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The sex technology industry is already estimated to be worth US$30 billion.1 While sex toys are well-established, sex robots (’sexbots'), anthropomorphic devices created for sexual gratification, are no longer science fiction. Four companies sell adult sexbots priced between US$5000 and US$15 000. They must be distinguished from ’paedobots' – childlike robotic models at present only produced by one company.2 The market appears to be men, and so far only ‘female’ adult sexbots have been created, although one company reports aiming to sell ‘male’ devices later in 2018.3 Sex robots are realistic mannequins with variable ages, appearances and textures, and customisable oral, vaginal and anal openings.
The medical profession needs to be prepared for inevitable questions about the impact of sex robots on health. Apart from free-market profits, the majority of arguments in their favour use ‘harm limitation’ somewhat defensively to convince others that this is one way to protect the vulnerable. Opponents reject the hypothesis that they reduce sexual crimes, and instead raise concerns about the potential for harm by further promoting the pervasive idea that living women too are sex objects that should be constantly available - ‘misogynistic objectification’ - and intensifying existing physical and sexual violence against women and children.
What characterises all discussions of this issue is the paucity of an evidence base. This might falsely reassure clinicians not to concern themselves with changing their current clinical practice. However, an absence of evidence does not excuse the medical profession from discussing and debating the issues, as there will inevitably be consequences for physical, mental and social well-being.
We aim to provide a succinct summary of the arguments for and against the sex robot industry and to assess the potential health implications that may affect both patients and clinicians. To find information about the health consequences of …
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