Sex + Dating

We Asked an Expert How Robots and Humans Will Have Sex in the Future

We are at the glorious and terrifying dawn of technosuxality -- and the whole world is watching.

People are utterly fascinated by the potential role artificial intelligence will play in our sex lives. And our attention in this field has sparked growing advances in teledildonics; from virtual blow jobs and robot doll heads to shows like Westworld. But what does the future intersectionality of robots, humans, and sex mean for mankind?

I decided to dig deeper in order to understand why AI and sex are so intertwined.

Maybe having sex with a robot isn't so weird after all

As a woman who's got a robust collection of sex toys, I totally get using inanimate objects as orgasm aids. But before my somewhat accidental descent into the world of teledildonics, having sex with dolls just didn't do anything for me. What is hot about screwing a fake person?

Well, for starters, what if they didn't feel or act inanimate? What if there were no perceptible physical differences between a robot guy and a human guy? With all of the horrible dating stories out there, it's possible a robot boyfriend or girlfriend could do away with all the Tinder-sloughing, fuckboy-chasing, commitment-phobic BS.

Popular shows on TV like Westworld are indicative of our cultural climate

If mainstream media is any sign of what humans are into, just look at the HBO megahit Westworld.

In the series, human guests pay exorbitant amounts of money to visit a Wild West-themed "park" with robot hosts. Visitors are invited to explore, shoot, and even have sex with the machines, whose memory banks are promptly swiped at the end of each day -- at least until things go very wrong and the robots get too smart.

We already have sex dolls on the way with realistic-feeling human skin and warming vaginas. So what's to say we can’t take it a step further and bring those dolls to life a la Westworld? Should we be excited or afraid of a robotic sexual revolution?

"AI's ability to create attachment in humans, and how AI dolls are the middle space between fantasy and reality [are most interesting]," says Bryony Cole, sex-tech researcher and Future of Sex podcaster. "For example, soldiers have been studied interacting with bomb-disposal robots, and shown to develop very strong emotional connections, often crying and holding funerals for them."

While we're probably decades away from anything remotely close to the likes of Dolores or Teddy, manufacturers are already trying to imbue 3D robot dolls with artificial intelligence in the new and developing claytronics field.

AI developments could improve sex for millions of people

There is more to the developments of AI robots than getting a rush from shooting or screwing a character at a Wild West resort.

These advances could totally transform the sex lives of individuals whose experiences were limited or cut off by circumstances beyond their control.

"For human sexuality," Cole says, "there are a number of positives we can look forward to; including robots as sexual surrogates to help with premature ejaculation and dysfunction (think like Masters' and Johnson's work, but with AI). For couples with different sex drives or different fetishes, for people who struggle with sexual taboos like pedophilia and violent urges but don't actually want to act on them, and to help play out fantasies such as threesomes."

Sleeping with a robot wouldn't necessarily constitute cheating, either

"People will think sex with a robot is cheating according to their individual sexual values," Cole says. "For me, robot sex has the potential to satisfy both a physical and emotional urge. On the surface, it looks like just another tool to increase the quality and pleasure of sexual experience. Will it increase curiosity? Playfulness? What sorts of attachments will we develop in relation to a humanoid?"

As a tool, there's value in sex robots. But what if people develop real feelings for their humanoid dolls? "If my partner develops an emotional affection and preference for intimacy with a robot over me, I'd be reconsidering what our partnership meant," she says.

Exploring and reaffirming what your partnership means, and articulating your feelings around intimacy, fidelity, and commitment, are healthy exercises for any couple. Says sex therapist Ian Kerner, writing for CNN: "Some will probably view sex with a robot as a threat to their relationship, while others will see it as a fun addition."

Robots don't cheapen relationships; people do

What do all of these advances mean for human beings? What can we expect from interpersonal human relationships once we've gone intersextional with AI?

"I don't think robotic technology cheapens interpersonal relationships," Cole says. "I think humans cheapen interpersonal relationships! We are constantly looking for shortcuts to the next emotional connection, the next hit of dopamine, the next way to satisfy ourselves and technology can be used to escape from ourselves, and our partners."

So, while technosexuality is certainly a complicated, multifaceted issue, there are copious elements to consider before one jumps to the conclusion that robots might be the end of human-on-human sex or that a person who wants to have sexual contact with a robot is somehow deranged.

But how human can robots really be? I guess we'll have to wait to find out.

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Gigi Engle is Thrillist's Sex and Dating staff writer. Gigi is basically a teledildonics expert now, AMA. Follow her lovable crazy on Twitter, iTunesFacebook, and Instagram @GigiEngle.