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5 things I’ve learned studying sex robots and space masturbation

May 20, 2021
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By Simon Dubé

Two red people-shapes embracing in space Credit: Pixabay

To say that my research is unconventional is an understatement. I am a researcher in Psychology specializing in Erobotics and Space Sexology. My doctoral work explores why people want to have sex and intimate relationships with machines. I also explore sexuality and intimacy in space. That’s right! I study things like sex robots and space masturbation. In both cases, my objective is to understand these phenomena, mitigate risks, and enhance human well-being.

But studying unconventional topics is a double-edged sword. My research tends to generate strong reactions, ranging from curiosity and laughter, to being appalled and praying for my sinful soul’s redemption. My work has also regularly been ridiculed, sensationalized, and misrepresented. Overall, making it sometimes hard to convey the importance of my work.

So, I wanted to share with you 5 things I’ve learned while studying innovative yet sensitive topics. My hope is that people can better understand what it’s like to be a scientist exploring such novel and sometimes controversial fields of research. I also want to encourage those who may want to work on these kinds of unconventional topics to: Go for it! But know what you’re in for.

Because ultimately, this scientific work is essential – not least of which, for the future of humanity beyond our home planet.

Two erotic fantasy characters in strange world Credit: Pixabay

1. What offends one, elevates the other

Sexuality is a touchy subject. People quickly feel personally invested in your work when it relates to sex and intimate relationships. Add to that the fears associated with artificial intelligence (AI), robots, and space. Shake well! And you got yourself a fruity cocktail of disastrous reactions mixed with wonderful human experiences.

For example, some people have felt their norms and values attacked by the research that my colleagues and I do. This has led to mockery, insults, and prejudice – usually, before they even read (or hear about) our work. Yet, others have felt empowered by our research. Many have told us that they felt understood and validated by our work.

For those who resonated with our research, this often led to profoundly human connections, whereby people opened up about their eroticism, and expressed their true self, identity, and desires without fear of judgment or repercussions. It also led to many heartfelt and eye-opening conversations, which have truly given my colleagues and I a wonderful sense of purpose!

Two Lego stormtroopers holding hands and looking at the sunset Credit: Pixabay

2. Beware of the Cool-factor!

Interesting research makes for strange bedfellows. Since both academics and the media are always on the prowl for trendy topics, researching novel areas like sextech or sex in space can attract a lot of (un)wanted attention.

This can be great! For instance, it generated a lot of visibility for my research, and it kept me motivated through difficult times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. But it also brought about people – from potential collaborators to journalists working for sensationalist click-bait media – who were not really interested in my work, nor the science behind it. They simply wanted to get aboard the bandwagon.

In that regard, my advice is: Do your due diligence! Take the time to research those who are contacting you; and find out about their intentions and their commitment to science. Then, carefully select your collaborators and media outlets. This will save you a lot of time and unwanted attention based on the exploitation of your expertise.

A character wondering in the bed of a space base Credit: Pixabay

3. Sex sells, but it also comes at a price

Researching sexuality-related topics, like Erobotics or Space Sexology, can open several interesting and unexplored scientific avenues. This can rapidly create niche research areas, which allow you to distinguish yourself from other scientists. But it also comes with challenges.

For one, you may have to repeatedly explain to people – such as fellow academics and the public – why this unknown, seemingly futuristic research is necessary. In addition, it presents unique ethical and methodological challenges. It may be hard to design experiments that safely address fundamental questions about human sexuality; and it may take a long time to get your projects approved by institutional Research Ethics Boards.

Depending on the sociopolitical climate where your research is being conducted, it can also be extremely difficult to get your projects funded. And the job market can be limited for individuals with highly specific or controversial expertise.

Two wooden figurines simulating sex Credit: Pixabay

4. Let’s talk about our sex lives

People sometimes conflate the fact that I am a sex researcher with an invitation to talk about our sex lives. On occasions, this has led to unwanted over-sharing and over-inquiring. People have told my colleagues and I things that they wouldn’t tell their partners or doctors, such as hidden fantasies, trauma, or relationship difficulties.

Although I appreciate their trust, it can rapidly become overwhelming, if not downright uncomfortable. I am not a clinician, nor a psychotherapist. Don’t get me wrong; I am happy to create spaces where people can share and feel heard. I am also happy to reassure people; help normalize their experiences; and even make some kinky sex toy suggestions. But in the face of complex psychosexual struggles, I can only listen and perhaps recommend other resources.

Even more problematic is the number of times I have been asked about my own sexuality in inappropriate circumstances. For instance, I have been asked more than once during media interviews whether I had sex with a robot or doll, and if so, whether I could describe the experience. And while I fully support anyone interested in artificial partners, it's nobody’s business whether I do or not. Moreover, it’s not because you study something that it necessarily applies to you. But unfortunately, being asked about our intimacy is a common problem for sex researchers – and even more so for my colleagues who are women, females and/or part of diverse gender, sexual, and ethnic groups.

Person looking at the stars Credit: Pixabay

5. Courage and support

Finally, while I believe the pros far outweigh the cons of this list, it does take some courage to scientifically explore unconventional topics, a quality which is too often underappreciated in academia. It is also immensely helpful to have a solid social support network – including friends, family, colleagues, partners, supervisors, mentors, and more – to navigate the uncertain waters of science and get through the rough patches engendered by controversial research.

It’s my hope that more and more people stop fearing these kinds of unconventional research topics, and instead embrace them. Because in the end, exploring the edge is the only way to push the boundaries of science and knowledge forward. Just remember that nothing great was ever accomplished without overcoming adversity.


About the author

Photo of Simon Dubé

Simon Dubé is a PhD candidate in Psychology specializing in human sexuality, sextech, and Erobotics – the study of human-machine erotic interaction and co-evolution. His work also explores Space Sexology, and how we can integrate sex research into space programs. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the Université de Montréal in 2016. He is a Student Representative of the "International Academy of Sex Research" and a General Co-Chair of the "International Congress on Love & Sex with Robots". His doctoral research is funded by the "Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Santé".


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