Half the experiment is done!

One common refrain among MRAs and such trash is that it’s the women’s fault: they’re using men, they’re money-grubbing gold-diggers, they tease and never put out. So let’s test that: in the absence of manipulative women, are men angels of probity and restraint? We can test this: use a proxy for a woman, one that doesn’t lie, has no ambitions, isn’t going to abuse men. It’s been done. A female sex robot at a tech fair was put on display, and the results were not nice.

Santos complained, ‘The people mounted Samantha’s breasts, her legs and arms. Two fingers were broken. She was heavily soiled.’

‘People can be bad. Because they did not understand the technology and did not have to pay for it, they treated the doll like barbarians.’

Strike one against men.

I did say that only half the experiment has been done, though. We need a complementary test in which a male sex doll is put into the hands of women convention attendees. The result of that experiment will tell us whether it’s just us men who suck, or whether it’s the whole human species that needs to be puked on. I have an open mind, it could go either way.


  1. says

    We need a complementary test in which a male sex doll is put into the hands of women convention attendees.

    I do have a hypothesis. The results will favour neutering.

    I think this example shows clearly that it’s never about sex. It’s not about the desire to grab a woman’s breast. They could do that, and she would moan approvingly, and that’s not what they want. They want to humiliate, hurt and control women. Since the sex doll couldn’t be hurt and controlled by grabbing her tits, they needed to destroy her to show their power and dominance.

  2. leerudolph says

    Well…part 1 of a multiple part experiment is done. Really, a variety of sex robots should be presented to a variety of different humans covering a wider range of sex/gender/orientation combinations than the reported “male/male/assholecis” combination and your proposed “female/female/cis” combination (at least, that’s one interpretation of what you propose, and I think the likeliest interpretation of what was done at the tech fair; but I may be doing a wrong to you, them, or both). My mind isn’t quite as open as yours (no doubt because I have no experience in running experiments with actual data): I suspect that “male/male/*” sucks more than other combinations. But by all means, let’s write the proposal, get the funding, talk to the IRB…oops. Okay, we’ll skip that part…

    Never mind. I’m going back to my mathematical research now. I may be some time.

  3. leerudolph says

    Bah. I should have previewed: there was a pair of (what turned out to be unrendered) “delete” tags around “asshole” up there. Still, there may be something to “assholecis” as an orientation-label.

  4. richardemmanuel says

    I’m guessing some of each will be not nice. And one side will have a bigger some. And neither will be me. But I’m still upset, in advance, that my side might lose. For which I feel I must apologise. To make fewer people not not nice, even if they’re on the other side – of humanity presumably – is my most earnest goal. If typing doesn’t cut it, I don’t know what will.

  5. F.O. says

    I have no doubt that some men would have behaved exactly the same if the doll was a real person.
    However, the humans in question knew that they were dealing with an inanimated object, and it’s not hard to think that it would make a difference.

    There is another counter-test to be run: leave something new and attractive but not human-shaped at a fair, and see how many pieces you recover at the end.

    People are barbarians all the times with every kind of thing and person.
    I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from this.

  6. Curious Digressions says

    Peoples will behave as badly as they think they can get away with. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the booth had gratuitous surveillance and a sign saying “you break it – you bought it”. Better yet, having gratuitous surveillance and a large broadcast screen over the booth showing the floor what, exactly, those guys are doing in real time.

    Not something I’d like to watch, but it would be interesting to find out how it impacted behavior, if at all.

    Not to say that women are less barbaric, but do have a lower expectation of getting away with behaving like a pack of jackals. It’s like the demographic of guys who attend a tech demo conference feel, oh I don’t know, entitled to do what they like.

  7. vucodlak says

    Gods, that’s disgusting. I’ve always been disturbed, to a perhaps unhealthy degree, when I hear/see/read stories of people mistreating objects that represent living things (not as disturbed as I am when actual living things are harmed, but close), but it’s extra gross when the object in question is meant to resemble a human to such a degree. What the fuck is wrong with people?

    I mean, I might buy a sex bot if I had a ridiculous amount of money to throw away. It wouldn’t be one that resembles a human (nor would it be sentient if that were somehow an option) but I’d still feel sick if I mistreated it.

  8. cartomancer says

    I’m really not so sure that this incident shows anything like that.

    It’s a piece of technology being shown off at a trade fair. A piece of technology designed and built to be groped in a pseudo-sexual fashion. You can’t very well set up a booth with a sign on it inviting people to grope your animated mannequin and then get annoyed when they come in and take you up on that offer. The worst that can be said is that the builders failed to get across how fragile the thing was, or people ignored their entreaties to treat it with care.

    It’s not a living being. You simply can’t say that because the crowds groped a piece of foam rubber they were invited to grope that they would have done the same to a human being they weren’t. Perhaps a good number of them would, but this incident doesn’t demonstrate that at all.

    The bit that makes me uncomfortable is the way the people who made it talk about it. It’s not a “her” – simply being human-shaped isn’t enough to count you for personhood.

  9. ibbica says

    Not sure why anyone is surprised… no one remembers this?


    “In 1974, Marina Abramović did a terrifying experiment. At a gallery in her native Belgrade, Serbia, she laid out 72 items on a trestle table and invited the public to use them on her in any way they saw fit. Some of the items were benign; a feather boa, some olive oil, roses. Others were not. “I had a pistol with bullets in it, my dear. I was ready to die.” At the end of six hours, she walked away, dripping with blood and tears, but alive. “How lucky I am,” she says in her still heavy accent, and laughs.”

    “In 1974, when she invited the public to use those objects on her frozen figure, Abramović exposed a savagery lurking beneath the surface of otherwise civilised human beings. At first, visitors to the gallery were hesitant to approach her. Then, in a kind of Lord of the Flies scenario, they started subtly to torture her. “There still are scars from where the people were cutting me,” she says. “They were taking the thorn from the rose and sticking it in my stomach. The public can kill you. This is what I wanted to see.””

  10. Anders Kehlet says


    It’s not a “her” – simply being human-shaped isn’t enough to count you for personhood.

    Just as a point of curiosity: Do you similarly object when people personify ships, teddy bears, computers, cars, etc?
    As far as I can tell it’s a very human thing to do when regularly dealing with anything that’s remotely complex.

  11. cartomancer says

    Anders Kehlet. #12

    Actually I don’t find those examples too problematic. In those cases the personification doesn’t carry with it any indication that the object in question is somehow considered interchangeable with an actual human being.

    In this case the way the people who built the object talk about it suggests that they do, in fact, see some kind of equivalency between an object and a human being. Why is there this additional sense of outrage over what is essentially trade show visitors treating a device with disrespect? It’s because the device is being perceived as more than just a device – it’s being perceived as equivalent to a human being. The people who made it talk about it like it’s a person, the reporters in the newspaper article go along with that characterisation. Even PZ describes it as “a proxy for a woman” in his commentary, although in his case I suspect he is doing so in order to better suggest the language of scientific experiment than out of a genuine conviction that a bit of animatronic rubber and a real human being are functionally the same.

    That’s the attitude that these MRA scumbags take, and I find it very distasteful. The idea that other human beings are functional objects for having sex with, rather than people. This simulacrum is a functional object for having sex with – that someone sees the essential qualities a person in such an object strikes me as rather sinister.

  12. F.O. says


    Amazing how many people go for the “it was just an unattended object”angle completely ignoring that it was a sex doll in the shape of a woman.

    People-shaped things are still not people.
    Damage and violence are two different things.

    My gut reaction is that someone’s attitude towards people-shaped things IS indicative of their attitude towards actual people, but I have learned not to trust my gut feelings on conclusions that validate my political views.
    I want my beliefs are grounded in reality rather than a desire for validation.

    If you have the time and energy to expand on your point, I’ll be happy to listen and learn.

  13. snuffcurry says

    People-shaped things are still not people

    Effigies are not people. Burning and lynching them are unobjectionable and indicative of nothing. Do you see how silly that sounds in a culture that, when discussing rape for example, routinely compares women and their bodies to objects like wallets, unlocked cars, unguarded homes?

    This simulacrum is a functional object for having sex with – that someone sees the essential qualities a person in such an object strikes me as rather sinister.

    Nope. A “functional object for having sex with” is an aubergine-shaped dildo, an egg-like vibrator. Or a hand. A pillow. Anal beads. A shower head. Yeah, you’re right, women aren’t sex. Women are women. When you decide to manhandle and rape an effigy of a woman (or, you know, put your hand on its tit and shove a beer in its mouth when the women it’s meant to look is running for POTUS), that choice, unconscious or otherwise, is significant. If the shape doesn’t matter, then why does it exist in the first place and why has it drawn so much disproportionate attention? Breaking and leaving ejaculate on displays is not normal for a tech convention, no, nor are those standard means and methods to gauge how advanced the technology is.

    As for the suggestion that this is Just What Happens at Cons, prove it. Link to somebody, somewhere, bewailing the state of their overtly penis-shaped dildos and vibrators at the end of a novelty convention.

  14. snuffcurry says

    Also, I’m slightly agnostic on the subject of PZ’s experiment. I’m inclined to think, but not utterly unconvinced, that this is also and more predominantly about things fashioned to look like women, rather than that this is just a product of men operating in standard issue objectification mode. I think people who do this are much more likely to be men, but there are myriad reasons for that and I do think there’s some unexamined heteronormativity at play here that’s blurring the issue a bit.

  15. says

    Could you just not?
    Yes, this is, in the end, a thing.
    A thing made to look like a woman, react like a woman who welcomes your advances, do a specific thing straight guys want from women.
    This is not violence against a random object. The didn’t rub their dicks against a table or masturbated into a flowerpot.
    It was violence specific against a stand in for a woman, a stand in that actually represents what they claim they want: always willing, always welcoming them, never saying no.
    Turns out they didn’t actually want some pure sexual delight. They wanted to dominate, hurt and break.

  16. cartomancer says

    Snuffcurry, #15

    Where does it say anyone ejaculated on the object? It says “soiled” in the article, but that doesn’t mean somebody ejaculated on it. Also… what is all this about putting beer in the mannequin and it looking like someone running for US president? Where does it say any of that? None of that is in the article as far as I can tell. Where did you get it from?

    It’s still a functional object for having sex with. Designed and built for just that purpose. It is shaped the way it is because, presumably, some people find that shape sexually alluring. I would not wish to condemn anyone’s sexual preferences. People find all sorts of things alluring. An attraction to the human form is hardly an unusual fetish in our society, even if a preference for it in latex is somewhat peculiar. It might be more elaborate and complicated than a simple sex toy, but it is still very much the same sort of thing.

    But the comparison with an effigy, such as one might carry through the streets in a procession or burn on a bonfire, does address the issue. This mannequin thing is not an effigy, because an effigy is specifically designed for the purpose of veneration or desecration. Its function is specifically to stand in for an actual human being in a ritual context. This is designed as a sex toy, for personal masturbatory titillation. Now, I grant you, it could be used as an effigy by someone who had invested it with the significance of a real person. Such an approach to the object would indeed be highly problematic. That’s what I think its creator is guilty of doing, and the article of going along with. Are the people who had a go on it perceiving it in such a way? Maybe some of them are. Maybe most of them are. I don’t know. You’d have to ask them.

    The crux of this, it seems to me, is whether this is people doing to a mannequin what they secretly want to do to real people, or people doing things to a mannequin that they wouldn’t dream of doing to real people precisely because it is a mannequin. Is it violent, dehumanising wish-fulfilment or does it occupy a completely different moral realm in the user’s head from real people? Most people would see little wrong with treating one of these automated mobile phone helper programmes like Siri in a way they would object strongly to if it were an actual human PA. Is this like that?

  17. Saad says

    The context that Giliell gives in #18 is important.

    Yes, no women got damaged or broken here. No real human was violated.

    But you can’t tell me this doesn’t reveal further highlight something very disturbing about these type of men. If you ignore the contemporary real world context, then yes, nothing is wrong I guess.

  18. cartomancer says

    Giliell, #18

    No, it is not violence against a random object. It is making sexual advances towards an object designed and presented for making sexual advances towards. We cannot ignore the fact that this is the object’s function.

    In fact, I’m not sure that this is a case of deliberate violence towards the object at all. It got a bit grimy and two of its fingers were broken – that sounds a lot more like wear and tear from repeated successive and indelicate use by dozens of people than the result of a concerted attempt to damage and destroy it. I would be surprised if someone who took pleasure in damaging things would end up damaging it so little.

    Is there a certain subset of the straight male population (and other groups) for whom sexual aggression and toxic ideas about domination and belittlement are a problem? Of course there is. There has been for millennia. I wouldn’t want to dismiss or diminish the seriousness of that problem. I just don’t think we can say with any certainty that this damaged mannequin is a result of it (or, by implication, that we needed this incident to show that it was real – it’s blindingly obvious that it’s a real problem). I think it is all too easy to chalk this up as a toxic masculinity problem – as if there weren’t enough of those already. I don’t think the paradigm fits as nicely as many here do.

    I don’t think the problem is with people who want a sexual partner who, qua sexual partner, is eager and willing and into everything they like. I suspect the vast majority of people imagine such a partner when masturbating. I would be far more disturbed if the thing made out that it wasn’t keen and didn’t consent to the sexual acts. The problem is with people who expect this kind of passive acquiescence of real people and won’t take no for an answer. Does this device train people into thinking that real people are and should be like that? Or does it provide a rather sharp counterpoint? I suspect that all depends on the psychology of the people using it.

  19. rietpluim says

    A woman is a human being. A robot is a thing. The distinction may become less clear when a robot looks like a lot like a woman, but then again, to some the distinction wasn’t that clear to begin with, sadly.

  20. says

    Source warning: The NY Post reprinting a story from The Sun. Sorry,.

    He recalls: “I had a sexually violent man who literally f–ked the left leg off of his doll.”

    “He brought his doll to me twice for repair, after the second time I told him to never contact me again!”

    “The guy was a complete piece of s–t. A f—king a–hole womanizing scumbag.”

    “Every person on this planet is worth respect until proven otherwise — but not to that guy.”

    “How he spoke about and treated women is a really sore subject with me.”

    That wasn’t the only tricky client Fiero had to deal with, and he admits there were other dolls who had clearly been treated badly.


    I don’t know why people are so intent on being strident that these aren’t real flesh and blood women so there’s no cause for concern.

    My first thought is that these give these kinds of men an outlet so they don’t abuse actual human women, but then my concern is that they get a lot of practice on these dolls but they may eventually not be enough.

  21. says

    It’s just a flag
    It’s just a book
    It’s just not believing in gods
    It’s just a cross on fire
    It’s just a disclaimer that there are competing theories that explain where life came from

    When I was in the brony community while posting on Ponychan I saw someone post a picture of the founder of a popular brony blog who was trans and ask other people to photoshop the picture in horrifying ways. I noted that they were practicing the instinct for human defacement that results in things like the disfigurement of women by acid attack or the way victims of murder were mutilated in a sex specific fashion. I posted links to examples.

    They panicked and asked the mods to delete the thread (I was a mod at the time and was actually being conversational and direct in criticism of my own as a poster). I got excuses about it being criticism and more but, that doesn’t explain why they were practicing the instinct.

    Why did these people have the impulse to do what they did?

  22. Ogvorbis: Swimming without a parachute. says

    cartomancer @21

    It is making sexual advances towards an object designed and presented for making sexual advances towards. We cannot ignore the fact that this is the object’s function.

    There is a large, possibly majority, chunk of the adult male population of the United States which sees women as “an object designed and presented for making sexual advances towards”. Many men see no difference between a lifelike sex toy and a living sex toy. The GOP and many mainline Christian sects, as well as some Jewish and many Islamic sects see the availability of women for sexual use as “the object’s function”. Hell, I was taught by my cub scout leader that there were two kinds of people in the world: men and children (which, to him, meant all children, all women, and many men) and that children exist to give men pleasure and a real man could ignore the wishes of the children.

    Don’t you see that abusing a stand-in for a woman is really not all that surprising? And the casual acceptence of that abuse is also not surprising? Is it really that surprising that treating a woman like a thing, or a thing like a woman, is acceptable?

  23. The Mellow Monkey says

    If I had a child who mutilated their dolls, I’d be concerned. Play behavior reflects what’s going on internally. Does the doll symbolize something the child is uncomfortable with or angry at? Is there an impulse control problem? Is the child mimicking abuse they have witnessed or experienced? To actually destroy an object by playing with it when you have the motor control not to do so accidentally isn’t a reasonable thing to do.


    No, it is not violence against a random object. It is making sexual advances towards an object designed and presented for making sexual advances towards.

    Destroying a thing is “making sexual advances towards” it? My spouse and I have a collection of toys and while something might wear down over years, there’s nothing violent about their use. But none of them look like women.

  24. F.O. says

    @Giliell, Saad, Tabby, Mellow Monkey
    Thank you for your answers.
    Reading the thread, it seems like the reaction to the doll being abused is roughly split along genders, so it is likely my (our) male privilege speaking.
    I still do not fully understand the place you come from and I would be curious to know about some research done on the subject, but I accept your conclusions.

  25. snuffcurry says

    @cartomancer, 19

    Also… what is all this about putting beer in the mannequin and it looking like someone running for US president? Where does it say any of that? None of that is in the article as far as I can tell. Where did you get it from?

    I didn’t get it from anywhere. I remember it vividly from winter 2008, when Jon Favreau groped the chest of an HRC standee and another member of Obama’s transition team pretended to pour beer down the standee’s throat for a photograph.

    The crux of this, it seems to me, is whether this is people doing to a mannequin what they secretly want to do to real people, or people doing things to a mannequin that they wouldn’t dream of doing to real people precisely because it is a mannequin

    No, that’s not the crux of it, the only possible or reasonable objection, and you can stop putting words into people’s mouths. Men might take a moment to consider, again, because they always seem to forget, what it’s like as a girl or woman to live in a culture that fashions a lot of playthings, tools, toys, and figurative punching bags in the shape of women or our body parts, and then have to watch as they are groped, fiddled with, beaten, discarded, and destroyed. A culture that assigns gender to inanimate objects, ideas, even colors, and then mercilessly mocks the things, for being weak or inadequate or inferior or vapid or disposable or unserious, it has decided are feminine. A culture that imposes impossible physical (and emotional!) standards on female humans, trains them to accept as formative scrutiny, and then blames them when they try to live up to an ideal, when they suppress the qualities they have learned don’t belong to them after all. A culture that sells services and goods to men using women’s body parts to tantalize, either promising that their product will provide access to those parts or comparing them like for like.

    I don’t know why this even needs saying. Your rules-lawyering about what constitutes an effigy under these circumstances is fucking pathetic.

    We cannot ignore the fact that this is the object’s function.

    Where have I heard that before? Ah, yes, the old vagina-as-sheath, bewbs-belong-to-your-husband-not-the-babby whinge. Imaginative stuff. One can’t ignore that the paper targets with Trayvon Martin’s face on them have a function, after all!

  26. methuseus says

    Ah, yes, the old vagina-as-sheath, bewbs-belong-to-your-husband-not-the-babby whinge.

    Don’t the boobs belong to the woman? The husband and baby just rent them for a limited time each.

  27. ledasmom says

    Please let me know standard boob-rental fees. I have some bills for unpaid rent to present to husband and two children ASAP.

  28. says

    Robot sex is a massive ethical minefield.

    Some people haven’t the luxury of being able to disregard it as just stuff people do with inanimate objects in private — particularly not when they have first- or second-hand experience of similar things and the inanimate object in question is designed to be especially lifelike, and they have no way to be certain that the other person would never behave that way with a real human being. And I certainly cannot honestly say that I would not be pissed off if I found that someone was treating a robot that they could imagine to be me in ways that I would not find acceptable. Because I’m a human being, and sometimes I am just emotional like that.

    Of course, there are already partial analogies. There is a whole host of sexual games; and there are video games encouraging simulated bad driving. There are people who find anything but monogomous sex between a man and a woman, in the dark, strictly for procreation purposes only to be unbearably icky; there are communities practicing every form of fetish and kink you can imagine and more than a few that you can’t. And there are many people who dare not be true to themselves, for fear of the shame it might bring upon themselves or their friends and family if they were discovered. For every person who tries to sue a software company for teaching them bad driving habits, there will be ten bad drivers who have never even played those sorts of games and ten gamers who swear they are better drivers in real life because they can work out their frustrations on screen. And the whole might well turn out to be greater than the sum of its parts.

    Is sex with robots always wrong? Is it ever OK to do things to a robot that would be unacceptable to do to a human? Any normal random human, or specifically a consenting member of a kink community? Should people who have sex with robots not have sex with humans? Will we have to compete with robots for partners? What if a robot is intelligent enough to determine that the way humans are having sex with it is causing premature wear and tear?

    It’s only going to get harder to ignore the questions as technology advances. There probably will be large shifts in attitudes with new discoveries. And probably a longing for simpler times, when all we had to worry about was imminent nuclear annihilation …..