This is a fun discussion. It got my brain buzzing so I wrote down a bunch of thoughts!
The Core Argument
To perhaps restate your original argument @flowerstrample, I might put it in the following points:
A. Many people have an innate need for sexual gratification and intimacy (physical and emotional) that masturbation alone is inadequate to satisfy (you referred to this in points 1 and 5)
B. Pursuing sexual gratification and intimacy without regard for one’s partner can result in harm via:
- deception in the case of unbalanced relationships where only one participant is actually interested in romance (you referred to this in points 2, 3 and 4)
- exploitation in the case of exploitative sex work or unethically-produced pornography (points 5 and 6)
C. Sex with robots can be more satisfying with regard to sexual gratification and intimacy than masturbation alone, and thus can remove some of the need for the more harmful kinds of sexual relationships between people (point 7)
I think point A is pretty ironclad - obviously not everybody, but I think most people find that masturbation alone can be lacking (especially with regard to physical intimacy).
B is also pretty straightforward. There are definitely people who practice ethical non-monogamy and ethical hookups whereby they’re able to satisfy their drive for physical intimacy without causing harm, and there’s plenty of ethical porn and ethical sex work around. But there’s also plenty of people who use other people sexually, who don’t pay attention to the ethics around sex work, etc.
C is the interesting point and should probably be separated into the three things that we might want with regard to sex: sexual gratification, physical intimacy and emotional intimacy.
I think presently, sex with robotic devices like the Handy can definitely produce more sexual gratification than ‘traditional’ masturbation (It’s an open question whether using such a device is separate from masturbation in the first place!). I’ve read plenty of reports in this community over the years where people have struggled with masturbation getting stale and unsatisfying and finding the Handy reinvigorating their personal sex lives
But I don’t think these devices presently provide any physical intimacy at all. The devices themselves are about as physically appealing as an object as a kettle. I’m not about to get any oxytocin firing in my brain from snuggling up to my Handy after I cum
Thoughts on something minimal to cuddle
I do wonder whether a soft-toy with an inbuilt heater so it’s human-skin warm and a simple motor to simulate slow, relaxed breathing would fire off some of the same brain chemicals when cuddled up to. Add in a slot for a masturbatory sleeve to tie that physical intimacy to sexual gratification and we might find that the device having enough robotic sophistication to be an ‘active participant’ in sex might not be necessary!
Thoughts on humanoid robots
I think to satisfy all our needs for physical intimacy you’d basically need a full humaoid robot that’s cheap enough to be justifiable (doesn’t matter how good it feels, if it costs $10,000 nobody will buy one) and safe enough to be trusted (to be powerful enough to jerk you off it’s necessarily powerful enough to permanently injure you). I think we’re decades away from such a robot being technologically possible, if it’s even possible at all. I consider cheap humanoid robotics a similar scale of technological accomplishment as a space elevator, practical quantum computer or cold fusion reactor. Possible within our lifetimes, but decades away at least.
Emotional intimacy is a little more possible. I find VR porn a little creepy and unbelievable, but I do know that some people can immerse deeply enough to feel a sense of emotional closeness with the performer in the sexual sense. I’ve felt it myself very occasionally and it’s great!
Thoughts on current technologies and what's coming soon
I think we’re very, very close (6-12 months tops) away from AI being able to (via LLMs e.g. Chat-GPT) do a good job of participating an emotionally intimate sexual relationship. Pairing a technology like this with some decent procedural animation, a VR headset and an automated stroker like the Handy could definitely get us to a point where our need for emotional intimacy could be satisfied pretty decently (perhaps even better than an ethical hookup, which would probably be the next-best option for someone who is unable or unwilling to participate in a long-term relationship). I’ve seen a few projects that are starting to take steps in this direction - I don’t think it will be long before the first actual products start hitting the market.
Thoughts on what could be built right now
Imagine a VR app with a stylized humanoid character with subtle facial animations to show nuanced emotions that you can chat to about your feelings and emotions. It will flirt with you and tease you until you’re ready to lube up and strap into your Handy, and then it will jerk you off/blow you/ride you until you cum. It’ll wait patiently for you to clean up, and then you can chat to it for as long as you want as part of aftercare + tell it what you liked and didn’t like so that it can learn to please you better for next time. I’d say an app like that could be built using current technologies by a team of perhaps five people in under a year. The only thing holding it back is GPT-3 and similar have a ‘no adult content’ policy so we’re just waiting for some company to train a comparable model without such restrictions.