The topic of sexbots is making the rounds again, and once again the question is how they fit with our new sexual morality. The last time this went around the argument by Dr Helen Driscoll was that using sexbots would become accepted as moral because their users would fall in love with them. This sets up the angry feminist backlash by Dr Kathleen Richardson, who explained to the Daily Express that the problem with robosex is a lack of purifying emotion:
Dr Richardson believes humanoid sex robots reinforce traditional and damaging stereotypes of women.
It also perpetuates the view that a relationship does not need to be more than simply physical.
Drs. Richardson and Driscoll aren’t alone in their modern idea that sexual morality is determined by the amount of emotion involved. Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, uses a very similar argument to explain why men viewing pornography is immoral. Dr. Mohler warns that pornography weakens the power of denial of sex as a tool for wives to control their husbands. As a result of this loss of power by wives, husbands will fail to mix in the purifying emotion which makes sex moral:
…Since the male sex drive is largely directed towards genital pleasure, men often assume that women are just the same…
The emotional aspect of sex cannot be divorced from the physical dimension of the sex act. Though men are often tempted to forget this, women possess more and less gentle means of making that need clear.
Consider the fact that a woman has every right to expect that her husband will earn access to the marriage bed…
…when I say that a husband must regularly “earn” privileged access to the marital bed, I mean that a husband owes his wife the confidence, affection, and emotional support that would lead her to freely give herself to her husband in the act of sex.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Drs. Driscoll, Richardson, and Mohler are all using the same yardstick to determine sexual morality. This is the modern way of thinking, and it is a direct consequence of our replacing traditional marriage with serial monogamy. Under the new view, headship is inverted and sex is purified by romantic love.
All three are looking at this through the wrong lens, but in the narrow disagreement between Drs. Driscoll and Richardson I can only agree with Dr. Driscoll. Dr. Richardson argues that robosex is immoral because it lacks purifying emotion. However, to the extent that robosex is worse than other masturbation tools the problem is the opposite. With vibrators and pornography the misuse is almost entirely physical. With sexbots there will be a much higher risk that romantic love would be misused as well:
“The physical act of sex will only be a small part of the time you spend with a sex robot – the majority of time will be spent socialising and interacting,” Roxxxy’s creator believes.
The biggest problem we have is that having jettisoned real sexual morality, we aren’t able to process the dangers that sexbots will pose in any meaningful way. If romantic love makes sex moral, the proponents of sexbots will always have a seemingly undefeatable argument in their favor. To argue that emotions don’t purify sex would undermine our entire modern edifice of sexual morality. This leaves us arguing over whether having sex with an artificial person involves emotion. If this is the discussion, those in favor of sexbots have the far stronger position.
Aside from the purely moral question, there is another risk regarding sexbots. Our economy is built on the expectation that men will be motivated by marriage to produce in excess of their own needs. As we continue to degrade marriage, sexbots will be there to fill the gaps.
Sexbots don’t even need to become a direct replacement for marriage to have a profound effect on our economy. Our current system relies on young men continuing to prepare to be providers while marriage continues to be further and further delayed. Sexbots will in this context be yet another distraction tempting young men to coast instead of working diligently in anticipation of their future wives tiring of having sex with other men. As each successive cohort of women tires of the carousel and starts looking for husbands, they will increasingly find that the cohort of men they hoped to marry are still willing to marry but fewer and fewer are in a position to play the role of provider. Additionally, sexbots could also accelerate the decline in men’s willingness to remarry after being punished in divorce court.