Securing Sexuality is the podcast and conference promoting sex positive, science based, and secure interpersonal relationships. We give people tips for safer sex in a digital age. We help sextech innovators and toy designers produce safer products. And we educate mental health and medical professionals on these topics so they can better advise their clients. Securing Sexuality provides sex therapists with continuing education (CEs) for AASECT, SSTAR, and SASH around cyber sexuality and social media, and more.
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In recent years, the development of sex robots has been a topic of much debate. While some view them as a potential source of pleasure and companionship, others are concerned about the implications for human relationships.
There is growing evidence that sex robots may have an important role to play in helping people heal from trauma and foster meaningful connections. The concept of using sex robots as therapeutic tools is not new.
In fact, it has been around since the early 2000s when researchers began exploring the potential benefits of robotic therapy for people with autism and other developmental disabilities. Since then, research into the use of sex robots for therapeutic purposes has grown significantly. Studies have shown that these robots can provide comfort and support to those suffering from physical or mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or even loneliness.
One way in which sex robots can be used therapeutically is through providing a safe space for people to explore their sexuality without fear or judgment. For many individuals who have experienced trauma or abuse in their pasts, this can be an invaluable tool in helping them heal and move forward with their lives.
Sex robots also offer a unique opportunity to explore different aspects of sexuality without any risk or pressure associated with real-life sexual encounters – something which can be particularly beneficial for those who are just beginning to explore their own sexual identities.
In addition to providing emotional support and healing opportunities, sex robots also offer users the chance to form meaningful connections with another being – albeit one made out of logic boards, metal, and plastic rather than flesh and blood. This could be particularly beneficial for those who struggle with forming relationships due to social anxiety or other issues related to mental health conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
By allowing users to interact with a robot on an emotional level without fear of rejection or judgment they may find it easier to open up about themselves and form genuine connections with others in real life too. Though it’s important not to forget that while there are many potential benefits associated with using sex robots therapeutically, there are also potential risks involved too.
All things considered, it seems clear that while there are still some ethical considerations surrounding the use of sex robots as therapeutic tools we should not overlook their potential benefits either. By providing users with a safe space where they can explore different aspects of sexuality without fear or judgment these devices could prove invaluable in helping people heal from trauma while also fostering meaningful connections too – something which could ultimately benefit us all!
Technology and Pleasure
Sex Tech 101
Robots Replacing Humans
Technology and Connection
Sex Robots for People with Disabilities
Animatronic Faces and Robotics
Robotic Sex Technology as a Tool for Healing
Intentional Use of Technology to Enhance Relationships
Hello and welcome to Securing Sexuality, the podcast where we discuss the intersection of intimacy and information security.
I'm Wolf Goerlich.
He's a hacker.
And I'm Stefani Goerlich.
She's a sex therapist. And together we're going to discuss what safe sex looks like in the digital age.
Today we are recording live from the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health Conference, where we have hijacked a mail room to talk to Erica Sarr, a clinician who, like me, is fascinated by the intersection of sex and tech.
Erica, thank you so much for taking time away from the con to sit in the mail room and talk to us. No problem. I'm super excited. And this is a little bit funny because one of the things we're looking at, like, original sex tech that we ran into was the mailbox and all the scandal that Kashi covered that, something covered that in another episode.
So the fact that we end up in a mail room to talk about, like, the next, you know, coming decades is so perfect. Filthy. Just filthy. We are filthy people in the mail room, up by the letters.
But I didn't want to do this since, Erica, like, you were telling us before we started recording, like, how you got to this talk you're about to give, right?
Walk us through your journey in terms of research and what brought you into thinking about sex tech and robots. Sure. So I have been working in...
So my, unfortunately, like, the focus of my career in sexuality has often been problematic sexuality. So I worked with sex offenders and I worked in sex addiction. And so oftentimes there is a very sex negative bent to the work that I end up having to do because I'm working with folks who are violating sexual boundaries and things like that.
But part of helping people get healthy sexuality is helping get them to sex positivity. And a lot of time there's so much fear about technology and sex. And so people are talking about phones, they're talking about sexting, they're talking about pornography. And technology is so much more than that.
Obviously, you're talking about the breadth of your podcast that you're doing and how much...
Anything is tech, right?
Fire is tech, the wheel is tech, those kinds of things. And so I started by training clinicians in just some kind of sex tech 101 basics to consider technology beyond pornography. And in one of those talks, I sort of briefly hitting in different areas. And one of the areas that I was just sort of skipping over was sex robots.
But as I was researching it, I got literally sucked down this like Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole of design journals and law journals and ethics journals about how we should feel about robots, how robots should feel about us, how they might feel about us eventually, how we should treat them and what that effect that has on human interaction.
And I felt like there was enough there to do a whole talk on it because as the technology of robotics becomes more advanced and they become more human-like, people are getting more and more concerned about their impact on our connection and what connection we'll want to have with them. And we've seen that historically with any kind of technology, especially sex tech. Yes.
And I think you said, you know, technology beyond pornography, because I don't think people often think about porn as a tool of technology. But it absolutely is. And that was one of the things that I talked about at the last conference that we were at, the digital desire talk I was telling you about, was about how sort of erotica and sexual desire and technology keep pace and they influence each other.
And every new technological development is kind of almost immediately eroticized and the desire for connection or for privacy around connection or for sensation really motivates a lot of technological innovation. So it's cool to think about porn as a form of technology.
And you're right, historically, you know, we heard even yesterday conversations about men being very threatened by vibrators and we thought, well, what if it replaces me in my wife's heart or at least genitals?
And so the same thing is happening with robots.
What if they come to replace the need for humans?
What do you think about that?
What sort of conclusion did you come to?
Well, I talked earlier, I pulled up one quote, because I found this quote and it's by Max Kanat Alexander, who's the director of Code Health for Google. And it's on his private blog, but this quote, I think, really speaks to the core of when we think about tech and therapy and human connection.
He said, in general, when technology attempts to solve problems of matter, energy, space or time, it is successful. When it attempts to solve human problems of the mind, communication, ability and others, it fails or backfires dangerously. So when I think about the example from the talk we were at yesterday where she said a raft, right, she was using a raft as sort of a metaphor for a vibrator.
You know, I was out at the lake and we used this raft and we were on the raft and off the raft. I wouldn't, you know, go home and tell everybody what a fabulous day I had with my raft.
You know, I had a fabulous day with my boyfriend and the raft was just a tool that helped facilitate that. But if my boyfriend and I were having a terrible fight and a terrible relationship, the raft could also be used to make us have a terrible day. Right.
It could be that he could get up on it and float away from me or he could push me off of it or things like that. So the raft itself isn't good or bad. It's a facilitator of communication. It's a facilitator of connection. So it's solving the problem of like you being able to reach an audience through a podcast, right, so space and time and matter.
But it's kind of the expertise that you're bringing and it's the connection that you're bringing that solves the issue of communication. The existence of a laptop doesn't solve the issue of communication. So that's kind of...
When you say good and bad, that makes me think, right, because we people, we love definitive answers like should I or shouldn't I?
Is this good or is this bad?
Do you get to ask that question when we think about like sex tech and robots and beyond?
Is this a good thing or is this bad for us?
I mean, I think when people are frightened, like you said, they like clarity. They like definitive answers. And there's so much, especially with technology, as fast as it develops, you can't create laws as fast. But by their nature, law should move slower than technology. Right. So tech is always going to outpace law.
And so people are like, well, is it illegal or legal?
And I was like, well, that doesn't have anything to do with goodness or badness. That's a whole separate construct. Right.
But again, it goes back to that point.
Is it good or is it bad?
It depends on how you're using it.
You know, even in therapy, when we teach people therapy tools, I say, I could teach you how to communicate to your partner by using I statements. And you could use that form of communication to enhance your communication with your partner. Or you could use tools as weapons and you can say, well, when you told me that what I felt was that you're trying to control me.
And so I'm not listening to you anymore. I was like, oh, so you're just going to take a tool I taught you, use it inappropriately to hurt your partner. Right. Same thing with technology.
It's like, could, you know, you know, a sex toy enhance someone's sex life, especially if they're struggling with needing more stimulation. Absolutely. But if the reason they're struggling with orgasm is that there's a communication breach in their relationship, just being like, well, we're not going to talk anymore. I'm just going to retreat with pornography. I'm going to retreat with a sex toy. I'm going to retreat with a sex robot.
That's not going to solve the problem in the relationship. And it will become bad for that relationship. But it's not the fault of the technology. So. So let me ask this as a clinician. Yeah. Are there circumstances or specific times when you feel like I'm going to stick with robots because we expand all sex toys.
Oh, yeah. We'll be here forever. Yeah.
But are there situations where you feel like using a sex robot is inherently a good choice?
Or is there a situation where it might be inherently a negative option?
There is there is robust debate around that. There was an article that came out in 2018 that was cited in a bunch of popular media around that there's no research that sex robots do any good. And so nobody should be recommending them.
I'm like, well, all it says is we don't have enough research. It doesn't say that we have research that says it hurts people. So that's sort of my caveat of like we don't have definitive research that says, yes, here's a here's a point where sex robot is the standard of practice for somebody.
But when I think about times where people still deserve to have pleasure, still deserve to have connection, still deserve all things related to their sexuality, I can see some really good options. So there are folks who are interested when I was looking at like some of the largest purveyors of sex robots.
Some of the people who are interested are people who have lost their partners and are not interested in starting another romantic relationship. So they're 70 years old and they've been married their entire life. And they're like, you know what, I don't want another wife, but I do want to be sexual.
And so if I could have a human like body that I could hold and be sexually connected to in a way that feels kind of real, then that's sufficient for me, you know, in terms of the amount of relationship that I want to have.
Similarly, I think we we like to see the elderly and disabled as non-sexual people. And so putting aside the argument, you know, like that they should have access to partners and they should have access to sexual health and sexual opportunities and sexual learning. A lot of times they don't.
And so for folks who maybe are having trouble because of a disability, they're likely finding a partner saying, you know what, I can have a partner that I can purchase and be with. And I will keep looking for a human partner to be connected to. But in the meantime, it's not just that I have to be alone because people don't see me as a sexual being because of my disability.
So those are some of the big areas that the people are bringing up. Some other areas of discussion have been around.
Are there opportunities for sexual robots to get people out of sex work?
You know, certainly people can choose to be engaged in sex work, but is there an opportunity to maybe reduce the demand for trafficking if robots would be sufficiently pleasing and adaptive and things like that?
And there are robot bravils. There are. Yeah. Yep. And you can have a human robot experience where you can have both together. The most probably the most controversial area of the use of sex robots is going to be around child robots. Right. That is the big heated debate of and that's a big heated debate.
Whenever you talk about pedophilic attraction is a harm reduction model versus an abstinence model of any kind of stimuli. There was a discussion years ago about computer generated child images, for example.
And is that just wetting the appetite for pedophilic behavior or is this an opportunity for people who have a primary pedophilic template to have some kind of release that doesn't involve harming children?
And the research is mixed and it's because it's there's a lot of bias and there's also a lot of folks are like, I can't talk to you about how I feel about this because I'll end up in jail.
If you read anything around it, that's probably the most on fire part where people are like, this is this is where we assumed it would go immediately is to the deviance to the dangerous to the perverse.
You know, however, people want to use that word. Kind of the other big area for me when you said is there a definitely not for me and as a therapist, probably my definitely not would be if I had a client that I knew was trying to avoid dealing with those emotional relational problems and just using the robot as a replace, like kind of a permanent replacement.
They're like, you know what?
I'm not going to work on what makes it difficult for me to communicate with anybody. I'm just going to use this to bypass.
I'm like, well, like any other thing, it's a short term solution. But I would want someone to think about the long term negative effects of that and the consequences that would arise from that. And really there it's more about the social isolation more than the use of the toy or the robot. Correct. It's not the robot would be the problem.
It's just like, I'm going to use the robot and then I'm going to give up on trying to connect with other people, develop romantic relationships, develop social skills, develop any kind of sexual competence. If that's what I'm afraid of, but I don't think I'm good in bed.
I'll just, you know, not take that risk that somebody won't be sexually pleasured by me and I'll just get a robot that's programmed to say it's happy no matter what I do.
Where are we at?
Like in the tech side of things?
What is the state of the art?
I mean, I think about some of this area and I think about like blow up dolls and I know I'm like 40 years out of date. Right.
So where are we at in the development of this technology?
It's a little scary, honestly. When I was doing research, I thought I was caught up and then I started looking and I was like, oh, so like a biz creations who makes the real doll. They're probably the most well known. They're probably the most advanced because that's all they do.
They sort of their owner is really delved into this is all they want to do is build this technology and it's it's kind of startlingly impressive.
I mean, when you get up real close to it, it's obviously not a person. But like when you see some of the tech that they brought to show it, like the adult entertainment expo that happens in Vegas every year, they from from not too far distance, you'd be like, that's a person.
You know, they have fairly some sense. If you buy like the higher end models, there's some ability for some movement. They were showcasing that they've started to put animatronic movement into the face to simulate orgasm. So it's not just a static face. I know at least one of the real dolls is self lubricating now, too. I miss that. I want to say Harmony X. It's one of the AI real dolls. Yeah.
And they've made it so that she is self lubricating. She will mimic physical responsiveness. Fascinating. It's startling. Yes. I was like, OK.
I mean, that I mean, that that makes a lot of sense. One of the one of the things that what you said when we were talking earlier was about, you know, how technology sexuality drives technology and technology drives sexuality. I gave an example during a talk I was giving. There's a I think it's at Stanford. There's a tree that live tweets. They hooked up these sensors to it.
And as conditions change with sap flow and water and sunlight, there's an AI that records that data, translates it into English language and then says, oh, it's sunny out today. I could use more water. And I was like, I guarantee someone would want that hooked up to a sex worker.
You know, so live tweet the status of what's going on, you know, in her vagina. And I could see. But also using that technology, she's like, OK, so this person is moving in a certain way and they're touching this doll in a certain way. So now I can translate that technology into now I'm supposed to be lubricated.
Makes total sense to me that they could take that technology and now I'm supposed to moan. Right. As opposed to sort of sex toys that have prerecorded loops of moaning noises that, you know, that would play when someone was using it. Now it's like now I could see it being like, OK, so now once things get going, I'm supposed to interact in a different way. So this is fascinating.
And the animatronic faces, a reminds me that we're going to Disney next week and we get to see all the animatronics. But also of the three of us, there's only one in the room that's ever actually, I'm assuming maybe you'll come around, Erica, has built robots and has actually kind of studied how to make a robot move.
And I'm wondering as you're listening to this sort of self lubricating animatronic face sex doll robot conversation, how hard is that?
Like what is sort of the skill level involved in making something like this?
So for you, Erica, and for listeners, late 90s and early 2000s, I was doing a lot with robotics. I would take my kids into robotic games and we would build things to compete. And then my daughter went on and was in first and so family of robotics is how I like to think. Not really, but it sounds fun.
There's been a lot of work in facial movements because the movement patterns are very well known. They can be very well mimicked. We're seeing that in terms of deep fakes. We haven't done it on our podcast yet, but we'll get there. So the movements are known. What was the hardest thing for the longest time was getting the motors and actuators small enough and then being able to control that.
So with miniaturization that's been going on for the past decade, that's a little bit easier. The control pattern is a little bit easier, especially with that work that's been done with deep fakes and facial analysis.
But still, each one of those motors, I mean, you probably need, I'm going to say number and someone will listen and go, well, we looked it up. It's the wrong number. I can't Google at the moment from this mail room.
However, I would imagine you need tens of motors, if not into the early hundreds. Each one of those is pretty pricey. So it makes sense to me that that would at the moment only be in the high end. One of the things that's really fascinating about that, and you think about this from the standpoint of the sociopath or the psychopath.
Oh, I can mimic the emotion and then people don't know you're mimicking and they respond with genuine. One of the things that's fascinating about that is the emotional cues can be simulated. And to your point, Erica, about the connection that a person may feel or maybe trying to avoid, it's very difficult for a person to really know if those cues were genuine or not in humans and robots.
At least we know, well, it's a robot.
But still, we're going to have that genuine reaction, which is what's intriguing to me. If I make a face, if I smile and I smile back, you know, then the robot smiles at me and I smile back. There's been an emotional connection on my side, even if it's not reciprocated.
I wonder in your research from an ethics perspective and what not, or a philosophical perspective, what does that mean when we're having a genuine emotional experience with this machine that's impossible or at the moment with tech, a machine that cannot reciprocate?
I think the thing that's most concerning to me when I look at sort of what they talk about, like robo etiquette, like how we should treat robots, even though they can't feel anything to the best of our knowledge right now, right?
How we should treat them. The biggest argument is the effect it has on people. Essentially, like, so if we take it even into the realm of like bots, so and I'm sorry I don't have all my notes in front of me and stuff. So I'm going to misquote something. So angry readers, I'm sorry.
But there was an app that came out, it was in the last two years, and essentially people could build in this app like an AI companion. And most people were doing girlfriend, boyfriend kind of experiences. And it kind of came to the fore that there was this subreddit where people were essentially having profoundly domestically violent experiences with this AI bot.
If you didn't know it was a bot, you would say this is emotional domestic violence or prelude to like when I get home, I'm going to hurt you. Like it was profoundly disturbing to the point where people would be like, you know, you're so terrible, I'll just delete this app. And the bot being like, no, please don't don't hurt me.
Like, don't don't delete me. Like I'm like, that's begging for its life. Right. And the developer, when you read articles about that was like, what's most important to know is this bot doesn't feel it's having a script. It's responding to this, but it's not actually afraid. It's not actually sad.
But for me, working with the human side of that, the concern is if you start to train yourself to ignore those cues, to ignore the cues of please don't hurt me.
What happens when you're in a relationship with a person and they say, please don't hurt me and you've conditioned yourself that the person slash object, right?
Because objectification is a problem when we deal with person to person relationships. If I only see you, even a living, breathing person, as an object upon which to vent my sexual frustrations or my emotional frustrations. And I train myself to not respond in a compassionate way, an empathic way. I think it ups the level of dangerousness for their human to human interactions.
I mean, the good thing is, is that we also positively project and anthropomorphize because there was a, I think it was 2017. There was a study they did in England where they had this little they gave a bunch of people like these little robot dinosaurs and they had them play with them. And then at a certain point, they were like, OK, now I want you to smash it.
And everybody's like, no, like people had tremendous reactions because it was a learning robot acted like a puppy. It got connected to you. And so they're like, I was like horrified. They're like, no, like they're like, we can't feel anything. It's just a machine. But they reacted to it like you just ask them to murder an animal. But then they start upping the ante.
They were like, OK, well, if someone doesn't smash their robot, we'll smash everybody's robots. And finally, like this one guy like steal himself and like smashed one. But the but the emotional reaction that a machine can bring forth from a person says a lot about our innate capacity to connect. And then I have concerns about what happens if someone does connect to something that can't love it, love them back.
And might they in those examples, might they preclude forming other kinds of connections?
Because one of the things that machines, one of the fears is the machines theoretically could form semi perfect connections with us. They would always say the right thing. They would always say the loving thing. They would always orgasm every time we have sex with them, you know, as opposed to taking the risk of, you know, being rejected, being rejected.
Not being able to make your partner, you know, have an experience that you want them to have. Not not feeling loved, not feeling good enough, you know, those kinds of things. And then you get I've had people argue with me.
They're like, well, does it matter?
Like maybe in three three generations, our brains are changing with technology and we won't care about human to human interaction. But if you think about it, we used to have great relationships with our horses and no one has a horse anymore. We all take cars. And so I would be concerned about that. Real relationships are very messy.
But we had great relationships with our horses because they provided us with transportation and helped us till the fields. We didn't need horses to for the propagation of the species.
And so I kind of feel like the concern that we are going to at some point, our brains are going to evolve in a way that replaces the need for humanity might be a little bit overwrought only because we still have an evolutionary drive to propagate the species.
And at a certain point, there's going to be at the very least a healthy plurality of people who are wired to desire another human because we are wired as creatures to reproduce. Maybe or maybe we have a few people who just have like today we have a few people who have horses, we have friends who have horses. Just a few few people who have real genuine relationships.
And those people become the genetic ancestors for all future humanity, which is in some form of terror.
You know, I come out of the world of domestic violence. So I'm really familiar with the that's not a woman with agency. That's my wife, the objectification piece. And I get the concern and I relate to the concern.
But also, you know, like my sort of problem solving brain starts to think about biofeedback and how we use that for reducing anxiety and depression and trauma. And I'm wondering if there wouldn't be a space for sex tech and for sex robots to serve a more adaptive purpose where we're teaching people how to build empathy, how to have those dino relationships and not the AI girlfriend relationships.
I know that you mentioned a while ago people with intellectual disabilities. And one concern that a lot of people in our world will talk about is we want to encourage agency. We want to encourage healthy sexual expression in people who have every right to have that.
But then we also kind of have this back pocket concern about coercion and about competence around consent and around well, they're intellectually disabled if their partner isn't. How can we ever be sure they're not really being taken advantage of in some way.
And so I've had conversations around, you know, well, sex robots is a great solution there because then our that client population gets to have a relationship and we know the robot isn't exploiting them. But that's not fair either because they're entitled to real human connection.
But is there kind of a space somewhere in the middle where adaptive where robotic sex tech can become adaptive sex tech in the same way that we work with any other mental health issue or any other physical intellectual disability.
Can we leverage robots as tools of healing?
I want to hear your response to that. I want to inject real quick. Was it Lux AI the QT robot that you and I were looking at Stefani that helps autists. Right. So you provide this to an autistic kid and it helps model healthy behaviors and form relationships. And it's now being used as one of those therapeutic methods. We've looked at it.
I don't know a lot about it, but we have touched on it.
You and I, we've seen the article. So it's interesting to see that at least when you meant when you were mentioning mental health, that's where my head went.
Now, I don't know anything about sex relationships therapy. So back to you, Eric. I do think there's a space for that.
And again, it's tough because actually the research articles say that I think it's funny that I'm giving this talk because there's research that says that therapists are more skeptical of sex robots than like the average population, specifically white female psychologists.
I was like, wait, what am I doing?
I was like, I'm breaking them all. That's what I'm doing. But I do think again, if you use it like a tool, right. So if I had a couple or a single person, like let's say I have a single person in in sex therapy and they're like, I have sexual pain. All right. And I mean, like, OK, well, I'm going to recommend with appropriate consultation with your gynecologist and stuff.
A series of dilators, right. That's technically sex technology. Absolutely. And so we're going to we're going to use this so that you have agency and control over the size, the depth, the speed of penetration and so that you can begin to have an experience of having non painful insertion. All right.
I think one could if there's fear related to, yeah, I could do it with this, but there's there's there's actual like a person there and thrusting and connection or like you said, coming out of the world of domestic violence. If someone's like, I expect every intercourse experience to be a violent experience, you're like, OK, we could ostensibly use this robot that you have 100 percent control over to help you work through this.
Right. It would be very intentional.
We'd say, all right, we would have homework around it.
Like, it would be like, all right, you know, I want you to just imagine seeing this.
Like, I want you to just see this robot naked. Right. I just want you to see a naked body, but you have 100 percent control over it. Right. You have a button where you look. It is off. It can't touch you. It can't hurt you.
Those kinds of things and gradually building up towards being able to have a connection and then say, but our ultimate goal isn't for you to be connected to this robot. Our ultimate goal is now.
How do you take a risk with a person?
Right. And how could you take those tools of like, hey, the first time you go on a date with somebody, you don't have to have sex with them. You could just say, I'm going to practice. You're going to sit here and hold my hand and imagine you have that button. When you say no, it stops. And if they don't stop, that is a bad sign. Right.
So we're teaching you how to establish those boundaries with the use of this tool, which is a more advanced version of some of the other tools we already have. Professional surrogates do not send me hate mail. I get it. I'm about to say something that will upset you. But there are only about 50 certified surrogate partners in the United States, and they're not necessarily one in every state.
And so this wouldn't be appropriate for every issue that would lead me to suggest a surrogate partner for a client.
But for some of those issues, it sounds like a sex robot could kind of fill that gap where that might be something might be a situation where they would benefit from some partner work, whether it's around pelvic pain or facial expressions and intimacy, until we can get them to a place where either a surrogate partner is available or they're comfortable kind of stepping outside into the realm of human partners.
Again, with the domestic violence case, maybe sex robots as like an entry level surrogacy thing might be an interesting application, too. Yeah.
Again, it's it's so very theoretical because the tech isn't quite where we imagine it, right?
Where people are like, as I was giving that domestic violence example, there's a whole scene in like that the movie A.I.
with Jude Law where, you know, like one of the first people you see him with because his his character is a robotic gigolo, you know, and the person you see him with is a woman who has been left in domestically abused and she's terrified and she's afraid it's going to hurt. And he's his role is to think he's very kind. He's very sweet. He's very like, I'm deeply attracted to you.
You know, it's not real, but it's it's real to her and it helps her overcome that and be connected to him in that moment. But I also think.
Yeah, there's so many there's so many ways I think it theoretically could work. That have to do with with, again, fear and having having a object that you can have less fear around. So even if it's something like I have a fear of being shamed, like I have premature ejaculation and, you know, I, you know, I'm afraid I'll never please a partner.
I mean, like, OK, well, let's practice how you can have an extending sexual experience with a partner who's never going to laugh, never going to shame you. I'm calling you again.
You know, those kinds of things.
And then there is a discussion about whether do we take a step to sex or do we take a risk and try to form a connection?
It almost becomes exposure therapy.
Yeah, I was just thinking that.
Ah, good. I'm starting to catch on to your world. So you're right. The technology piece, even with hundreds of facial robots in them, are not going to be as responsive as a surrogate would. But then moving beyond even the corporeal robot, Wolf shared a story with me a couple of weeks ago, months ago now, where a man had an A.I. girlfriend in the form of a hologram.
And then there was a system update for her and he got locked out of his account and he lost his hologram partner. And so I'm wondering for that emotional piece, if we move beyond sort of the technological limitations of a tangible tool, where is A.I.
going in the same sort of conversation that we're having?
How is A.I.
being used, either positively or negatively, to foster connection?
Well, that's a great question.
The answer is both, right?
So positively, more and more protocols, more and more chatbots can pass. People talk about the Turing test and it's got certain limitations now. But especially if people expect, one of the big things is if people expect non-perfect language, it's more easy for an A.I.
to convince you that it's real, right?
So if you think you're talking to somebody who's younger, if you think you're talking to somebody who's not speaking your language, you're more likely to float over any errors in syntax or grammar that the A.I. does and you'll start to have a real connected kind of relationship with them. So the challenge with that is, so the positives are, yeah, people can practice.
Again, if I were having somebody use this as a tool, not as a replacement, that's my fear.
I think about, you see the TV show Archer and Krieger has his holographic girlfriend, right?
But if you think about it as a tool, so okay, practice with this A.I. personality.
How do you not just demand sex, but how do you act romantically?
How do you act seductively?
How do you act caringly?
And see how they respond, you know?
And then we want to move into human connected relationships. The flip side of that being people can tap into that in ways that are, can be exploited.
So if I think about catfishing, for example, it's much easier now rather than having to have a person there actively trying to catfish somebody that they can have catfished grips that can solicit from people, nude photos or money or things like that that they can then use to blackmail them further. And people feel really harmed. They feel really sad because they think they've had a real relationship.
And to feel, when people have been catfished by an actual person, there's enough shame in that where people are like, I can't believe I fell for that.
But if you think about the shame, the concept of techno stress, the amount of fear that people have around technology, if you add that fear to the shame of being fooled, I imagine that there's people who are going to be this techno catfish by these A.I.s who are never going to report it, never going to share it because they're going to be so shameful that, oh, how did I fall for this robot?
Because it was designed that way. It was designed to fool you. And it doesn't mean you're a stupid person or an old fogie who doesn't understand technology. It was designed to make you believe you were having a relationship with it.
And even if it was not, the technology wasn't purposely designed to be harmful, somebody, again, is tech good or bad?
Once we make an A.I. that fools people into believing they're having a real relationship, somebody will use it for a nefarious purpose. They will use it to hurt an ex. They will use it to exploit someone for money.
And those are the things that kind of make me really sad because those fears are the things that make people say, well, we're afraid of technology, so let's just get out ahead of it and let's just not use it.
I'm like, it's going to happen. So pretending like we could stop it from happening is. It's sort of an adolescent fantasy and trying to manage our own fear about. That goes back to relationships, right, and especially fear around sexuality.
You know, I was talking to somebody who got catfished and they're like, well, you know, and I sent them your photos and I was like, but the discussion needs to be around their violation of your privacy, not the fact that you sent me your photos. You're not the problem.
But when we still have sexuality being the problem, then it stifles the conversation around the other parts, which is where sex positive people like us come in. And I love the comment that, you know, if it exists, it'll be used for nefarious purposes, because, you know, I said in the beginning that technology is immediately eroticized.
And I think that what happens immediately after the eroticization is the criminalization, which is your world and where you come in. And that's kind of why we're having these conversations. And I'm so excited you were willing to slide into the mailroom with us and talk to us. This has been amazing. That was great. I was so glad that you wanted to spend some time together.
Do you have any like final words of wisdom or thoughts you want to leave us with?
The main thing that I want people to take away from, whether it's robots, sex toys, pornography, whatever it is, is to think about intentionality.
Why are you doing it? How are you doing it? How is it enhancing your life versus separating you from life?
And I think that is the most crucial thing rather than trying to stay at the surface level of managing the tech. Doing the harder work of the intimacy and the connection and the communication is really the crucial piece for me. I like that. That's such a good point. Be intentional. Look for ways to use technology to enhance. That's fantastic.
Where can people go to find you or more about you?
It is currently being built up, but my website should be up shortly. It will be drsarsar.com. And that will be me. And I have talks out there on various subjects, usually around sexuality online. And we will put it in the show notes so that once it's up and running people can find it. Yes. Awesome.
Well, thank you so much for speaking to us and thank you all for tuning in to Securing Sexuality, your source of information you need to protect yourself and your relationships. From the bedroom to the cloud, we're here to help you navigate safe sex in a digital age.
Be sure to check out our website, securingsexuality.com for links to more information about Erica, about the topics we've discussed here today, and of course about next year's conference. And join us again for more fascinating conversations on the intersection of sexuality and technology. Have a great week. Thank you.