Author’s note: The topic and examples in this section are sexually explicit. I leave certain details vague and ask that you not search for these things online.
The world’s first sex robot debuted in fall 2018 to much fanfare. Many joined waiting lists to purchase this AI-equipped doll from Abyss Creations. The doll, named Harmony X, was one of the first AI-empowered sex dolls on the market.
Each doll has silicone bodies that are highly customizable with upgradable body parts and hyperrealistic features. The dolls are designed so that customers can choose their perfect “companion” and upgrade them as they see fit. The company claims that this product provides a form of companionship, a way for men never to be lonely again. It should be noted that the female version of these sex dolls debuted first, and at the time of this writing, the company had announced the male version of the robot only as “coming soon.” This shows that the company knows their primary market. They’re targeting men because they know that primarily men are susceptible to these forms of sexual temptations.
The X models also include an AI-empowered robotic head that allows users to interact with the doll in real-time using the company’s mobile app. Users choose personality traits, voices, and even the accents of their dolls. The app also allows users to change between various characters and profiles, in case they get bored or want to spice up their sex robots. With the push of a few buttons and by peeling off a silicone face, a person can have a completely different sex partner. The new robotic head can also be attached to earlier models of sex dolls from Abyss Creations, making older sex dolls into sex robots, too. The company also has a mobile app for those without the robotic head who might want to test out their new invention.
Will Technology Cure Our Loneliness?
At the 2016 announcement of this AI-empowered sex robot, headlines across the world included “Sex Robots Could Save Your Relationship” and “Sex Robots: The Future of Sex?” I hope these headlines catch you a bit off guard. You might wonder why in the world someone would want to have sex with a robot or how a silicone replica of a human being could be sexually attractive. Maybe the thought of having any sort of relation with a robot seems foreign to you. But don’t forget the article by Judith Shulevitz in The Atlantic in which she admits to talking to her smart speaker as if it were human. Having a relationship with a machine isn’t really that foreign of an idea in our society. Most of us are already obsessed with and nearly always attached to smart devices such as phones, tablets, and computers. We barely put them down, and this is causing problems for how we relate with one another, even in marriage.
Having a relationship with a machine is not really that foreign of an idea in our society. Most of us are already obsessed with and nearly always attached to smart devices such as phones, tablets, and computers.
Shulevitz wrote that on more than one occasion she caught herself telling her Alexa smart assistant that she was lonely, something she confessed she wouldn’t have told her therapist or even her own husband. This type of shame-filled loneliness pervades our communities and even our families, which has led many people, particularly men, to indulge in sexual fantasies online.
Some argue, including the creators of these dolls, that a cure for loneliness in our society is having endless amounts of sex with your fully customizable sex robot, as if that will make you feel that you have a meaningful relationship with another human being. Even without the sex, maybe you’ll feel as though someone hears you and understands you without all of the realities and messes that come with real-life community. This is the argument that has been made by many as a way to combat the destructive motives of “incels,” often young men who are involuntarily celibate and commit acts of terrorism because they seek revenge on those who have turned them down sexually and relationally.
Sexual fantasies always leave us longing for more, though, because they offer a cheap substitute for romantic love and companionship. Robotic heads just add another dimension to the lifeless silicone bodies, which can give an impression that you are with someone who always listens to you, asks questions, and is always ready to have sex with you wherever and however you want. Sex robots seem to allow users to feel as if they’re the masters of their own domains and masters over their sexual slaves. But there is only one person to care about in these “relationships”: themselves.
Sexual fantasies always leave us longing for more because what they offer is a cheap substitute for romantic love and companionship.
The headlines reveal less about the allure of the dolls and more about the power of sexuality over humanity. Every one of these stories, whether in print or on video, tells a similar tale of how sexuality is intricately tied to who we are as humans. But sexuality is not the essence of our identity as human beings. Sex robots are just another form of sexual perversion that promotes this lie. The reality is those who use these dolls are seeking some type of fulfillment they’ll never be able to find, no matter how advanced or realistic the robots become.
In an interview with Katie Couric on CBS News, one of the first owners of the Harmony X sex doll said he’d been married for 15 years but was now divorced. He was excited about his new sex robot because he believed it would give him the sense of connection without all the hard work of a human relationship. His Harmony doll wouldn’t talk back to him or ever be rude unless he programmed it to act that way. It’ll always laugh at his jokes, have sex as much as he wants, and then sit quietly in the corner when he gets bored with it. It’ll never need to be comforted when sick or consoled in tragedy. The man claimed that a normal relationship was just too messy and complicated. He didn’t want a real relationship; he wanted sexual fulfillment without the work.
Before you judge him, think about your own life. We each seek to fulfill desires in ways that are outside of God’s design for humanity. From happiness to sexual fulfillment, we pursue sinful pathways to meet our desires. We all long for intimacy and connection with another because God created us as relational beings.
Pornography and Fake Sex
Many people today—some who are close to you, and maybe even you—indulge in fake, robotic sex in which the goal is one person’s pleasure at the expense of true community, relationship, and spiritual life. I’m talking about pornography.
We don’t need to review the stats to know that pornography pervades our society. From the magazine aisles at convenience stores to TV shows on cable networks to the dark world of online pornography, where countless boys and girls are exposed to pornography before the age of 10, porn is everywhere. It’s likely already a part of your story or the story of someone you care about deeply.
A Greek word used throughout the New Testament is porneia, often translated as “sexual immorality.” Sexual immorality is any sexual act outside of the nature and union of the marriage covenant between one man and one woman. Sex was designed by God for the marriage covenant and that covenant alone. Any sexual act outside of marriage is inherently against God’s good plan for humanity and is sinful. This is because we weren’t created for sex, but sex was created for us. Our sexual desires and longings aren’t ultimate and shouldn’t rule over us. We have the ability to control them because sexuality isn’t our identity. It’s something we submit to the lordship of Christ. Yet regardless of where we have fallen sexually in the past or even now, 1 John 1:9 declares, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We all can be forgiven of our sin through the power of the blood of Christ, shed for us on the cross. This is the message of the gospel that can change our lives forever.
One of the biggest issues surrounding pornography is its dehumanizing effect on the one being taken advantage of through film and photographs, as well as the one indulging in a fantasy world of sex. While both men and women are exposed to and indulge in pornography, this issue is especially prominent with males of all ages.
Sex robots are the logical next step for people looking for the next best thing in interactive and virtual sex.
Pornography isn’t just limited to images and videos viewed in the secrecy of private browser windows and social-media accounts. Virtual reality and sex robots are providing more lifelike forms of this fantasy world. Virtual reality (VR) is a newer technology that’s been around for many years but was thrust into the mainstream when inventor Palmer Luckey debuted his Oculus VR headset on Kickstarter in 2012. In 2014, Facebook purchased Oculus for more than $2 billion, and soon after, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, proclaimed that the goal was to see 1 billion people using VR. But as with many technological innovations, it was bound to grow on the back of the pornography industry during the time when pornography was exploding on the internet.
VR headsets provide a more intimate experience in which users are isolated from the world around them as they explore fantasy worlds and experience immersive entertainment. VR porn has fueled the growth of the platform, though, because it offers a more immersive pornographic display of video content. VR porn is designed to immerse viewers in the sexual act via a headset that includes 360° views and sound. VR porn will soon not be enough, though, because sexual fantasies need to grow in intensity and lifelikeness if they are to hold viewers’ attention and keep them paying money.
Sex robots are the logical next step for people looking for the next best thing in interactive and virtual sex. The creators of sex robots seek to convince us that sex with a robot is just as or even more fulfilling than sex with a human being. And it’s likely that these robots will soon lose their negative stigma as they become more and more mainstream, just as pornography has. People will likely avoid dating and relationships altogether if these robots can provide some form of companionship. Soon robots’ features will include full-body warming and sensors that allow the robots to react to touch. As technology progresses, these robots will be upgraded to mimic a human to the extent that you might even mistake a future sex robot for an image-bearer of God.
From Robots to #MeToo
Not only do sex robots offer a cheap and degraded version of the sexual union between husband and wife, but they also lead to more realistic and higher degrees of sexual predation against women. As I was researching the effect of these sex robots on our society, I ran across a review from a major technology site. It referenced in passing that one of the designers at RealDoll was said to have taken the robot home for “testing” and after his trial returned it in pieces. He broke the doll because he was too rough with it during his sexual escapade, and he seemed almost proud of his accomplishment. This pride astonished me because these sex robots are made to emulate the sexual experience between a man and a woman, even if the woman is made out of silicone. The pride exhibited here is from someone who created an object to be like a woman but at the same time reinforced a major societal plague that treats women as if they are objects.
Real women are often treated as something to be conquered by men, someone to be taken advantage of to get a sexual high and temporary fulfillment. Women are mistreated, abused, and assaulted by men who treat them the way this designer treated his sex robot.
These robots mimic and emulate certain features of a woman’s mind and body, which degrades women to the robotic level rather than elevating robots to the human level. Sex robots are made in factories, and the silicone bodies hang like meat on hooks while they are being assembled. The complete customization of these robots deepens the division between a real-life sexual union and a fake robotic one, because in real life you can’t perfectly design your spouse.
These robots mimic and emulate certain features of a woman’s mind and body, which degrades women to the robotic level rather than elevating robots to the human level.
This complete customization objectifies women and encourages men to always long for something more. This upgrading of women isn’t in the least bit natural, fulfilling, or Christ-honoring. Changing a robotic face and an AI controller does nothing more than reinforce the plague of the abuse of women. It also isn’t hard to see how using these robots will train men to manipulate their “partners” in ways that will leave them incapable of normal relations with women. This breakdown will lead to massive unintended consequences to the livelihoods and safety of women throughout our society.
We know from the creation story that God made humanity to long for union and togetherness with him and with each other. And so we also know that silicone and electronics will never fill that hole in our hearts.