Samantha went to a tech fair in Austria last week, but ‘a barrage of male attention’ left her battered and dirty, with two broken fingers.
No, she wasn’t one of the exhibitors; she was a sex robot fitted with Artificial Intelligence. Asked why he thought so many men had ‘molested’ this incredibly life-like doll, her developer, Sergi Santos, said: ‘Because they did not understand the technology and did not have to pay for it.’
This seems to make sense. If the men had been obliged to buy or rent the £3,000 sex robot before trying her out, perhaps they would have attached more value to the experience?
If that is the case, though, why are human sex workers so vulnerable to violence? A report from Toynbee Hall, published in 2009, revealed that around three quarters of women involved in sex work have been attacked, and a large proportion raped or sexually assaulted.
Paying for sex doesn’t seem to increase the value of the sexual partners in these punters’ minds. Having a price on their heads ironically makes the sex workers seem less valuable, not more.
I think this tells us something profound about the status of sex, even in our capitalistic society. While we may perform many acts in exchange for money – delivering post, mixing concrete, typing emails – we don’t expect to find these workers routinely suffering abuse.
Sex is different, because it is designed to be about people connecting and committing to one another in the deepest of intimacy. It involves not just body parts and programmed responses to stimuli, but the giving of one’s very self. Paying for goods and services is an act of justice, giving fair recompense for people’s skill and time. Paying for sex puts a price tag on a relational exchange that simply can’t be valued highly enough.
I doubt many of our readers are contemplating buying a sex robot or using a prostitute, though. So what does all this mean for us? Perhaps it means not using porn, and not watching over-sexualised movies. Maybe it means not objectifying members of the opposite sex, even in jest. It means treating one another as people made in the image of God, with hopes, dreams, needs, and desires of their own, not simply as tools for satisfying our needs. It means loving people, not using them.
A robot dedicated to your pleasure: £3,000. Intimacy: priceless.