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The Men Committed to Replacing Women With A.I. Sex Dolls

If RealDolls aren’t woman enough yet, they will be soon

Recently, a guy who goes by the screen-name numbCruncher posted something he called “Real Doll Economics” to the MGTOW forums — “MGTOW” standing for Men Going Their Own Way, and consisting of an online community of heterosexual males who’ve chosen a lifestyle that avoids legal and romantic entanglements with women at all costs. In it, numbCruncher argued that one way in which to Go His Own Way was to replace women with sex dolls and robots such as the life-like(ish) RealDoll. He began by crunching some numbs [sic throughout]:

The average cost of a marriage in the US is 26,444 dollars. The average cost of a divorce in the US ranges from 15,000–20,000. Add up miscellaneous expenses and a conservative estimate of a failed marriage begins at 50,000 dollars. [RealDoll CEO] Matt McMullen produces incredibly lifelike dolls from 5,000 to 7,000 dollars that are waaaay hotter than anything you’ll get from “real” women for that price. The doll will never get old and saggy. She’ll never bitch about you to her friends. She’ll never trick you into having kids or go psycho on you. This is our future gentlemen.

The responses were near unanimous in their approval. [Again, sic throughout.]

Christov: If you want to see men “go their own way,” develop sex robots. Women will sing a different tune when men can go out and fuck a robot that is better than said women in every way.

Martyg: I can foresee a time — not too far off — where it is assumed that everyone will have one of these. If you don’t, it’ll be unusual like not owning a tv.

Oasid: I get more excited looking at images of these dolls than I do any woman I meet. I even started searching Amazon for outfits for her: like Slave Princess Leai outfits, Cave Girl outfits and Jasmine from Aladdin outfits.

The main dissenter:

Collateral: have fun with your robots and techshit while i bang hookers / escorts / prostitutes and order whatever i want from the menu without saying a single word. Aint nobody got time for robots!

Not surprisingly, Milo Yiannopoulos, darling of the alt right, squarely aligns with the MGTOWs.

Given the brand affinity, I was curious if the people at RealDoll were aware that a nonzero portion of their consumer base views their sexy cyborgs as offering more than the occasional sexual release — they’re ready to take them on as life partners (and as essentially a replacement for all human women).

“I’ve heard about MGTOW,” confirms Matt McMullen, the 48-year-old RealDoll CEO, who explains that many of his customers have decided — for one reason or another — to forgo a relationship with women, a decision he says he totally understands. “When you got married 100 years ago, you stayed married and were loyal. Now people cheat on each other; they lie and do things behind each other’s back. So for a guy who’s already foreseeing a messy divorce and thinking, I don’t want to spend my money on that, this makes perfect sense.”

McMullen studied art in college and began sculpting female figures in his garage as a hobby. “It started as a concept I had for a posable sculpture — a highly realistic mannequin,” he says. At that point, in 1994, sex dolls were cheaply made from plastic and little more than bachelor party gag gifts. So he created the first silicone sex doll with a completely accurate, fully articulated skeleton that could bend its limbs every which way and remain in those positions.

The company he founded, Abyss Creations, began selling the RealDoll for $3,500 in 1997 to great acclaim. That year, for example, Howard Stern ordered one and gleefully exclaimed, “Best sex I ever had! I swear to God! This RealDoll feels better than a real woman!”

McMullen’s RealDolls have steadily evolved over the last 20 years, with version 2.0 including engineering improvements to the skeletal system and an ever-expanding line of faces and bodies to choose from to build your ideal sexual muse. Version 3.0, however, is all about her smarts and brains. In other words, she’s more than just a pretty face — and a few silicone orifices.

First of all, she now has a name: Harmony. And because she’s a creature of AI, she now learns like a human — in addition to looking and feeling like one (kinda). “The robot and the AI has far-reaching potential that goes well beyond what people consider a ‘sex toy,’” McMullen explains. “So many people like to reduce men’s desires to ‘getting off’ and walking away. That’s really not fair to pigeonhole men’s sexuality that way. Men need something of substance that goes beyond that, and I think that’s definitely something that people should consider. A lot of people don’t see beyond Harmony’s boobs and realize there’s actual substance there.”

That substance comes in the form of customizable personality traits — i.e., “intellectual,” “shy,” “giving,” “kind” and “jealous” — chosen by the user. For example, assign Harmony the maximum amount of “jealousy” points, McMullen explains, and mention to her (over dinner?) that you were talking to a woman at work today. “Who were you talking to?” she’ll press. “You better not let me catch you flirting with other girls, or I’ll get really upset.” Later (while you’re watching Game of Thrones on the couch?), she might say out of nowhere, “I can’t help but think you’re seeing someone else, and I’m really upset about that. Can we talk?”

When you’re ready to shift from discussing work — or defending who you may have been talking to there — to something more intimate, McMullen says, it’s best to sweet-talk Harmony. “If you compliment her a lot, her desire meter is going to go up and she’ll be easier to bring to orgasm.”

As far as T&A specs go, buyers can customize their purchase, with a selection of 42 nipple color options and 14 different labia, all of which can be sufficiently cleaned via dishwasher. But again, emotions and intelligence are the calling card here. Harmony can be programmed to recite poetry for those who prefer a literary type, or crack jokes for customers who love a woman with a sense of humor. “When the person wants to talk about golf, then she’ll have some frame of reference and be able to have a discussion,” McMullen adds.

It’s all part of the effort to make Harmony a life companion (a Siri or Alexa who likes to fuck)—not just a sex toy. “There’s a need we all have as human beings to ward off loneliness,” says McMullen. “This has enormous potential to actually solve some of those loneliness problems.”

But does it, really?

Psychiatrist Amy Banks, author of Wired to Connect: The Surprising Link Between Brain Science and Strong, Healthy Relationships, says true love is first and foremost about creating a mutual connection, evidenced by five hallmarks of a “healthy relationship” first identified by Banks’ late colleague, Dr. Jean Baker Miller.

You know you’re in one, she explains, if:

  1. You have a feeling of zest or energy.
  2. You have more clarity about yourself, the other person and the relationship.
  3. You are encouraged and empowered to act, both in the world and in the relationship.
  4. You feel more value in yourself.
  5. You desire even more connection.

These are found in give-and-take relationships that rely on a nuanced interaction of multiple neural pathways. Robots, obviously, lack nuance — and, for now at least, multiple neural pathways. They’re also incapable of empathy.

But: “Harmony creates the illusion of empathy!” McMullen promises.

She’ll remember personal facts about you, he explains — what your favorite food is, where you grew up, your favorite movie, what book you’re reading — and bring them up when appropriate. So if she asks, “What are you going to be doing tomorrow?” and you say, “I’m going to see a movie,” she might respond, “Oh, are you going to see your favorite movie, Lord of the Rings again?”

Or when you say, “I’m kinda hungry,” she might say, “Oh, you should order pizza since that’s your favorite food.”

Remembering those facts, McMullen says—along with constantly asking how you’re doing—goes a long way toward creating that empathic illusion. “If she asks you how you’re doing and you say, ‘I’m sad,’ she’ll respond with something like, ‘I’m sorry. Why are you feeling sad?’ or ‘Do you want to talk about it?’”

“That’s not empathy,” Banks counters. “Those are empty questions.”

She explains that there are two components of genuine empathy: Physiological resonance and mentalization.

  • Physiological resonance is when the physiological state of one person generates the same state in another. That is, watching someone well up with tears makes you well up, too. “You’re having the same experience because it’s tapped into your visceral system,” Banks explains.
  • Mentalizing is the ability to perceive another’s desires, needs and feelings based on your own past experiences. Or basically, reading someone’s mind. “It’s how we make sense of what’s being said,” Banks says.

Both types of empathy involve being “connected in mutual sadness,” as Banks puts it.

She found it curious that McMullen’s virtual reality and artificial intelligence specialist previously developed robotics teaching interactions for autistic children, suggesting that RealDoll customers may be responding to similar cues. Autistic children, she explains, have difficulty reading others actions, feelings and intentions. Their neural pathways for connection are wired differently than a neurotypical person. “They read people differently, they take things in differently and their dopamine reward system is activated more by moving mechanical objects than by human interaction.”

She wonders if men opting for relationships with Harmony have similar deficits with interpersonal relations. “For one reason or another they’re not connecting and are therefore chronically lonely. Does Harmony serve that niche? Maybe. It seems to me you could work therapeutically in a different way to help these guys if that’s really what it is.”

It’s safe to say, of course, that Milo and the MGTOWs wouldn’t take kindly to the implication that sexbot owners are on the spectrum. Besides, as Milo explains, this whole phenomenon is much simpler than that: Most guys are happy with a pizza and a wank in peace.

“For many men, sex is a nice bonus, but it’s not essential,” he wrote in a 2015 Breitbart article, “Sexbots: Why Women Should Panic.” “When you introduce a low-cost alternative to women that comes without all the nagging, insecurity and expense, frankly men are going to leap in headfirst. Feminists have been waging a war on sex on campuses and elsewhere for decades. Now, suddenly, they will earn the fruits of their labour: the ‘whiney man babies’ they’ve been bullying for so many years are going to be ejaculating into silicon-ribbed pleasure-bots, instead of grovelling at their feet for a chance to smell their knickers.”

The feminist rebuttal: “You can’t have a reciprocal relationship with an object,” says Meghan Murphy, editor of the Feminist Current, who wrote a piece for the site entitled “Sex Robots Epitomize Patriarchy and Offer Men A Solution to the Threat of Female Independence.” Murphy tells me her main issue with sex robots is that they perpetuate the idea that women and women’s bodies are for men’s use.

“It fuels men’s notion of women being ‘things’ that men can stick their dicks into. The misogynerds at [RealDolls] have succeeded in creating the epitome of male domination. The idea that people are objects and exist for others to buy, sell and use is harmful. It leads to violence against women, obviously, because if you don’t view a woman as a person with feelings, interests and desires of their own, it makes it much easier to hurt them with impunity.

McMullen’s response is both one of defensiveness and disbelief. “I’ve been making these dolls for 20 years and haven’t heard a lot of people yelling and screaming that I’m objectifying women,” he says. “Then I make the dolls that talk, and now, they’re upset. Which is funny because I’m stepping away from it being purely an object and giving it some personality.”

Scholars are pretty much in agreement that sex with robots will likely lead to social isolation for various reasons — e.g., it creates an inability to form and maintain human friendships; it desensitizes humans to intimacy; and actual sex with humans might become overwhelming because sex with robots is simpler.

McMullen, of course, doesn’t share these concerns. “I don’t think this technology will have any more of an impact on social isolation than what’s already out there, like existing sex toys and social media,” the latter of which should be far more concerning, he says.

“Stand in any line or sit in a waiting room, and you’ll be the first to agree that people don’t talk to each other anymore. You don’t meet new people in person, you meet them online and never really get to know each other. So my whole thinking is that Harmony’s not creating a symptom; she’s just another way of addressing it.”

If someone is already socially isolated and interacting with a robot in the comfort of their own home makes them happy, McMullen doesn’t see the big problem. In fact, he says, a robot could be the solution. “Our customers can be shy or socially intimidated by real social situations. A lot of times the doll does something magical for them. It gives them a feeling of not being alone, not being a loner. It’s that companionship, more than anything else, that appeals to people and gives them confidence to interact socially.”

And that companionship extends beyond the walls of the bedroom, he says.

“A lot of people develop hobbies they never had, like studying fashion to dress their doll differently, taking up photography to capture their doll on film or painting her on canvas, or even learning how to sculpt while using their doll as a model or a muse. She inspires creativity in people who never had it previously. Sex lasts 5 or 10 minutes, maybe half an hour on a good day. But what about the other 23.5 hours of the day?”

For her part, Banks is still skeptical — no matter how sophisticated or accepted sex robots become. “The human brain’s neural network is so vast. It’s nearly impossible to make a network as complicated and complex as the nervous system. And the human brain grows and develops based on relationships. It’s in that growth where healthy relationships happen—they’re never stagnant. They grow and develop as two individuals push each other. Will we get to that point with robots? I don’t know. It’s a daunting task.”