The marketing claims that sexbots – lifelike robots created specifically for sexual gratification – have the potential to eliminate sex trafficking and tourism, prostitution and encourage safer sex are misleading, experts say.
An editorial published online in BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health warns that there is no evidence to back up such “speculative” claims.
The authors carried out extensive research but did not find a single study on the health implications of sexbots which are likely to boost the $30bn (£23bn) sex technology industry.
They did, however, encounter four key themes regarding sexbots: safer sex; therapeutic potential, treatment for paedophiles and changing societal norms.
While they concluded it was “plausible” the devices could help with some relationship difficulties; using them to “treat” paedophilia or prevent sexual violence by providing an acceptable outlet was highly contentious.
The authors argued that instead, the use of sexbots could help to “normalise sexual deviancy” or act as a practice ground for violence, including rape.
They also warned that the ‘airbrushed’ appearance of sexbots, which are generally hairless, contributed to distorted perceptions of female attractiveness.
“The overwhelming predominant market for sexbots will be unrelated to healthcare,” the authors continue. “Thus the ‘health’ arguments made for their benefits, as with so many advertised products, are rather specious.”
Given the lack of adequate data, they said the clinical use of sexbots should only begin when the suggested benefits such as “harm limitation” have been tested empirically.
However, the authors concluded that the popularity of sexbots is likely to increase as they become more affordable and more technologically advanced.
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