Posted on | February 14, 2016
In my long-running erotic space opera, The Journal Entries, there’s been an almost as long-running thread around sexbots. With few exceptions, the sexbot stories have always been about second-hand robots; ones whose previous owners for one reason or another have died or abandoned the robot, leaving her (it’s almost always a “her” robot) to figure out how to live life without someone who absolutely needs and requires her presence.
Part of the reason I have avoided “first owner” stories is that they don’t interest me; my own reasoning is that men would buy a completely deferent sexbot because they themselves are not very competent human beings, because actual relationships with real individuals are hard, and because they’re the sort of men who would take an easy route out rather than engage in any sort of self-examination.
It may show my lack of thought, but until today I hadn’t stopped to connect that thought with two other ideas running through the fabric of our society. On the one hand, the Men’s Rights Activist movement is eagerly awaiting the emergence of sexbots, woman-shaped substitutes that will provide them with the release valve they say they need.
On the other hand, there’s the idea that women are called upon to engage in “unpaid emotional labor.” Emotional labor is the requirement of a job to depict specific emotional states toward customers or clients: you must be cheerful, or optimistic, or attentive, all emotional states you must somehow pretend to have even when your own life is not any of those things. “Unpaid emotional labor” is the acknowledgement that, outside of work, men are allowed to be angry or grim, whereas a woman being any of those things in public is assailed with requests to “cheer up” and “stop being a downer debbie.”
Relationships require some emotional labor from all parties involved. But sexbots don’t require any emotional labor at all. The “good enough” AIs MRAs eagerly await will do all of the work, and need nothing in return.
Which brings us back to the main point I’ve been making about men and sex. I fully believe that upwards of one-third of all men really don’t like sex. They like orgasms and they like expressions of their potency, but the whole sex thing, its sticky, icky wetness, the need to study and learn its ins and outs, its requirement that one negotiate fairly with a partner and come to an agreement on getting everyone’s needs met, just isn’t their thing. It’s too much work.
So when MRAs breathlessly await the coming sexbot revolution, what they’re really saying is simple: MRAs are lousy men. They’re bad at being human beings. And they don’t want to learn. “Relationships are hard. Let’s go shopping.”