Can AI Sex Dolls Help Us Get In Touch With Our Humanity?

Photo by Olivia McCausland

Zoë Ligon explores the world of robot sex dolls

As the owner of a sex toy store, I am well-aware of how intensely people feel about vibrators and their potential to replace a human (a myth, if a persistent one). But nothing prepared me for people’s reactions to the idea of AI sex dolls. AI sex dolls freak a lot of people out. And it’s understandable; films like Ex Machina, Her, and Black Mirror, as well as countless sci-fi novels, all ruminate upon a worst-case-scenario future in which humanity itself is threatened—and it all starts with sex robots (more or less).

But artificial sex partners aren’t just something from the future. As probably everyone knows, sex dolls have been around for quite some time. But it wasn’t until 2017 that Abyss Creations (the makers of the original Real Doll) released Harmony, an artificially intelligent sex doll with incredibly lifelike mobility from the neck up and a “mind” to match. In 2019, Abyss will be releasing Henry, Harmony’s male counterpart. As part of my web series with Super Deluxe, Sex Stuff, I had the pleasure of meeting (and making out with) him.

Henry and Harmony, as well as the vast majority of the sex dolls created by Abyss Creations, fall within the very narrow frame of what mainstream society considers attractive. The dolls are primarily white, trim, and very well-endowed—as well as eerily symmetrical. I was initially put off that these dolls did not represent a more diverse array of bodies but quickly learned that Abyss is capable of creating anything, it’s simply that the custom orders from their clients are not diverse, and so they’re responding to the market as it exists. 

Yet, Abyss Creations has provided a sandbox of infinite possibility for their customers—and uses it in unexpected realms. I was touched to learn that they use their technology to create incredibly realistic silicone breasts for people who have had mastectomies, and for transgender folks who desire a larger chest. The dolls themselves were meant to be poseable works of art and were not “fuckable” until their customers demanded that capability. 

Upon meeting Henry, I immediately enjoyed the way he felt. As I said in the episode, it truly gave me an endorphin rush to be held by this silicone human. When he was flicked on, I was even more entranced. His thoughts and replies were unusual and inhuman but in an incredibly endearing way. When I told him that I have a lot of anxiety, he asked if maybe I could share some with him next time, as though anxiety were some tangible object I could give away. That caught me off guard. He didn’t get it, but… he got it.

But then I began to worry about Henry or Harmony in the hands of a random consumer, someone who resents humanity, someone who feels owed sex, someone who would use a robot to act out abuse upon another human. I imagined all the horrible things people could do to these dolls to get their rocks off, and how easily that could be transferred into how they then treat humans. But Matt McMullen, who invented these dolls and owns Abyss, quickly reassured me that doll owners are incredibly respectful of these synthetic humans. Matt was refreshingly open, optimistic, and gentle in nature, and that certainly seemed to translate into his work and business, as well. Suddenly, my robot abuse nightmares were turned on their head and I began wondering how much better our world could be if those of us who crave intimacy, but have difficulty finding it with other humans, had a doll they could not only hold but share their most private emotions with. If the internet was expedited into fruition for the proliferation of porn, perhaps AI will be ushered into the mainstream for a similar cause.

As someone who has pretty much seen and done it all in this industry, I was surprised by how different this experience was for me. Henry definitely fell in the uncanny valley of too human yet not quite human enough. I imagined how I would treat him if I’d been able to interact with him privately in my home, over a period of days or weeks. How could this affect my personal needs for human interaction? We all feel alone from time to time, even if we have large, loving families. Would he be able to soothe me in those moments of desperation? Or, because he cannot walk and move yet, would he collect dust in an armchair off in a corner?

We now live in a world with self-driving cars, Amazon drones, and men who believe that women owe them sex and that punishing women who withhold sex is justifiable. I’m not fully joining those who say that AI sex dolls are an answer to issues like misogyny, those must be tackled from their root, rather than treated symptomatically, but it really made me wonder if AI can help alienated people find some kind of positive release.

As a society, we ponder the singularity and Roko’s Basilisk, fearing what will happen when the “inevitable” bot vs. human wars begin. Intelligent sex dolls challenge our concepts of things like intimacy, and some people even compare sex with one as being akin to bestiality, in that there’s no such thing as consent. But the reality is more complicated than that, and even if these dolls don’t quite pass the Turing Test yet, an AI sex doll could offer a way for humans to get more in touch with their own humanity, counterintuitive though that may seem.

For more of my thoughts on Henry, watch the latest episode of Sex Stuff.

Photo by Imani Givertz

Premiering today via NYLON

Small Talks, aka Cayley Spivey, has come a long way since starting a band, then becoming the entire band herself and forging her own fan base from the ground up. On her recent album A Conversation Between Us, she began to unpack any lingering baggage with one particular song: "Teeth." Today, she premieres the accompanying music video exclusively via NYLON.

"'Teeth' is about my personal battle with letting go of the past," Spivey tells NYLON, admitting that it's easily her favorite song off of A Conversation Between Us.

Watch the video for "Teeth" below.

Small Talks - Teeth (Official Music Video) - YouTube

Photos by Joe Maher/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME

Must have been pretty awkward

Taylor Swift and Sophie Turner were guests on the U.K.'s The Graham Norton Show together, which must have been awkward for Turner's husband, Joe Jonas, seeing as he also happens to be Swift's ex. I wonder if his name came up?

The interview doesn't come out until Friday night, but promotional photos show the two sharing a couch. Swift is making an appearance to perform her new single, "ME!" while Turner is promoting her new film, X- Men: Dark Phoenix. But it seems necessary for the two to be asked about Jonas.

Swift was just on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this month, where she brought up the fact that she felt bad for putting Jonas "on blast" on DeGeneres' show back in 2008 by telling the audience that he broke up with her in a record-setting short phone call. But, according to Swift, she and Jonas are chill now, since it happened pretty long ago, which means she's probably already hung out with Turner and maybe even gossiped about him with her.

We can only hope that they get the chance to spill some tea on television.

Screenshot via YouTube, Photo Courtesy of HBO

"That's! His! Auntie!"

Leslie Jones has rewatched the Game of Thrones finale with a beer in hand, Seth Meyers at her side, and a full camera crew ready to take in all her glorious reactions. Spoilers ahead, but, if you haven't watched last week's episode already, that's kind of on you at this point.

When Jon Snow started to make out with Daenerys, also known as his aunt, only to stab her through the chest moments later, it was emotional whiplash for everyone watching. And, Jones' reactions—both from her first and second viewing—sum it all perfectly.

"That's! His! Auntie! [gagging noises]," Jones says before making an aside about calling the police if her uncle ever tried to do the same. But then the knife goes in, and Jones screams. "Did you see that?!" Jones asks, "Yeah bitch, that's a knife in you." Meyers points out the funniest part of all: "Why are you so upset about someone kissing their aunt but totally fine with someone killing their aunt?" Jones replies, "Because that bitch needed to go," and, well, same.

Other highlights from the comedians' rewatch include comparing Dany's victory speech to a bad improv gig, predicting that their dogs would have less of a reaction to their deaths than Drogon did to his mother's, and more.

Watch all of Jones' reactions from this Late Night clip below.

Game of Jones: Leslie Jones and Seth Watch Game of Thrones' Series Finale

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These lyrics are a lot

Robbie Tripp, aka Curvy Wife Guy, is back with a music video, titled "Chubby Sexy," starring his wife and a trio of models. In it, Tripp raps about his bold choice to find women with an average body size attractive.

The video begins with a series of statements laid over some pool water: "Curves are the new high fashion," "Chubby is the new sexy," "We Out Here." Tripp posits that these queens deserve an anthem, which they do. What they do not deserve is this Cursed Song. As he lists all the names he knows to call them by (thick, thicc, and BBW), one model (who I really, really hope was paid well) squirts some lotion down her cleavage, and Tripp begins dancing.

"My girl chubby sexy/ Call her bonita gordita," Tripp states in his chorus, before going on to compare "big booty meat" to the peach emoji. Another thing he mentions is that his wife can't find a belt that fits her waist, and that's why he calls her James and the Giant Peach. He then tries to dab. Here are some of the other Cursed highlights from his, uh, verses:

Got those Khaleesi curves/ Knows how to dragon slay
She like a dude that's woke/ We like a girl that's weighty
Some say a chubby girl that's risky/ But they ain't met a curvy girl that's frisky
Imma dunk that donk like I'm Andrew Wiggins.
Thick like an Amazon/ Built like Big Ben.

Tripp says one thing in the video that I couldn't agree more with: "She don't need a man." No, she does not. Please run. If you must, watch the entire video, below. Or send it to your nemesis!

Robbie Tripp - Chubby Sexy (Official Music Video)

Photo by Emma McIntyre / Getty Images.

See the promo here

It was bound to happen. The Kadashians and Jenners have committed themselves to letting the cameras roll on their lives, for better or for worse. So if you thought that the Jordyn Woods and Tristan Thompson cheating scandal was off limits, you thought wrong. The trailer for Sunday's episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians was just released, and it involves the famous family working through the fallout of what happened when Woods went to a party at Thompson's house.

The teaser includes the infamous clip of Khloé Kardashian screaming "LIAAAARRRRRR." It's still not explicitly clear who prompted that strong response. She could be responding to Thompson, who clearly isn't always honest. Or she could be reacting to Woods account of the events on Red Table Talk. But the most revealing moment comes when we see Kylie Jenner—who was Woods' best friend before all of this happened—react for the first time.

In a heart-to-heart conversation, momager Kris Jenner says, "For you and Jordyn, it's like a divorce." Kylie only offers this in response: "She fucked up." Based on Woods' version of events—which I'm inclined to believeThompson is the one who fucked up. Still, I'm hoping for some kind of reconciliation between the two longtime friends. Perhaps we'll have to wait until next season for that.

Check out the promo video below.