Monday, 11 January 2010


“There is no such cosy combination as man and wife.” – Menander

You know about the musical, “My Fair Lady”, don’t you? It was even made into a film with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. You know, the one about “the rain in Spain falling mainly in the plain…” It is based on the George Bernard Shaw play “Pygmalion”. It is about the guttersnipe flower seller of Cockney London who is transformed into a society lady by a phonetics professor. There is a relationship with the Pygmalion of Greek mythology, hence the title. As you may not know the Greek myth of Pygmalion, here it is:

Pygmalion had some bad experiences with women and he came at last to abhor the whole sex, resolving to live his life as an unmarried misogynist. He was a sculptor, and had made a statue of a woman out of ivory, so beautiful that it resembled no living woman, so perfect was it. Pygmalion admired his own handiwork, and at last managed to fall in love with the statue. He would often lay his hand on it as if to assure himself if it were living or not, and could not even then believe that it was only ivory. He caressed it, and gave it presents such as young girls love, - bright shells, little birds, flowers, beads and trinkets. He put a coloured dress on its limbs, and jewels on its fingers, neck and ears. He laid it on a couch spread with expensive cloth, and called it his wife. He named it Galatea, meaning “milky white” on account of her lily-white ivory limbs.

The festival of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, came and when Pygmalion had performed his part in the solemnities, he stood before the altar and timidly said: “Ye gods, who can do all things, give me, I pray you, for my wife” - he dared not say “my ivory virgin,” but said instead – “one like my ivory virgin.”  Aphrodite who heard him knew the thought he would have uttered; and as an omen of her favour, caused the flame on the altar to shoot up three times into the air. When he returned home, he went to see his statue, and leaning over the couch, gave a kiss to the mouth. It seemed to be warm. He pressed its lips again, he laid his hand upon the limbs; the ivory felt soft to his hands. The statue was indeed alive! Pygmalion thanked the goddess and kissed his perfect woman. Galatea felt the kisses and blushed, and opening her eyes to the light, fixed them at the same moment on her lover. Aphrodite blessed the nuptials she had formed, and from this union Paphos was born, from whom the city, sacred to Aphrodite, received its name.

There are several cautions in these stories and their morals I’m afraid, are slightly immoral. All these stories are about manipulation and changing someone so that they conform with what we want, what we imagine to be perfect, what we need to satisfy our own selfish desires. In how many modern relationships would we find our partner acquiescing to our wants in this manner, willing to change themselves completely so that we conform to his/her ideal? Would we want a partner who is so malleable who is so much under our control? Is it a relationship or is it an enslavement? In this way both the Pygmalion myth and the Pygmalion play have disturbed me somewhat.

I now have cause to be disturbed even more. We are about to experience the Pygmalion legend in reverse, in real life! The real woman is becoming a statue! How? Well hitting the news lately (and the marketplace also, very soon) is Roxxxy, “the world’s first sex robot”! This is a full size doll specifically designed to engage in the sex acts of your fantasy – but there is more! It is a talking robot with a personality who knows your likes and dislikes and will even sense when it is being moved (it cannot move itself) and will respond appropriately when sensors in different parts of its body detect movement or pressure.

The robot is customisable to the extent of not only the obvious external characteristics like hair colour, bra size, height, etc, but also one may specify traits of personality, from “Frigid Farrah” to “Wild Wendy”. The robot will then respond accordingly, depending on the sensory inputs it receives and processes, true to its personality. The creators of the robot say that this is an important characteristic of their machine, which distinguishes it from the sex dolls that are already in the market. Their robot provides interactive sex, but also “more”, in the form of a “conversation” (if you can call pre-recorded phrases repeated ad nauseam a conversation) or even a “relationship” (now this I really object to!). However, no doubt there will be many men queuing up to hand over their $9,000 in order to purchase their own version of Galatea.

Roxxxy is only the beginning, as in the near future male sex robots will become available. As the technology improves, the life-like characteristics will increase in sophistication and the interactivity will no doubt become even more humanoid. Motion and artificial intelligence will compound the illusion so that in the near future we may see “robot companions” or “robot partners” marketed and no doubt widely used. We may even see humans falling in love with a robot! I have blogged about the topic of humanoids in a previous blog and I wondered about the legality of some of the activities that one engages in with a complex humanoid robot.

Are we to be grateful to technology for providing us with what our wildest fantasies can barely visualise? Are we to be grateful for the robot that will make prostitution obolete? Will such a robot be made available to the rapist so that humans do not suffer his violent advances? Are we to sanction the creation of child sex robots for the use of paedophiles? “Killable” robots so that the paranoid sex murderer may indulge his sick pleasures with impunity? Are we protecting society by allowing this to happen or are we contributing to its complete and utter moral, ethical, social and biological downfall (I can’t imagine there will be a sex robot that can become pregnant after having sex with its owner!)? Should we monitor the sex acts that are performed with each robot (remember the sensors?) and persecute “perverts”?

The whole topic has perplexed me and made me question deeply where we are progressing as a society. When the robots can walk amongst us and masquerade as humans, would we all succumb to the temptation of choosing a partner who not only fulfils our every desire in term of body type, physical traits and characteristics, who acquiesces to our every desire and whim, and who is the perfect partner in terms of sex, personality, conversation and also admires and “loves” us no matter how rotten a scoundrel we really are? This idea repels me and causes me to have great doubts as to whether long-term of our civilisation is possible…
(Picture is Paul Delvaux’s “Pygmalion” of 1939)
What do you think?


  1. Nicholas I agree with you. I find the whole idea repulsive and the thought that someone would have a "relationship" with a machine that massages their ego sounds sick to me. This is technology at its worse.

  2. oh i dont know
    sex dolls have been around for a long time and they havent affected relationships between real people
    heve they

  3. This is really crazy. People need people to have relationships and conversations and families. these robots will only be substitutes for sex and if they prevent women from getting attacked in rapes or becoming prostitutes then I'm all for it.

  4. I don't know if limiting it is what we need to be doing.. but rather working on the human psyche so that people prefer to be in the company of other people. A lot of people are not in love with humans because they don't love themselves. So the whole thing strikes me as sad...

    Even though I work in retail. (haha)
    I feel its more important than ever to be evaluating ourselves. Promoting healing. Sexual and otherwise. :)

  5. I like Gianni's comment - I don't think this is so 'new', after all - not simply regarding sex dolls and sex toys, but the entire idea ... also, Nick, it isn't really Pygmalion in reverse, is it, because this is the whole point, as you say, a 'malleable' 'perfect' creature ... I also love your above friend's comment, that she works in retail - haha - also, how sad it is that a lot of people don't love our fellow humans because we don't love ourselves enough ...

    And this blog - and Roxxxy - and your previous blog - also brings to mind - have you seen the film A.I.? Some really pertinent points about robots and artificial intelligence and sentience and human rights and humanity ...

    Also - you chose an interesting illustration - here the passive statue is not female but male ...

  6. ... 'not a robot ... no robotics' - and what about the issues of artificial intelligence making beings into 'humans' who will be sentient - 'artificial' or not? Interesting -