Jeannie Suk Gersen, Sex Lex Machina: Intimacy and Artificial Intelligence, 119 Colum. L. Rev. 1793 (2019).
Abstract: Sex robots are here. Created specifically to allow individuals to simulate erotic and romantic experiences with a seemingly alive and present human being, sex robots will soon force lawmakers to address the rise of digisexuality and the human-robot relationship. The extent to which intimacy between a human and robot can be regulated depends on how we characterize sex with robots--as a masturbatory act, an intimate relationship, or nonconsensual sexual contact-- and whether sexual activity with robots makes us see robots as more human or less human. A robot sex panic may be driven primarily by the idea that robots are servile by nature. Critics argue that an inherently nonreciprocal dynamic between humans and robots will translate into exploitative relationships that may fuel abuse of human partners, or that sex robots may further social isolation and retreat from human intimacy. Conversely, sex robots may function as safe--and otherwise unavailable--sexual and emotional outlets for those who may otherwise harm others. They may even train individuals to be more respectful in human relationships. At this point, we do not know how our relationships with robots will inform our relationships with humans, for better or for worse. This Essay explores the consequences of sex robots on society and argues that questions of how sex robots will improve or worsen humans' treatment of one another is the key to regulation to come. What is clear is that sex robots will require us to grapple with our vulnerabilities in relationships, reconsider fundamental rights, and question what it means to be intimate and to be human.