The Ultimate Backlash: A Feminist Perspective on Sex Dolls

Last year, I watched a short in-flight documentary about a young man in Japan whose sole companion is a life-sized doll. He was shown having meals with the doll, watching TV and lying in bed with it. Up to that point, I found his behavior eccentric and not necessarily creepy, until his mother showed up for a visit. His mother asked after the welfare of ‘Jenny’ (I can’t remember the doll’s name so I will use this one) and the young man, let’s call him Jonny, smiled and pointed in Jenny’s direction, declaring her hale and hearty. The look on his mother’s face was heart-breaking, but it seems that she has decided not to try and compete with Jenny for her son’s attention and affection. Antagonizing Jonny over his Jenny was not going to go well for her, she might find herself shut out from Jonny’s life. My heart went out to the mother who was quite clearly watching her son descend into a deep pit. The poor woman had found herself with no option other than to hold a ladder for him, hoping that he would find his way back up.

All over the world, the gradual evolution of harmless, plastic dolls used for companionship by shy, lonely men or the more sexually adventurous, into a full-blown industry peddling innovations that pander to all kinds of imaginations, from the innocuous to the outright dangerous, has taken place. Sex toys are nothing new, and there is nothing gender-specific about them. Men have always played with their sex toys and women with theirs. To the best of my knowledge, the only agenda up till now has been sexual pleasure and satisfaction. These items are bought and used by adults to be used in privacy. However, the agenda with this gradual explosion of sex dolls and the high-end Sex Robots known as ‘Sexbots’ seems to be something totally different.

In September last year, there was a report of a new sex doll known as ‘Samantha’ who went on display at the Linz’s Arts Electronica Festival. Within a day or two, Samantha was ‘damaged’ and had to be sent for repairs. She was ‘badly soiled’, her breasts and other body parts had been pawed at endlessly, and her fingers were broken. One of the company owners moaned, ‘Because they did not understand the technology and did not have to pay for it, they treated the doll like barbarians’. There was an article by Sian Norris in the New Statesman magazine called, ‘The damage to Samantha the sex robot shows male aggression being normalised’. In this article, Sian insists that ‘sex robots make male violence seem more normal, more acceptable and indeed inevitable. How? Because these robots are specifically designed to eroticise non-consent’.

I fully agree with the writer. Before I look further into the links between violence and the availability of sex dolls, let me go back to Jonny and his Jenny. From what I could discern from the documentary, Jenny is Jonny’s girlfriend. She is his companion and confidante, and even though there was no sexual activity shown, it could not be ruled out since they slept in the same bed. It is safe to assume that Jonny has probably dated human girls in the past and it did not work out for him, so now he has found the ultimate partner. Someone who accepts him for who he is, does not talk back, does not have opinions of her own, does not nag, does not spend his money and does not feign a headache when it is time for sex. Considering the increasing popularity of the ‘Sexbots’ and the language their manufacturers use to push them into an ever-burgeoning market, the agenda here is clear. This is what some men have been waiting for. A generation of pliable, silent, submissive female companions who have no voice or agency of their own. A female body that can be adjusted to suit various sexual fantasies. For example ‘Roxxxy TrueCompanion’ has a number of settings, some of which are self-explanatory like Wild Wendy and S&M Susan. There are two that are very disturbing. One is ‘Frigid Farrah’ which encourages the user to force himself on Roxxxy and ‘Young Yoko’ which is advertised as ‘Oh so young (barely 18) and waiting for you to teach her’. The makers of EXDoll in China can customize each doll for height, skin tone, breast size, amount of pubic hair, eye colour and hair colour. There are also ‘Smart Sex Dolls’ who can talk, play music and turn on dishwashers. The ‘Harmony’ Sexbot has ‘intelligent settings’ that enable her to recite poetry and sing to her lucky owner. Again, rather disturbingly, she has mood settings which include ‘Jealous’, ‘Moody’ and ‘Frigid’. So, it seems that while the manufacturers of these Sexbots keep taking their inventions from one level to the other, they believe their customers might on the one hand want a ‘product’ that replaces women in their lives, but on the other hand, they still want to reserve the privilege or entitlement of putting up with the stress of a real-life woman, and when they are bored they can literally press a button and she goes away.

In my opinion, these Sexbots are not good news for our societies. Yes, there is nothing we can do about the fundamental rights of persons to privacy and intimate desires. What I find problematic is the creation of a commercial narrative that makes women as human beings dispensable, and who can be replaced by armies of mostly Caucasian, long-haired, heavy breasted, small waisted and big bottomed dolls who are bought for the sole purpose of making men happy. It is the ultimate backlash against women and the gains they have made over the years. The feminist movement, as far as I can tell, has never been about replacing men. It has been about asking for equality, respect, dignified choices and rights. Many argue that Sexbots will never replace human beings and this is a fad that will ebb away. Maybe, maybe not. Already, these inventions have become so mainstream that there are Sexbot brothels easing human sex workers out of business, Sexbots competing with frustrated wives, Sexbots replacing girlfriends, and even in countries like Nigeria where the cost of a Sex Doll can buy plots of land or a used car, there are stories of creative fellows pooling resources to purchase sex dolls for communal use.

In July 2017, the Foundation for Responsible Robotics (FRR) published a document called ‘1st Consultation Document – Our sexual future with robots’. Their findings were highlighted under 7 key questions as follows:

  1. Would people have sex with a robot?

The overwhelming response to this in the report was Yes.

  1. What kind of relationship can we have with a robot?

Since manufacturers keep coming up with new designs to make the Sexbots more ‘interactive’ as I could see from Jonny and Jenny, there are those who could quite happily go through life with a plastic substitute if it has all the features they need.

  1. Will robot sex workers and bordellos be acceptable?

I believe events have overtaken this question. Sexbot sex workers are in hot demand.

  1. Will sex robots change societal perceptions of gender?

In the FRR report, it was acknowledged that Sexbots are perceived as simply an upgrade on good old pornography that has been around for millennia. There are however some who argue that the emphasis on creating a particular kind of persona for these female toys will further exacerbate existing gender norms and stereotypes.

  1. Could sexual intimacy with robots lead to greater social isolation?

The majority of responses indicated that sexual intimacy with robots tended to replace interaction with human beings, leading to social isolation. Thinking about Jonny and Jenny, I agree.

  1. Could sex robots help with sexual healing and therapy?

This question was to do with the case for the use of Sexbots by those experiencing sexual dysfunction, extreme shyness, the elderly or the disabled. The responses indicated that in these cases, the use of Sexbots could be deemed to be highly therapeutic and a stress-free way of dealing with sexual anxieties.

 

  1. Would sex robots help reduce sex crimes?

Even though the FRR report was mostly to initiate research and further enquiry into the issue of Sexbots, it was clear that they are particularly concerned about the potential links between Sexbots and sexual crimes. The report states here, ‘allowing people to live out their darkest fantasies with sex robots could have a pernicious effect on society and societal norms and create more danger for the vulnerable’. While there are those who argue that it is safer for those with dangerous fantasies to act them out with dolls and not real persons, it is doubtful if there will be a product allowed on the market that enables people carry out fantasies of murder, decapacitation, cannibalism, etc. Why then do we have products that encourage male fantasies of rape, paedophilia and extreme domination of the female body? The fate of Samantha the sex doll is a reminder of what happens when greedy commerce fuels the basest instincts of some males.

The arguments back and forth on this will continue. Dear sisters, the agenda has shifted yet again. Perhaps we need to invest in Research and Development to come up with the perfect male who will never cheat, always remember birthdays and anniversaries, does not snore, has good breath, has a nice mother, has the body of Cristiano Ronaldo, the voice of Lionel Ritchie, and the face of Denzel Washington. And he has to come complete with back-rubbing, foot massaging and cuddling functions. Shame. We are all too busy running around working, giving birth, raising our children, avoiding abuse and exploitation and supporting our communities, to have the time or money for such inventions. We will not be blamed if some men want to cop out by creating fantasies of their ideal woman. If your boyfriend has a Sexbot, dump him, if your husband has one rain fire on his head, and if your son has a Jenny, burn her. Have a great week.

 

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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15 Responses to The Ultimate Backlash: A Feminist Perspective on Sex Dolls

  1. Femi Diipo February 5, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    After all the time I’ve spent reading loud whisper week in and out, I’ve come to sort of try to predict the topic based on relevant social and political realities as I anticipate this kind of educative and informed opinion. When I first saw the issue of sex doll on Twitter last week, I craved your comments and now that I’ve got it, I remained awed by such intelligence and thoughtfulness. As a man I totally agree with your point of view and I shudder at the thought of where all these are leading us.

    Reply
  2. Dom Dom February 5, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    The absurdists believe the world to be a circle. Everything that has happened will still happen and what’s happening has happened, though disguised in time, society and now technology. Somehow, our societies seem to keep finding ways for psychotic and deranged men and while many are struggling to make the world a better place, some keep looking for loopholes that’ll allow these sort of absurdities to exist in plain sight. Like they say, any man capable of having sex with a doll can as well do that with a dead body. Can anything be more ridiculous?

    Reply
  3. Olakunle Olajide February 5, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Like you rightly said ma’am, these sexbots had been in plan for a while back with test subjects. I knew this was going to happen sooner or later. The reality is that the want for human satisfaction is growing each day in all spheres of life. Remember the vibrators and dildos, i won’t be surprised if a male sexbot is brought to the limelight soon. Things like these would keep happening because of selfish interest, satisfaction and a space for invention. I am totally against it and i pray it can be stooped because i fear for the coming generations.

    Reply
  4. DSEED February 5, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    For me I don’t see the different between sleeping with a sexdoll and a dead person. Initially I wasn’t disturbed with these act because I think those that choose to have one are evil and senseless and they don’t have good reasons for there actions. But my fear now is the newly and unborn generations. God help us. These must be stopped.

    Reply
  5. veronica Imaseun February 7, 2018 at 6:55 am

    I wanted a comprehensive talk on this and I got it. Thanks for giving it to us very hot and just the way it is. What can be more alarming than a generation of ‘Physco men’ who believe that women should be used, used and used.

    Reply
  6. lolade Olayiwola February 7, 2018 at 6:57 am

    They have failed to realise that, if women take this thing seriously, they will beg us to look back. They have failed to realise this, they have also failed to realise that women don’t have time to shenanigans.. These men are basically to idle to think properly, women make money and make homes, and society. These men are too useless to be useful.

    Reply
  7. Sharon Miller February 7, 2018 at 6:59 am

    Someone wrote here last week that her friend’s bf dumped her because of sex doll, just imagine. Please, just tell her to dump that lunatic like mama has said here. You sleep and have sex with someone that cannot make a positive move in your life, what for? Seriously, when men have money, they are more useless than useful but when women are financially stable, the worth is clear.

    Reply
  8. Victor Udoh February 7, 2018 at 7:02 am

    The world is gradually wrapping up, the signs are getting clearer and clearer by the day. May God help us o.

    Reply
  9. Shola Skillz February 7, 2018 at 7:05 am

    What a world we live in.It’s unfortunate that every nonsense has a background story and concrete backup now. For men that are shy and are adventurous, please what a way to console them. It’s not women’s fault at all, We men just like to be bothered by useless things and when it goes out of hand, we run back to real women for support and solace. Though I think, those who are gay are going to buy it more just to have the female touch but then, who sent them?

    Reply
  10. Wilson February 8, 2018 at 10:53 am

    May we receive sense in our world. Common sense is becoming a vintage thing in this present world.

    Reply
  11. Maduka Justina February 8, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    This is the world we live in, the world where we can’t think for ourselves because we are selfish, the world where common sense has been taken away, the world where we cannot see past our differences and make sensible changes, this is pathetic but that’s the world we live in now.

    Reply
  12. Samuel February 9, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    What baffles me most is the motel for sex dolls. I am deeply saddened.Can we just go back to the old age already.
    Sighs!!

    Reply
  13. Molara Johnson February 9, 2018 at 4:51 pm

    What a way to discuss a very sensitive topic like this, the way people have judged this thing and made it look so normal has made the whole thing look so very ridiculous, we have to start making a difference by doing something better and discussing this very issue that makes men go insane.

    Reply
  14. Victoria E February 9, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    My judgment is, our men have gone mad again. Madness everywhere!

    Reply
  15. Bamidele Joshua February 9, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    I am happy you discussed the issue ma, and with great depth and wisdom, you keep educating the world the right way, and i hope this people are learning well from this.

    Reply

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