Al Fin, You Sexy Thing!

02 May 2012

Sex Tourism in the Future: Sex Robots vs Real Sex

New Zealand's Ian Yeoman and Michelle Mars stirred up a small hornet's nest with their scholarly paper, "Robots, Men, and Sex Tourism," published in Futures. Here is the abstract and highlights:
In 2050, Amsterdam's red light district will all be about android prostitutes who are clean of sexual transmitted infections (STIs), not smuggled in from Eastern Europe and forced into slavery, the city council will have direct control over android sex workers controlling prices, hours of operations and sexual services. This paper presents a futuristic scenario about sex tourism, discusses the drivers of change and the implications for the future. The paper pushes plausibility to the limit as boundaries of science fiction and fact become blurred in the ever increasing world of technology, consumption and humanity, a paradigm known as liminality.

Highlights

► Having sex with a robot is the future of sex tourism in Amsterdam. ► Why? ► Human trafficking, sexual transmitted diseases, beauty and physical perfection, pleasure for sex toys, emotional connection to robots and the importance of sex in Amsterdam are all driving forces. ► Is the scenario feasible? ► Virtual sex, changing behaviours and what is science fiction and reality is a blurred paradigm of liminality. _Robots Men and Sex Tourism
Marina Adshade of BigThink riffs off the Futures paper, suggesting that the authors did not think the issue through clearly enough:
There are three reasons, however, that people travel to buy sex on a foreign market that would no longer apply in futuristic android sex markets.

The first is that people are ashamed of their behavior and therefore remove themselves from their own community so that they can buy sex in the anonymity of a foreign market.

If sex with androids is “guilt-free,” as the authors claim, I am not sure why anyone would need to travel to a foreign market to buy it.

The second is that foreign sex markets provide cheaper services than their home markets in developed economies. This is particularly true in countries in which poverty ensures a perpetual supply of desperate men and women.

Android sex workers will presumably flow across borders far more easily than human sex workers, implying that the price of their services should be similar worldwide.

The final reason why people travel for sex is they demand services that domestic sex workers are unwilling to provide at any price level. Sex with children, for example, is difficult to buy in the developed world, as is sex that involves a great deal of violence.

Whether or not governments in the developed world would permit the development of pre-pubescent androids for the sex market is a topic that I suspect would generate a great deal of debate. If they did, however, the desire to travel specifically for that service would disappear. _BigThink
Adshade goes on to point out that women are already having sex with electronic devices on a regular basis, without shaking the foundations of society to its core. But she admits that the prostitution and travel sex industries are likely to be adversely affected when realistic sex androids become available on a large, ubiquitous scale. Chris Mims has a short, derivative piece on this topic in Technology Review, which tells one more about the broad level of interest in this topic than anything useful about the future of android sex. If Marina Adshade is correct that the authors of the "Futures" piece were missing the point of android sex, one would be doubly correct by leveling the same criticism at Chris Mims.

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