Podcast: Theological Ethics of Sexbots

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In an age of quick-paced technological developments, it’s no surprise we are seeing tv-series and films address ethical issues surrounding human interaction with robots. Even though Artificial Intelligence (AI) still has a ways to go before a synthetic being may be able to interact fully and free among humans, sci-fi is already putting scenarios to the public, challenging social views on ethical morality. Nearly every sci-fi projection of human interaction with artificial intelligence deals with sexuality on some level. Questions about how humans will interact sexually with robots are inescapable and often dealt with head-on. Consider the opening episode of Westworld, or the first season of Humans, where robots exist as sex workers in sanctioned brothels. Sometimes sex is implicit or a casual part of a robot’s positivistic search for personal identity in a human world (consider Star Trek’s Android Data). In Battlestar Galactica, sentient AI beings engage sexually in every way a human does, with other humans and with one another. Battlestar Galactica also explores the dark side of human behavior, presenting the complicated ethical problem of humans sexually abusing artificial life forms. These productions anticipate technology being developed in the real world, and so anticipate the need to sort out ethical perspectives on the subject matter.

Jeremy Meeks (Ph. D. cand., Trinity College Bristol) believes it is not too early for the Christian church to begin to think about ethics or morality about the treatment of sexbots. Jeremy is writing his dissertation on the ethics of sexbots from a Theological perspective. In this interview, he explains how he defines ethics, what a sexbot is (and is not), and why Christians should be thinking about such matters.

Toward the end of this episode, we discuss some books and films that explore the morality and ethics of interaction with AI, including the treatment of robots for sexual pleasure. These are listed here as a resource:

Media Discussed & Recommended in this Podcast


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
Frankenstein, Or A Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
Ender’s Game (Ender’s Quintet Series) by Orson Scott Card


Humans (2015-2018)
Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)
Westworld (2016-)


Ex Machina (2014)
Robot & Frank (2012)
Lars & The Real Girl (2007)
A. I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Her (2013)
Bicentennial Man (1999)

Theological Ethics of Sexbots Podcast

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  1. This was a very interesting conversation. I had a story idea a while back about a Christian guy who works on technology to develop sexbots motivated by a desire to combat human sex trafficking, and gets a lot of flack from other Christians who view him as basically endorsing pornography, so I was intrigued.

    I was glad to hear this podcast discuss a wider view of the issue, as it really enhanced my understanding of the issues it raises. Do you have any resources that outline the reasons why this technology is unlikely to hold the potential to reduce human trafficking? (other than people willingly involved in trafficking who feel it might be a threat to their livelihood). I will certainly be checking out the resource on the “yuck factor” and how that impedes meaningful discussions about issues like this.

    Thanks to both of you for sharing your insights.

    1. Mark, thanks for taking the time to comment. The first resource that comes to mind is Turkle’s Alone Together. It is not about sex trafficking directly, but does show how we become enamored with tech and are yet left unsatisfied at the same time. Another place to start to outline the complications with the issue is in this article – https://srh.bmj.com/content/44/3/161.full

      The simple fact is that we don’t know what the results of broad sexbot use will be, but there is good reason to doubt that they will be wholly beneficial. The ideal that they will help end things, or even significantly reducing things, like sex trafficking is a skeptical claim.

      Being a theological ethicist, I am not focusing on the pragmatic/empirical results of sexbots much at all. They could very well solve all kinds of problems in society, that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be used or are “good” for society.

  2. I just listened to the podcast and texted it to my husband. You mentioned having to remove jokes…my husband’s responses were eye-rollers you might appreciate.
    “My personal theological ethics in this field is rife with sexegetical fallacies.”
    “Nearly got me sexcommunicated for i-doll-atry. ”

    That aside, one thing I wondered about, which you don’t really touch on (but leave room for, I presume) in the potential negative outcomes is the aspect of people do things just because they can. I was thinking of this particularly with the scenarios you raised with prisons and pedophiles. Some people do things to land themselves in jail because it may be a safer place than they currently are, if they are in a really bad place. I wonder if introdcing sex bots would serve to incentive that category of crime

    It also made me wonder…maybe there are people who struggle with pedophilic leanings, but haven’t crossed the line yet. What if a sex bot served more like a “gateway drug” in that scenario? A way to “test drive” an inclination before going for it in reality. That seems like a really frightening possibility.

    Thank you for the podcast.

    1. Elizabeth, thanks for your comment. I was just recently made aware of it.

      Those jokes are…something.

      You are quite right, while not addressed in the episode, there is significant concern in tech ethics in general with the fact that tech allows us to do more and more, but that those things are not necessarily good things. The negative outcomes for many is just the cost of doing business…and will be addressed with other, better, new technology. Essentially the problem is also the solution, which is rather convenient.

      There are those who have pedophilic inclinations who do not/have not/are committed to not acting on them. There are arguments on both sides for how child sex robots might affect users. One side says they will help people remain non-offenders, while others say the robot will normalize the practice. Impossible to know at the end of the day until you have empirical evidence. Question is – do we want to find out?

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