Kathleen Richardson’s Campaign Against Sex Robots

Kathleen Richardson is a feminist and long time abolitionist against prostitution, and has founded the Campaign Against Sex Robots. She describes her position at a TEDx event.

Not everyone is excited about the idea of sex robots. Certainly not some feminists. In fact, many feminists are taking a public stand against sex robots and actively campaigning against them.

One such person is Kathleen Richardson. She is a feminist and longtime abolitionist against prostitution, and has founded the Campaign Against Sex Robots. Her mission, to summarize, is to stop the development of sex robots because their use further sexually objectifies women and children, is potentially harmful and will contribute to inequalities in society.

She took the stage at a TEDx event to explain her position, and we’ve included the video of her talk above. It’s quite a bit of academic gobbledygook, but we do understand her point. I can’t say we completely either agree or disagree with her, because if we’re being completely honest, this is not something that is black and white. A watching of the HBO series Westworld should convince you of that. However, sex robots are coming, and groups like hers won’t be stopping the natural progression of sex and technology.

Here is how she describes her campaign on her website, About page:

Over the last decades, an increasing effort from both academia and industry has gone into the development of sex robots – that is, machines in the form of women or children for use as sex objects, substitutes for human partners or prostituted persons. The Campaign Against Sex Robots highlights that these kinds of robots are potentially harmful and will contribute to inequalities in society. We believe that an organized approach against the development of sex robots is necessary in response to the numerous articles and campaigns that now promote their development without critically examining their potentially detrimental effect on society. As humanoid robots become more widespread it is necessary to develop an engaged ethical response to the development of these new technologies.

The ideas behind the campaign were launched in a paper presented at Ethicomp 2015, and are in summary:

  • We believe the development of sex robots further sexually objectifies women and children.
  • The vision for sex robots is underscored by reference to the prostitute-john exchange which relies on recognizing only the needs and wants of the buyers of sex, the sellers of sex are not attributed subjectivity and reduced to a thing (just like the robot).
  • The development of sex robots and the ideas to support their production show the immense horrors still present in the world of prostitution which is built on the “perceived” inferiority of women and children and therefore justifies their use as sex objects.
  • We propose that the development of sex robots will further reduce human empathy that can only be developed by an experience of mutual relationship.
  • We challenge the view that the development of adult and child sex robots will have a positive benefit to society, but instead further reinforce power relations of inequality and violence.
  • We take issue with those arguments that propose that sex robots could help reduce sexual exploitation and violence towards prostituted persons, pointing to all the evidence that shows how technology and the sex trade coexist and reinforce each other creating more demand for human bodies.

    Read the full paper here

We propose that:

  • We propose to campaign to support the development of ethical technologies that reflect human principles of dignity, mutuality and freedom.
  • All human beings regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender and class have the right to have their subjectivity recognized, but not at the expense of another through violence, discrimination or coercion.

Our goals over the coming year will be to:

  • Welcome new members to join our campaign and join in on the discussion.
  • To encourage computer scientists and roboticists to examine their own conscience when asked to provide code, hardware or ideas to develop this field.
  • To build alliances with campaigns against the sexual exploitation of humans.
  • To create a new and alternative voice to highlight the dangers of producing sex robots and the ideas behind them and how their production will impact on the real lives of women and children and men.

You can read her full Position Paper, entitled “The Asymmetrical ‘Relationship’: Parallels Between Prostitution and the Development of Sex Robots“:

Realdoll sex robot

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