Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Sex with robots

Sex robots: the irreplaceable value of humanity

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 15 August 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j3790
  1. Federica Facchin, psychotherapist1,
  2. Giussy Barbara, sexologist2,
  3. Vittorio Cigoli, professor emeritus1
  1. 1Faculty of Psychology, Catholic University of Milan, Largo Gemelli 1, Milan 20123, Italy
  2. 2Department of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, Università degli Studi, and Fondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Via della Commenda 12, Milan 20122, Italy
  1. federica.facchin{at}

The use of sex robots may become widespread in the future.1 2 3 But therapeutic use of sex robots is based on a mechanical view of sexuality.

Sexual dysfunction depends on interactions between physical, psychological, sociocultural, and relational factors.4 Sexual activity with robots is a masturbatory practice, so someone with sexual dysfunction, which already leads to isolation, might become even more isolated by the illusion of having a substitute satisfaction.

These robots might also be used to satisfy the needs of disabled and elderly people.1 2 But sexuality is multidimensional (not exclusively physical, but also affective and relational), so this might also lead to increased isolation and frustration. Robots have no empathy or relational skills: they can only fake them.

Could sex robots reduce sexual crimes and paedophilia by directing these impulses towards objects rather than women and children? This is a misunderstanding of sexual violence and assumes that rapists and paedophiles are motivated by the need to satisfy sexual urges. Such a reductionist perspective trivialises the complexity of sexual violence, which involves issues of dominance and psychological manipulation. Robots do not suffer.

Accepting the production of these sex robots is unethical because it legitimises the objectification of human beings. The multiple concerns raised by such a business should be controlled and discussed by committees composed of experts in technology, sociology, psychology, and bioethics.



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