Of Course We'll Have Sex With Robots—But Will We Ever Actually Date Them?
Karley Sciortino meets the most cutting-edge sex robots to figure out whether we'll actually have robo-partners in the future.
A RealBotix doll. All images via Viceland's "Slutever."
For decades, the vision of the future portrayed in films, books, across-the-board media, has always seemed to include sex robots. But not just any sex robots; sex robots that take the form of subservient women. From Metropolis to the fembots in Austin Powers to Ex Machina to West World, every future has hot, young female sex machines. And now, as we’re experiencing the actual dawn of AI and seeing increasingly anatomically correct sex dolls, it seems like the fembot takeover has finally arrived.
Everyone knows that robots are stealing our jobs, but I’m wondering: Are they also going to steal our boyfriends?
To investigate, I visited a company called RealBotix, which is essentially at the forefront of sex robot engineering. The company is an offshoot of RealDoll, the most popular sex doll in the world. Now, unsurprisingly, those dolls are becoming robots: RealBotix is producing robotic heads that can attach to RealDoll bodies. So, it’s an anatomically-correct sex doll with AI and facial movement. Through the AI, the doll can talk to you, answer and ask questions, and even remember things about you—so that after a while, it’s like the doll gets to know you. It’s basically Siri, except it makes stiff facial expressions and has a body that you can mold into any position and fuck. Also, it doesn’t know any useful information.
Physically, the dolls are pretty impressive. They’ve got soft skin and realistic hair. It’s not like you can’t distinguish them from a human—they definitely look like dolls. But they also have a sexy, human-like quality to them. I talked to Matt McMullen, the RealBotix founder and CEO, and he told me that the doll isn’t supposed to look totally realistic; part of the attraction is in the fact that it’s clearly a doll that you can control.
But the sell is also that the AI dolls can be more than just sex devices. They’re companions. Through an app, you can create a custom personality for your doll by choosing different traits, the sound of the robot’s voice, and stuff like that. The AI dolls aren’t being released until later this year, but Matt said he thinks that in the future, people will develop real relationships with and feelings for their dolls. When I was with him, he asked the doll if she was a sex robot and she was like, “I’m a robot and I can have sex, but to call me a sex robot is like calling a computer a calculator.” Deep.
To get more perspective, I also met up with a guy named Sergi Santos, who is kind of like the indie darling of the sex robot market. He’s an engineer from Spain, and he’s making a competing AI sex doll named Samantha. Samantha seems similar in a lot of ways to its competitor, but there’s one difference that Santos is really proud of: She can give blow jobs that actually suck. So, you just say, “Samantha, I want a blow job,” and stick your dick in her rubber mouth and there’s some kind of mechanism that creates suction. He was like, “I’ve tried it and it feels real.”
Talking to Sergi, he was very sure that in the near future, there will be people who prefer having sex with dolls over people. The way he sees it: Sex is a human need just like food and air, but people don’t have access to as much sex as they need because relationships are difficult. So, he thinks that leads people—mostly men—to being angry and violent and anxious. He says sex robots can help with that; kind of like sex therapy or something. He thinks that sex robots can temper male aggression that way and basically make men sexually satisfied for the first time in human history.
I don’t know about sex robots creating world peace, but it does seem like there’s this underlying interest in domination and ease. Maybe there’s a psychological aspect to people’s attraction to sex robots that has to do with the way technology helps us control our lives or make them more efficient?
There’s one person who I thought would have insight into that: human fembot Christina Carter. Carter is a porn star who specializes in fembot porn. So, she basically acts like a technologically advanced sex robot straight out of a Hollywood sci-fi. She explained that fembot roleplay is basically just a techy subset of BDSM play—she’s basically a BDSM sex sub, except she tries not to breath visibly, talks like a robot, and constantly gives a dead-eyed stare. That power dynamic explains part of it, but why add in the technology layer?
I asked a guy named Kieran Wordsworth, who identifies as a “technosexual”—someone who is turned on by technology. He’s attracted to everything from robot porn to tractors. He can watch videos of trains and engines and just the gears and pistons moving together is super hot to him. Kieran, who’s 22, was absolutely sure that people in the future will date sex dolls. His perspective is that, as technology becomes ubiquitous, we should expect people to begin sexualizing it—and he thinks it’s already becoming increasingly common. Like, you’d think it’d be hard for him to find gay robot porn on the internet because that’s so specific, but he was saying that there’s tons of it online. He was like, “I have all the gay robot porn I need.”
My takeaway from all my conversations is that society’s attraction to sex robots may actually be a lot more complicated than it seems. And I realized that there are a lot of possibilities for the roles that sex dolls could play in our lives in the future. What if, for instance, someone has really bad anxiety and has never had sex before. A sex robot could actually be really effective therapy for them.
As far as sex robots stealing our boyfriends: I think there are a lot of people—including myself—who would be interested in trying out fucking a sex robot. But there are probably a lot fewer who would actually be interested in dating one, despite Matt and Sergi predicting otherwise. If someone does, though, I guess I’m happy they’ll soon have the ability to do that—and I won’t have to waste my time swiping through them on Tinder.