Sex robots or sexbots are increasingly becoming a part of the conversation that involves the future of sex and relationships.
Several companies are now developing robots that are meant to provide people with companionship and sexual pleasure. A few of these dolls are already available on the market. And unlike sex toys and the typical sex dolls, which are sold hidden in cabinets, sexbots carries the possibility to become mainstream. This idea is supported by a 2017 survey which said that half of Americans think that sexual intercourse between humans and robots will become a common practice within 50 years.
Sex Robots Defined
You can never find a universally accepted definition of the word sex robot. And while this may not seem important, it will become a serious problem for any proposal to regulate or ban them.
The main quandary is how you can differentiate a sex robot from a sexy robot. Can an attractive and sexually gratifying robot be called a sex robot?
One can consider defining sex robots based on what they are used for, just like how the legislature does with sex toys. In Alabama for instance, the government outrightly bans the sale of sex toys, targeting those devices that are primarily used to simulate human genital organs.
However, the definition above cannot be applied to sex robots. This is because sex robots provide their users much more than sex. These robots are integrated with self-learning algorithms that they can use to engage their user’s emotions.
For instance, the Mark 1 robot, an AI bot that resembles the appearance of the artist Scarlett Johansson, is labeled as a sex robot due to its sexy appearance. However, its creator, Ricky Ma Tsz Hang clarifies that the Mark 1 is never intended to provide sexual pleasure. Rather it is a robot that he created in hopes that it can assist all sorts of tasks like preparing lunch or accompanying an elderly.
Legal Issues Concerning Sex Robots
In a landmark case dated back in 2003, Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court decided the ineffectiveness of Texas sodomy law and established a new one which scholars deemed as a right to sexual privacy.
Currently, there are some arguments concerning how Lawrence should be used to restrict states from selling sex toys. So far, the sex toy ban on Alabama has been confirmed. However, it seems impossible for states to wholesale reprimand companies from selling sex robots. Still, bans concerning sex robots that resemble children are a different case.
There is still no confirmation whether there is already an ongoing sale of childlike sex robots in the U.S. Yet, the possibility of childlike sex robots resulted in the passing of CREEPER or the Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots Act in 2017.
The public is yet to see several attempts to ban childlike sexbots. However, it is not clear if these bans will outlive constitutional challenges.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court said that restrictions on child pornography do not violate the First Amendment. This is due to the fact that the state has its interest in decreasing the effects of child pornography to the children it portrays. However, the state also noted that the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 is too broad considering its attempt to ban child pornography that does not involve an actual child.
True enough, childlike sex robots are not human. However, it can still bring serious effects that compel state actions.
Sex Robots and the Society
Back in the year 2018, the Houston City Council enacted an ordinance that bans the operation of what then would be the first robot brothel in the United States. An attendee even emphasized during a community meeting that sex dolls carry the potential of destroying homes, families, and finances. It was also said that sexbots will cause a major community turmoil.
However, these predictions are mere speculations that do not hold an actual basis. There is not a single evidence that can prove that sex robots can affect humans and society. To put it simply, would a man more or less likely harm a human child if he uses a sex robot that resembles a child? Would robots eventually become a substitute for women when it comes to sex or could they enhance sexual relationships like how sex toy does? There are a lot of unanswered questions about sex robots. And although it is quite difficult to study the possibilities unless sex robots become more prevalent, it is important to explore this topic as soon as possible. Otherwise, people will see governance that is based on reactionary decisions on things that could have been solved earlier.
The New World and Its Courage
The question is how will the current demand for sex robots flow as time passes by. As everyone knows, there was a time when people who are attracted to the same sex are afraid and embarrassed to show this attraction publicly. Today, society is uncertain when it comes to the ethics of a human having intimate relationships with human-like technology, or what is more commonly called “Digi-sexuality.” It is still a question if there will come a time when humans will openly announce that they are having an intimate relationship with a machine.
Furthermore, no one knows how to answer the aforementioned questions. But what is certain is the fact that sex robots will soon proliferate in the American market. In addition, it is important to prepare for such a reality. Soon, imagining the laws revolving around sexbots will no longer be hypothetical or a science fiction.
Clearly, the proliferation of humanlike sex robots that can store data about its owner is a real-world challenge that everyone has to face. And another question is, considering the fact that sexbots can store information about its owners, how certain it is that these robots are not vulnerable to hacking? Is it possible for the state to use sexbots as a form of a surveillance device for sex offenders?