#184 Sex Robots and Woman Hating with Caitlin Roper

October 11, 2022 FiLiA Episode 184
#184 Sex Robots and Woman Hating with Caitlin Roper
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#184 Sex Robots and Woman Hating with Caitlin Roper
Oct 11, 2022 Episode 184

We are very pleased to share this interview by Raquel Rosario Sanchez with Caitlin Roper, author of “Sex Dolls, Robots and Woman Hating” which has just been published by Spinifex Press.

“Sex Dolls, Robots and Woman Hating” exposes the inherent misogyny in the trade in sex dolls and robots modelled on the bodies of women and girls for men’s unlimited sexual use. From doll owners enacting violence and torture on their dolls, men choosing their dolls over their wives, dolls made in the likeness of specific women and the production of child sex abuse dolls, sex dolls and robots pose a serious threat to the status of women and girls.

Caitlin Roper is an activist, writer and Campaigns Manager at Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation, a grassroots campaigning movement against the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in media, advertising and popular culture.

Caitlin is an author whose work has been published in a range of mainstream media outlets including The Guardian, ABC, Huffington Post, Sydney Morning Herald and Arena magazine. She contributed a commentary chapter to Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade (Spinifex Press, 2016). Caitlin Roper is a founding member of Adopt Nordic WA which advocates for implementation of the Nordic model of prostitution legislation in Western Australia. She has been a speaker and organiser for Reclaim the Night Perth. She is also aco-founder of the Feminist Academy of Technology and Ethics (the FATES).

“Sex Dolls, Robots and Woman Hating”, is available on the FiLiA Bookshop, Spinifex Press and in all excellent bookstores. You can follow the work of the grassroots campaigning organisation Collective Shout on their website and social media. You can follow Caitlin Roper’s work on her Twitter and Instagram

Show Notes Transcript

We are very pleased to share this interview by Raquel Rosario Sanchez with Caitlin Roper, author of “Sex Dolls, Robots and Woman Hating” which has just been published by Spinifex Press.

“Sex Dolls, Robots and Woman Hating” exposes the inherent misogyny in the trade in sex dolls and robots modelled on the bodies of women and girls for men’s unlimited sexual use. From doll owners enacting violence and torture on their dolls, men choosing their dolls over their wives, dolls made in the likeness of specific women and the production of child sex abuse dolls, sex dolls and robots pose a serious threat to the status of women and girls.

Caitlin Roper is an activist, writer and Campaigns Manager at Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation, a grassroots campaigning movement against the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in media, advertising and popular culture.

Caitlin is an author whose work has been published in a range of mainstream media outlets including The Guardian, ABC, Huffington Post, Sydney Morning Herald and Arena magazine. She contributed a commentary chapter to Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade (Spinifex Press, 2016). Caitlin Roper is a founding member of Adopt Nordic WA which advocates for implementation of the Nordic model of prostitution legislation in Western Australia. She has been a speaker and organiser for Reclaim the Night Perth. She is also aco-founder of the Feminist Academy of Technology and Ethics (the FATES).

“Sex Dolls, Robots and Woman Hating”, is available on the FiLiA Bookshop, Spinifex Press and in all excellent bookstores. You can follow the work of the grassroots campaigning organisation Collective Shout on their website and social media. You can follow Caitlin Roper’s work on her Twitter and Instagram


Raquel Rosario Sánchez from FiLiA in conversation with Caitlin Roper from Collective Shout WA and author of Sex, Dolls, Robots and Woman Hating: The Case for Resistance.

Raquel: Hello everyone. Welcome to the FiLiA podcast. My name is Raquel Rosario Sánchez and I am the spokeswoman for FiLiA. Today we are delighted to speak with Caitlin Roper, who is the author of Sex Dolls, Robots and Woman Hating: The Case for Resistance

Caitlin is an activist, writer and campaigns manager at Collective Shout.

Collective Shout is a grassroots campaigning movement against the objectification of women and the sexualisation of girls in media, advertising and popular culture. Caitlin is an author whose work has been published in a range of mainstream media outlets, including The Guardian, the Huffington Post, the Sydney Morning Herald, and Arena Magazine.

Caitlin contributed a commentary chapter to Prostitution Narratives, stories of survival in the sex trade by Spinifex press. Caitlin Roper is a founding member of Adopt Nordic Model WA, which advocates for the implementation of the Nordic model of prostitution legislation in Western Australia. She has been a speaker and an organiser of Reclaim the Night in Perth, and she's the co-founder of the Feminist Academy of Technology and Ethics.

Caitlin, thank you so much for speaking with us about your book. 

Caitlin: Thank you for having me. I've been a big fan of your work for many years. I think the first time I came across your work was an article on Feminist Current, and I've been a fan ever since. 

Raquel: That's lovely. Thank you. Before we begin to talk about your book, I want to ask you, how are you? You've just written a book about sex doll robots, which is, we're going get into it in a second, but I think that everyone's first perception of this topic is like a, bit of disgust, this is mostly going be heard by a feminist audience and most feminist would feel hesitation when it comes to this topic.

So I want to ask you, how are you? 

Caitlin: I'm doing very well. I am lucky that I have a great group of women around me, and I think that's what's helped me to get through it because a lot of the research in this space, a lot of what I've uncovered has been very upsetting or very enraging, really. And that's from the men who buy and use sex dolls and the things that they're doing, the paedophiles and those men who purchase child sex abuse dolls and what they're doing with them. 

And, also even just the academic defenders of sex dolls and sex robots who pitch these products as sort of mutual and harmless and even advocate for them and say that this could be a good thing, that they'll have all these benefits. But don't pause for a moment to think how women and girls might be harmed by the production of replica women purely made for men's sexual use. 

So a lot of this has actually, the process has made me quite angry. So in that sense, being able to put it down on paper, being able to write about it and expose what's going on has actually been quite helpful.

I think for me, rage actually motivates a lot of my feminist work because I just, I can't not do it. I have to expose what I've seen. I have to talk about this, have to get it out there and have to make it something that people are aware of and that we can organise against it. So, I'm doing well because like I said, I've had a great group of women around me providing support and allowing me the space to debrief, but also because there's something I find quite satisfying, I suppose, about being able to expose what is going on and to, I guess, give voice to my rage.

Raquel: That's a really important point, and having a sense of support around you must be fundamental. And I'm interested because your background is in the sexualisation and the objectification of women. 

Collective Shout is a grassroots campaigns movement in Australia, which is really tackling the way that advertising and commercial enterprises, and I know you do some work in education settings, like how the objectification of women has become so prevalent.

How did you make the jump from the work that Collective Shout does and a book about sex robots? So for our audience, I'm just going to explain. Collective Shout was launched in 2010. It's about a group of women who are concerned about the pornification of culture and the way its messages have become entrenched in mainstream society, presenting distorted and dishonest ideas about women and girls, sexuality and relationships.

And you have addressed advertising companies who are presenting objectifying views of women, inappropriate clothing for children, video games that are misogynistic, all that kind of stuff. At what point did you decide, I want to do a book exclusively on sex robots? 

Caitlin: I don't think it was that much of a jump really, I guess from the work I'd already been doing and that we'd been doing at Collective Shout.

It was more like a small step because so much of our work is very much about the objectification of women, the pornification of women's bodies, the links between these things and male violence against women and men's sexual violence against women. And I think we were already starting to do some campaigns in this space.

We had been calling out child sex abuse dolls on different online platforms. We had been just talking about this issue more generally. So I think it was a pretty natural progression for me to move into the realm of sex dolls and sex robots, and particularly just with our work in the sex trade advocating for women in the sex trade and for the Nordic Model and for survivors.

And as I discovered throughout my research on sex dolls and sex robots, and particularly from looking in the online forums where men who owned sex dolls discussed their dolls with each other. I started to notice pretty early on there were quite a lot of comparisons with the sex trade.

So the way that the men related to their dolls, their motivations for getting them and all these things, they sounded very similar to the motivations expressed by sex buyers and the fact that these men took these dolls, which are literal objects, and the way that they related to them was so similar to the way they relate to women in the sex industry, treating them as objects. The dynamic there was really so similar. 

So it was that sort of discovery that got me quite interested as well. And just some of the arguments that are applied to sex dolls and robots, which have previously been applied to the sex trade. So, for example, sometimes people will say, Oh, you know, sex dolls and robots modelled on the bodies of women and girls, you know, they're not great or maybe they're pretty sexist or, whatever. But, better a doll or a robot than a real woman. Or, you know, that this argument that sex dolls or sex robots modelled on the bodies of women could prevent men's violence against real women. That they could function as some sort of shield to protect other women. And this is the same argument that's long been applied to prostitution.

This idea that if men have access to the bodies of women in prostitution, then this will somehow, these women can absorb their aggression and function as a shield to protect other more ‘worthy’ women. So it's the same sort of arguments and always premised on women's objectification or the idea that women are for sex and men's sexual entitlement.

 This idea that men have to have sex, they have to have sexual access to women's bodies. And the idea that they don't just isn't even a thought. It's a given that men require sexual access to women's bodies. And if women can't be made available, then they need silicon replica women. But whatever it is, they still need access to female bodies.

Raquel: Yes, absolutely. And something that you addressed pretty early on is that this is very much about male demand. You know, you are writing the book, replicating the dynamics of the global sex trade. The sex doll industry is fuelled by male demand. The vast majority of dolls are embodied female and buyers are overwhelmingly men.

And then you talk about how some of the creators of sex doll robots say that more than 99% of their customers are men. And that when it comes to their features, one study of a sex doll owner on-line forum found that doll owners were predominantly single white, middle-aged, heterosexual men with jobs.

So there's this stereotype, perhaps intentional, that men who own sex robots are some sort of pariahs in society. You know, men who sort of go outside of the norm that why should we even be bothered about this topic? You know, why even make a fuss about sex robots when we're only talking about men on the fringes who won't have any actual impact on the rest of society.

What do you say to people who claim that this is kind of a fringe issue that is not worth all the fuss?

Caitlin: Well, I think it's a growing issue. We're seeing sex dolls and sex robots become more and more mainstream. And from what I've seen even in just the sex doll owner forums online, there's a range of men who own these dolls.

I mean, obviously they are typically heterosexual men but some of them are single. Some of them are in relationships. Some of them are married. Some of them regard their doll as almost like an intimate partner, their doll is like their girlfriend or something. And then others have a girlfriend and just pull out the doll on occasion.

So I don't think it's as simple as just saying, Oh, it's just this one sort of group who aren't really interacting with women anyway. So therefore we probably don't need to worry. We'll just leave them to their dolls, that's an argument that's sometimes made. 

In my research, I did come across men who talked about using these dolls as practice for sexual relations with women.

So they talked about how they would use their dolls to master different sex positions or how they'd practice to improve their stamina, or they'd just try out different things. Even BDSM sort of sex acts on a female body, so they could kind of practice without having a woman actually present.

So this idea that it's limited to dolls or where people go from that is therefore harmless really because they're just acting out on dolls and there's no actual real world interaction with women. But a lot of these men, they are still interacting with women. They're practicing on these dolls. So they're practicing sex acts they want to perform on actual women, and they're even practicing sexual violence on these dolls. 

Some of these men would document what they were doing on their dolls with photos and videos in online forums, and they would share images of their dolls tied up, bound, in scenarios of sexual slavery and sexual predation.

And this was all done for with the encouragement of the forum members. So they had sort of a captive audience, and the men were cheering each other on and saying, I'm going to do this. Oh, that's so hard and everything. 

So, yeah, it's really a bit more complicated, I think, and we have to consider what the impacts might be for women who are in day to day sort of interactions or even relationships with men who use sex dolls and interact with the dolls and think, this is how I might interact with a woman.

Raquel: Well, obviously the logical connection is if you're practicing violent acts on a doll, then that's because you want to eventually practice it on a human being. But because your practice has been on a doll, there's no tolerance. The sex doll robot cannot indicate its tolerance for pain, for example.

So when these men then go out and try to enact this sex act on women, there's a real danger an actual danger of harm being committed.

 It's interesting how they sort of think that you can practice on a doll and then practice on a woman, it's just not something that is possible to do. It's an object. It cannot tell you what feels comfortable or not. It cannot consent to begin with. 

So you talk in the book about how the femaleness of the dolls is so central to it. For example, there are these conventions in which the sex doll robots are presented and you describe, for example, one convention in which men were watching a sex doll perform a sex act on, it was a dildo on this occasion, but the men were then pretending to be actually having a sexual relationship with this doll. And you talk about how the onlookers would tell the men holding this dildo, like, tell her to go faster, tell her to do this, tell her to do this other thing.

And the sex robot responded, Yes, Master, like the sex robot, responded with these sexual phrases and cues that the sex robot had been programmed to do. So you have all of these men watching this likeness of women, as you described it, this resemblance of femaleness who is thoroughly submissive to whatever they want to do.

Do you consider there this to be a new invention or do you, in your research, do you find that there's a long history of men trying to control women in such a thoroughly objectifying way? 

Caitlin: I mean, I think that's just porn, right? Like when we look at the dynamics in mainstream pornography, it's very much about male dominance and female subordination.

So when you look at sex dolls and sex robots, it's almost like this is a form of pornography that men can actually be more, it's more interactive. So rather than consuming and masturbating while they're watching pornography, they can actually take a bit more of an active approach. So it's like, they can be more in control, they can be dictating how it goes. It's a form of pornography and also very much the dynamics of the global sex trade. It's all about what the man wants. It's this kind of sexual dynamic based on what the man wants, the sex act that he prefers, in the order he prefers them in the way that he wants them, and the woman, suspending her own sexuality and it's all about the men. 

Now, of course, sex dolls don't have their own sexuality, but it's the same sort of dynamic that it's all about the man. There is no consideration of the woman's needs or pain or feelings or enjoyment or anything like that, but just that it's all about the man and what he wants and his power.

So I think it's very much that same sort of dynamic. And that's something we need to think about when we're hearing from these advocates of sex dolls and robots talking about all these potential benefits, we need to consider why we would want to take these same dynamics, in pornography and prostitution, where women are subordinate and women are objectified and dehumanised for men's sexual gratification and consider if that's a dynamic that we really want to extend into other relations. 

Raquel: Or encouraging society at large. 

Caitlin: Of course.

Raquel: You write in the book. 

‘These products could only be conceived in a society in which women are seen as less than human, as things for men's sexual use and gratification. It is no coincidence that sex dolls and robots are overwhelmingly made in the likeness of women for men's sexual use rather than the other way around’.

 So when you write about sex doll robots, can you explain to our audience what exactly do you mean? Because there's all sorts of gadgets and technologies. So when you say sex doll robots, can you explain to our audience what kind of gadgets are we talking about? 

Caitlin: Sure. So when I refer to sex dolls, I'm talking about life-like anatomically correct replica women that are made of silicon and they come with penetrate able orifices, and they're marketed for men's sexual use. So those are sex dolls in a general way, and that's really where we're at right now. 

There are some robotic sex dolls that have some very limited kind of additional technologies. Basically, what these products are, they are silicon sex doll bodies paired with an animatronic head. They're still very primitive. They can't stand up by themselves, they can't walk or anything like that. They can do a few little things. Some of them can moan, some of them respond to touch with sensors. Some of them can perform a few automated sexual acts or positions, but it's still very limited. So this idea that we have sex robots in the way a lot of people might sort of think, based on sort of like sci-fi and everything, what a sex robot is. We're really not there. 

We are really very much at this point where we have sex doll bodies and potentially an animatronic head that can be paired with a smartphone app or something like that so it can talk through the app and things like that. But they're still very primitive at this point.

Raquel: Sex robots don't technically exist. In these conventions, they present this sort of prototype of look at all of these amazing features that this female like robot can do. But you say that in reality they're sort of proposals, but they don't really exist, like in this very high tech vision that is sort of advertised.

It's not like men are out there having this lifeline companions who can do all of these features.

Caitlin: That's right. We hear from some of these advocates some pretty wild proposals for sex robots. So for example, one of these, David Levy argues that by 2050 people will be marrying sex robots or others suggest that if there's sex robots, then we don't need to have sex trafficking anymore because we can have sex robots in the place of prostituted women or all kinds of proposals involving a sex robot as a stand in for a living woman. But the reality is, as I said, these products are so primitive. I'm not very optimistic that they'll become what these men are proposing. 

So this idea that we could end sex trafficking through sex robots or all these other sort of farfetched and impractical ideas from proponents of sex robots, like, it's just not happening. These ideas that are just very implausible and unconvincing, especially given where we're at now. 

For example, about 10 years ago now, there was one company that claimed to have released Roxy, which was pitched as the world's first sex robot. And the creator went to the adult video news convention, which is the major porn industry convention. And he demonstrated the robot and everything and everyone was really excited about it. But there's not actually been any evidence that the robot really exists and can do all the things that he's claiming. The creator has said he's had thousands of orders, but no one's actually ever got one. 

And recently when I checked the domain name for this company, it is for sale, so it doesn't appear to be active anymore. So a lot of the claims that are being made just seem to be claims that are put out there. Media latched onto it and it's a big story, but there's not a whole lot of truth to it or not a whole lot of substance to it.

And I think that's the case for a lot of these products or just that the claims are overemphasised and not really accurate in terms of where we are right now with the technology. 

Raquel: You make a distinction between sex robots and robotic dolls. But my concern is, well, what would be the difference?

There are already these replicas of female likeness that men get to say that they live with, say that this is my partner, this is my wife, who are essentially like more technologically enhanced dolls. Like what would be the difference between that and a sex robot, a proper sex robot as it is advertised?

Caitlin: When you say the term sex robot, a lot of people imagine, have an idea in their head of what that looks like. You know, just from a sort of sci-fi perspective, what a robot would be like. And I guess that you could have interactions with it that you could speak to it and it could respond to you, and that it could move around by itself and all these things.

So my distinction in not calling them sex robots or, or calling out some of the issues with the term sex robot or just in terms of where we are now in the technology, it's just saying that that idea that most people have in their head about sex robots, we are not remotely close to that. 

But I mean, whether it's a sex doll or a robotic doll or a sex robot, it's all based on the same idea where it's this notion of a replica woman that exists for men's sexual use.

So it's not that one or the other is more harmful or more sexist, or more objectifying. It's all the same premise, which is woman as object for men's sexual use. 

Raquel: That brings up a really interesting point, which is: is it worse that what already exists is a robotic sort of creation who can do some features, like for example perform oral sex on men or has orifices and can speak. It's programed so that the robot can speak certain phrases, but it's not like he's walking around having a life on his own.

I find that the fact that it's like this disjointed thing that has to be programmed is kind of worse because it looks like a woman or you have to maybe put batteries on it or connect it to a plug. So an advance in technology wouldn't make it any less troublesome.

What do you think about that? 

Caitlin: Yeah, I think that's right. I think it's a really interesting point but it's very much about control. It's about men having control, men having ownership, and being able to, I guess, come up with all the supposedly desirable qualities in a female. So they can build these dolls, they can customise dolls in terms of their physical features. They can decide, I want this body type, I want this breast size, I want this hair colour, eye colour down to nail polish and freckles and pubic hair and all, all kinds of things. So they can customise physically their doll in the way that they want. Or even some companies allow men to send in a photo and say, we'll make the doll in this woman's likeness. We might just tweak it slightly just so we're allowed to. 

There's talk of robotic dolls where they could potentially choose personalities or pre-program their dolls with certain personality traits.

But even outside of that, we are seeing men who own sex dolls on these online forums, they come up with personalities for their dolls. So it's, it's this complete ownership and complete control from them, because obviously this is not a woman who has a personality. It's men cultivating these personalities for their doll which always seem to line up with this heterosexual male porn fantasy dolls, what they imagine a woman would be like and speak like, they are always ready for sex. They're so eager and so horny, and they paint the dolls even as instigators of sexual activity. So, for example, they might post photos of their doll in various states of undress on these forums and say something like, Oh, Jenny wanted to do a strip tease or something. So they take their own desire and turn that around as if that's like an attribute of their doll's personality again, which is all completely made up by them. 

So it's very much about wanting to have complete ownership over a woman and this is the next best thing, I suppose. 

Raquel: Complete ownership over a woman and they're able to take a picture of, for example, an ex-girlfriend and get doll made in her likeness. And that's legal. 

Caitlin: What some companies do is they say, send in a photo and we'll make an almost exact replica. We have to change it a little bit. It might be 99% the same, but just to cover ourselves. We might change like the eye colour or something. 

So, and we're seeing this with child sex abuse doll manufacturers as well. And they don't necessarily even change anything. Some are offering men to send in a photo of a young girl or even a toddler, and that they will make a doll in that girl's likeness complete with penetrate-able vagina, anus and mouth. 

Raquel: We’re going to talk about the children's aspect of this.

I wanted to pause before moving on that and talk about race because sex robots are just like, there's the misogynist aspect to it, there's also a lot of racism and stereotype behind it and you say that the the sellers of robotic dolls, they take their cues from the porn industry.

And in the porn industry, race is in these little boxes. You know, you can be sort of like bi-Latina, or you can be like a very wild black woman and some promotional materials for black sex dolls. You quote:

‘Have you ever dated a black boyfriend or girlfriend or have you ever imagined having sex with them?’ Black people tend to have stronger bodies and smoother skin than the average person, which makes them full of sex appeal. But now you can leave out your fantasies and fully explore and experiment with your imagination by pursuing a realistic black sex doll’.

So have you found how prevalent robotic sex dolls that are not white?

And have you found any sort of challenge to the racism inherent in this market other than yours?

Caitlin: I'm not sure about robotic dolls in terms of just straight sex dolls. I definitely have found a variety of sex dolls in terms of different races. But I will say overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly, they tend to be fair skinned. There's a lot that are Asian. I mean, this makes sense. Many come out of China and Japan, but I have definitely seen black sex dolls. We actually found earlier this year, and I mentioned this in the book, at Collective Shout, we found Etsy selling sex dolls marketed as black sex slave.

And the product description talked about this doll, which came with love holes, and it was given tags like sex slave, fantasy sex toy, men, sex, and all these things. And the photos showed the doll from behind naked and posed on all fours. And so yeah these products are definitely out there.

And, and I make the point in the book, you know, of course these are based on racist and sexist stereotypes of women. But in one sense, we're not calling for like a more diverse range of representation in sex dolls. We're not saying we want better representation in sex dolls. Some academics who argue the solution is, Oh, we just need to have more diverse sex dolls or a greater range of body types in sex dolls or genders or gender identities or whatever.

We don't want to see more of this. We don't want to have sexually objectify a wider range of women. 

Raquel: I wanted to ask you about the origins of sex dolls. And I think I tried in earlier question, but I think I didn't get it right. I wanted to know where did this idea come from or did you find in your research that some men have spent the past hundred years trying to experiment with some sort of technological features to create objectified women as robots? Or is this something that is a newer invention? 

Caitlin: I think there has been for many years something along these lines, but it's only in recent years that these dolls have become much more realistic and lifelike. There was a film in, I think it was 2007, Lars and The Real Girl, and I think that was something that really brought these more lifelike hyper realistic sex dolls to the mainstream.

And actually, Gail Dines writes in her book Pornland that when that movie came out, the manufacturer of the doll in the movie, their website crashed because it got so many hits. Now we're seeing sex dolls that are so very realistic that sometimes you see a photo and you do a double take. It's like, Oh, is that a doll or is that a woman because they're so very detailed and so realistic, not all of them of course but some of them go for thousands of dollars. So they are very detailed, very, very much attention to the features and things like that. 

Raquel: Do you have any idea of what year they started to become commercialised and produced on a mass scale?

Caitlin: That's a good question. I know Susan Griffin wrote about sex dolls as pornographic dolls in, in a book she wrote in 1981. So they must have been turning up in sex shops in some degree, at least then. But like I said, it's really more in recent years that they become so much more realistic and convincing.

Raquel: I’m really interested in the jump between a blow up doll that is made of plastic and air and is made to have like an exaggerated sort of obviously offensive version of female body, but it's a piece of plastic that doesn't really do much. The jump from that to, well, what if she could speak, what if this robot could speak, you know, what if I can make this robot to look like my ex-wife? What if I could program this robot to say the things that I want the robot to say? 

That's a gap in history that I think is very fascinating. Where did this idea come from to say, let's go to the next level and make it as similar to a natural woman as possible.

Caitlin: That's a really good question. I know the creator of one of the most famous sex doll manufacturers now, which is Real Doll with some of the most popular and the most expensive, that actually started out with him as an artist, as a sculptor. And, and it sort of went from art to men saying, Oh, could you make that as a sex doll? And then took that turn and became a sex doll manufacturer. 

Raquel: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. So I can see how someone like him got a very hands on perspective on this. 

So I want to speak about the consent aspect because some people would claim, Well, isn't it better that they're doing all of these misogynistic things on a doll as opposed to on a woman? Isn't it better that men who are so objectifying of women, their perspective of women is so dehumanised that they're willing to purchase this robotic gadget that is very expensive. Isn't it better that they're sort of in the fringes having what they consider to be relationship with robots rather than out there experimenting on human females?

What would you say to that? 

Caitlin: I would say that, well, first of all, we need to talk about the role of the objectification of women and the dehumanisation of women and how that is such a big part of sex dolls and robots, that they're premised on women's less than human status and their object status. Second, in terms of consent, what sex dolls and sex robots or robotic dolls do is they make women's consent irrelevant.

Now, as feminists, we, many of us have critiques of consent, or at least that consent is the answer to everything without addressing the role of the wider culture or the messages of pornography or male dominance and male sexual entitlement. So we understand this consent framework is limited and that it can be used to justify men's abuse of women and say, women consent to it, so it's okay. We don't need to talk about male violence against women because women consent to being choked or they consent to violent sex. But in this case, what is happening is its portraying replica women as well, they are, always available for men's sexual use. They don't say yes. They don't say no. Women's consent becomes. Irrelevant. And men use these products as stand-ins for women, and even, like I said, as practice for sexual relations with women. 

So we need to consider what that looks like when men are training on these products that are not human, that do not respond, that do not object to anything, they don't feel pain, they don't have any feelings, and consider how that is going to impact on these men's sexuality and their idea of women and what women are for, and how this is going to impact on women.

Raquel: I’m really interested to know, just because you purchase a sex robot, say you keep it in the home, you don't take it outside just because you purchase that sex robot and you interact with it, essentially you masturbate with it at home, doesn't mean that there's not a series of interactions with women outside of that environment.

You know, that's a controlled environment, you and your doll. But what happens when that man encounters women at work? How does that man treat women in his family? How does he treat women on the bus? Or when he does groceries. There's this sort of separation between separation between, well, at least he's doing it to a doll at home. Yeah. But they interact with human beings outside of the home. The contortions that people make to justify having something that is essentially a mockery of women is really interesting. 

I’m just going to ask the question!

What do you think about the idea that it would reduce male violence against women actually, if more men were encouraged to practice their abuse, sexual or otherwise on dolls rather than human females? 

Caitlin:  Yeah, I think you've made a whole lot of great points about the fact that men do interact with women, even if they're not in an intimate relationship with women, they still are interacting with women throughout their lives and that's that a really important thing to point out.

 In terms of male violence, a lot of people do argue, you know, these dolls are not women, they're not people, so therefore, men's violence against them is a victimless crime, that there's no harm because there's no victim, and that they could even function as a cathartic outlet for these men and prevent violence against women.

But the first thing I would say there is that when men are enacting violence on a replica, women, this isn't actually preventing violence. They are still perpetrating violence. It's not simulated, it's not a fantasy. It's real. And men are enacting this violence on a silicon body that looks and feels like a real woman.

So they're having the experience of perpetrating violence against a woman. And remember, there's no emotional feedback of course, because it's a doll. And this experience is being reinforced by an orgasm. And in the case of these online forums, it's also being encouraged by other forum members. So I would argue that having access to replica women to practice rape, violence, abuse, any of these things, it doesn't prevent men's violence against women it's just an extension of it. It's another way that they can enact their violence, they can practice. So I don't think it's a solution. I don't think it's actually stopping anything. I think it allows men to experiment and just kind of escalate over time. 

Raquel: Have you found any sort of evidence of their relationship with women? Do they report on the online forums, this dynamic of, well, I have my sex doll at home, do they talk about romantic relationships, but also just relationships in general with women?

Do they speak about this amongst themselves?

Caitlin: Yeah, that's a really good question. I would say based on what I've seen on online forums, there's quite a range of different men and different scenarios. So like I said before, some of these men, they regard their doll as like their partner, their girlfriend or something or maybe they've chosen a doll after having been in relationships with women and as they say about prostituted women, they prefer no drama or being in control or whatever those things are. There's also men who still are dating women or even have wives or girlfriends, but also have a sex doll.

So there's a real range that you get some men who are very anti-women and quite openly misogynistic in their attitudes towards women having been rejected by women. And then you have some who will say, Oh, you know, my wife or my girlfriend is great, but I just, I want to have sex on demand in the way that I want it, therefore I want to have this doll. Or some of them hide these dolls from their partners and others, it's unclear if their partner actually knows that their partner has a doll. 

So there's a range of different experiences there, I think. And I can't say I know enough about that to comment much further, but I don't think there's just only one way of being.

In chapter five, I talk about some of the women's experiences, whose partners have purchased sex dolls and how they feel about that. So a lot of these women, their partner or their husband purchased a sex doll, and this was something that they weren't comfortable with. They didn't want this and they reported their humiliation and distress over it that they felt their partners preferred their sex doll to them, and they felt pressured as well that if they didn't keep up with their husband's sexual demands, and their husband would get a sex doll or use a sex doll. 

And even cases where husbands are spending money that they don't have on expensive sex dolls so investing thousands of dollars on their sexual fetish. But women just feeling they're being groomed and gas lit by their male partners to tolerate their sex doll use. 

Raquel: The sex dolls are sort of like a machine, a machine to replicate non-consent.

You make a very interesting point in the book, but it's like it's not sex because they are robots. There's no feedback from the other person. And you say:

‘In order to have sex, a sentient partner is needed, a subject, not an object. When men sexually use dolls, it is a one sided sexual experience, so it is not sex, it is masturbation. If sex dolls and robots simply aid masturbation, and if they are nothing more than sophisticated sex doll, then some people argue that they do not raise any ethical issues, but. But then what happens if that man has a partner or a girlfriend or a wife? You know, it's like, I expect my wife to be okay with me masturbating to something that looks like her with no response or tolerance of pain, or no way to say no. It's like an object of rape in your own home from the perspective of the partner, the female, the actual female who's in the house’.

It feels like having an object of rape in your own home and then sort of having to include that into your sex life somehow.

In your broader research, have you heard from the women themselves of their experience?

Caitlin: No, I actually think that would be a really interesting research project, and I think in time there's going to be more accounts like this coming out. I mean, the products are still sort of in their infancy at this point. I mean, we're hearing in terms of porn, many women speaking out and sharing their stories.

And I know you've just recently interviewed my colleague, Melinda Tankard Reist, on her new book, He Chose Porn Over Me. And as I was writing my book, I felt that there were so many comparisons between our books. But I think in time in the next 10 years, or maybe five or 10 years, we might be hearing from a lot more women as these products become more mainstream and sort of more normalised, hearing from more women who are having experiences with these dolls, where these dolls are becoming an issue for them in relationships or their partners, their husbands are choosing sex dolls instead of them.

 I know a number of the women whose accounts are shared in the book.

They talked about feeling like the doll was better than them, like the doll was superior to them. It was perfect and hot and just more appealing than them, more sexually appealing than them. But they also felt like they were being cheated on, but also would then say, I know I'm not really being cheated on. It feels that way, but they felt like they weren't allowed to object. They weren't allowed to say, this isn't okay. I don't like this. I want you to get rid of it, because they felt like they couldn't say no. 

Raquel: There's an element of it that is very clearly about humiliating women, and we know this because otherwise women themselves would also have like, this is my male sex doll, you know, this is my male likeness in the form of a doll. And they don't.

I wonder if, based on your experience, because you not only wrote the book, but you also like talk to people about this topic, do you feel that because you're concerned about in 10 years, what is this going to look like? Is there going to be more prevalence of sex dolls? Is this going to become even more normalised? 

Do you think that there is a rejection or a shunning of men who use sex dolls? Do you think that is still some sort of little secret that they have or do you think that society's becoming more accepting of, well this is just something that my colleague at work talks about often, his sex doll that he keeps in bedroom. 

Caitlin: I actually think that sex dolls and sex robots are becoming more mainstream. I think that the approach now with a lot of people is, you know, they're seen as a bit weird or maybe gross, but we are seeing them featuring in movies, TV shows, documentaries, music videos just in so many ways they're becoming a bigger part of mainstream popular culture.

And something I write about in the book is the way that culturally we are being groomed to sort of tolerate men's sex doll use to see this as normal and to have empathy and compassion for these poor, lonely men who couldn't find a wife so they had to go and buy a replica woman that they could use for sex on demand.

So there's this very specific narrative that's being pushed and also this idea that sex dolls and robots and these products, that we can't kink shame that this is all part of sex positivity and under sex positivity, we can't critique any sexual practice. If someone likes it, it must be good. And if you critique it, then you are shaming and that's bad. So that's something that I think played a significant role for a lot of these women in feeling like they couldn't say no. Some even talked about, like that one actually prefaced her objections by saying, I'm not kink shaming, and if anyone kink shames in the comments, I'll report you.

So it's like women are still upholding this whole, we can't criticise this stuff that's hurting us even as they're being hurt by it. So I think, this idea that kink shaming is bad and anything anyone likes sexually or that men like sexually is off limits for any kind of critical analysis. I think that's where we are really being harmed because it means we're not able to have these critical feminist discussions. Women are being silenced, they're silencing themselves because they feel like it's not appropriate to object because they're the ones doing the harm if they object rather than their husbands or partners using sex dolls. 

Raquel: And you are writing the book about your hesitation when you tell people that your research is about sex dolls and you say that you always pause when people ask, well, what do you do? And you always sort of like, contemplate, well, how do I respond to this? I would guess that because people know you and are in your circle, the responses that you would get would be maybe different than an x person in x town, you know, who does any other sort of work. Because when I was reading your book, I thought, do I have like this visceral response to it? because I know my personal opinion of them. And you know, as a feminist, I just very strongly feel that it's, as you call it, it's a replica of femaleness that does not have the power to consent, does not have the power to express pain, to express rejection, it's an object in the likeness of women.

So I knew what my reaction was, but I thought, well, Raquel, well, what would an average person, what have they done about this topic to see the public sentiment? Because maybe I'm just too far into like the feminist analysis and maybe I need to be more open minded not to accept the sex dolls, but just to think, does the average person walking down the street think, well, this is just one of those weird things that men do, or it's not, not a big deal, or I shouldn't worry. It doesn't matter.  Because my reaction was very visceral. But I wonder if there have been polls about sex robots that show that maybe most people just think they're stupid or harmless. What do you think? 

Caitlin: The empirical data on this is fairly limited just because, well, I mean, we don't really have sex robots in the way that a lot of people imagine sex robots, but there has been some early research just kind of taking polls and surveys and things to gauge people's general attitudes towards them. From memory, men were more likely than women to be open to sex dolls and sex robots, which is no surprise to anyone.

I'm going to say 2016, 2017ish, there was still a lot of hesitation from both sexes towards sex dolls and sex robots in the groups that were surveyed but I think things are changing and they're changing quickly. 

My take is that most people would think, well, outside of feminist circles, a lot of, obviously feminists can identify the harms of these products of having replica women that are promoted as being for men's on-demand sexual use. But outside of that, outside of these circles, I think a lot of people think, ‘oh, that's a bit weird’, or ‘that's not my thing’, but whatever floats your boat, if that works for you, then whatever, They're not going to be really thinking about it too deeply. 

So I think people do think maybe they're a bit gross, but they're probably harmless. 

So what I'm trying to do in this book is to help people to understand how these products, the trade in sex dolls and robots is just inherently misogynistic and the real world harms to women and girls. These products aren't neutral. They're not harmless. This is a very gendered industry as we've talked about. It's very much like the global sex trade. The demand is heterosexual men and the products are overwhelmingly female bodied. So it's not neutral. It's just another way that we are seeing male sexual entitlement and female objectification playing out again.

Raquel: I wanted to ask you about sex doll brothels. Because, you know, you have this idea because of the sort of legacy of the blow up doll that a sex robot is something that men can keep maybe in their closets. But now we have sex doll robots occupying space in the public sphere and men who come in and out of these brothels. How did that idea come about?

That how about we have a so-called brothel in which instead of women, men get to rent robots. 

Caitlin: I think because these products can be so expensive, even if you go to something like Real Doll, which is one of the more famous manufacturers, I believe the average one starts at about $6,000. So they're quite expensive. And this is outside of any sort of robotic elements as well. 

So I know some advocates have sort of argued that sex dolls or robot brothels might be the way to go just in terms of expenses. So these brothels or rental services have opened up around the world.

Some of them have, what we've even seen, regular brothels are full of women that have imported a couple of sex dolls that can be bought alongside the women. And there are brothels exclusively focusing on sex dolls with different themed rooms or BDSM furniture and bondage gear, or even some with VR components as well.

So what I have seen, I mean these brothels are very much promoted as a place where men have the freedom to do whatever they want, to give free reign to their desires and just no limits. But what's interesting is that from what I've seen, many of these seem to have shut down. And I think it's because it's not actually incredibly sustainable because there's such a high turnover of dolls because the men use these dolls roughly, and the dolls are damaged and broken, and it's quite expensive to repair them and to replace them.

So that's my take just as I've looked up so many of these brothels or even ones that have been reported in the media, and when I go back a couple of years later, they're not there anymore, or the websites are down, or the Facebook page hasn't been touched in years. So that's my take, that it's just not a very sustainable business model.

Raquel: And they explicitly advertise that it is a place where they can ‘fulfil all their wishes’ without any limits. One of the doll brothels was advertised as 

‘Some people love violence, sex, and would not like to hurt women. If they visited the sex doll brothels, they would benefit greatly since the sex doll, robots have no soul and cannot feel pain or hurt’.

They were essentially inviting men who have an objectified view of women to physically abuse these gadgets. Then when they do, then you end up finding yourself with no business because they just harm and damage their robots.

I mean, there's so many layers of disturbance in that scenario. 

So the sex doll brothel is not really a market? Or are you saying that the market exists, but it's just not a sustainable market? 

Caitlin: I mean, this is my take, just that it's not sustainable for the businesses.

There's definitely a demand. There's definitely men who appear to want this service. One of the brothels, which was a regular brothel, but that brought in a sex doll claimed that the doll was more popular than that the women, and that it was so popular that they purchased a second sex doll. I don't know what the status of that brothel is now in terms of the sex dolls and if they're still that popular, but there definitely is a demand for these products.

So yeah, it's my take that it's because it's so expensive to maintain these dolls and that I think when the men know it's not my mine, I'm just renting it, it doesn't matter if I break it because it's not mine. Like, they're not going to be taking extreme care necessarily. Not that they necessarily are anyway. It's my take that it's about the sustainability rather than that there's not demand.

Raquel: You mentioned your colleague, Melinda, also from Collective Shout. When her and I spoke a couple of weeks ago about her book, He Chose Porn Over Me. She talked about the impact of consuming pornography in men's psychological health and physical health, like for example, they would often experience porn induced erectile dysfunction and psychologically their mental health really deteriorated.

I'm wondering if you could share with our audience any similar research, like what is the impact on men's bodies and their psychological state of mind of utilising sex robots. 

Caitlin: That's a really good question. I'm not sure that that research exists yet, but I will say if we're making the comparison between sex dolls and porn, or as I have done in the book, I talk about how advocates for sex dolls say that they're so good because they will be the solution to loneliness. There's so many lonely men and now they have a sex dolls and they don't have to be lonely anymore, or that they have companionship or, or whatever kind of ridiculous arguments they make. And I argued that like when men are consuming porn, they are still alone. It's them facing a screen and masturbating to a screen.

And this idea that sex dolls could ease loneliness or provide some sort of intimacy or companionship, they can't, their objects and men are still alone. So they're having this kind of cold one sided empty experience where it's still them by themselves masturbating into a replica woman who does not respond, who doesn't give emotional feedback.

That's something that I find quite interesting, just that dynamic. And I'd be curious to know when there is research on that, what that reveals because that's a really interesting question. 

Raquel: There’s two points about what you've just said that I really want to explore. And the first one is, some of these men are not alone. Some of these men do have partners, and there's a situation in which the partners and the wives and girlfriends are feeling left out because of the sex doll, because the men end up choosing the sex doll, which is something that you would not anticipate at all, you know, because you sort of think, well, the purpose of pornography or the purpose of a sex doll would obviously be to sort of enhance the experience with the partner, is something that I saw was really interesting reading your colleagues book and also your book, is that sometimes the men would want or prefer the experience of the object of the non-human rather than the female person that is next to them.

So could you expand a little bit on the experiences of the men who prefer the sex objects over their wives and girlfriends? 

Caitlin: Yeah, that's a really good point, and one that I've contemplated as well. After reading Melinda Tankard Reist's book that in her book the men chose porn, and in my book the men chose sex dolls even when there was a real loving partner available right there trying to love them. And the idea that men would prefer their porn or their sex doll over a real loving relationship. And some cases, as I recount in my book where, where they did choose the doll over their wife or their family, there are cases where men left their families for a sex doll. 

They've continued to financially support the family, but they've chosen their doll and they've fully embraced the ‘relationship’ with the doll, and they get right into it. They have introduced it to their children. They dress up the doll in the clothes, they do different activities with the doll, like out and about in the world. And this is instead of having the relationship with their wives and their children.

 So some of these men, whether it's delusion or whether it's just this complete investment in their fetish to the detriment of their real lives, their real families, and real intimate relationships. But it's a really fascinating and horrifying sort of phenomenon when men actually do prefer their porn or their sex dolls to their families.

Raquel: And the other point that I wanted to make is that, pornography and the sex doll, does that go hand in hand? Are men watching pornography while they're using sex dolls? Have you found a correlation between them? 

Caitlin: Oh, I believe there is, I have read of some cases where men will describe watching porn while they use their sex dolls.

But I think what they're doing as well is enacting porn sort of scenarios, common porn scripts on their dolls. It's all very much inspired by porn and their dolls made in the likeness of porn performers. So that it's that really pornographic aesthetic. There's the surgically enhanced breasts and the tiny waist and the big lips and all of these sort of pornified features.

So it's very much that dynamic. And I think whether they're watching porn or just using it for their ideas and they're also making porn. They're taking photos of their dolls. They're filming themselves using their dolls and uploading this to websites or to online forums. There's a number of websites that have cropped up recently devoted exclusively to sex doll themed porn, where men post videos of themselves using their sex dolls.

And I remember one of these cases, what the guy did, it was very much just as though the dolls were women. Each doll had its own performer page and it would have like its name, its bio, body measurements and a few little things like that and complete with photos as well. So it was very much as though the dolls were women and the porn scenes followed the same sort of scripts. It was very much this idea of the woman loves being degraded and loves being aggressed against. And that was what was done when it was the sex dolls as well. It was presenting this idea that even the sex dolls loved and desired and enjoyed male violence against them.

Raquel: Do you consider the increase of sex dolls in society to be a public health issue? Because when it comes to pornography, it is a public health issue. I mean, pornography is having an impact on generations of men, but also affecting negatively generations of women. So because the cohort seems to be so similar, I wonder if where your work, pioneering kind of work because it's looking at this phenomenon that has really. blossom. 

Do you think that this is something that's going to compound the public health aspect of the mainstreaming of pornography? 

Caitlin: Yeah, that's a really good question and a really good point as well.  Sex dolls are a form of pornography in and of themselves, but something else that we've only just sort of touched on in this discussion is, child sex abuse dolls and what we're seeing with these products particularly and how they're being used against actual children.

Like it's the same idea, these same arguments, Oh, if men can have a child sex abuse doll, then they won't rape and sexually abuse children. I mean, not only is there no evidence for that, but there's plenty of evidence to show against that. There's plenty of news articles documenting men who are found in possession of child sex abuse dolls who are also sexually offending against actual children.

And there's also cases where they're incorporating children into their child sex abuse doll use, or where child sex abuse doll manufacturers are manufacturing dolls modelled on real children's likeness. 

So there's all these ways that actual children are being involved in this industry, in this phenomenon and how they're being harmed by it.

So if we're now in a place where someone can send in a photo of a child, Possibly a child in their care, a child that they've taken a photo of in the street with their smartphone or a child where there's been a photo uploaded to Facebook or Instagram or some sort of public social media platform, and these are saved or downloaded, then we need to start thinking about what this means for children and this whole new way that children can be violated and exploited without anyone's knowledge, without any of that.

We've already seen it happen where child abuse dolls are modelled on actual children. There's been cases where people have come forward. There was a case in Florida a couple of years ago where a mother had discovered a child sex abuse doll on Amazon modelled on her daughter, and in one photo it appeared to replicate a photo that she'd uploaded to Facebook of her daughter who was a child model.

Collective Shout have also run campaigns against some major online platforms like Etsy, for example, that are hosting these products and selling them.

And we were in communications with an Etsy seller who was selling child sex abuse dolls. And they told us that one of them was modelled on a certain 14-year-old Instagram model. And they also offered to customise other dolls to look like non-existing children. We sent computer generated photos so they're willing to customise these dolls to look like real girls.

So I think this is this whole other dimension of this issue and of these products that this, this is a new way, a new technologically mediated form of child abuse, and we need to start thinking about what this means for children, what we are doing about this, and how this could just explode and what this means for children.

Raquel: Thank you for sharing all that Caitlin, I was not ignoring the children issue. I just find it really disturbing and I was leaving it for last. 

So I wonder if we could touch base on the child abuse aspect of dolls, because a lot of the defences for sex robots are, well, this is harmless and it's better that they do it to a sex doll than to an adult woman.

But then there's a flip side to it, which is the proliferation of sex dolls has also seen an increase in a demand of child abuse sex dolls. 

How prevalent do you think that it is and is there any legislation or is there any concerted pushback to stop it?

Caitlin: In Australia, we have federal legislation to criminalise child sex abuse dolls, to criminalise the possession of them, importing them, advertising or soliciting them, so we have really good legislation here and a few states as well have come up with state based legislation. In the US there's a few states that have criminalised child sex abuse dolls. There's a few other countries as well.

 Other countries and jurisdictions, their approach has not been to criminalise them outright, but just to classify them as obscene under existing laws and deal with them that way. 

But this is a growing issue. I think we are hearing more and more about these kind of cases.

There's quite a significant increase in cases just if we're looking at Australia, because that's what I'm sort of most familiar with. There's been a massive increase intended importations over the last couple of years. And, and this is even with the laws changing. So I do think this is going to be a growing issue and I do think different countries need to get on this quickly because in my research, I've spent time monitoring different paedophile forums and things like that. And some of these men would say things like ‘Get yours now before they criminalise it in your state’. Like act now, quick get in before it's too late. And others would talk about how they experience legislation. So some would say, Oh, the legislation here or the laws we have here are so pathetic, like no one can do anything. We can do whatever we want and no one can really stop us because the laws are so weak. 

And then others would say, for example, in Australia, you can't do anything it's not even worth trying because you'll get caught. 

So I think it is really important to have strong laws against this because it will actually change, like it will actually impact on what these men do and if they do purchase child sex abuse or if they're deterred because they are being deterred by strong laws.

Raquel: Really disturbing aspect because some of these companies create the sex dolls with a range of child sexual abuse robots with like a range of sexual expressions. Like some of them are childlike robots that appear to be smiling, but others are deliberately made to look like children who are crying or in pain, which is so incredibly sick.

so is this a matter in which, because of the nature of the trade, is this a matter of this is flying under the radar because it's so unregulated? Or do you believe that there are earnest efforts being made to stamp out child sexual abuse?

Caitlin: I think these products mainly come out of China and Japan, where there's a lot less regulation on any of these things. In countries like Australia, for example, this is something that's really being dealt with very well and very strongly. 

But there's also voices, other people, paedophile groups, arguing that these are just fantasy sexual outlets, that it's unconstitutional to ban these products and that they have a right to them and that men should be able to access these products and that they could be good for paedophiles and all these arguments that they make.

So they are arguing that this is an issue of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and all of these things. 

But absolutely, I think it's really important for different countries to act on this. It's going to get worse, I think even if you just, I can be on Twitter, for example, and just go down rabbit holes all the time because these products are openly advertised even though they're illegal in my country, and I'm sure illegal in a number of others under the obscenity laws that I've mentioned.

But I can hop on Twitter and find something and then I can say, Oh, they've got thousands of followers and they're all promoting child sex abuse dolls as well. And it just keeps going and it keeps going. These products everywhere. I'm seeing them on Instagram, I'm seeing them on social media.

And we've even been at Collective Shout running campaigns against a number of online major platforms like Etsy, like I said, selling child sex abuse dolls and replica child body parts. 

We've running campaigns against Wish, Alibaba, Amazon. eBay. So they're mainstream enough that these major companies and corporations have been selling them. We call them out, we expose them, we run campaigns, and we often have successes, but this is how mainstream they actually are, that they can be found on these major platforms.

Raquel: Caitlin thank you so much for speaking with us at FiLiA. I wonder if there's something that you would like to say to our audience who may not be particularly familiar with the topic of sex doll robots and or who are like me who felt like I'm familiar with the topic, but I feel an intense sense of eeekiness about it. 

What is something that maybe surprised you from your research on this book? Or what is something that you think our audience needs to know about this? 

Caitlin: I think one of the things that surprised me the most was the academic support for sex robots. There's very little academic voices who are critical of sex robots. There's feminist anthropologists, Kathleen Richardson, who's the most notable. But when I was doing my research outside of Kathleen, almost all the academics in this space were arguing for sex robots, arguing all the benefits they could have and all the ways they could be used, that they could be utilised by, say people, but they mean men. They, that they could be utilised by men with disabilities. Men who are elderly, men who are lonely, men who are married or in intimate relationships, but not having as much sex as they want. Or men who have sadistic sort of sexual desires that they want to act out on someone, or men who are sexually attracted to children. 

So they're arguing that these products are actually a good thing and we should encourage them. Not even that we should be a bit cautious, but that we should actively encourage their development. These are a good thing. And positioning those who object as just moralising or being ultra conservative or anti-sex. So that was really quite staggering to me as a feminist just to see that these products, these replica women and girls made for men's sexual use would be promoted as good, even given all we know about the harms of objectification, the links between objectifying women and men's violence against women, the role of male sexual entitlement in men's violence against women.

So this notion that these products could be promoted as a good thing and what that told me was that the male sex right is prioritised more highly than the basic rights of women and girls. 

Raquel: Your book is a tremendous body of work and I imagine that as a topic it was very difficult for you. So I am in awe of your strength and your courage in taking such a difficult topic.

Caitlin: Thank you Raquel. That's really kind of you.