Blog Post 6: All About Who? All About What?

Hi all,

Our next reading, Neil McArthur’s “The Case for Sexbots,” starts our third section of the course with a provocative argument. In this article, McArthur makes an ambitious case for why we should see sexbots as a general social good. His argument gives us a number of directions in which to expand our thinking so far on technology, embodiment, and sexuality — in addition to considering issues of desire, psychology, and emotion as we have been, McArthur suggests that we also need to take forces such as power, consent, agency, and societal impact into account as well.

So for this blog post, you should use your writing to engage with McArthur’s argument as closely and thoughtfully as you can by quoting, paraphrasing, and responding to a meaty portion of his writing. Beyond simply agreeing or disagreeing with what he claims there or with his argument overall, you should think critically about the stakes of his thinking in what you quote — what issues does he raise in that portion, how does he see those issues, and how do you respond? We’ll use some of these posts as a way into thinking about the implications of this for identity and interpersonal relations in class on Wednesday. Happy reading and I’ll see you all then!

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 11:59pm on TUESDAY, October 16th (remember that this is different from our usual blogging schedule). If you have any questions, let me know via email.

 

 

 

12 thoughts on “Blog Post 6: All About Who? All About What?

  1. In “The Case for Sex Robots”, Neil McArthur argues that sexbot will be beneficial to society rather than simply having a neutral or even negative presence. McAuthur first contextualized his argument by presenting data from a survey which illustrated the general societal sentiment of weariness and even animostiy towards human/sexbit copulation. He then delves into specific facets of his argument, starting by saying that the right is sexbots is a legal issue as well as a moral issue. Because we, as Americans, have the right to be free from government intrusion in our private lives, possession of a sexbot is acceptable on legal grounds. But McAuthur doesn’t want us to see sexbots as legally tolerable, he wants us to rethink the social and cultural constructs which dictate our outlook on morality in order to expose the beneficial nature of these bots. Diverging from legal issues, McArthur goes on to expound upon the usefulness of sexbots by systematically presenting and underlying counterarguments in order to promote his own point of view. In other words, McArthur structures his essay essentially as debate between himself and society. For instance, he brings up the concern that sex with a robot may encourage a type of psychological mindset yielded by a person not merely gratifying themselves, but doing so “by objectifying another being” (37). This mindset would teach a person that sex relies on the act of objectification. By presenting this and other arguments in such detail, McArthur is able to counter them more effectively as he assures the reader that he has heard and considered all sides of the issue. In turn, his argument appears more valid and well-rounded.
    Essentially, from what I’ve synthesized, MacArthur believes sexbots will be beneficial for four reasons: Firstly, sex equals happiness which equals good health, so therefore sexbots will promote good mental and physical health (34). Secondly, sexbots provide a solution for those who face sexual deprivation, such as physical or mental ailments, those in prison, in the military, or folks in the LGBT community who may not be able to connect with others in their community (39). Third, sexbots could be useful devices for practicing and becoming comfortable with sexual intimacy, especially for those who may have experienced sexual trauma (40). Last, sexbots could supplement and promote healthy relationships by offering a sexual outlet for couples, thus decreasing the prospect of infidelity (41-42).

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  2. In Neil McArthur’s article “The Case for Sexbots” he explains and responds to issues of sexbots and gives his reasoning as to why sexbots should be encourage in today’s world. He argues that people have the right to privacy so therefore sexbots should not be a problem if people are doing it in the privacy of their own homes. His second argument is that sexbots offer hedonic benefits to people like something as simple as being happier. He even says, “High levels of sexual activity correlate to weight loss, lower stress levels, better heart and blood-pressure outcomes, lower rates of prostate cancer for men, and better sleep.” (34). In this quotation, he refers to benefits of sex and explains that sexbots will most definitely have health benefits to humankind. He also discusses the topic of anti-hedonism where pleasure should not be seen as the highest good and therefore sexbots are not needed. He says that it would be better to have these robots instead of people being completely sexually deprived. Lastly McArthur explores the topic of distributive and relationship arguments. He explains that a possible problem with distribution is that the robots will most likely be very expensive leading to the rich being the prime target audience. So, most of the general working class will not be able to afford them at first. In terms of relationships he explains that not all relationships will be able to utilize sex robots and that it is different for every relationship. Jealousy can take place in this way and could destabilize many relationships. He argues that he believes people would understand the risks of the use of sex robots in relationships and trusts people to make the right decision. I believe that all of these are valid arguments that need to be talked about further before anything is set in stone.

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  3. With the speed in which robot technology has developed in the twenty-first century, the idea of a human-like robot programmed for sexual intercourse (a sexbot) has become increasingly more realistic. Now that sexbots no longer feel like a distant reality, the debate over their morality has significantly heated up. Further feeding the flames for this debate, Neil McArthur, in his article “The Case for Sexbots,” argues that the invention of sexbots will be beneficial for society as a whole. McArthur mentions several counterarguments in his article, one of which, called the “Reciprocity View,” is the idea that “sex acts should involve two people, and reflect a mutuality and reciprocity of desires between the parties involved” (35). People who believe in the Reciprocity View argue that through its nonreciprocal nature, sex with a robot condones objectification and ultimately results in us treating our human sexual partners as objects rather than right-bearing individuals. In response to this conflicting view, McArthur later reasons that “it is at least partly an empirical question to what extent nonreciprocal sex will actually cause us to view our human sexual partners as less than full subjects in their own right… Since the empirical questions cannot yet be resolved, I do not think it is possible to offer decisive counterarguments against this view of robot sex… Far from harming our ability to have reciprocal or significant sexual encounters, robots may make people more able to engage in reciprocal, significant sex” (38). Here McArthur claims that it is impossible to understand the full effects of nonreciprocal sex without conducting official studies and therefore, without these studies existing, counterarguments rooted in the idea that nonreciprocal robot sex inhibits our human sexual relationships (i.e. the Reciprocity View) are invalid. Going further than merely invalidating these opposing views, McArthur then suggests that sexrobots may do the opposite: increase the capacity for reciprocal sexual relations.

    While his logic regarding the need for empirical research is completely valid, his claim that sexrobots may increase ability for reciprocal sex seems outlandish and even hypocritical in nature. Didn’t he just use the need for empirical research to invalidate claims regarding the negative effects of nonreciprocal sex? Why couldn’t oppositionists use this same need for empirical research to invalidate his claims of the exact opposite? In invalidating opposing claims, McArthur also invalidates his own claims at the same time. While many of his arguments are sound and backed with sufficient evidence, this clear instance of hypocrisy makes me question the validity of his arguments as a whole. That being said, it was McArthurs own words that were the death to his argument. Furthermore, I strongly believe that making claims that lack empirical evidence is what has allowed for countless instances of “fake news” and ultimately pushed us into an era of “post truth politics,” where appeals to emotion takes precedent over factual evidence. While McArthur’s claims are clearly his opinion, which he is entitled to, it seems dangerous to make claims without significant evidence to back it. Thus, until further empirical evidence, specific to sexbots, arises, it will be difficult for me to side with arguments for or against sexbots without basing it in mere opinion and speculation.

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  4. In Neil McArthurs “The Case for Sexbots”, he argues that robot sex should be viewed as something welcomed and promoted because of its overall high benefits for different groups of people. McArthur proposes that the further promotion of sexbots will be a good thing, however there are a few problematic points with his argument. First I must say this. I do not think sexbots are objectively bad. However, I had a lot of issues with the following: McArthur writes “My proposal is this: whether or not we see nonreciprocal sex as harmful to individuals and society, we should also be willing to recognize that enforced sexual deprivation is a harm worth attending to as well, and that this weighs heavily in favor of sexbots.” McArthur is making the claim that people being sexually deprived is a larger issue than teaching people the importance of sexual reciprocation. When we neglect to teach people the importance of reciprocal sexual behavior, we are in some ways neglecting to teach people about the values of consent. Perhaps I am not understanding the way that a sexbot works, but I am pretty sure a robot cannot consent, and as longa s we live in a world where people are having sexual relationships among humans, we cannot ignore this factor. Sexbots may benefit certain groups such as military personnel and mentally/physically disabled people. This article also makes me think about sex workers and I wonder what would happen to those people in a world where sex robots were a common reality

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  5. In the chapter “The Case for Sexbots”, McArthur argues the need to encourage the development, distribution, and use of sexbots from a moral and a legal point of view. As he mentions, “Greater levels of sexual satisfaction, on top of their impact on people’s levels of happiness, contribute to better health outcomes. High levels of sexual activity correlate to weight loss, lower stress levels better heart and blood-pressure outcomes, lower rates of prostate cancer for men, and better sleep. People who have more sex quite simply tend to live longer, healthier lives” (34). This shows how sex is a healthy activity and a need in humans’ lives. Nevertheless, this does not mean that a human cannot live without it. Therefore, I believe that sexbots are not the solution for sexual deprivation. If someone just wants to have sex for the sake of the act itself, then there is plenty of access unlike how the author argues. The author says that there is a gap in demographics, single-sex environments, and people may have mental or physical issues, and that is why people might be sexuality deprived. I think that this is a vague argument because demographics do not show people’s thoughts and beliefs about sex or whether they want to find a partner or not. Also, single-sex environments do not mean a lack of the opposite sex, instead it is just a harder access. Moreover, having mental of physical issue won’t get better or healthier if someone seeks pleasure and comfort in a robot than a human where they can actually talk to or build a relationship with. Having mental issues might require the need to find someone that would understand and have sympathy for that person. Furthermore, I believe that the use of sexbots will lead to a loss of social interaction. This raises the issue of being addicted to technology as well. I think that with the technological advancements we are seeing today, we need to be aware of how much it is controlling us and try to maintain a balance between our social lives and technology. I think that sexbots is a technology that ruins the essence of having a private behavior that the humans themselves only have. Also, I believe that the sexbots will lead to people objectifying their sex partners. As the author mentions, “people may become more likely to view their human partners simply as sex objects, and we may begin to weaken the power of sex as an expression of intimate, reciprocal connection between the two” (38). This shows how sexbots will lead to unhealthy relationships and will affect how we look at each other as human beings. I don’t think that anyone can argue against the fact that sexbots will objectify our bodies. The author tries to say that “even if it is less than ideal, is better than total deprivation” (38). I do not see how this is enough to argue against because having a sexbot, even ‘sometimes’, will still lead to that addiction to that sex object and will affect how people view others.
    Moreover, sexbots raise the issue of whether sex is an intimate relationship or feeling between two partners, or it is a selfish act. Sexbots do not allow someone to have sex as a meaningful responsive act, instead it just satisfies someone’s needs. I think that sexbots challenge that idea of whether sex should be a selfish act or a mutual act that is based on the care of others.

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  6. Through the text, it is quite obvious where McArthur stands on the subject of sexbots. He made multiple arguments towards different elements of relationships and sexual encounters in a human lifetime and explained why the sexbots should not just “be tolerated but accepted”. His hendonic arguments were his explanations of the human need for the sexual contact and why sex robots will benefit us even more. There are studies that are presented in his argument stating the more sex in quantity can make a person’s life so much happier that it can feel like “an increase in salary of $50,000 dollars”. This statement was very breathtaking to me, the fact that this happiness was quantified by a study and that this can happen from once a month to once a week. There is a loose fact that sex is known to decrease levels of stress but to increase happiness this much, it is almost confusing as to why college students can seem so down in the dumps. The health benefits have a lot to do with psychological benefits and mental health. The text explains that sex with a partner gives extra benefits that masturbation cannot achieve, and McArthur believes sex robots can give those same benefits. While this is not proven, this conclusion can be probable because the sex robots will be programmed to react to the touch and be programmed with a multitude of sexual information to create that satisfaction for humans. As a person in today’s age these robots seem metallic and cold but if these robots are anything like AI Ash from Be Right Back then sexual pleasure will definitely be accomplished. While there are moral issues that exist such as what is the difference of having sexual intercourse with an animal vs a robot since they are both not human species, there are other issues that arise such as relationship issues or can these robots actually bring us the same level of happiness as sex with a human? Is it the same type of happiness? Can this become an obsessive activity with said robot? All these questions arise through this entire article.

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  7. In “The Case for Sexbots”, McArthur explains his perspective on sex bots (on both the good and bad) and the issues with having an intimate relationship with a human. In one point of his piece, McArthur argues that “Infidelity is a private matter, for instance, but we still make moral judgments concerning those who engage in it” (33). I agree with McArthur that no matter how private it is, the real judgment matters when society will accept this. Personally, I am not for the matters of a sexbot and don’t really agree with the fact that McArthur mentioned: “sexbots can help prepare people for human relationships” (41) because I think that any human, regardless of having a personal or intimate relationship with someone or not, sexbots cannot necessarily have abstract thinking that if one needs emotional or help with a situation as well compared to another human being. By this, sexbots can impact a human from having any sort of social interaction with other humans. I can understand for others that sexbots will have a personal advantage for themselves however, in a holistic perspective, it will be harder for those to gain personal trust from other humans if they already start to have emotional feelings towards a sexbot. I believe that overall, sexbots wouldn’t really have much benefit for human pleasure compared to the disadvantages of a sexbot. Although McArthur describes that “Sexbots can also provide people in relationships a way to address various problems they might face in their relationships” (41), I don’t agree that a sexbot can essentially “mend” or “fix” a intimate human relationship, if the only reason they exist is for the high desire member of the couple to have an outlet for self-pleasure.

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  8. After reading Robot Sex, Social and Ethical Implications, by John Danaher and Neil McArthur, I was pleasantly surprised by the arguments that the authors made for the idea of implementing robots for the basis of fornication. When McArthur said “…the outset that I believe the invention of sexbots will be not just morally neutral, but will, in fact, be, on balance, a positive good. I am advocating not just that we tolerate them, but that we actively encourage their development, support, their distribution, and work to overcome stigmas associated with them. While an individual’s right to sexual privacy is important, it cannot on its own establish this stronger conclusion… the appeal to privacy is in one sense an admission of defeat.” I first thought of the negative stigma that was associated with non-human relationships, especially sexual encounters. This was also seen in Spike Jonze’s “Her” where the main character Theodore had a relationship with an AI system named Samantha in both scenarios, a human was interacting sexually with a non-human partner, and in both scenarios people, including me, felt that this was immoral, and wrong for many different reasons because of the stigma associated with the idea of humans interacting with anything besides humans and what else has been deviated acceptable by our culture’s standards. With this being said, I think McArthur makes a claim early to think of sexbots, not as something wrong or weird, but instead to think of them from a more analytical perspective. In other words, he asks us to do our best to strip our Biases, and focus on all of the pros and cons of sexbots, while examing ourselves and our typical everyday interactions. In our everyday interactions with social media, digital media, and physical media such as magazines we experience the sexualization of human beings in a way that fifty-plus years ago would have never been accepted due to our biases and overall association which, by today’s standards, are very conservative in comparison to today’s ideas of expression, and overall depictions of human beings. Furthermore, due to the fact that humans are already using technology to experience sexual stimulation with the use of adult films that for the most part are not always depicting humans in sexual acts, it doesn’t seem very taboo to have robots used the same way adult films are used. Especially in a world, where we have three-dimensional T.V’s in our very own homes, technology is getting more real than ever at a very high rate.
    Another piece of the quote that I feel the need to discuss is the idea of privacy and how it is associated with the idea of sexbots and technology that is already used today. The aforementioned quote that “…the appeal to privacy is in one sense an admission of defeat…” the ability to do whatever you feel as long as it is not breaking any laws, nor is it harming yourself or other people is essential not only to uphold the constitution but also self-expression. In a world, where perceptions of life and the world around are constantly influenced by technology, it is more important now than ever to make sure that we are not being influenced into a box by technology. What this means is that regardless of stigmas, perceptions, or anything else that has the ability to stop any form of self-expression must be protected. And for those who say that these stigmas are created with the reasoning of allowing humans to not only categorize everyday interactions, as good or bad, I say that these stigma’s limit us from being ourselves, and allow us to become nothing more than followers rather than the sophisticated human beings we really are.

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  9. More is Sometimes More
    Although increased amounts of sex is emotionally and physically beneficial, there are often times when percentage of available partners do not equal and are sometimes skewed; therefore, the invention of sexbots would aid in this unfortunate and deprotonate situation.
    Physical contact is more often than not more appealing and more beneficial than not. According to The Case of Sex Robots by Neil McArthur, having more sex is mentally and physically better for humans. When McArthur states, “increasing the frequency of sexual intercourse from once a month to at least once a week offers as much additional happiness as an increase in salary of $50,000 per year” (34), he illustrates the idea that increasing sexual activity, with another person, is emotionally beneficial. Sexual activity increases happiness and emotional stability. McArthur also states that having increased amount of sex has major health benefits: “weight loss, lower stress, better heart and blood pressure…and better sleep” (34). He confirms the idea that sex is not only emotionally beneficial but also physically beneficial. This correlates to the idea that people should be having some sex for mental and physical stability.
    Uneven availability of partners leads to many people unable to create meaningful relationships. When McArthur says, “some societies…possess dramatically uneven gender roles overall, which leaves large numbers of straight men with little or no opportunity for sexual companionship” (39), he demonstrates that some people are deprived of the opportunity to have these relationships and have these experiences. This occurs in situations in which one sex is confined to a space, prison and the military being only a few examples (39). In these environments, straight men do not have the opportunity to have intercourse (40). Because of their environments, they are unable to fulfill their desires. Sexbots could begin to solve this issue. Stating, “sufficiently realistic sexbot would be much better than nothing, and that it has the potential to measurably impact the physiological, social, and economic costs of sexual deprivation” (40), McArthur presses his idea that sexbots would be beneficial to the human race, as it will fill the gap that our partner availability lacks.
    Having sexbots would increase the mental and physical health of those unable to find available partners due to their environment. Sexbots are not a perfect solution. The article brings up many other issues surrounding them; however, with some fine tuning and cultural development, sexbots could solve the problem of this inequality in order to improve the lives of those unable to find a partner.

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  10. ‘The Case for Sexbots’ argues the point that sexbots should not only be widely used, but that they should be widely accepted as well. In McCarthurs argument, he states one of the reasons for this is the increased happiness one could bring. He states that “Put more simply, people will enjoy having them, and there is reason to believe they will be happier on balance as a result. I take it as a premise that sexbots will offer people a realistic and intensely satisfying sexual experience…” While there is little data out on the actual effects of sexbots, this idea does not seem plausible. I do not disagree with McCarthurs views on sexbots becoming a norm, but in my opinion this statement is not plausible. There is no substitute for sexual experiences with a partner. A living partner. I believe that the closer we get to replicating that experience with the creation of sexbots, the more content people will be with solely using that option. Therefore, the overall amount of real sex being had will decrease, creating less happiness. Users of sexbots will most likely enjoy their experience enough that they will spend less time pursuing the feel of real sex because they have easy, free sex right in their room. Similar to masturbation, this will eventually output feelings of shame and distress over the lack of real physical contact. But unlike masturbation, sexbots could provide a good enough experience to the majority of users that at the end of the day they will be content with intercourse with their robot. This will lead to lower levels of happiness. While I personally think sexbots could be an interesting development, I do not think anything can replicate the experience of sexual intercourse between humans. And the closer we come to creating that technologically, the further users will be from the actual experience.

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  11. After reading the case for sexbots by Neil McArthur, I see this topic in a whole new light. I had merely brushed upon this idea in a conversation I had in a philosophy class I took in the summer of my junior year. Previously, I had thought this to be a good idea based on some of the studies he provided before me. As I begin to rethink this line, I understand why I was mistaken which is why I’m reversing my position. He states ” One potential reason why we should welcome the development of sexbots is that they promise to deliver direct hedonic (pleasurable) benefits.” Although this is why. agreed last time with this idea of sexbots, it is also why I’m changing my position. Sex is a pleasurable thing and no one would disagree. However, he forgets to mention the results of sex which aren’t always pleasurable. Sex does come with many potential problems that McArthur doesn’t mention. He forgets to mention sex on the basis of infidelity. He only mentions infidelity as a comparison to the right to privacy and morality on page 32. If both men and women were to have sex while bonded by marriage to another person this raises the question of it is truly cheating because by definition it wouldn’t be but it still would make women and men around the world feel terrible just counteracting the main argument he makes about how it would make people happier. He also doesn’t mention on if the relationships become more than sex and how would that not only affect society but the population as well. If people would indulge in these robots this would hurt population growth dramatically. I fear that we will soon become so attached to technology that the need for humans we become obsolete because it happens in the workforce and now in relationships which would make it so that people would feel useless.

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  12. In “The Case for Sexbots”, author Neil McArthur primes for the use and understanding of sexrobots. He thinks these technological advancements can pose valuable benefits to individuals and society at large. McArthur argues that instead of using a pro or con approach, these conversations should be analyzed in a neutral way, which will lead to possible positive externalities for digitally mediated communities. It seems as though more and more, technology is making its way into our lives. For many, sex is considered an act highly intimate and singular. For others, what makes it distinctive is the possibility of procreation that comes with it. Generating human life is generally praised across many religions and is almost given a sacrilegious tone. Likewise, any aspects that would alter these processes, or the way which we have been socially bound to consider them, would not be received in a positive light. In the Distributive arguments section, Neil McArthur argues that the use of sexrobots could possibly be beneficial for sexual minorities. McArthur says: “Members of sexual minority communities are equally at the mercy or their demographic environment. There are many places, such as small towns, in which gays and lesbians have little opportunity to find relationships. The problem is often compounded by stigmas that make it difficult and even dangerous to seek out a partner” Though I do comprehend the attached benefits that might be associated with using sex robots as avenues to fulfill sexual needs, it still does not account for the stigma that hinders those individuals from finding partners in the first place. McArthur mentions that members of these sexual minorities are not able to form relationships as a result of their demographic scarcity and, an overall social stigma. A sexrobot at most can satisfy one’s physical and sexual needs and cravings. Considering the technology available, these are not able to provide emotional or mental sustenance to the ones using it. With this, a generalized use of sexrobots across this group would make it more difficult for individuals to find relationships. The central focus on relationships makes the claim sound contradicting since these incur both physical and emotional components. Though the sexual and physical aspects would be fulfilled, the emotional and psychological side would be lacking, which is especially alarming since these minorities already face degrading emotional reprove from their communities. Additionally, sex robots would work as an ‘easy fix’ or in other words treat the symptoms and not the root cause of the problem. Stigma would mostly remain unaltered since nothing directly tackles this thematic. Such might raise important conversations around the idea of a fragmented yet jointed society. Though technology might incur valuable positive effects to communities, these might not serve as remedy to the deeply-rooted social dilemmas we encompass.

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