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Prominent medical ethicist supports sex with robots

By Karl Benzio, MD | December 17, 2015

Excerpted from Nothing Wrong With Your Patients Having Sex With Robots,” Medscape. November 18, 2015 — I'm Art Caplan at the Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center. We've all made jokes about blow-up dolls for sex. Well, it turns out that's old-fashioned technology. Coming down the road soon, we'll have sex robots. These robots are going to be programmed so that if you wanted them to be, they could be sexual surrogates for individuals.

The robots are being made and programmed as we speak. So, I think we can expect patients to ask their physicians soon, "Could you prescribe this for me? Is this something I should use? What do you think, doc?" Well, interesting enough, some people object. What they say is, "We see this coming, and we don't like it. We don't like it, first, because it objectifies sex when you're doing those things with a machine or an object." There's even been a little bit of complaint that we shouldn't objectify sex by letting robots become sexual.

I have to say, I don't find either of these arguments persuasive. It is true that robots are machines, but there are plenty of machines doing all kinds of things for us now. Robots are flying us in the air, driving us down the highway, and showing us pornography on our computer terminals (not mine, but I hear that's going on).

We don't think, my gosh! We violated our dignity and human rights because we're using machines to take over tasks that might have been done by other humans. I think that over the years, we've seen that people adapt to technology and the technology can adapt to them. It may even be helpful for people who are shy, or trying to learn what to do, to have some kind of an automated friend help them. It may even turn out that people in such places as prisons and so forth may find an outlet or release that isn't available any other way.

I can see some social good coming from robot sex. At the end of the day, even though it may sound strange, even though it may sound a bit—if you will—dehumanizing, I think this is a technology that has a good application.


Commentary

Dr. Karl BenzioFounder, Executive Director and Psychiatrist at Lighthouse Network Karl Benzio, MD: “Seems like: The Jetsons Visit Sodom and Gomorrah. I would expect these justifications—viewing sex with a robot as just another wise use of technology, a therapeutic tool helping shy people or even an outlet for prisoners who are restricted from sex—to come from a sex obsessed teen, a go-for-it as long as it hurts no one hedonist or someone in the sex industry. But I certainly don’t expect it to come from the Chair of Medical Ethics at NYU.

“Interestingly, while advocating for sex with a robot, he seems to distance himself morally from the use of pornography. With no degree in medicine, psychology or spirituality, he puts sex in the same reductionist category as many other solitary, morally-neutral activities.

“Sexual activity is designed by God as a symbolic and actual step, the voluntary consummation, between husband and wife fully uniting as one, not to be pulled apart or separated. This union involves a baring and sharing of our inner core and opportunity to express our commitment, connection, submission and sacrifice of everything we are and have to the one we love. Sex isn’t just a physical union, but it is a truly dynamic and reciprocally interactive psychological and spiritual union magnifying this powerful relationship.

“Removing the spiritual and psychological aspects while reducing sex to be the level and crudeness of many other simple daily activities leads to the many misuses and consequences our hyper-sexualized but significantly sexually and relationally dysfunctional society is reaping. Beware, Satan will certainly tempt us with many impostors promising peace, joy, love and connection but delivering loneliness, despair, frustration and destruction. Not sure how much more impostor-like he can get than a robot.”

Contact Dr. Benzio

Resources

CMDA Resources on Sexuality
CMDA’s Ethics Statement on Human Sexuality
Mighty Media and Our Youth by Joe McIlhaney, MD

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