[Readings] Machine Yearning, By Markie Louise Christianson Twist | Harper's Magazine

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From “Sex with Robots: Therapeutic Challenges and Opportunities,” an online lecture presented by Twist, a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Stout, and hosted by the International Online Sexology Supervisors.

Digisexuality is a sexual experience that depends on the use of advanced technology. Sex-toy consumers and people who experience attachment to digital technology were the first-wave digisexuals.

Back in twelfth-century Japan, mechanical dolls were used for entertainment in theaters and private homes, as well as for sexual practices. Everyone has the right to feel love and connection, and Japanese people have a history of connecting to technology in spiritual ways. The scholars Beatriz Yumi Aoki and Takeshi Kimura surveyed Japanese sex-doll owners in 2020 and found that 58 percent believe the dolls have a heart or soul. This is more than just sex. Maybe it’s even about love.

A digisexual is a person who is attracted to technology and doesn’t require a human partner. Digisexuality is pretty awesome. If someone has interest in having sex with dolphins, which most people would consider nonconsensual, they now make robot dolphins. It’s also age-affirming. For people who have an interest in young people, they don’t make childlike dolls yet, but they might someday. There are definitely lots of positives. So far, most robots look like humans. I’m not going to lie to you—they’re going to start looking like other things.

Do you have a strong connection to a piece of technology? Mine is my 2006 BlackBerry. It’s in a drawer, and I sometimes get it out just to rub the buttons. If you love something, does it need to love you back in order for you to feel connection? Think about the story of the Velveteen Rabbit: loving the doll so much that it became real.


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