back to article It's time for humanity to embrace SEX ROBOTS. For, uh, science, of course

Humankind is still considering whether we could create sex robots – but should we, considering the ethical and legal questions arising from the creation of sex data and non-adult sex robots? During August's extraordinarily warm and enjoyable Electromagnetic Field festival, Dr Kate Devlin, a researcher at Goldsmith's department …

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“While males are the chief buyer of human sex, females are more likely to purchase artificial nonhuman substitutes such as vibrators that stimulate a discrete part of the body rather than purchase an adult or child for sex.”

Gotta worry about the validity of opinions of those who can't distinguish between ownership and rental.

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"Gotta worry about the validity of opinions of those who can't distinguish between ownership and rental"

What's wrong with the pretty woman option of a short term lease with option to buy at the end?

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>Gotta worry about the validity of opinions of those who can't distinguish between ownership and rental.

Indeed, though I think the correct reading - the point the author was trying to make - is that men purchase sex (a sexual encounter/event) whereas women purchase toys.

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Indeed, though I think the correct reading - the point the author was trying to make - is that men purchase sex (a sexual encounter/event) whereas women purchase toys.

IOW women objectify sex and men prefer something more emotional; directly contra the feminist narrative. This is a very interesting conversation...

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I ddint know the Isle of Wight had such strong opinions on the matter

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Anonymous Coward

The other is that it could act as a gateway or normalisation which could lead to more abuse.

Has there ever been any studies or actual evidence for anything being a "gateway" to aggravate any impulse? It always seems very hand-wavy and witch-hunty to me. Cannabis being a gateway to heroin, video games being a gateway to criminality, D&D being a gateway to Satan worship, etc.

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Anonymous Coward

In my experience, there is always a study for linkage. It usually consists of only processing the top 100 or so people who "prove" your point, calling them the random sample that "conclusively" links X to Y across the board, but it is usually there.

Gotta have paper to wave while claiming you're right after all

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Anonymous Coward

Gateway claims are always pretty wild and have a lot to do with confusing correlation to causation.

It's like the whole "Cannabis leads to harder drug" concept, the correlation is more likely down to some drug dealers wanting to move punters onto harder more profitable drugs than cannabis makes you want harder drugs.

Watching violent media makes you more violent etc, etc, etc.

But I'm yet to venture out to make my "study" using 12 people and no double blind groups to sell my paper to the tabloids.

On the other hand it's all an interesting talking point, personally I await the delivery of decent sex toys for men.

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actual evidence for anything being a "gateway"?

Just because there are many dubious and/or overblown "gateway" claims, typically being somewhat doom-laden, does not mean there are no "gateway" like scenarios which actually occur.

Notably, I might recast a common, and largely uncontentious narrative of the form "inspirational teacher in year X led me to do Y" as a "gateway experience in year X led me to do Y" - the actual events haven't altered, just the language used.

Further, there could easily be competing analyses of a situation, with A claiming that there is no significant gateway effect since very few in its presence went further, while B might be able to point out that the posited "gateway" was crucial in the progression of those susceptible individuals.

It seems to me that the existence of a "gateway" does not demand that everyone walks on through it; and evidence for or against a claimed gateway effect needs to look at the specific situation. But I don't think that it's an unreasonable thing to hypothesize that one /might/ occur in a novel situation, as is done here.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: actual evidence for anything being a "gateway"?

"Notably, I might recast a common, and largely uncontentious narrative of the form "inspirational teacher in year X led me to do Y" as a "gateway experience in year X led me to do Y" - the actual events haven't altered, just the language used."

It's interesting though, it could have been presented that "X class is a gateway to doing Y" where as it was teacher Z that was the cause, in a class with teacher N nobody went on to do Y.

Or maybe it was syllabus P that was the reason teacher Z was so good and teacher N just wasn't as able to deliver syllabus P.

I think it's a notable and uncontentious example because it's nice and fits a well liked narrative by everyone involved.

Like I said interesting.

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I'm not sure about gateways creating a desire for the next step up the ladder 'o doom. But I'm pretty sure there is evidence for "normalisation" of behaviours leading to more of them. Quite how strong that evidence is, and whether it's going to get debunked in future is another matter. But I think there's been some evidence for the "nudge" type stuff that's so popular in government and big business at the moment. From offering you that humungous chocolate bar while you're buying someting in Smiths to the things like how you state things. So there have been some studies (though I've heard rumblings of opposition and not myself read the papers) where they got numbers of missed doctors appointments down by just changing the terminology. Signs saying, "almost 10% of people miss appointments and waste our time please stop doing this" are argued to normalise the behaviour - whereas the sign "over 95% of patients attend booked appointments please help us to improve this" apparently do get missed appointments down. This is just linked to social conditioning.

I've then seen people working with child sex offenders saying that there's a rise in people actively pursuing the behaviours. One argument is that this stuff was harder to get, but also it was harder to find like-minded people, since it's not something you can just bring up in conversation. But with the internet, you can find that you're not the only person like you. Now whether the extra access to child porn the internet gives is the cause of a rise in use, or whether it's down to a reinforcement of behaviours due to finding a "peer group" is another matter, and I don't know if the trick-cyclists have come to a conclusion on that. Or even if there's a way to experimentally validate it.

Social conditioning is a powerful influence on our behaviour.

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Lets be honest, a lot of us are on the straight and narrow because the risk of criminal convictions or social knowledge causing irreparable harm to our social lives and careers. Combined with the fact that it's just not a part of our make up.

As to other things, I find that the discussion quickly goes to the more unacceptable (and far rarer) behaviours.

I mean I think most of us jumped to the staple, child abuse, violence and drugs. As opposed to more normal things, wanking, which is what it would mostly be used as a replacement for, and being lonely and anti social.

Most people just use a knife to make dinner, some people stab other people. I suspect sex robots would largely be used for a wanking replacement. I ponder whether men or women would be the main user, there is a very large stigma about men not "getting it" which I guess is why there are so few male sex toys in the west at least. If you're not able to bed a member of the opposite sex you should be at home wallowing in self pity with your trusty right (or left) hand or being a terrible person with a lady of the night. So I doubt shagging an android would do anything to remove the stigma that you need to be doing the naughty with a member of the opposite.

Interesting.

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Anonymous Coward

"But I'm pretty sure there is evidence for "normalisation" of behaviours leading to more of them."

As I understand it there definitely is, via "cognitive dissonance" and "the offending spiral" (think that's the right name). The former is where you keep telling yourself something isn't too bad / is fine, until such time as your mental baseline shifts so you genuinely believe that. The latter is where that dissonance repeats itself taking you further and further away from the societal norm. That might be drugs, where weed's a bit naughty > weed is fine > speed is a bit naughty > speed is fine etc, or anything else where it's possible to gradually progress from the norm.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: why there are so few male sex toys in the west at least.

I think that the reason that there are so few heterosexual male targeted sex toys compared with female targeted ones is that the human hand is a pretty damn good way of physically stimulating the male sex bits. Since most blokes have at least 1 functioning hand which they can use to de-pressurise their nuts at will, there is less need for them to go and find a wank assistance tool. On the other hand female targeted sex toys are often designed to provide stimulation that would be difficult to accomplish by hand. I think women's bodies provide a lot more opportunities for sexual pleasure than men's do, or at least than most hetro men are prepared to accept that they do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: why there are so few male sex toys in the west at least.

while it's perfectly possible to get off with your hand it isn't exactly very rewarding and tends to be rather utilitarian. Last time I was in Japan a bunch of my mates purchased me a "parody cup" which I of course "played" with. The satisfaction levels were an order of magnitude greater. Followed by the guilt that I just filled what was for all intent of purposes "a cardboard tube with foam and lube" with my seed.

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Anonymous Coward

Someone raised this point quite interestingly once.

"Say someone has photos of children being sexually abused or exploited, what evidence is there that it'll cause them to go off and molest children?"

(The fact that possession is a criminal offense not withstanding.)

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No, that isn't what Cognitive Dissonance is at all.

Cognitive Dissonance is when you get angry because someone has evidence that contradicts your beliefs. That's ... pretty much all it is. Like many psychological terms it gets abused more often than it is properly used.

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No, that's not pretty much all it is.

Its also the mental stress/discomfort from holding two contradictory views at the same time or performing an action that contradicts their views.

Example: Kiddie fiddler with a conscience; Knows its wrong but still does it anyway.

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Re: actual evidence for anything being a "gateway"?

Is spending ten minutes on pornhub the gateway for spending five hours on pornhub? Is a "hot hatch" a gateway to higher-performance cars? Are low-alcohol drinks a gateway to more inebriating content? Is simulated sex on the dance-floor a gateway to the real thing? Is a cheap, hand-me-down smartphone a gateway to a far more expensive option, or life-eating social-media usage? Does going to the cinema on a Sunday morning tend to lead to a less productive Sunday afternoon? Could one hit of cocaine be the gateway to a damaging habit?

Whether its correlation or causation, does it really matter? Would you go out with a man who's murdered several of his wives? Do you think murdering the fourth one was easier for him than the first?

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>Its also the mental stress/discomfort from holding two contradictory views at the same time or performing an action that contradicts their views.

>Example: Kiddie fiddler with a conscience; Knows its wrong but still does it anyway.

The result is generally that one of the positions will win out. If you repeatedly acquire KP, eventually, the feeling of it being wrong will go away. If you repeatedly shun KP and destroy it at the first possible opportunity, you'll keep your belief that its wrong and stop acquiring it.

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"Has there ever been any studies or actual evidence for anything being a "gateway" to aggravate any impulse? It always seems very hand-wavy and witch-hunty to me. Cannabis being a gateway to heroin, video games being a gateway to criminality, D&D being a gateway to Satan worship, etc."

Being a commentard on El Reg's forums is a gateway to .... ???

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@Shades: In your example the person with the proof that something someone believes is wrong is also the person with the belief.

It's true that I oversimplified the symptoms, getting angry is only one of the responses your brain has to avoid knowledge, others include laughing or acting shocked.

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Humankind is still considering whether we could create sex robots

I thought they have been around for ages, though expensive and they can't walk. However, do they need to do more than lie down or sit up?

AI is a different story, but really that would be a disadvantage, even if it was possible. Simulated responses and actions are enough.

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Devil

Re: Humankind is still considering whether we could create sex robots

However, do they need to do more than lie down or sit up?

They need to be able to do handstands and swing from the chandeliers, surely?

How else can one achieve the lion and the cheese-grater position?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Humankind is still considering whether we could create sex robots

"However, do they need to do more than lie down or sit up?"

Their tactile properties would need to be fairly sophisticated - both for giving and receiving body touches from fingers. It takes a while to learn where a partner's unique erogenous zones are. If the robot is the recipient then the "skin" has to react in that same way.

Without that sort of prolonged foreplay then it is only a partial experience - akin to a boys' boarding school game of "soggy biscuit".

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Pint

Thought for the Day

We are all machines.

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Re: Thought for the Day

Machine, or Tool? Guessing she would say Tool.

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Dr Kate Devlin

Devlin sounds like she has some sort of agenda?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dr Kate Devlin

You mean like:

Not acknowledging that dildos come in very phalic shapes and sizes, from human to animal including horse? That there are an incredible array of sex toys for women, but not for men. You know, like men don't have urges but women do?

Not acknowledging that there are already robotic sex machines for women or that the sexdroid (female) that caused an outcry was advertised along side the male version, which went without comment?

Not acknowledging that the dildo was the first practical occurance of sexual objectification by reducing male sex to an object a woman can carry in her handbag? That a study into the impact of the introduction of the dildo on society would show if such things do, indeed, cause problems in society and if so, what the dangers are?

Of referring to AI robots in human form instead of androids (aka robots limited to human form). This is a simple trick to invoke horror and opposition: Androids might be seen as okay, but robots? No way! Way too mechanical and nothing like being with a person!

Of claiming that technology is mostly by men for men, forgetting that household appliances (aka technology) were designed to make women's lives easier (you know: Washing machines, tumbledryers, vaccume cleaners, dishwashers...). Tech in industry displaces workers to make production cheaper, not to advantage men, so she's either dishonest or ignorant there.

Oh, and the list goes on...

So yes, some sort of agenda.

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Re: Dr Kate Devlin

That a study into the impact of the introduction of the dildo on society would show if such things do, indeed, cause problems in society and if so, what the dangers are

Erm. Dildos have been found since paleolithic times. The oldest intact one is from around 28,000 years ago.

Whatever problems they caused have to be pretty well entrenched in the system by now.

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Coat

Re: Dr Kate Devlin

They also found the box for that 28,000 year old one - it's recently beent translated as The Dominant Diplodocus...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dr Kate Devlin

Probably not 28,000 years but how common place were they? How did society view their use? Was such use even encouraged?

These are things that would make up part of such a study, as would how society's views have changed over time. These days, dildos have become quite sophisticated and are easily acquired. As you go back through history, they'd be simpler and as they'd have to be hand crafted, might not be so common. Other items might be used, but was such use acceptable or a 'dirty secret'? How society viewed such items and their use will change over time, and there was a significant change in the Victorian era when a doctor suggested women should use them to address sexual frustrations.

There's a lot of room for study, and a lot we might come to understand about how society has changed, and as such, the problems will have changed along with it. However, vibrators and other sex toys are fairly new, so we could look to the introduction of those to see how they've impacted society and what problems they've introduced.

After all, if we want equality we need to stop thinking 'them and us': It's everyone or no one.

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Re: Dr Kate Devlin

Speaking to my wife, it's astonishing that as a society we can create millions of different ways to pleasure a vagina (or anus if that's your thing) but apparently quite incapable of creating a sanitary towel that couldn't double up as some kind of mattress in case of emergencies.

I guess it's a question of priorities. Part of the discussion was a conclusion that if it were men that suffered periods (directly that is) then this particular issue would probably have about 500 solutions by now.

Not sure if it is men who design these things, but surely they must be designed by women too?

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Re: Dr Kate Devlin

In the ancient Middle East you could go to the temple prostitutes.

Perhaps that CofE should look at that, to improve church attendance. Now that really would be a Sunday service...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dr Kate Devlin

> In the ancient Middle East you could go to the temple prostitutes.

Same in Europe in the Middle Ages, the church was often associated with prostitution. While denying working girls a Christian burial they were quite happy to lease property for brothels and many church leaders were known for organising prostitution.

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Re: Dr Kate Devlin @AC

Geez, people... you've totally confused your doctors...

It's Dr Richardson who is the bigoted zealot.

Dr Devlin is the one saying she has no problem with all this bot sex and what not...

Or you read some other article than I did.

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Re: Dr Kate Devlin

Probably not 28,000 years but how common place were they? How did society view their use? Was such use even encouraged?

Depends on actual society. Europe before Christianity - common and in some societies in active use in various rituals. Just ask any scholar specializing in Early Middle Ages European history to explain to you in detail the Spring Harvest ritual of the Slavic tribes and the exact function of the wooden dick attached to the statue of Perun (the Slavic god of Lightning).

Similar rituals were in use in Norse tribes, amidst pre-Christian Germanic tribes, etc. The god differed, the ritual differed, the only constant was the dildo.

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Prostitution doesn't damage society. Society puts these men and women in danger by forcing them to work on the streets, alone, and without any sort of protection. People want sex, people need money and are willing to provide that service. That hasn't, and will not, change. Yet we still remove protections for these workers because we don't agree with their line of work? Already my feelings towards this "professor" are already poor.

The fact remains, however, that the human imagination will always come up with ruder and cruder methods to get ones rocks off. Take the McChicken-lovin' man, I can bet you any money there are men - regardless of age - who have considered what it felt like or have went out and bought one to have a go with. What are we meant to do now? Ban McChicken burgers from being sold because someone used one for a wank?

Bruce Springsteen, in "Johnny 99", got it absolutely right:

"Well your honor I do believe I'd be better off dead

So if you can take a man's life for the thoughts that's in his head"

The human imagination, the thoughts, the wants etc, will always exceed the boundaries that can ever be thought of by another human.

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There was a man caught by the police with his john thomas shoved up the exhaust pipe of a Ford Fiesta. There's no accounting for taste.

Hope the engine had been given a decent time to cool down.

And I suppose, at least it wasn't an Escort...

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Anonymous Coward

"Take the McChicken-lovin' man"

In the furore over that - it didn't seem to occur to people that a hit "15" rated comedy film in 1999 had an eponymous warm apple pie as a teenage masturbatory aid.

In "Portnoy's Complaint" (1969) it was raw liver.

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Anonymous Coward

I remember the guy that got done in scotland for having sex with a bicycle (I don't know how) in his own room in a hostel.

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Mechanics of the act aside... Who caught him? How did the police get involved?

I hope it was a nice bike.

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Coat

When it comes to sex my wife's a bit like a bicycle ... she's always too tired. *barrrmp - tisssh*

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Anonymous Coward

What a ride!

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"at least it wasn't an Escort..."

Society had taught him that he was owed a Princess.

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Mechanics of the act aside... Who caught him? How did the police get involved?

So far as I remember, our intrepid Scottish velocipedephile was in bed with his bicycle, in the privacy of his hotel room. I don't know if heavy petting was as far as he'd got, or if he'd taken the saddle or handlebars off or something, and and had his todger buried in the frame.

Anyway the cleaner appears to have burst in on him unanounced. Or she knocked, and he was distracted?

Rather than just leaving him to it, the hotel called the police, and quite outrageously he was put on the sex offenders register. Apparently no bike is safe from him!

I'm now worried to admit that my first bike was bright green and called an "Easy Rider". I never laid a finger on it!

Then I graduated to a Tomahawk and after that, kept my chopper away from my Chopper.

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Re: Escort - Reminds me of an old joke

Q. What's the difference between a Skoda and a sheep

A. You're less embarrassed getting out of the back of a sheep!

Of course this goes back to before VW bought Skoda. Maybe it should be a Dacia now.

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Anonymous Coward

Sex robots will be illegal in the UK under the law that prohibits necrophilia.

They'll classify it as "sex with something that doesn't have a pulse," and try very fucking hard to sweep it under that law.

Just watch...

Also...

>[...] but are not illegal in countries such as Japan where manga can often feature cartoon drawings of sexualised children, which the nation’s domestic industry continues to defend despite international condemnation.

Probably because they're not real. Any sane person (our country, for that matter) can tell the difference between fiction and reality.

Something the UK, or most Western countries, no longer seems cable of doing.

Also, this image came to mind: http://i.imgur.com/sN0hNYC.png

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"They'll classify it as "sex with something that doesn't have a pulse," and try very fucking hard to sweep it under that law."

Then they'll simulate pulses. Then they'll have a harder time defining what a pulse really is since it has multiple scientifically-valid definitions.

"Probably because they're not real. Any sane person (our country, for that matter) can tell the difference between fiction and reality."

They're concerned about delusional people who really CAN'T tell the difference between fiction and reality. And BTW, Japan actually has laws in the books concerning kiddie porn. At this time, this is limited to living stuff, but they're still under pressure to extend it to their manga industry (particularly in regards to the lucrative underground or doujinshi market). It helps that they already have laws on the books barring the complete depiction of the genitalia (real or drawn) for the most part.

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