Marriage in rough shape? A sex robot could help, says UBC professor

VANCOUVER — Is your marriage on the rocks? A sex robot could help save it — and no, it’s not a punchline to a joke.

Marina Adshade, who teaches at the University of B.C.’s Vancouver School of Economics, suggests sex robots could actually improve marriages by easing the demands we place on our partners in monogamous relationships.

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Adshade’s suggestion is detailed in a chapter written for the book Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications, which was released last fall. She will host a reading of her chapter this Wednesday at the UBC Bookstore.

“It’s a tall order to find someone who is going to be both a good parent to your children and is going to satisfy your sexual needs,” said Adshade. “By taking down that requirement of having a great sexual relationship with somebody, you’re able to focus on the other thing.”

In addition to improving marriages, it could also create opportunities for marriage. Adshade believes a sex robot might allow an individual to select a partner based on the ability to start a family and maintain a stable home life without also needing to worry about sexual chemistry.

The idea is not so far-fetched, with Adshade noting that the function of marriage has evolved throughout the 20th century. Whereas couples used to marry for the sole purpose of starting families, marriages now include considerations of love and companionship — and with the pendulum swinging heavily in one direction, marriage may now make a return to more traditional goals.

“What happened to marriage is that it became more about love, more about sex. Family still mattered but we were looking for everything … so today we expect a lot from the people we are married to, way more than people did in the past,” she said.

“Now we’re getting into a position where people are saying — ‘Listen, what I want is to have children and I want to have someone who is going to be a great parent to my children and I want to create a stable home environment and maybe what that means, to me, is not necessarily having a sexual relationship with the person I do this with.’ ”

She also rejected the notion that a sex robot could ever replace a human spouse entirely or that it could ever make marriage obsolete, adding that sex robots can be complementary to human companionship. As well, it could lead to wider acceptance of other non-traditional forms of marriage and relationships, such as polyamory.

“I think that where we’re moving into marriage in general is that people want to be able to determine the nature of their own relationship. They don’t want their parents’ marriages or their grandparents’ marriages, they don’t want to be told by society what their marriage should look like,” she said.

“I think that’s where we’re going with all sorts of different types of relationships and I think sex robots will definitely contribute to this.”

Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications was released last fall in hardcover, while a paperback edition is due to be released this summer.

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