We surveyed a total of 3,292 people to find out about their familiarity with and interest in having sex with robots. We uncovered quite a few interesting trends and stats that show how people attitude is changing. Read on:
Sex robots are becoming increasingly well-known, sparking concerns about their use and potential impact on society.
They are getting more and more realistic every year – some can even talk and simulate basic interactions with real people.
We conducted two surveys to find out how many people had personal experience with sex robots, what people thought about interacting with them, and what they think might happen in the future.
[Disclaimer] Yes, the sample size is small. And before taking this survey, people needed to indicate they are okay with being asked sensitive kind questions (a requirement for all sex-related questionnaires), which means that pool of people isn’t exactly random. However, it still shows interesting trends on how people’s attitude is changing against sex robots and new technology.
Here are the highlights from both studies:
- More people would have sex with a robot (37.5%) than invite someone for casual sex (30.1%).
- 57% of people wanted to talk to and interact with a sophisticated sex robot, and 50.1% said they would be interested in having sex with one.
- 50.7% of people think it’s possible to form genuine romantic attachments to sex robots.
- 41% of respondents believed that using a sex robot qualifies as cheating on a romantic partner.
- 41.9% of people said they’d have a threesome with a sex robot and their partner given the opportunity.
- 51.5% of respondents thought that sex robots of the future will make objectification of people worse.
- 52.2% of people believe that sex robots will reduce sexual assault in the future.
- Child sex robots: 35% thought they might be a good idea, while 50.5% believed they were a bad idea.
- 44% of people were interested in visiting a cyber brothel, and 45.9% thought that sex robots will replace human sex workers in the future.
- Almost everyone has heard of talking sex robots. Only 9.3% of people said they had never heard of one.
Sex with Robots in Popular Culture
Robots might seem like new, cutting-edge science fiction, but actually, they’ve been popping up here and there in history since before the year 0.
Talos, the giant bronze automaton (aka robot) who patrolled the shores of Crete in Greece, is one of the earlier known examples of robots in fiction, famously appearing in the Argonautica.
You might think it would be many centuries until stories about sex robots appeared within culture, but this is not the case.
One famous example is that of Pygmalion, the mythical Cypriot king and sculptor. The story goes that one day he made a statue of a woman so perfect he fell in love with it, kissing and fondling it regularly.
In the story, his wish for a bride just like the statue he made comes true at the will of Aphrodite, and he marries the statue, which has now become a real woman.
It’s not exactly a sex robot, but there are a lot of parallels.
More explicit mentions and use of sex robots in popular culture are far more common, shooting forward to the 20th century, beginning with West World. In the original 1973 film, “guests,” or real people, are free to engage in sexual encounters with “hosts” (the robots) whenever and however they want within the confines of a sprawling theme park.
The 2016 TV series adaptation explores more of the same themes, with numerous sexual, violent, or sexual and violent encounters taking place between the hosts and guests.
West World might be one of the more famous examples of sex robots in popular culture, but it’s far from the only one.
Blade Runner contained synthetic “replicant” prostitutes, including one of the major antagonistic characters.
The titular Stepford Wives in the Stepford Wives, who are completely subservient to their husband’s every whim, are revealed to be robotic replicas of the women they replace in society.
And 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence has very literal sex robots in Gigolo Jo and Jane.
One recent study found that, in total, 85% of American university students had watched a movie or TV show containing sex robots (International Journal of Human Sciences, 2019).1
Indeed, they can be integral to highly popular pieces of media. West World (2016-) averaged 13.2 million viewers over its first season.
All this suggests that as we are increasingly exposed to the idea of sex robots via fictional media, the reality draws ever closer.
We conducted two surveys one after another. Both surveys were conducted using convenience sampling. We used Amazon Mechanical Turk to get a random pool of anonymous people to respond, 50%+ respondents indicated their location as North America.
The first survey (Survey 1) asked participants questions about their general opinions on sex robots, their use, and hypothetical future scenarios involving them. The sample size was 1,563; here’s the survey form. And here’s the raw data spreadsheet from Survey 1 responses.
Survey 2 went into further detail about more specific interests and personal experiences. The sample size was 1,729. Here’s the survey form so you can see exactly what responders saw. Here’s the raw data spreadsheet if you want to dive in deeper.
We showed participants a short video meant to help explain and delineate the current state of sex robots today before asking them a series of questions.
For the purposes of our study, “sex robot” was defined as any sex doll variant possessing some interactive capabilities such as speech or movement. We asked people to watch this RealDoll sex doll video so everyone would be on the same page on where the sex robots of 2022 are at.
More People Would Have Sex With A Robot Than Invite Someone For Casual Sex
We wanted to find out how people would relieve their sexual desires and how robots might fit in to this scenario.
So we asked participants to assume they were single and desired some kind of sexual release, then gave them a list of potential options to satisfy their desires. We then asked them to select every option they would be likely to take given the opportunity.
Manual masturbation was the most popular choice, with 49.2% of people selecting it. Using a sex toy was next, with 42.5% of respondents liking that idea.
37.5% of survey takers said they might make use of a sex robot, more than the 30.1% who said they would be likely to invite a human for casual sex.
Hiring a (human) sex worker was a distant last, with only 21.1% of people citing it as a potential option.
Other studies have comparable findings. One study found that men, in particular single men, were curious or very curious about having sex with a robot (Curiosity and Other Attitudes Towards Sex Robots, 2021).2
The same study found that a certain proportion of people were actually more comfortable with the idea of performing certain sex acts with a robot rather than a human partner. Men were more than twice as likely as women to report this (37% vs 17%).
People Want to Talk, Interact, and Have Sex With A Sex Robot
We showed participants two images of two sophisticated “cutting-edge” sex robots, one that looked male and the other female-looking.
We then asked participants to rate how much they wanted to talk and interact with one of these robots, and how much they wanted to have sex with one of them.
57% of participants agreed with the statement, “I would be interested in to talk and interact with one of these sex robots,” while 50.1% said they would be interested in having sex with one.
This suggests that mainstream adoption of the technology might not be as far away as many people believe.
Another study found that 24.7% of women and 48.5% of men answered positively to the question, “Do you look forward to a time when sex with robots is readily available?” 18.4% of men said they were looking forward to it a great deal (Curiosity and Other Attitudes Towards Sex Robots, 2021).2
People Forming a Genuine Romantic Connection with A Sex Robot
There have been a few stories about people claiming to form romantic attachments to inanimate objects.
Most notably in recent years was the viral story of Yuri Tolochko, the Kazakh bodybuilder who became famous for marrying a sex doll.
While many people might dismiss the story as fanciful or ridiculous, our results indicate that it’s not as far-fetched as one might have thought.
50.7% of respondents in survey 2 believed that it is possible to form genuine romantic attachments to sex robots.
In survey 1, 29.5% of respondents thought that talking AI sex robots could replace humans as romantic partners, while another 20.2% weren’t sure.
So while Tolochko’s story made headlines in 2020, based on our findings we could expect sex doll marriage to become commonplace sooner rather than later.
Indeed, 39% of single men and 19% of married men in one study believed that it was possible to experience feelings for a robot.
And a third of men aged 18-34 and 25.6% of men over 55 said they could imagine having feelings for a robot if the robot acted towards them in a convincingly loving way (Curiosity and Other Attitudes Towards Sex Robots, 2021).2
Is Sex with Robots Considered Cheating?
Family Process (2020)3 found that infidelity happens in about 25% of marriages.
Other studies have found a prevalence of between 20 and 40% (Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 2014)4
So cheating makes up a significant reality for many people.
How would sex robots impact this? And does it even count?
We found that 41% of respondents believed that making use of a sex robot does, in fact, qualify as cheating.
This is reasonably close to findings from other studies. One found that 47.1% of people do consider sex with a robot to be cheating (Curiosity and Other Attitudes Toward Sex Robots, 2021).2
And a YouGov poll from 20205 found that while 27% of U.S. adults thought having sex with a robot was a kind of cheating, 31% stated that it was not.
So opinions on whether sex with robots is cheating are mixed, to say the least.
People Willing to Have A Threesome
Multi-partner sex is arguably the most common fantasy – almost everyone has thought about it at some point at least once. Threesomes are the most popular version of multi-partner sex and probably the most sought-after for a large proportion of people in relationships.
So threesomes are a popular desire, but one that causes tension between many couples. Jealousy, worries of later infidelity, and other problems are regular occurrences.
But what if it was possible to have a “threesome” with only two humans?
We asked participants if they would like to engage in a threesome with their current partner and a sex robot if the opportunity ever arose.
41.9% of responses were positive, while 25.3% of participants were strongly opposed to it.
So it’s clearly an issue that will still cause tension in relationships even if the other man or woman is actually synthetic, but on the whole, more people are for the idea than against it.
Sex Robots Will Make It Worse For Some People
Creating literal sex objects designed to look and act like people always carries the risk of making objectification a bigger problem than it is already.
The problem is already widespread and significant across countries and age groups. One cross-cultural study found that 84% of women first experienced harassment on the street before the age of 17 (British Journal of Social Psychology, 2016).6
Moreover, participants of the same study reported being the target of a sexually objectifying event (most commonly an objectifying gaze) about once every 2 days.
And more than three-quarters of women were the targets of objectification at least once a week. Finally, from the same survey, women, on average, witnessed 1.35 instances of sexual objectification of someone else every day (British Journal of Social Psychology, 2016).6
We asked participants if the problem of sexual objectification (especially of women) is likely to be made worse if sex robots become a mainstream reality.
51.5% of participants said they believed that it would make the problem worse. Only 23% of people believed that it wouldn’t have an effect.
So while people seem to be curious about sex robots, and some are even eager to use them, there are looming concerns about the problems they could introduce or exacerbate within society.
Will Sex Robots Reduce Sexual Assault?
Despite the finding that over half of respondents thought that objectification will get worse with the advent of sex robots, there remains the possibility that they could do some good.
In particular, it has been theorized that sex robots might reduce cases of sexual assault in the future since people will have access to more realistic sex experiences more easily.
This theory is not without its flaws – sexual assault can’t really be attributed to too much desire, for example – but the possibility remains.
As it stands, violence against women, both sexual and non-sexual, pervades every culture and country on earth. 1 in 3 women worldwide suffers physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner (World Health Organization, 2021).7
Yet without concrete evidence one way or the other, there’s no way to factually ascertain whether widespread sex robots will increase or decrease this haunting figure.
We asked participants in survey 2 if they agreed with the statement, “Sex robots of the future (that can move and interact with people) will reduce cases of sexual assault if they become widespread.”
52.2% of respondents agreed with this statement, while another 25.1% weren’t sure.
So if we are to believe the opinions of the majority, then the streets will become safer in terms of sexual assault, while people’s internal experiences and thoughts might become more problematic.
If nothing else, this suggests that people have very mixed views on the subject of sex robots and the impact they might have in the future.
Child Sex Robots Proved Controversial
The idea of using sex dolls designed to look like underage people and even children has been floated as a potential harm reduction method. Arguments put forward include the possibility that it can help pedophiles avoid harming real children or cope with their disorders.
Arguments against tend to include the idea that producing such robots might actually be an encouragement and end up doing more harm to real children.
Most people are capable of distinguishing between fantasy and the real world, but some buyers might not make this distinction. And the more convincing the child sex robot is, the higher the possible risk of increasing sexual violence against adults and children alike (BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2017).8
Sex dolls designed to look like stylized versions of children already exist and are legal to own in many countries. To the best of our knowledge, there are currently no commercially available sex robots (that can move and/or talk) that look like children.
We asked participants to complete the statement “Producing child sex robots (that look like young/underage people) is…” and then gave them a list of options to choose from. They were invited to select the opinion that most closely matched their own views on the subject.
The results looked like this:
35% of respondents believed it was a good idea on balance, while over 50.5% were opposed to the idea – either because it might backfire and do more harm than good, or because they personally found the idea distasteful.
All this suggests that child sex robots are a controversial topic, but not without their support as potential tools for good.
At the moment, there is no evidence that sex robots could be effective treatments for sex offenders due to a lack of research in this area at the present time (BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2017).8
Do Sex Robots Have Therapeutic Value?
There is still precious little hard data about the efficacy of sex robots in any kind of therapeutic practice. Just as we don’t know what kind of harm they could do, we don’t know whether they can do any good.
However, we can make some reasonable estimates.
First, it’s hard to deny the plausibility that some people would benefit from being able to practice having sex without feeling pressure in any way (BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2017).8
They might offer some kind of companionship to those who are lonely, mentally or physically disabled, elderly, or people who find real human sexual relationships traumatic for whatever reason (BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2017).8
And it’s certainly possible that sex robots could bridge gaps between couples where one of them has a much higher libido than the other, or even as a way to treat erectile dysfunction (BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2017).8
So it is at least possible that sex robots could serve specific therapeutic niches for people who need them.
Will Sex Robots Replace Human Sex Workers?
While a Blade Runner-esque bordello full of artificially intelligent androids and gynoids is still a distant fantasy, there are “cyber brothels” already.
In these establishments, customers engage with high-tech sex dolls while wearing a VR headset to simulate a realistic experience. Sometimes human actors even provide audio cues such as moaning at appropriate times.
However, there are currently legal limitations for cyber brothels. One company, Aura Dolls, was forced to shut down operations in 2019 because the business did not fit the acceptable definition of an adult entertainment parlor in Toronto (Narcity, 2019).9
The company had to relocate to a new place that remains highly secretive (Narcity, 2019).9 Prices were listed as $80 for half an hour with one doll or $160 with two dolls (Toronto Star, 2018).10
In survey 2, we asked participants if they would be interested in visiting such a place. 47.8% responses were positive. Men were particularly enthused, with 51% saying they would be interested compared to 43% of women.
In addition, a lot of respondents in survey 1 had high expectations for the technology. 45.9% agreed that sex robots could replace human sex workers in the future.
At the current time, men pay women for sex for several reasons. The opportunity to have sex with a variety of different women, the benefits of anonymity, and no emotional involvement were all commonly cited advantages.
Another frequent reason was the lack of success in dating women. Many men experience difficulties in getting into or maintaining relationships, and some men are either afraid or lack the social skills to attract a partner (Robot Prostitutes as Alternatives to Human Sex Workers, 2007).11
There is much less evidence on the subject of women who pay for sex, but what little there is suggests that their reasons are similar to those of men.
Sex robots of the future, and in many respects in the present, could conceivably satisfy the motivation and sexual needs of people who would otherwise rely on sex workers to meet these needs. Variety, no complications, and no difficulty or conversation are all attributes that sex robots can offer currently (Robot Prostitutes as Alternatives to Human Sex Workers, 2007).11
So we can see that it is possible that sex robots could replace large swathes of human sex workers while potentially making changes to the industry. One poll found that 48% of American adults thought paying to use a sex robot does not count as prostitution, with only 17% thinking that it does (YouGov,2020).5
Almost Everyone Has Heard Of Talking Sex Robots
One factor that might have been easy to overlook was how well-known the concept of sex robots really is. We have already examined the ubiquity of sex robots in popular culture, but in real life, they are becoming more famous, too.
Sex robots of today can already smile, moan sexually, and hold a basic conversation. And according to maker Realdoll, AI-infused sex robots will have sensors in their erogenous zones that are touch sensitive; and will even be able to talk on their own with a realistic voice (New York Post, 2021).12
In Survey 2, we asked participants to rate their familiarity with talking sex robots.
Only 9.3% had never heard of their existence, less than the 15.5% who have used or own one.
A further 29.9% had knowledge of them that went beyond passing awareness. These people had either read about them, considered purchasing one, or interacted with one personally in a non-sexual way.
Since familiarity with a product is the first step to widespread adoption, this suggests that a world where sex robots are an accepted everyday reality might be closer than we think.
Some People Have Had Sex With Or Own A Sex Robot
We began the study tacitly assuming that most individuals had only vague knowledge of sex robots or had never heard of them outside science fiction and the occasional news story.
It came as little surprise to find that 45.3% of respondents claimed they had only “heard about them in the news/on the internet.”
Far more surprising was that 15.5% of respondents stated, “I’ve had sex with one/own one.”
15.8% of men answered, “I’ve had sex with one/own one,” while 15.3% of women said the same.
This suggests that rather than being a niche curiosity, sex robots are already popular.
Not only that but men and women both had similar experiences, running contrary to the popular belief that only or mostly men could be interested in sex dolls and robots.
This was a surprising finding because other research has suggested that sex robots are predominantly used and owned by men, particularly men with a high interest in technology (Sexologies, 2018).13
Some pioneers of sex robot use might be motivated by social and/or sexual deprivation and will be more interested in new possibilities of sexual exploration and pleasure as a result (Sexologies, 2018).13
We’re putting this insight last, however, cuz it seems not realistic – number seems to be too high to be real, so we still include it, but take it with serious grain of salt.
Indeed, it’s likely that the number of people willing to admit to owning a sex doll or sex robot will be much lower even going into the future. Just as sex dolls now are heavily stigmatized, even hidden from close friends and loved ones, it seems highly probable that the same level of discretion will be the norm in the future (Sexologies, 2018).13
We’d like to hear from you. What was your #1 takeaway from this research? Did one of our findings surprise you?
Or perhaps you have a question you’d like to know more about.
Either way, let us know in the comments.
- International Journal of Human Sciences, 2019. A study of 219 American university students.
- Curiosity and Other Attitudes Toward Sex Robots, 2021. A study of 309 American respondents.
- Family Process, 2020. A study on infidelity in the time of COVID-19.
- Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 2014. A study of 134 American heterosexual married couples.
- YouGov, 2020. A survey of 1,206 American US adults.
- British Journal of Social Psychology, 2016. A study of 81 young women.
- World Health Organization, 2021. An article on the prevalence of violence against women.
- BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, 2017. A study on health implications of the sex robot industry.
- Narcity, 2019. An article on Toronto’s super secretive sex doll brothel.
- Toronto Star, 2018. An article on North America’s first known sex doll brothel in Toronto.
- Robot Prostitutes as Alternatives to Human Sex Workers, 2007. A study on robot prostitutes as alternatives to sex workers.
- New York Post, 2021. An article on ‘Westworld’ – style sex dolls.
- Sexologies, 2018. A study on sex toys, sex dolls, and sex robots.