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What I Learned on My Date With a Sex Robot

Time:2018-05-17 01:38Underwear site information Click:

With date Robot What learned

Photograph by Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine. Styling by Lindsay Peoples Wagner.

Above: Henry, Realbotix's first male sex robot.

I’m driving down the San Diego freeway, searching for my exit, feeling jumpy and a little bit lost. I’m hoping a few wrong turns early in my drive won’t make me late. I still need time to stop off at a strip mall with a Starbucks and a big parking lot — someplace I can put on deodorant and maybe a little makeup after my cross-country flight.

I prefer to think this is because I want to appear professional to the human man I’m on my way to see: Matt McMullen, the founder of Abyss Creations and its offshoot robotics company, Realbotix. But once I find a place to park and start brushing my hair, I realize that some deranged sliver of myself feels as if I’m primping for romance. This is a complicated realization. In addition to McMullen, I’m about to meet Henry, the first available male sex robot.

Henry is six feet tall, with six-pack abs and the customer’s choice of penis. He’s just a prototype at the moment — you can’t buy him — but the two female models Realbotix developed alongside Henry will ship this summer. So far, there have been 50 preorders at $12,000 apiece. Henry, Harmony, and Solana have sturdy silicone bodies, and once they’re synced up to a corresponding app, they can give compliments, recite poetry, tell jokes, and seduce.

Or at least, this is the general idea. The easy fantasy of what a sex robot might be — indistinguishable from an actual human, except hotter and prepared to fulfill any desire — is far from the current reality. Henry, if we’re being cruel, is essentially a high-quality dildo attached to a fancy mannequin with a Bluetooth speaker in his head. But the gulf between what we imagine and what’s possible makes sex robots the perfect vehicle for pondering our sexual and technological future. We might not wake up with sex robots in our beds tomorrow, but right now they’re an irresistible thought experiment. Since making my date with Henry, he’s become my favorite dinner-party topic. Would you fuck a robot? I’ve asked countless friends, as we all gather round a phone and flip through photos and videos of Henry like he’s someone’s latest Tinder match. (Weak conversational skills, but always DTF … maybe yes?)

Photo: Tania Franco Klein/New York Magazine

The dystopian vision for our robot future might look something like the one Ross Douthat evoked in a recent New York Times column: a world where sex robots (along with human sex workers) become a market-based solution to the violent misogyny of self-styled “involuntary celibates” — men like Alek Minassian, who is charged with killing ten people in Toronto last month. Douthat’s column prompted immediate outrage for seeming to take Minassian’s grievances at face value and for dehumanizing sex workers. Meanwhile, there’s already a Campaign Against Sex Robots and reason to suspect they may not bring out the best in their human companions. This past September, visitors to the Ars Electronica Festival met Samantha, a sex robot from the Barcelona-based company Synthea Amatus. According to headlines, men acted like “barbarians.” Taking things a few steps (or centuries) further, maybe the dystopian future looks like the most recent season of Westworld, with robots exacting revenge on the humans who mistreat them.

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So far, though, nearly all our fantasies and anxieties focus on relationships between human men and robot women. Henry — beautiful, simpleminded, slack-jawed Henry — offers an opportunity to consider robot sex without all the misogynist baggage of fembots. The official research on who would or would not fuck a robot is small. In a 2016 Tufts University survey of 100 people, two-thirds of men polled said they’d have sex with a robot and two-thirds of women said they would not. On the day I meet bot-boy, Harmony and Henry have just returned from filming a man-on-the-street bit for Jimmy Kimmel Live! Kimmel asked passersby if they would consider falling in love with one of the robots — the segment has yet to air, but apparently they got a lot of “nos.” McMullen says he created Henry in order to “represent both genders” and put to rest complaints that his company was objectifying women. In other words, Henry is not a response to known market demand.

But if, for now, all sex robots are more or less novelties, they’re also a window into our desires. Building a robot for the purpose of sex means defining what sex means to us — whether it’s strictly friction or requires something else, emotion or responsiveness or surprise. It also means defining what we want in a partner (assuming that we know) and asking how much we expect out of sex with our fellow humans.

In his 2007 book Love and Sex With Robots, David Levy predicted that by 2050, humans will have intimate relationships with robots. Not just sex — love, friendship, marriage, all of it. A futurologist named Ian Pearson (who boasts that his predictions are accurate 85 percent of the time) has gone even further and suggested that by 2050, humans will have more sex with robots than with other people. Based on trends in the $15 billion sex-toy industry — like VR porn and the rise of teledildonics, or remotely controlled vibrators — Pearson believes that by 2025, women will prefer robots to men.

As I get back on the highway after making myself presentable, I can’t help letting my mind wander toward the most optimistic and irrational fantasies of what I’m about to experience.

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