“It’s bloody ridiculous – if this case returns a guilty verdict then presumably we’ll be seeing vibrators and other sex toys suing their users for sexual assault!” declared Daily Excess columnist Reginald Crutter in reference to the extraordinary trial currently being hosted at the Old Bailey, in which a sophisticated female-shaped robot is accusing a man of rape. “I mean, this contraption might be highly advanced in technological terms, but in reality it is no more than a glorified blow-up sex doll! Damn it, it’s primary purpose is the sexual pleasuring of men! It’s programmed to have sex, so how can it possibly claim it was raped? It’s ludicrous!” However, not everyone shares Crutter’s opinion that the case should be thrown out and, indeed, should never have reached court in the first place. “Far from being simply a sex doll, the unit concerned – Sexy Sarah 128 – is an incredibly lifelike humanoid robot with the most advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) yet developed for such machines,” Dr Simon Starkball, Britain’s leading expert on robotics, told BBC News. “This trial represents a landmark in establishing whether a mechanism equipped with AI is truly sentient and capable of exercising free choice.”
The trial has prompted much comment in the media, with many commentators focusing on what they see as a, literal, perversion of technology. “Is this really the best use we can find for advanced technology – providing men with more money than sense with the most expensive masturbatory fantasy they’ll ever have?” opined Crutter in his column. “Surely this can’t be what generations of scientists, technicians and robotic experts have been working toward?” Dr Starkball disagreed with this assessment, arguing that the creation of ‘sexbots’ was simply the next logical step in robotics. “History has shown that technology has consistently been geared to creating ever more efficient delivery systems for pornography,” he claimed in a radio interview. “The printing press gave us mass produced jazz mags, film and video cheap nudie pics, whilst the internet provided on-demand smut in the privacy of your own home. Smart phones and tablets extended this to providing erotica on the move. It was inevitable that robotics developments would follow a similar path: those early one armed robots supposedly designed for production lines were actually masturbation machines, for instance, whilst there have subsequently been a variety of lifelike female automata designed as ‘companions’ for lonely men. The combination of AI with a realistic humanoid body to produce a sophisticated ‘sexbot’ was just a matter of time.” Feminists have been highly critical of the whole idea of female sex machines, claiming that it represents the ultimate objectification of women. “It enables the kind of maladjusted misogynists who can’t handle real women to quite literally buy a ‘woman’,” declared top feminist writer Sally Stilleto in the Sunday Bystander. “An utterly compliant ‘woman’ who won’t answer back or object to being abused. This sort of thing could set women’s rights back by decades!”
The defendant in the trial, thirty two year old banker Joseph Dinkle, has denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that he is the victim of a malfunctioning machine. “Look, this Japanese company offer the services of these sex machines to businessmen – they’re more expensive than a prostitute, but are advertised as being more compliant, more versatile and with less risk of transmitting diseases – they also claim that there’s less stigma attached to using their services as well.” he told the court. “They offer a variety of models with different hair colours, skin tones, body shapes and the like – I ordered the ‘Sexy Sarah’ model for a night and they delivered her, I mean it to my hotel room – the thing looked incredibly realistic, it felt warm, appeared to have a pulse and even looked as if it was breathing! Unlike a real prostitute, it was physically absolutely perfect. Incredibly, it also even spoke – it could give the impression of conversing intelligently with you. But obviously, it was just a machine.” According to Dinkle’s testimony, the encounter started well, with the robot indulging his every sexual fantasy. “Believe me, it was the best I’ve ever had – unlike a real woman she, sorry, it, never complained, no matter what I did to her and never tired,” he said. “But then, after a couple of hours, she just started saying ‘no’! It was ridiculous – I’d paid for an entire night! It was obviously a malfunction, so I just carried on – she just lay there completely unresponsive, but damn it, I was determined to get my money’s worth!”
Dinkle claimed that the next morning the robot left of its own accord. “Obviously, I called the company who supplied her and complained – I tried to get money back, but they refused,” he testified. “The next thing I knew, the police were at my office arresting me for rape – it was bloody embarrassing, I can tell you. I mean, it was bad enough that time that girl from accounts accused me of touching her up, but to be accused of sexual misconduct by a robot, that’s the absolute limit!” Dr Yogami, representing the corporation which produces the so called ‘sexbots’ and markets them to wealthy businessmen as ‘escorts’, took the stand to explain that the units weren’t actually built to be self aware and sentient, their AI was highly sophisticated and designed to be able to detect threats of damage to themselves and to protect themselves from such abuse. “Whilst it is true that units like Sexy Sarah 128 are intended to pleasure men, they have strict parameters with regard to the kinds of activities they can be subjected to,” he explained from the witness stand. “We don’t want to encourage the abuse of women, so the units are programmed to resist any activity that a flesh and blood woman might consider abusive. If Sexy Sarah 128 refused to participate in any such activity and Mr Dinkle forced the unit to participate then this could, surely, constitute a form of ‘cyber-rape’.”
Yesterday, in front of a packed court room, Sexy Sarah 128 herself took the stand. There were audible gasps from the public gallery as the robot – outwardly appearing to be a woman of stunning beauty – spoke, not in a rasping metallic voice, but in soft, human tones, to explain that defendant had subjected her to hours of violent abuse before raping her. “He called it foreplay – according to my assessment of the situation, only inflicting increasing amounts of violence upon a woman could bring him sexual arousal,” she testified. “Just because my skin does not bruise and I cannot bleed, does not make his behaviour any more acceptable. Clearly, the more aroused he became, the more frenzied his attacks became. Logically, the only way to prevent further damage was to decline to continue interacting with him. He ignored my refusal and proceeded without my consent. Surely ‘No’ means ‘No’ regardless of whether a woman is flesh and blood or titanium and plastic? In either case, the sexual violence is being directed against the idea of a woman.” The jury has now retired and a verdict in this ground breaking case is expected within the next few days.