FAN 173.1 (First Amendment News) ROBOTICA EROTICA — Robotic Strippers Dance in Las Vegas

To suggest that the state can regulate robot dancers because they may stir erotic feelings is to say that the government may control the imagination. — Robert Corn-Revere

Dateline Pornotopia. The very thought of it would have made Doctor Freud blush, this new pleasure-principle frontier. As for Anthony Comstock, he would be in moral shock. What about Aldous Huxley? He would have said, “This is something right out of my Brave New World.” And most assuredly Professor Fred Schauer would view such eroticized acts as well beyond the First Amendment pale of protection. Then there is The Death of Discourse (1996), which predicted that the new technologies would serve the libido of future generations.

Well, make of it what you will, but it is nonetheless now a fact: Robotic strippers have come to Las Vegas at the 50th Consumer Electronics Show. Side-by-side with real dancers, the robotic strippers gyrate with erotic pulsation.  (Video here).


As reported by Kurt Wagner of CNBC: “The Sapphire Gentleman’s Club, a strip club right off Vegas’s main drag, paid to showcase the robots as a way to drum up interest from press and customers. . . . The robots were as advertised: They gyrated on a stripper pole to music from 50 Cent and Pharrell, with dollar bills scattered on the stage and the floor. A half-dozen human dancers, most of whom were dressed in tight, shiny robot costumes, repeatedly took pics in front of their metallic colleagues.”

Giles Walker (Islington Tribune)

Inventor: “They’re the work,” adds Wagner, “of an artist named Giles Walker, a 50-year-old Brit who describes himself as a scrap metal artist with a passion for building animatronic robots. One of his other projects, The Last Supper, features 13 robots interacting around a table.”

“Walker says he got the idea for pole-dancing robots more than seven years ago, when he noticed the rise of CCTV cameras being used as a way to surveil people in Britain for safety purposes, what he called ‘mechanical peeping Toms.’ He was inspired by the idea of voyeurism, or watching others for pleasure, and decided to try and turn the cameras into something sexy on their own.”

So, are these robots art? Well, they could be.  Again, consider Corn-Revere’s reply to this question: “If stationary sculptures are expressive art that the First Amendment protects – and they are – then moving sculptures can be as well.”

Question: what does this all portend for the future of eroticized expression and the First Amendment? For openers, consider Collins & Skover, Robotica: Speech Rights & Artifical Intelligence (Cambridge University Press, June 2018) —  Robotica Erotica may be the sequel.  Stay tuned!

Robot Lady (credit: Salon)

Nude Dancing: Assuming that erotic robotic dancing is covered under the First Amendment, might a state either ban or regulate such dancing? Recall in this regard the line of First Amendment cases ranging from Schad v. Mount Ephraim (1981) to Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc. (1991) to City of Renton v. Playtime Theatres, Inc. (1986) to Erie v. Pap’s A.M. (2000).

See also, David Hudson, “Nude Dancing,” First Amendment Online Library (“Nude dancing is a form of expressive conduct that when restricted, requires First Amendment review. However, the Supreme Court has upheld restrictions on totally nude dancing based on the secondary effects doctrine. Thus, in many cities and counties, dancers must don a modicum of clothing, arguably tempering their erotic messages.”)

Sex Toys?: Are such erotic bots akin to “sex toys” such that they might not qualify for any First Amendment protection? Consider Noah Feldman, Courts playing with the constitutionality of sex toys, Chicago Tribune, August 4, 2016 (“There’s no constitutional right to sex toys — yet. That’s according to a federal appeals court, which declined to strike down a Georgia city’s ordinance that prohibits selling sexual aids. But the three-judge panel invited the full court to rehear the case and strike down the law, stating that it was “sympathetic” to the claim but constrained by precedent. Eventually, the right to sex toys is likely to be accepted in all jurisdictions, as it already is in some. The basis will be the right to sexual intimacy recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas. And that raises a question about the evolving nature of constitutional rights: How did we get here? How does a decision framed around the autonomous right of two people to create an intimate sexual relationship come to cover access to toys? And should it?”) See Flanigan’s Enterprises v. City of Sandy Springs Georgia (11th Cir., en banc, Aug. 24, 2017).


Meet “Harmony” – the sex robot with a Scottish accent (considerably more “appealing” than her Las Vegas mechanical counterparts) (YouTube video here)

→ Aurora Snow, Sex Robots Are Here, and They’re Incredibly Lifelike. But Are They Dangerous?, The Daily Beast, July 22, 2017

→ Eric Lieberman, Sex Robots Are Here And Could Change Society Forever, The Libertarian Republic, July 17, 2017

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  1. Intelligent interactive male sex robots, also known as sexbots, will be “the next big thing” in 2018, and will become widely available this year, says the world’s leading AI cyborg maker Matt McMullen, CEO of Realbotix, as demand reportedly continues to skyrocket.

    But just like the female models, which are already widely available for sale on line, and for use by-the-hour in brothels where men increasingly prefer them to female prostitutes, they can now be used by remotely located hackers to cause serious harm to their users, as predicted some six months ago by public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

    Dr Cathy O’Neil, a Harvard University mathematician, has gone so far as to claim that sex robots could render men largely obsolete. She said that it is “entirely possible” that some women could choose to cohabit with “dashing menbots” instead of human males.

    This view is supported by a world famous AI researcher, Dr David Levy, who suggested that male erotic cyborgs could be more popular than sex toys such as vibrators and dildos.

    “I’m sure women will find robots equally appealing as men. . . . If women are that interested in getting satisfaction from a vibrator, imagine how the same women will feel having a robot they can put their arms round them and having the robot squeeze them,” he said.

    In addition, the male sex robot will have a bionic penis which will be “better than a vibrator,” and one which can continue to function all night long. He will also be able to participate in a conversation.

    However, although not widely known, sex devices designed to permit control over the Internet by remotely located sex partners are already widely available, and have even triggered litigation, says Banzhaf, the first to suggest that some form of regulation for these new devices – which can also be designed to permit users to simulate the rapes of toddlers – should be considered.

    Dr. Nick Patterson, a cyber security lecturer at Deakin University in Australia, has reported that sex robots could be easier for hackers to remotely access and control than a laptop or mobile phone.

    Thus, he speculates that they could be used to harm or even kill humans since they are large and very strong.

    Indeed, the male sexbots will be larger, stronger, and heavier than the female versions – which may already run over 200 pounds – and more easily able to overpower female users, especially if the sexbot is on top of the woman so she cannot easily remove its male member and escape if necessary.

    But a scenario which is more likely because it is much easier to orchestrate would be for a hacker to simply take over control of a sexbot connected to the Internet – as Patterson says they will be – and manipulate its controls is such a way as to harm its human sex partner.

    Hackers could do this by suddenly setting to MAX the sucking or squeezing mechanism controlling an orifice a male partner is using to derive pleasure, or by simply making a sudden sharp movement of the fembots head or pelvis – left or right, up or down – while he is so engaged.

    Also, a remotely located hacker could similarly speed up the mechanism controlling the organ or mouth on a male sexbot, or cause it to move sharply after the female user has been penetrated.

    By the way, sexual devices which can be remotely controlled over the Internet are nothing new.

    For example, teledildoes, sex toys designed to be used/worn by both males and females, can be controlled by a partner thousands of miles away using a computer or cell phone app which is linked via the Internet to a receptor app on the cell phone of the user.

    These novel devices allow the distant partner to control the rate, intensity, and other aspects of the sexual simulation being provided to the user of the device.

    Indeed, one manufacturer of a new breed of smart dildo, dubbed the “Lexus of Sex Toys,” has already been forced to pay civil damages, as described on a legal website in a piece entitled “The Case of the Vibrator That Knew Too Much.”

    Even if never hacked, it is not hard to see how a simple and clearly foreseeable malfunction of a piece of equipment on a female sexbot into which a male sex organ is inserted, or on a male sexbot which has been penetrated the female, could cause serious harm to the user, says Banzhaf, who notes that such devices appear to be totally unregulated by the federal government or by 49 out of the 50 states.

    While some may believe that the danger of harm from sex robots – whether from routine malfunctions of complex machines or from hacking – may not be serious, the rapid development and adoption of such devices, and the hacking of many objects including household devices, suggest at the very least the need to make an appropriate assessment of the risk before it is too late.