or amateurs are perceived as “technological entities”.
The demand for sex robots would probably lie somewhere between that of prostitution and of pornography. Although the sexual act resembles a real one, robots are still inanimate objects.
We could therefore expect the number of men having sex with robots being somewhere in between these numbers. In other words, this type of sex business could attract more people towards prostitution than real prostitution does.
And although customers won’t deal with real people, the psychological effects would be long lasting and would inevitably also affect those real people that are part of their lives.
“These addictions could therefore bleed into society”, normalising sexual violence, and, similar to pornography, may contribute to sexual dissatisfaction within a relationship, leading to increased stress and anxiety.
Indeed, perceived addiction to pornography has been demonstrated to cause psychological distress (2).
In the western world, successful and happy relationships are becoming a mirage (3). Also, psychological distress in the form of depression and anxiety is an increasing problem (4,5).
Has the advent of pornography contributed to these issues? Are robot sex workers going to worsen these problems? As sexual health actively and strongly contributes to our mental stability, sex robots could represent a major burden for our already fragile modern gender relations. In terms of sexuality, we live in a rapidly changing society and our nature, our deep beliefs, are not keeping up the pace. In this time, men are most fragile they have ever been, also as a consequence of the large availability of free and easily accessible pornography and cheap prostitution. Our patriarchal society gives men the freedom to experience sexuality in a way that does not correspond to reality, to the will of their female counterparts.
Sex robots are therefore just another step further in the process of technological separation between the sexual expectations of men and women.
- Morgan, E.M., “Associations between young adults’ use of sexually explicit materials and their sexual preferences, behaviours, and satisfaction”, J Sex Res, 2011.
- Grubbs, J.B. et al., “Perceived addiction to Internet pornography and psychological distress: examining relationships concurrently and over time.”, Psychol Addict Behav, 2015.
- Härkönen, J., “Divorce: trends, patterns, causes, consequences”, chapter in “The Wiley-Blackwell companion to the sociology of families”, 2014.
- Bandelow, B., “Epidemiology of anxiety in the 21stcentury”, Dialogues Clin Neurosci, 2015.
- Hidaka, B.H., “Depression as a disease of modernity: explanations for increasing prevalence”, J Affect Disord, 2013.