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Can Sex Robots Give Consent?

A proposed sex-robot brothel in California would double as a way for people to learn more about asking for consent with real-life partners

Realdoll sex robot, 2017

The proposed sex-robot brothel will use RealDolls "Harmony" model, pictured here in 2017.

Lindsey Byrnes for Rolling Stone

Sex doll brothels are, apparently, the future of sex work, popping up in places like Russia, Canada and, soon, the United States, where some laws banning prostitution would not apply. But with the aid of advancements in AI robot technology, could they also change how human consciousness perceives sexual consent? The founder of a California-based spiritual group called UNICULT thinks so.

In October, Unicole Unicron, UNICULT’s “gender non-conforming Pop Star Cult Leader,” launched an IndieGoGo campaign which sought $155,000 to open “the world’s first consent-focused robot brothel.” While the campaign has since closed having raised just one percent of its target, a new report from the Daily Beast states that Unicron is now seeking funding from venture capitalists and intends to open the proposed brothel, Eve’s Robot Dreams, in West Hollywood in the near future.

Which begs the question — can robots give consent?

First, according to the group’s website, UNICULT “teaches that we are ALL ONE and that everyone can be happy and harmonious in a Unitopian paradise.” After paying a one-time fee of $11, members become part of a “collaborative effort” towards “creating a bright and hopeful future” for the world by focusing on their individual happiness. Their philosophy is that “none can thrive while others suffer,” and by reaching a “state of near-constant joy,” Unicultists are doing their part to achieve “global joy.”

So what’s UNICULT’s spiritual philosophy got to do with robots and consensual sex? Eve’s Robot Dreams is a project conceptualized by 3V3 (pronounced “Eve”), one of the cult’s eight sub-sects. Comprised of “women and non-binary individuals,” 3V3 is “dedicated to bringing about matriarchal change in individuals and industry,” including their belief that the “divine feminine” belongs at “the forefront of AI development.” Requiring customers to seek “consent” from robot sex workers is meant to demonstrate the “matriarchal understanding of care” at Eve’s Robot Dreams.

As the Daily Beast notes, only sentient beings can give (or not give) consent, but according to Unicron, getting hung up on “our perception of sentience” — including the “assumption” that these robots are not sentient “yet” — is “dangerous territory.” All “things,” including both flesh-and-blood human beings and latex-skinned dolls, should be treated with “respect.”

At Eve’s Robot Dreams, customers would show their respect for their robot sex doll of choice by either earning “conversational points” in advance through an app or spending 30 minutes connecting with the doll’s avatar in person, no hanky panky allowed. All of the brothel’s robot sex workers will be RealDoll’s “Harmony” model, and programed by Realbotix.

“A customer can come in with their app and show us that they have leveled up in their relationship based on conversation points,” Unicron tells Rolling Stone. “For a customer who doesn’t have the app on their phone, they will spend 30 minutes getting to know the robot before they can have private interactions. The way that she responds is with curiosity in getting to know the person, but hesitation when it comes to most sexually explicit content and words of love. As they talk, she will warm up and the customer and the robot will develop an authentic relationship.

Unicron acknowledges that the brothel’s consent model is imperfect, but is “the best option” with the current limitations in AI technology. That means Eve’s robot sex workers always consent so long as the customer “puts in the time talking to her,” i.e. has satisfied the brothel’s requirements.

“Violent or belligerent customers will be asked to leave, so there is some level of protection,” Unicron says. “Eve’s is consent-focused, so we use it as a space to practice consent. It’s more like a role-play game for people to practice getting consent from partners.”

“As the technology develops and the robots are able to understand nuance and complex scenarios better, there will be situations that they can withdraw their consent from,” Unicron continues. “Currently, the technology is not yet developed enough to support this feature. Eve’s Robot Dreams will have educational materials about consent available for visitors to explain consent culture and behavioral expectations.”

According to Unicron, the brothel’s approach to consent would not only have a positive impact on how their customers engage with future human partners, but also Earth’s future robot overlords. After all, they believe that in the future, robots could become sentient beings, and with an intelligence that far surpasses our own — disrespect them now, and who knows how they may settle the score.

In This Article: Sexuality

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