Friday, 4 February 2011

Dead Girls, androids, gynoids: the future of sex is already happening

A few days ago I got an email from a SF magazine with an article about Dead Girls. It led to a certain amount of strangeness.

Dead Girls is a 1992 ‘post-cyberpunk’ novel by Richard Calder, the first in what came to be known as the ‘Dead trilogy’.


I've heard of Calder but don't know that much of his work, but there's a Wikipedia entry on him. It briefly discusses the book and the trilogy, and observes:

A notable theme running through his work (most notably the 'Dead' trilogy) is agalmatophiliac male lust for young female gynoids, as well as the darker undercurrents of British national culture.


Wikipedia again:

Agalmatophilia [...] is a paraphilia concerned with the sexual attraction to a statue, doll, mannequin or other similar figurative object. The attraction may include the desire for actual sexual contact with the objects, a fantasy of having sexual (or non-sexual) encounters with the animate or inanimate instances of the preferred objects, the act of watching encounters between the objects themselves, or sexual pleasure gained from thoughts of being transformed or transforming another into the preferred object.

Meanwhile, the term 'gynoid' was coined to mean a robot that appears human and female. The original term for a human-appearing robot, android, has a root meaning that implies maleness.

Wikipedia has a short but intriguing discussion of gynoids that says:

Female-appearing robots have also appeared in real-life, with early constructions being crude. The first gynoid was produced by Sex Objects Ltd, a British company, for use as a "sex-aid". It was called simply "36C", from her chest measurement, and had a 16-bit microprocessor and voice synthesiser that allowed primitive responses to speech and push button inputs.

So the first gynoid was intended as a sex aid? How original! You'd never have guessed, would you...

However, there are several more recent gynoids, mostly made in Japan, South Korea and China. They include:

Aiko (Wikipedia: 'an attempt at producing a realistic-looking female android. It speaks Japanese and English and has been produced for a price of 13000 euro'),

Actroid ('designed by Hiroshi Ishiguro to be "a perfect secretary who smiles and flutters her eyelids"'),

EveR-1, EveR-2 and EveR-3. EveR-3 (i.e. Eve Robot 3) was shown to the public in 2009. It's not completely human in form, since long skirts hide wheels, but strangely in early 2010 it appeared in a Korean play, 'Robot Princess and the Seven Dwarfs'. An article in Broadway World says:

The robot who goes by the name of EveR-3 (Eve Robot 3) has taken a starring role in various productions last year including 'Dwarfs' which played to sold-out audiences. EveR-3 is five feet, two inches tall, and has the ability to communicate in Korean and English, and can express a total of 16 facial expressions. Due to her popularity, EveR-3 is scheduled to star in more productions later on in the year.

HRP-4C. Made in Japan at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science Technology, it (she?) has actually been used as catwalk model in a fashion show. It stands 5ft2in with Japanese facial features, 30 motors in her body and 8 motors in her face; can walk, move, blink and talk like a human and express emotions of anger and surprise. Apparently the programming details are to be released publicly so 'everyone can contribute to new moves for the robot'. Am I overly cynical about what 'moves' male teenage nerds are likely to programme...? Even if your own copy will cost about $250,000 or £160,000, rather beyond their price bracket...

There's a Youtube video of HRP-4C that's slightly weird and disturbing, human in some respects but not others. And a strange moment when the robot answers a question with a slight incline of the head and a raised eyebrow as if to say 'Are you taking the piss?' The question was in Japanese so I can't tell you what it was! Check the right sidebar of the Youtube page for a bunch of other gynoids and androids, though...

Finally, there's Meinü. First reported in 2006, the name (in full, Měinǚ Jīqìrén) literally means 'beautiful-woman robot'.

It’s not entirely clear where all this leads, except that we can expect agalmatophilia to become a significant thing in the future – because already, for example, we have teenage boys whose idea of an ideal partner comes from video games rather than real life. And if it’s an established fetish, we can also expect manufacturers to devise gynoids that will exactly fulfill that fetish.

Time frame for this? I’m guessing less than a decade for a fully-functioning, sexually-responsive gynoid to be available for not a lot more than a few hundred pounds, probably from the major online stores (yes, Amazon already sell sex aids so there's no matter of principle to be discussed there...).

And what about androids? Well, presumably there’ll be a demand, from women and the gay market, and eventually it will be met. But I’d guess manufacturers will see gynoids as the larger market and go there first.

Anyone else care to offer any thoughts on the development of robot eroticism in the near future? As robotics develop, should we be thinking about artificial intelligence rights in parallel with human rights? Could these cover areas like sexuality??


  1. This is a fascinating post; it reminded me of Hans Bellmer's gorgeously contorted mannequins. I've had an odd attraction to the idea of becoming an automaton since I was a little girl. About ten years ago I found an archive of weird stories on the internet (shocking, I know) about this particular fetish. I used to read one of them compulsively. I wonder if it's still out there.

    I have a feeling that gynoids and androids would always be victims, to an extent, of the culture's worst projections, and they'd stare out at us from the immense solitude of their automated inner worlds as we took advantage of them.

    I owe you an apology for being so late in thanking you for the information you gave me on adrenal fatigue. After making some changes in my job and general approach to life a few months ago, my fatigue and anxiety have improved greatly. I guess in my case, the symptoms were situational.

    I hope that you and your partner are both feeling healthy and are having a good 2011.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I confess this is an area that interests me, or anyway puzzles me because there seem to be so many unanswered questions - and technology is moving really quickly.

    The idea of androids and gynoids being 'exploited' and indeed whether there are conditions under which there should be 'android rights' is the stuff of science fiction, from Asimov to cyberpunk - but I suspect we may soon be in a position where these are immediate rather than theoretical questions.

    I'm glad the stuff on adrenal fatigue was useful. It's a strange area - medical orthodoxy says it doesn't exist but then plenty of individual medics (and others!) are prepared to offer 'treatments' of different kinds, or alternative diagnoses. Meanwhile, lifestyle changes can help a great deal by themselves. Hope things continue to improve for you.