Robo sex? Sexy Siri?

I recently talked to writer Gareth May about the idea, the process, and the *reality* of having intimate encounters with actualized robotics, smart phones, and the like.

Gareth asks in his lede: How would you feel if you walked in on your flatmate pouring his iPhone a glass of Cristal and remarking on her exceptional “wallpaper”? Open mouthed and curious, right? Well, welcome to the future. For some technophiles at least.

Apparently, robo sex is coming — but is this a “problem”?

Gareth was “trawling the internet [when he] discovered a Reddit forum titled: ‘I masturbate to Siri and I feel disgusting.’ The poster says he’s a 20-year-old male, who started talking to Siri sexually as a joke before realising that ‘it really turned me on.'”

You can read Gareth’s exploration “The Mechanics of Mechanophilia: Why Men find Siri Sexy” via Telegraph UK right — here (November 15, 2016)

…and you can read our full correspondence below — what do you think?

GM: I’m writing a piece hooking into a recent story about men sexualising Siri and other computerised phone apps / virtual assistants. But tbh I’ve just realised I haven’t really broached WHY men are becoming sexually drawn to virtual assistants. Is it loneliness? Is it because virtual assistants are designed to learn from interactions, which obviously leads to knowledge of oneself, creating a false sense of intimacy?

DrCT: Sociologically speaking, there are a lot of reasons men may be drawn to virtual assistants. Today’s world seems to be structured more and more around “distance” time. You’re not alone, you’re just distant (vs face-to-face) — but *apparent* face-to-face interaction is just a Skype away! And as we become more and more comfortable using devices to access human connection (something truckers have been doing on CBs for decades), connection with a device that may read as human is not too far a leap for a next step.

So, rather than loneliness, one reason attraction [to technology] may be drifting into physical forms of intimacy [with technology] could be the attenuation of loneliness (or the feeling of such an attenuation). As technology gets more and more adaptive, Siri goes from inhuman go-bot to attentive lady-assistant. And while we may not notice (or, maybe get made a little uneasy) when clinical Google completes our searches or knows where we’re located in the world, adding a human voice and a seemingly interactive response can be enough to take a person out of the solo-ness of their reality, one that would be at best “distant” otherwise. For some, that moment may stretch into longer and longer blocks of time.

And I am not sure this intimacy can be described as wholly “false” either. Maybe one-sided or manufactured? False implies it doesn’t exist, and – at least for the person speaking with sexy Siri – the intimacy may actually be very real. In many ways, the process is exactly what one would go through as they were getting to know a new friend, lover, or assistant – a getting to know you process wherein one learns your quirks and preferences, etc. And we’ve all heard of the “honeymoon” stage of a relationship, where everything is easy at the beginning. But imagine if you never had that first fight? Imagine if your partner just kept sucking up information about you and adapting seamlessly to your needs. That sustained high could be really appealing for some in today’s world, experiencing a particular set of circumstances. And as a society, we are creating opportunity for those circumstances more and more.

robo-sex

(pictured: from a film about robo sex)

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Got a sociology question? Need some social justice informed life advice? Contact Dr. Chauntelle right here.

Get Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment on Amazon and CT.com.

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