Last updated June 7, 2018 at 10:15 am
Experts say there is no evidence for their clinical use.
Sexbots, by their very name and nature, are divisive.
While some claim lifelike robots specifically created for sexual gratification can encourage safer sex and curb the incidence of sex crimes and sexual violence against women and children, others argue they are more likely to normalise sexual deviancy or act as a practice ground for violence.
And while debate continues, the growth of the concept is set to further boost a “sex technology” industry already said to already be worth US$30 billion.
Certainly that’s the figure quoted by two British academics who fall very strongly into the “no” camp, and fear where this all might take us.
In an editorial published online in BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, Dr Chantal Cox-George, from St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Professor Susan Bewley, from the Women’s Health Academic Centre at King’s College London, argue that “current marketing health claims” made for sexbots are misleading as there is no good evidence to back them up.
They say they trawled a comprehensive research database, carried out internet searches, and discussed the issues with various different experts but didn’t find a single study on the health implications of sexbots.
Their research did throw up four key themes, however: safer sex, therapeutic potential, treatment for paedophiles and changing societal norms.
Claims ‘somewhat fanciful’
They say it is “somewhat fanciful” to suggest sexbots might have the potential to eliminate sex trafficking, tourism and prostitution and that providing them made of washable bacteria resistant fibres might even encourage safer sex.
The idea that sexbots could be used to treat relationship difficulties, erectile dysfunction and enforced celibacy as a result of ill health, aging, disability or loss of a partner is plausible, they suggest, but they also might make existing problems worse.
Then there’s the issue of the “airbrushed” appearance of sexbots, which are generally hairless, so helping to distort perceptions of female attractiveness.
The authors concede, however, that lack of evidence is hardly likely to dampen market forces, and that sexbots are likely to become more affordable and more technologically advanced, further fuelling demand.
Already they can be tailor-made according to personal preference, and one company reportedly plans to sell male versions for women later this year.
“The overwhelming predominant market for sexbots will be unrelated to healthcare. Thus the ‘health’ arguments made for their benefits, as with so many advertised products, are rather specious,” they write.
“Currently the precautionary principle should reject the clinical use of sexbots until their postulated benefits, namely ‘harm limitation’ and ‘therapy’ have been tested empirically.”