Haraway and Sexy Robots

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.

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6 Responses to Haraway and Sexy Robots

  1. exelsisxax says:

    Robots unlikely to end the human race? I think you miscalculated.
    The Robopocalypse

    But in all seriousness, who is getting detatched from reality? It isn’t the japanese robot fetishists(does anyone think that they haven’t made an actual sex robot?). What is the moral difference between banging a programmed robot and a blow up doll, or a dildo? There isn’t. None have any capacity for rights to be infringed upon. They are inanimate or automati. The only time this can become an issue is when it stops being clear that we are making automatons, and have neared that line to make synthetic people. We are nowhere near that point yet – there is no bud to cut.


    • The issue arises when people start treating actual humans the same way they’re probably going to treat sex robots. No inherent issue in having sex with an inanimate object, but when it becomes too realistic, we can become pretty desensitized.


      • exelsisxax says:

        But again, how realistic is too realistic? Is that going to require a synthetic mind? And you’re putting together a sort of slippery slope argument that humans will devolve into barbarity because they won’t put value to other thinking beings – but that already happens. Also, desensitized to what? How does no questions asked sex make a person think of others as mere sex utilities?


    • estraussman says:

      I thought the main post was pretty funny and well thought out. An issue with is pointing out all the issues of sexualizing robots. There is no way to conceptualize all of the moral and practical problems with sex robots, but everything you mentioned is a stark possibility.

      In response to exelsisxax’s ultimatum that we are no where close to making human-like automatons I would direct you to the Turing Test. This test, developed by mathmetician and computer-scientist in the 1940s, is designed to assess whether or not a machine is “human”. While I won’t describe the test here, you should know that it has been used since its inception to assure that we are still on the top of the brain-food chain. Not to mention as technology increases exponentially, you can expect the “humanness” of machines to only grow.

      I would look into http://www.radiolab.org/story/137407-talking-to-machines/ to see how far we’ve come and what the future looks like. I think it will surprise you.


  2. Junglist says:

    Robots can’t say no… yet.


  3. Steph Roman says:

    I think you have a lot of important points here. Predominantly, I’m looking at the part where robots literally become objectified women. This is crucial, but contradictory: robots are genderless, so while they can represent a woman’s body, they never will be the same thing, no matter how exact the science gets. The problems lie in what we ASCRIBE to those genderless forms. How do the Fem-Bots construct gender? How is John Connor’s gender constructed? Sheer physicality. And based on the article you posted, real robots aren’t anywhere close to replicating that kind of intelligence and form.


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