The fantasy of sexual robots has been around for a while, lurking around the periphery of a future time. But as it’s inching closer to reality and we have to start considering it as a real possibility, are we really ready for something like this?
“Physical and emotional intimacy between humans and robots may become commonplace over the next decades,” reads the new study carried by researchers from Norway.
The idea of robots that can interact with humans sexually and emotionally isn’t new, but it’s far more common in literature and movies than in real life. The likes of Blade Runner and Westworld explore potential romantic relationships between humans and robots and raise some intriguing psychological points, but what do real-life humans think about it?
In the study, 163 female and 114 male participants were asked to read a short story about a humanoid robot designed either for sex or for platonic love. They then completed a questionnaire about how they would react if their partner would have such a robot, and how their partner would react if they would use such a robot themselves. As it turns out, men and women see the situation quite differently.
Men were likely to agree with statements such as “I hope this type of robot is developed in the future” and “I look forward to the development and launch of this type of robot,” whereas women were more likely to answer “This kind of robot would evoke strong feelings of jealousy in me”.
Overall men tend to have more positive attitudes towards sex robots, while women are more reluctant. But men wrongly assume that their female partners share their views. Funny enough, women also assume that men share their views (of robot hesitancy) — which men don’t.
In other words, not only do men and women have different attitudes, but they’re in the dark when it comes to that the other gender is thinking. The results suggest that people project their own feelings about robots onto their partner, erroneously expecting their partner to share their views.
The study reads:
“Females have less positive views of robots, and especially of sex robots, compared to men. Contrary to the expectation rooted in evolutionary psychology, females expected to feel more jealousy if their partner got a sex robot, rather than a platonic love robot. The results further suggests that people project their own feelings about robots onto their partner, erroneously expecting their partner to react as they would to the thought of ones’ partner having a robot.”
It’s not really surprising that men tend to have more permissive attitudes towards sex robots, but the fact that neither men nor women guessed the attitudes of the opposite sex raises some interesting questions about how this technology would affect interpersonal relations.
It’s also worth noting that the study has a significant limitation: participants were recruited via Facebook and email, so there is a bias in how the participants were selected, and it’s possible that participants have a greater interest in robots than the average person.
But even so, the problems the study highlighs are intriguing.
Robots have developed greatly in recent years, and while true humanoid robots are far from becoming a reality, sex robots are actually pretty close to becoming a reality. If these robots are becoming a thing, we need to start talking about them. Keeping them a tabu just spells trouble down the road.
The study “Friends, Lovers or Nothing: Men and Women Differ in Their Perceptions of Sex Robots and Platonic Love Robots” has been published in Frontiers in Psychology.