Sex

This Is How Many People Have Fantasized About Robot Sex

New research finds that men are more open to sex with a robot than women.

Posted Dec 18, 2018

Much has been said and written lately about sex robots and how they’re on the cusp of revolutionizing our sex lives. Many of the articles I've read have made the assumption that there’s a lot of demand and desire for sex robots, but is that really the case? I mean, how many people are actually into the idea of getting it on with a bot? And are these robots really likely to replace a lot of human-on-human sex?

I collected data from more than 4,000 Americans about their sexual fantasies for my book Tell Me What You Want, and the results can speak to these questions. I asked my participants whether they had ever fantasized about sex with a robot before and it turned out that 14.3 percent of them had done so. However, the numbers varied greatly based on gender identity.

123RF/willyambradberry 
About 1 in 10 women and 1 in 5 men have fantasized about robot sex.
Source: 123RF/willyambradberry 

Whereas just 10.7 percent of self-identified females reported having had a fantasy about sex with a robot, the number was quite a bit higher (17 percent) among self-identified males. It's worth noting that those who identified as non-binary (about 5 percent of the sample, most of whom described themselves as trans or genderqueer), were the most likely to say they've had fantasies about sex with a robot (22.8 percent). 

To be clear, fantasizing about something doesn’t necessarily mean you want to do it. Fantasy and desire are overlapping constructs, but they certainly aren't synonymous. 

The vast majority of people who had robot fantasies had them infrequently, which suggests that most folks who have fantasized about robots probably don't have a strong desire for them. Indeed, just 1.2 percent of women, 1.4 percent of men, and 4.3 percent of non-binary folks said they fantasize about sex with robots often (i.e., they selected the highest point on the scale), which means that it’s a pretty small group for whom robot sex even reflects a strong interest. 

I think a big part of the reason interest in robot sex isn’t bigger is because, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, most of us are seeking to meet emotional needs through sex a lot of the time, such as feeling desired, validated, sexually competent, or loved. In fact, as I discuss in Tell Me What You Wantmore than 70 percent of my participants said that they rarely or never have fantasies about emotionless sex, which means that more often than not, there’s some emotional component to our fantasies. 

Put another way, our fantasies usually aren’t just about a mechanical sex act—and mechanical sex is literally what robots provide. Certainly, it may be possible for robots to offer some emotional connection with the right programming and appearance. To the extent that robots can eventually be created where you can have what feels like a pretty human interaction (you know, like the robots depicted in Westworld and Ex Machina), people may begin warming up to the idea.

It's important to note that while the data discussed here come from a large and diverse sample of Americans, it was not representative of the population. People who agree to participate in sex studies tend to have less traditional views about sex; as a result, it's possible that these numbers, if anything, may even be overestimating interest in sex robots. 

With all of that said, I found that about 1 in 7 survey respondents said they’d fantasized about sex with a robot before; however, genuine interest in robot sex seemed to be relatively low, given that less than 1.5 percent of men and women fantasized about this often. It’s far too early to say what role robots will ultimately play in our sex lives going forward, but these numbers suggest that the sex robot revolution we’ve been hearing so much about may be a bit overhyped.

References

Lehmiller, J. J. (2018). Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. Da Capo Lifelong Books.