Baby boomers are bringing about the next sexual revolution with sex robots

As for the accusation that robots will replace human interaction, we already spend our days glued to our smartphones. Wringing your hands about the rise of the sexbot is a prissy response

Janet Street-Porter
Friday 01 December 2017 14:18
comments
A recent survey into sexual attitudes in Germany found that over half the men would be interested in having sex with a sex doll
A recent survey into sexual attitudes in Germany found that over half the men would be interested in having sex with a sex doll

Great concern has been expressed about the prospect of robots stealing our jobs – but is there another area where they should be welcomed? Channel 4 has just transmitted a thought-provoking documentary entitled The Sex Robots are Coming, which previewers welcomed with all the enthusiasm of an enema.

The programme featured 58-year-old George, who lived with three sex dolls and his wife of 37 years, who didn’t seem too thrilled about their arrangement. George revealed he had sex three to four times a week with a doll and was blissfully happy. He dressed them, applied their makeup and even took April, his blonde favourite, shopping.

I was curious about the negative feedback this documentary attracted; after all, sex toys are now accepted as part of many relationships and most young women I know have no embarrassment discussing vibrators (I do, but there are some things I keep private).

Hen parties regularly parade around in public wearing fetish gear, so why does the subject of female sex dolls make some feminists very cross? Now, they face a new challenge, with the development of incredibly lifelike sex dolls incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) – these sexbots are being programmed with a range of personalities, chosen by their owner, from submissive to cheeky to dominating.

Up to now, these toys have been personalised externally, with wigs and everything from nipples to breast size assembled from hundreds of choices to produce a hyper-real, giant, rubbery female with orifices.

No matter how repugnant you might find sex dolls, they are growing in popularity, and brothels all over Europe have discovered that many customers prefer to pay around £70 for 30 minutes with a non-communicative toy, rather than a sex worker. A recent survey into sexual attitudes in Germany found that over half (52 per cent) the men would be interested in having sex with a sex doll. In the UK, the figure was 47 per cent.

These dolls cost around £1,800 each – one brothel owner claims three quarters of the customers come back, and noticed that wives often wait in the car outside while their husband enjoys sex with his compliant dummy. By next year, the new generation of sexbots will talk, have heaters inside so that they feel warm, their skin will be textured and their speech will be extremely realistic. They will have various settings, so that their vaginas can become moist and even contract during orgasm. Tech companies in China and the USA are close to marketing these sexbots with AI, which will cost around £8,000.

At first, I thought the idea was repulsive, and that choosing to programme a machine so that “she” is frigid and unresponsive could mean the user is simulating rape. Plus, aren’t men just choosing an object, and endowing it with feelings it doesn’t have? For some, playing with dolls is a sexual fetish, but for others, is it so terrible to want a companion who is undemanding, a friend who is always ready to say nice things?

Loneliness is a huge issue for the elderly, and sexual desire doesn’t just go out like the gas pilot light when you reach 70. I am still interested in sex, just as I was when I was 30, 40 and 50. There has been a rise in the divorce rate, leaving more middle aged (and older) people living alone, of which 2.21 million are over 70. These silver splitters might have got rid of the boring partner once the kids completed their education, but the prospect of sex-free decades in your seventies and eighties is really grim.

Baby boomers redefined youth in the late 1960’s and challenged preconceptions of how to behave every decade since, so why can’t they approach sex and ageing in a ground-breaking way? With the announcement that Viagra is going to be sold over the counter by chemists, men will be able to prolong their sex lives safely – no longer having to purchase pills of dubious quality on the internet. Easily available Viagra is a game-changer just as the contraceptive pill, HRT and the morning after pill offered freedom of choice for women.

A recent study by Manchester University found that a quarter of people aged between 70 and 85 had experienced sex in the previous year; over half the men said they were still sexually active and a third of the women. The study defined sex in the widest possible way, not simply as penetration.

One unwelcome side-effect of this sexual revolution, though, is that STDs are spreading among the baby boomers, with syphilis up 52 per cent in the last decade, and chlamydia up a third. That’s one thing you can’t catch from a robot!

Sexbots could help people of all ages who struggle with intimacy, and provide companionship with side benefits for some older men. I’m not going to trash sexbots, they are just another page in the history of sex. Of course, stories of men ordering dolls that look like children are repugnant, but wouldn’t you rather they were playing with a toy than the real thing?

As for the accusation that robots will replace human interaction, we already spend our days glued to our smartphones, texting and instant messaging, spurning three-dimensional encounters and refusing normal phone calls. Wringing your hands about the rise of the sexbot is a prissy response. The sooner inventors manage to devise a decent robo-man, women everywhere will be reaching for their credit cards.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments