True Companion has been getting a lot of negative attention lately for releasing a sex robot that includes settings which allow men to simulate rape.
As The Independent reports, the ninth edition of the company's sex robots is called Roxxxy and includes five settings with rather self-explanatory names: Wild Wendy, Mature Martha, S&M Susan, Young Yoko and Frigid Farrah.
Sold for about 10,000 dollars, the robot is extremely realistic and designed to "allow everyone to realize their most private sexual dreams," says the company website. The robots are life size and their physical appearance can be customized. They can also interact with humans, hold a conversation and do fifty different sex positions.
"She will not be appreciative of your advance"
But what is most alarming is that two of the robot's settings allows the owner to simulate rape or sex with a young girl. Frigid Farrah is described on the website as being "reserved and shy" and is programmed to resist when you touch her.
The company's description says, "if you touch her in a private area, more than likely, she will not be too appreciative of your advance." As for Young Yoko, she is described as being "oh so young (barely 18) and waiting for you to teach her."
These settings have caused outrage, particularly since the company presents the robot as allowing users to make their dreams a reality, implicitly comparing rape to a dream.
Noel Sharkey, an AI professor and member of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, told The Independent that some people think the robots are a good thing.
"Some people say it's better they rape robots than rape real people. There are other people saying this would just encourage rapists more."
But many believe the Roxxxy doll could encourage rape and pedophilia, as Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates detailed in a powerful op-ed for the New York Times.
In the article, Bates explains that the sex dolls encourage and perpetuate rape culture, reminding us that "rape is not an act of sexual passion. It is a violent crime."
She finds the idea that the robots would prevent potential rapists from raping real women absurd:
"We should no more be encouraging rapists to find a supposedly safe outlet for it than we should facilitate murderers by giving them realistic, blood-spurting dummies to stab. Since that suggestion sounds ridiculous, why does the idea of providing sexual abusers with lifelike robotic victims sound feasible to some?"
The doll "suggests that male violence against women is innate"
According to Bates, Roxxxy could normalize rape and pedophilia by suggesting that "male violence against women is innate and inevitable, and can only be mitigated, not prevented." Besides validating those crimes, she says:
"This is not only insulting to a vast majority of men, but it also entirely shifts responsibility for dealing with these crimes onto their victims – women, and society at large – while creating impunity for perpetrators."
TrueCompanion is not the only company making these kinds of sex robots. Laura Bates reports that a company called Lumi Dolls also sells a robot that allows the user to "set the limits and she will let herself be taken along for the ride" describing her as "the perfect submissive partner."
According to Bates, the market is filled with every sex doll and robot imaginable. A study conducted in 2016 by a German university showed that over 40% of heterosexual men interviewed said they could see themselves using a sex robot. So the ethical implications of the dolls should not be taken lightly.
Bates reminds us that it's been proven that heterosexual men exposed to pornography, men's magazines and television programs that objectify women are more likely to be accepting of violence against women.
"The production of these dolls and robots, a great majority of which are female, cannot be disentangled from the stark gender inequality of the world in which they are produced. It is no coincidence that RealDoll estimates that fewer than 5 percent of its customers are women.
The issue is not whether a sex robot, as an abstract concept, could be useful or harmful, but the impact of making such robots available in a society that already subjugates, discriminates against, and physically and sexually abuses women."