Intended for healthcare professionals


Sixty seconds on . . . sex with robots

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 11 July 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j3353
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. London

Oh, dear. What depths is The BMJ sinking to now?

Actually, this is an important medical issue. Robots specifically designed to satisfy the owner’s sexual desires are available to buy now. They don’t look that unlike “human” robots seen in futuristic films such as Westworld. Some of them can even speak, and designers are working on including artificial intelligence to make them better companions.

How easy are they to buy?

Four companies are now marketing adult sex robots for between $5000 and $15 000 (£11 620; €13 250).

But no one really wants a relationship with a robot

Apparently they do. Last year 17% of 1002 adults questioned for the Nesta FutureFest survey said that they would be prepared to go on a date with a robot, and that increased to 26% for a robot that looked exactly like a human. Phil, a 58 year old man who lives on Jersey, bought a robot for sex and now pushes it around in a wheelchair. He even takes it out with him when he goes to the pub. Another man actually left his wife and family for one.

So they’re just for lonely geeks?

A report from the Foundation for Responsible Robotics1 says that we could see sex robots being used to satisfy the sexual needs of disabled and elderly people, and as part of therapy for people with issues such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and anxiety about sex. It also predicts that there will be brothels staffed by robots, although these are unlikely to end prostitution or sex trafficking.

So, therapeutic?

To a point. Controversially it has also been suggested that sex robots could be used to help prevent sex crimes such as violent assault, rape, and paedophilia, but most experts warn that this could increase the occurrence of these crimes, as well as the objectification of women. There’s already a childlike model, by Trottla, available in Japan, and the Roxxxy model, by TrueCompanion, has different selectable personalities, one of which (“Frigid Farrah”) will resist sexual advances.

What’s to be done?

The Foundation for Responsible Robotics wants policy makers and society to start looking at these issues and decide whether any regulation is needed, such as banning childlike robots, and whether such robots should be available on prescription.


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