Are sex bots the future?
Twenty-four percent of young people said they would consider a sexual relationship with a robot according to the Viceland UK Census 2016.
Ok, that statistic comes from 2,500 Vice readers. They may not be representative of the whole of the UK, but I still glanced suspiciously around Flamingo’s mostly millennial-stocked London office. Almost a quarter is a lot of people being open to sex bots. We’re often described as the most liberally-minded generation so far in terms of sex and gender, but are we actually becoming closer to technology, as in the film Her, and further from each other?
Millennials sit at the intersection of a whole host of tensions. Almost half of our parents are divorced but marriage equality is spreading across the globe. Internet porn is often how we first encountered sex yet consent is increasingly on the agenda. Dating apps connect us to more potential partners than ever before, but First Dates’ blind date format is one of the most popular shows on TV. Books like Emily Witt’s Future Sex and shows like Broad City paint a picture of a generation figuring it out as they go along because the traditional path just doesn’t really exist any more. Which is pretty much how it feels.
- “I want to get married one day but in the 21st century with all these dating apps, there’s too much temptation and a lot of relationships don’t last. It’s not like our grandparents meeting at 18 and being together till 95. That doesn’t happen anymore.”
Flamingo research, 2016
We often speak to young people struggling to balance the romantic ideals that our culture exalts with the banal reality of awkward Tinder chat and dick pics. Most talk passionately, awkwardly and defiantly about wanting to find the one and get married. As was also borne out in the Vice study, never falling in love is their greatest fear.
Yet many describe the technology-assisted shifts in dating culture, making a wider pools of potential partners the norm, as something of a poisoned chalice. It could help them to find the mythical “one”, but could just as easily blind them to her/him/them – or make the very existence of a “one” impossible. We can find, date and make love to whomever we want (with consent). And yet this paradise of freedom can lead to a complicated, disconnected paradox of choice.
- “It’s not Shakespeare any more, throwing rocks at a girl’s window.”
Flamingo research, 2016
From an industry perspective, we’re seeing our messy, techy love lives played out in culture, but advertising mostly edits to fit the fairytale, showing couples meeting by chance IRL and following a traditional, linear trajectory. Countering our respondent, Skittles’ recent “Romance” spot literally throws (multicoloured) rocks at a girl’s window.
There’s a huge white space for brands to step into and connect with millennials around contemporary love and dating, representing it authentically – even potentially facilitating the modern fairytale. Match.com, for instance, encouraged singles to Espresso Yourself this month. Another step in the right direction was Basket Dating with its First Dates-style approach last year.
- Article by Lydia Crudge