No evidence that sexbots reduce harms to women and children
“Sexbots” – sexualised robots that have realistic human characteristics – are no longer a thing of science fiction. They can be purchased in various appearances, and are typically female adults with customisable oral, vaginal, and anal openings. Childlike robotic models – sometimes referred to as “paedobots” – are produced by at least one company.
Proponents suggest that one of the main benefits of sexbots, either adult or paedobots, is “harm limitation” – referring to potential harms caused to women or children targeted in sexual violence.
An editorial published today in British Medical Journal Sexual and Reproductive Health addresses such claims directly.
Authors Chantal Cox-George and Susan Bewley argue the “precautionary principle” should reject the clinical use of sexbots until their postulated benefits, namely “harm limitation” and “therapy”, have been tested empirically. In other words, we need more evidence.
Further, from my perspective as a criminologist and forensic practitioner, I would argue that sexbots could be tools to empower some who sexually offend against women and children.
What does the science say?
To reach this conclusion, authors Cox-George and Bewley reviewed the available literature looking to determine if the arguments made by supporters of the use of sexbots to reduce violence and sex crimes can be substantiated.
Their article approaches this topic from a health care perspective, looking at four themes relevant to health care providers:
- safer sex
- therapeutic potential
- potential to treat paedophiles and sex offenders
- changing societal norms.
Cox-George and Bewley conclude that the claims of “harm limitation” are overstated: they found no reports of primary data relating to health aspects of the use of sexbots to support the proponents’ positive claims.
The authors also state that the market for sexbots will not be largely health care related – people will not be using these for therapeutic purposes, to diminish unwanted sexual urges, including an attraction to children.