The Problem With 'Frigid Farrah', A New Sex Robot That Encourages Male Rape Fantasies By 'Actively Resisting Sex'

Photo: TrueCompanion
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Buzz, Sex

You can take a simulation too far.

If you’d asked me to assemble a list of “things I’d need to worry about in 2017” last year, sex robots would never have made the list.

I might’ve even been excited to include them. There’s something about the term “sex robot” that just feels futuristic like we’re finally getting the payoff of living in the 21st Century that the Baby Boomers once promised us.

However, as the nascent sex robot industry starts to become a real-world reality, it’s becoming clear that, before we even get into any Westworld-esque debates on the ethics of having sex with artificial intelligence, we first have to question the broader moral and psychological impact of creating artificial sex surrogates.

This debate was brought to the forefront recently by news about TrueCompanion, an automated sex doll company, that makes a female sex robot with “programmable personalities,” and, specifically, a setting called “Frigid Farrah,” in which the doll will actively resist having sex with her owner.

(According to the company’s website, the “Frigid Farrah” personality will ensure that the $10,000 sex doll will not be “appreciative” if you “touched her in a private area.”)

This all begs the questions — Is this new generation of sex robots designed to arouse people with violent rape fantasies? And does the existence of these “dolls” make those fantasies better or worse?

The “Frigid Farrah” story is inspiring a lot of vitriolic commentary online, from both sides of the argument. There are many who take no issue with the existence of these sex robots, seeing them as healthy outlets for sexual urges.

When asked if sex robots could enable a person’s rape fantasies, Dr. David Ley, an award-winning sex educator and the author of The Myth of Sex Addiction, told us, “Only people with zero social/sexual education, antisocial personality and substance use and low empathy and hostile masculinity (i.e. Trump) are at risk in that way.”

He added, “It’s at least as likely, if not more likely, to divert such behaviors and reduce sex violence. Countries with access to porn have lower rates of sex violence. Access to sex workers also reduces rates of sex violence. There’s no reason to believe sex robots will be different.”

However, many others disagree with those sentiments — one recent example was a scathing New York Times editorial by Laura Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, titled “The Trouble With Sex Robots.”

This is how Bates states her position — “Yes, sex aids have long existed, but sex robots position women as toys, women as objects for men to play with. By making these robots as realistic as possible — from self-warming models to those that speak and suck, from some with a pulse to others that flirt with their owners — their creators are selling far more than an inanimate sex aid. They are effectively reproducing real women, complete with everything, except autonomy.”

“Except autonomy.”

That was the line that really stuck out in Bates’ editorial — “except autonomy.”

Because, personally, that’s why I have a problem with the idea of these kinds of sex surrogates.

They’re not just made to be a tool for pleasure. Vibrators, Fleshlights, even dildos that are constructed to look exactly like a certain person’s penis… they’re still just tools. They’re a means to an end rather than a simulation.

Even the early forays into virtual reality pornography and sex toys, they keep the simulation at an arm’s length. Their sex simulations haven’t crossed that uncanny valley yet. They’re nothing more than immersive sex movies connected to those previously described sex toys and tools.

But when you construct a full-sized replica of a woman — a replica with weight, dimension, and personality – and you design it specifically to role-play rape, for me, that crosses a line. That becomes a real-world rape simulation and I just can’t see how that’s healthy for ANYONE.

Now I know that “rape fantasies” can be a part of a normal person’s sexual fantasies. And, if you enact those fantasies with a willing partner or with a consenting sex worker, that’s OK, because of that special word that Laura Bates brought up… AUTONOMY.

Your partner can say no. A sex worker, in theory, can say no. (And, if they can’t, you’re already entering criminal territory.)

But a sex robot that is programmed to resemble a woman in every way EXCEPT without that autonomy, without that ability to say no, it conditions the people who “use” those robots to expect behavior that shouldn’t exist in the real world.

Because the robot isn’t just replicating the physicality of women anymore, we’ve moved to the point where we’re giving these automatons behaviors and personalities too.

Now, to be fair, there have been case studies out there where people have argued that these artificial sex surrogates can be “therapeutic” for people with serious sexual issues. For example, a 2016 Atlantic article profiled Shin Takagi, a Japanese man who started a company named Trottla, which produces child-sized sex dolls, specifically for people who are struggling with pedophilic urges.

(When asked why he builds these dolls, Takagi stated, “We should accept that there is no way to change someone’s fetishes. … I am helping people express their desires, legally and ethically. It’s not worth living if you have to live with repressed desire.”)

However, there is a lot of conflicting medical evidence that questions the value of these sex surrogates.

Peter Fagan from the John Hopkins School of Medicine has argued that products like Trottla’s dolls might have a “reinforcing effect” on pedophiles and “in many instances, [may] cause [pedophilic urges] to be acted upon with greater urgency.”

Michael Seto, a psychiatrist from the University of Toronto, was a little more diplomatic, stating that “for some pedophiles, access to artificial child pornography or to child sex dolls could be a safer outlet for their sexual urges, reducing the likelihood that they would seek out child pornography or sex with real children. For others, having these substitutes might only aggravate their sense of frustration.”

However, he pointed out that “We don’t know, because the research hasn’t been done. … But, it would be a very important study to conduct.”

So, in Seto’s words, “we don’t know.”

We don’t know how these sex robot simulations are affecting us psychologically.

Yes, pornography and sex toys can be used in positive ways by healthy sexual beings. There’s evidence to support that.

But sex robots are a new frontier. Sex robots cross an uncomfortable line between stimulation and simulation.

Sex robots bring into question things like behavior conditioning, consent, and many other ethical and moral quandaries that just don’t come into play with a vibrator or a ridiculous blow-up sex balloon.

But, personally, I have to question that we’re thinking when we’re building sex surrogates that fight off our advances. I question why we want that. I question anyone who thinks that the mental footprint of interacting with that kind of simulated sex slave might not bleed into other places in your life.

Because sex without consent is rape.

And you don’t need consent from a dildo or a Fleshlight because it’s a tool — it’s something you control.

Is a sex robot also a tool? Yes, but it’s a tool that’s designed to simulate the real thing.

And when you act out a rape fantasy with a full-sized female replica, a simulation that can say “No” or attempt to push you off, simulacra that you can LOOK IN THE EYES… yeah, that should make you ask yourself about consent.

It should also make you ask yourself if simulating sex without consent — with a female doppelganger with no autonomy — is healthy for any of us.

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