In the light of the recent report by Responsible Robotics on catering for a future demand for sex or 'pleasure' robots, Tthe Salvation Army is increasingly concerned about the possible impact of the availability of 'sexbots' on the demand for victims of sexual exploitation.
The Salvation Army's work with victims of sexual exploitation and modern slavery means we hear and see the impact on people of the dreadful realities of sexual exploitation at first hand. Like the Albanian woman dumped by the side of the motorway last year, following years of being held against her will and forced into prostitution. At eight-and-a-half months pregnant, she was thrown away by her traffickers when she was no longer of use.
We fear that offering another option for purchasing sex through a 'sexbot' or sex robot could fuel demand for sex with people and lead to traffickers exploiting more vulnerable individuals to meet this demand.
As Christians we believe that all people are created in the image of God and as such every person has intrinsic worth and value (Genesis 1:27). In 1 John 4:16 it says, 'God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.' Human sexuality is part of God's creation and as such it is goodand to be celebrated. Sex is personal, sacred and intimate, and it is founded in love and human commitment. As Christians we believe that all people are created in the image of God and as such every person has intrinsic worth and value. The value of every person – created in the image of God – is clearly of huge importance, as it is laid out at the very beginning of creation in the book of Genesis (1:27). In 1 John 4:16 it says 'God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.' Human sexuality is a gift from God – sex is private, sacred, and intimate, and it is founded in love and human commitment and we see this in Song of Songs.
'Sexbots' won't fulfil the need for human interaction and for rewarding, loving relationships. In the same way that pornography normalises certain behaviours, the availability of 'sexbots' could normalise a distorted power dynamic which devalues the other person involved when transferred to human interactions. This could encourage increased objectification of women and children and a lack of respect for their fellow human beings in those using this new technology.
Through The Salvation Army's delivery of specialist support to victims of modern slavery we witness on a daily basis how people are being bought and sold as commodities for sex. Right now in the UK individuals are being used and abused by traffickers when they should be free to make choices for themselves.
It has been argued that the availability of this technology could reduce demand for women, and even children, in prostitution. However, we believe that the more sex is viewed as a commodity – something this technology could certainly encourage – the more likely it is that people will look to purchase other people for sex.
As a Christian Church and a charity, The Salvation Army wants to promote the humanity of every individual, including those people who might choose to be consumers of this technology. Its introduction brings the potential to devalue and dehumanise both the consumer and the consumed.
The Salvation Army therefore believes that this technology is more likely to have a detrimental effect on both existing and potential victims of modern slavery. We will continue to fight to bring an end to this dreadful exploitation while working to help those striving to regain their self-worth and faith in humanity having suffered at the hands of traffickers who trade in people.
Major Kathryn Taylor works in The Salvation Army's Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery Unit.