If you are unfamiliar with the actual, current progress of robot technology, please check out this xkcd article. It’s a reasonably accurate representation of where technology is at when it comes to cyborgs.
Naturally, one of the first and most entertaining questions in regard to robots is often “How long before they can kill us?” Presently, it’s unlikely. Now that we’ve established that, our next question might be “Can we have sex with it?” The answer is overwhelmingly, yes. You can do your own Google search on that.
Haraway makes some pretty excellent points in regards to gender roles and cyborgs. Inherently, robots are genderless, which allows for as much ambiguity as we might please. Predictably, however, we’ve defaulted to ridiculous, hypersexualized tendencies when it comes to robots in both our tangible reality as well as how technology is represented in media.
Granted, there are definitely more than just sexy female robots in popular culture. Just one year after Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto was published, the world was introduced to The Terminator. Not only is Schwarzenegger a badass robot, he’s a total hunk.
A decade later we were introduced to the Fembots in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.” There is no point in pretending that this movie was trying to be subtle about sexuality. The Fembots are essentially Playmates who can shoot gunfire out of their glorious chests.
There are countless more examples of sexy robots in media. Here’s where it gets interesting though. Again, you can do your own Google search, but real life sex robots are definitely in the near future. They are incredibly realistic, and unsurprisingly, mostly being marketed towards men at the moment.
Here is the big problem. Sex robots are a really great representation of a woman WHO IS LITERALLY AN OBJECT. Can we please ensure that we don’t start confusing fake people with real people? It may sound silly, but it wouldn’t be that surprising. There’s no real telling of how likely it is that we’ll simply replace actual intimacy with the cyborg equivalent. Currently, there’s no way a robot can exactly recreate the human experience, but gosh darn if science isn’t determined to get as close to that as possible. Naturally, as these real life, socially acceptable sex slaves become popularized it’s inevitable that we’ll see some real confusion between how humans are treated, and how our robot counterparts are represented.
One very key difference between people and sex robots: robots can’t say no. Let’s just make sure that we don’t have a giant backslide in the rather important issue of ensuring that sex is always consensual. This, among a whole slew of other feminist issues are probably a little far down the road in congruence with cyborgs, but why not nip it in the bud?
Haraway certainly paints an idyllic picture of how we should see issues of gender in relation to robots, but we are far from that ideal. Let’s just make sure we don’t end up too detached from reality.