Swedish women’s organisations: We need a law against sex robots

‘Sex robots’ and ‘sex dolls’ reinforce and normalize views of women which objectify and normalize men’s violence against women. It is time for tightened legislation so that new technology does not reproduce values which exploit women’s bodies, writes Swedish Women’s Lobby, Roks and Unizon.

Debate: Sex robots.

Recently we read in Dagens Nyheter about how so-called ‘sex robots’ are ready to be shipped out of a factory in San Diego to men who are willing to buy human-like, AI-powered robots with the purpose of obeying and performing sexual acts whenever the owner pleases. In November Finland opened its first brothel with so-called ‘sex dolls’. In December came the news about how customs seized ‘sex dolls’ that were ordered online which looked like children. A first thought is that this is a harmless phenomenon since robots are just products and not human, but the existence of these robots says a lot about contemporary society. Why are some men willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a robot that obeys even their smallest command?

Robots for rapists and paedophiles

Many of the ‘sex robot’ and ‘sex doll’ features take the appearance and attributes that are typical of the objectified, sexualized and degraded women found in today’s mainstream pornography. She cannot say no to anything the man desires, if she is not programmed to do so.

Many robots are also programmed to exhibit resistance so that the men that have sex with the robots can live out their violent fantasies. It is also not uncommon that both robots and dolls ideate children, so that adult men can simulate child abuse.

From previous research in similar areas we know that the type of fantasies that is stimulated by new technology often leads to real violence against girls and women. Clear parallels can be drawn in pornography research where the consumption of pornography leads to sexualized attitudes against women and committing actual violence. If pornography, which many perceive as only ‘to look at something’, can inspire abuse, what do we expect for human-like robots – which men use – can lead to?

Dangerous dehumanization

AI- and ethics researcher Kathleen Richardson believes that the dehumanization of some groups (in this case women) entitles slavery and the exploitation of women’s bodies via new technology. Don’t let technological developments be controlled by the sex industry. Developments of new technology should facilitate for humanity and the world, a more equal place, not the opposite!

Swedish Women’s Lobby, Roks and Unizon demand:

-That Swedish authorities should refuse brothels with robots and dolls to open in Sweden
-That research about the connection between sexual contact with robots and dolls and real abuse should be initiated
-That an investigation should be initiated to make proposals on how a prohibition and restriction of technology and activities that normalize abuse can be created
-That national informational campaign about the rights to a sex life free from abuse and commercialized interests should be carried out
-That sex education should include critical conversation about the porn industry, sex dolls, and sex robots from a perspective which addresses gender, sexuality and power

A law sets the norm

Over the last 20 years, Sweden has regulations in place that penalize sex-buyers and reduce the demand for prostitution. The sex purchase act has had a clear normative effect and impacted views on purchasing women’s bodies. Now Sweden must take the next step and dare to address the ongoing technical developments that drive the sex industry at the expense of real women and girls.

Clara Berglund
Secretary General, Sveriges Kvinnolobby

Jenny Westerstrand
President, Roks

Olga Persson
Secretary General, Unizon

Zandra Kanakaris
President, Unizon


Originally published in Expressen newspaper on 20 February 2019

Translation from Swedish to English by Kelly Blank



Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash