Clarisse shut down her phone, promising herself she’d never get on that “dating” app again. She couldn’t pretend to like one more unsolicited "dick pic" - she’d rather be celibate! Juggling her job as a single mom was all she had time for anyway. She poured a glass of wine as she waited for her edible brownie to kick in.
As she dealt with some long-overdue emails, something interesting came across her screen. A gorgeous man? No, a gorgeous robot! Clarisse laughed out loud and clicked on the image, just for kicks. Maybe her edible was kicking in, but maybe this was a solution! Clarisse played around with custom designing her guy. A designer lover may be just what the doctor ordered! “YOLO” she said to herself as she clicked the purchase button, “I never buy myself anything anymore!
The next morning Clarisse saw the receipt in her inbox. “I deserve this!” she assured herself as she left for work. “Guys are worthless these days!”
Weeks later she received a notice that she needed to sign for a package. No doubt that was him! Clarisse was a bit unnerved and got her best friend Lucy to join her for the unveiling. Lucy was more than happy to be in on it, and got the whole thing on video. It was a bit creepy at first but OMG it was hilarious, getting him out of the box! They took turns playing with him even before they turned him on. Finally, a real man in her bed! Posting shots of him on social media was the most fun either of them had in years!
Can you relate to Clarisse? So many women can. In the nearly twenty-five years that I’ve been a practicing psychologist, I’ve seen socio-cultural shifts that make lifelong romantic relationships more challenging - and less enticing - for many. For better or for worse, these powerful changes are probably just beginning.
For example, we no longer require a partner to live comfortably in Western culture. Women are no longer dependent on a man for income, and men are no longer dependent on a woman to run a household or raise a family. Need, whether we like it or not, accounted for a substantial amount of the glue that kept couples together in decades past. Furthermore, since we spend lots of time on social media observing what appears to be other people’s amazing romances, expectations for our own relationships are higher than ever. It’s not adequate to just be “satisfied” with your partner. We want perfection from ourselves and our lovers. Women should be intelligent, sexy, and great lovers who are willing to participate sexually like the stars of porn movies. Men should be emotionally sensitive but still productive financially, great parents, and confident sex partners. F
ew of us can actually live up to these expectations. We are constantly letting ourselves and our partners down. Clarisse may be having a hard time finding a relationship, yet it’s easier than ever to find alternative partners for hook-ups or an affair. There are just so many apps and websites geared just for that purpose. The world is now filled with potential sex partners in a way we have never before, in the history of humankind, experienced.
So, while most of us agree that our sociocultural evolution is progressive and constructive, these changes have brought new challenges to romance. People are having less sex than they used to, and rates of sexual concerns and dysfunctions remain quite high. And then there are sex robots.
Most experts agree that within two to five decades, humanoid sex robots will be on the scene. More sophisticated than those available now, they will move, look and talk more like a human. And even before sex robots become an affordable alternative to a human partner, sex tech – such as VR porn – is already changing the way people get their sexual needs met. In case you didn’t know, VR porn amps up the intensity of old-fashioned pornography, making it more engaging.
Advancements in sex tech offer benefits for many – people without sex partners can enjoy the experience of a creative and varied sex life, and couples can amp up their sexual repertoires by incorporating sex tech into their love lives. But we probably want to go forth into our intimate future with a little more awareness of what’s unfolding. Technology interfaces all aspects of our lives, changing the way we eat, communicate, travel, and even have sex.
Sooner than we may expect, sex robots will be capable of meeting people’s sexual needs - for better and for worse. So, as any therapist worth their salt would suggest, let’s discuss it! Communication is key. We have the power to utilize sex tech in ways that enhance our intimate relationships - or detract from them. Now is the time for us to begin a dialogue about how we want the intimate relationships of our future to look and feel. Our love and vulnerability, and our ability to give and receive love all become only more critical as technology advances. Let’s capitalize on the best of our humanness and co-create the future of intimacy.
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