Women vs. Bots: Sex robot brothel banned in Houston
The founder of "Kinky S Dolls" planned to open the first sex robot brothel in the United States this month in Houston. Except he does not call it a brothel. He prefers the term "showroom."
As Yuval Gavriel told the Washington Examiner, "I consulted with a lawyer and the lawyer said, 'if you are smart you don't go out and say you are operating a brothel.'"
He claims his company operates like a car showroom: people can rent the dolls, test them on the premises, and decide whether to buy one. A half-hour in a private room with a sex bot costs $60.
The Houston City Council yesterday voted to ban sex robot brothels.
But laws and ordinances are not enough. We need to dig deeper to underlying cultural attitudes. How did it become possible that some people would prefer a mechanized doll to a real person?
Harmony, "the world's first sex robot." Screen grab via ABC News.
The answer is that sex has been steadily de-personalized. Start with the hookup culture: it rests on the assumption that sex can be purely physical – cut off from the whole person, without any hint of love or commitment.
Young people know the script all too well. In my new book, Love Thy Body, I include several heart-wrenching quotes from college students – like Alicia, who says, "Hookups are very scripted. ... You learn to turn everything off except your body and make yourself emotionally invulnerable."
Another student told Rolling Stone magazine that the mistake people make is that they "assume there are two very distinct elements in a relationship, one emotional and one sexual, and they pretend like there are clean lines between them." In other words, they treat sex as a strictly physical act isolated from the rich inner life of the whole person.
Critics of the hookup scene often claim that it gives sex too much importance, but in reality, it gives sex too little importance. It treats the body as nothing but a physical organism driven by physical urge and instincts.
No wonder it is creating a trail of wounded people. They are trying to live out a view of sexuality that does not fit who they really are.
An even more extreme level of de-personalization is pervading society via pornography. The viewer disconnects the woman's body from any interest in who she is as a person.
Today the average age that a boy first encounters pornography is nine years old. By the time he is an adult, he has been consuming porn for more than a decade. How does that affect his relationships with real women? Time magazine reports that many find they are unable to experience a sexual response with a live woman. In fact, they prefer pornography.
When these men marry, they are shocked – shocked – to discover that porn has destroyed their ability to relate to their spouses as full people.
Sex robots will intensify the problem. Futurists predict that in ten years, robots will become more popular than porn. Sex with robots is a kind of 3-D porn. The ultimate de-personalization.
The irony is that science is constantly uncovering new evidence of the profound interconnection between body and person. Pick up any recent book on sexuality, and you will read about the role played by hormones such as oxytocin and vasopressin, which are released during sexual intercourse. This means the desire to attach to the other person when we have sex is not only an emotion, but also part of our chemistry.
As one physician puts it, when we have intercourse, we create "an involuntary chemical commitment."
The upshot is that even if you think you are having a no-strings-attached hookup, you are in reality creating a chemical bond – whether you mean to or not. An advice columnist for Glamour magazine warns that even when you intend to have a casual encounter, "biology might trump your intentions."
In the words of UCLA psychiatrist Miriam Grossman, "[y]ou might say we are designed to bond."
The latest science is confirming that the human being is a unified whole. We do not, by nature, thrive on casual, meaningless sexual encounters. We crave emotional intimacy and fidelity.
When people treat sex as completely separate from the person, they are shooting themselves in the foot. They're failing to learn how to form the strong, resilient bonds needed to create happy, fulfilling, long-term marriages and families – which is, after all, what most of us ultimately want.
In the competition between women and bots, everyone is happier when women win.
Nancy R. Pearcey is author of the recently released Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality. She is professor and scholar in residence at Houston Baptist University.