Can Sex Chatbots Be Dominant?

Can Sex Chatbots Be Dominant?

… Or, is there room for fetish in the future of chatbots?

Humans are attracted to simplification. We classify things in order to make them easier to understand and easier to organise. We like convenience. Even something as complex as sexual pleasure can be organised into a neat rolodex of fetishes and behaviours. That’s not to say that everyone gets off on labels, and to those of you who refuse to be pinned down by definition, I salute you.

For the most part, the convenience of labels and definitions can be helpful to those of us who identify as sexual beings in exploring and expressing our desires. In our quests for sexual satisfaction and fulfilment in a tech-driven, 24-hour screen time society, sexbots seem like a natural fit.

Let’s go back to basics for a moment. As a social experience, chatbots are easy. The basic interaction is simpler than the average face-to-face human interaction, because the conversation is predictable, controllable, and void of non-verbal cues. There is a minimal investment of effort, and the expectations of the interaction are in the hands of the human user. If mainstream uses in business and enterprise have taught us anything, it’s that chatbots are convenient and are valued for their ability to make the lives of humans that bit easier. When these technological innovations meet the sex industry, it becomes a much more complex narrative.

Enter, sextech and sex chatbots

Sextech has the potential to expand sexual horizons, and diminish sexual freedoms. These potentials are being realised in the form of sex robots and the eroticism of male dominance over the image of women, and in the form of status quo-challenging sex toys and online social sex revolutions. There is much to admire about sextech, and in some cases much to be alarmed by. Again, I’m simplifying things. Which brings us to sex chatbots.

Sex chatbots are where our base sexual desires meet the gratuitously simple chatbot experience. To date, the sexbot market has made inroads on virtual dating experiences, and some of these virtual girlfriends and boyfriends are heavily nostalgic of the much loved and still popular dating sims.

An online search for sex chatbots; will lead you to some interesting discussions on chatbots and erotic language, and also to some poorly crafted submissive sexbot experiences: see image below.

sex bot, sex chatbot, submissive chatbot
Submissive sex chatbots are yet to be very sophisticated. Source:

Erotic Chatbot Ltd flirted very briefly with the idea of a virtual sandbox for the verbally shy, but the company has since dissolved.

Flirtatious sexbots are growing in number – predominately sculpted around a female persona – and programmed to be your sexy and attentive on demand companion.

The mould for a dominant-submissive relationship with a sex chatbot seems to naturally favour a dominant human and submissive bot dynamic. At the outset, the balance of power in a human-bot relationship is asymmetric with humans having the upper hand in terms of control and conversation design.

A natural fit, the blueprints for submissive sex chatbots are already etched into the groundwork of the society we live in. The appropriation of culturally dominant ideals of gender is a human limitation that has worked its way into the design of chatbot technology, and much like the structural inequalities and societal perceptions of gender that can dictate an uneven balance of power between men and women in our convenience driven capitalism, we can see a preference for the replication of these dynamics in bot design by the hands of some of the dominant players in the AI world. A submissive sex chatbot plays into the projection of a helpful, attentive and malleable female companion.

Is there even a demand for a dominant sex chatbot?

That leaves those of us who desire to explore our submissive selves in these new technologies wondering if we are going to be a marginalised fetish in the unfolding chatbot revolution.

Do people even want a dominant sexbot?

Maybe not. But is it even possible, today, for a completely fulfilling dominant sex chatbot experience to exist? A dominant-submissive sexual relationship is about the wilful exchange of power. I, the submissive, hand over power to you, the dominant, who accepts this power for a period of time and uses it upon me and we satisfy our desires together. The ideal situation embodies the concepts of respect, responsibility, communication, and consent. I feel safe when I am powerless, because I am an equal partner in this exchange. I am turned on because my fantasy of powerlessness is unfolding in the hands of somebody that I trust, and I can completely immerse my mind and body in this fantasy.

Between a human and a sex chatbot the exchange of power does not flow so smoothly. On paper you might say, of course we can have dominant sexbots, it’s easy.

User: Sexbot, I’m yours. Use me.

Sexbot: Sit still, my play thing, and do what I say.

And so on.

The personality of sex chatbots

Designing a chatbot that is programmed to respond to the user with expressions of a dominant sexual personality does not make for a fulfilling dominant-submissive relationship. The nuances of the wilful exchange of power in a sexual encounter are themselves brimming with complexities that the sexbots of today are not yet ready to grasp. The difference between sincerity, and acting. Play versus reality. Consent and the communication of power over. The interplay between pain and pleasure, the emotional aspects of a BDSM experience.

And the wilful exchange of power. My fantasy of powerlessness will never unfold in a way that can completely satisfy my submissive self, because I will always be the benefactor in an inherently asymmetrical balance of power. My dominant sexbot does not independently acknowledge concepts of power or through its own will accept power, express it, or return it. I may convince myself otherwise during our conversations so that I might experience pleasure, or even orgasm with the self-defined belief that I am powerless to the will of another. But it will always be self-defined – a ruse that only I control – and the thin veil that separates my belief that I am an equal partner in a wilful exchange of power, and the fact that the power that I have offered has fallen on deaf ears, is very easily lifted.

We enjoy simplification, and categorisation. The labels that we share our identities with, our fetishes with, give us a convenient way to explore our desires. But within sextech, some desires are not finding a shared experience with technological innovation and are being left behind. And when it comes to chatbot technology, the dominant paths to sexual fulfilment remain bounded by the limits of human meaning and human design.

Through a preventable, global desire for convenience by way of technology, my desires for consensual powerlessness remain, for the time being, tied to humanity.

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Yvonne Kiely

A journalist and researcher based in Dublin, Yvonne contributes insights and musings on the relationships between sex, gender, and artificial intelligence. She believes that the disruptive ethos of sextech is a viable alternative to the limiting narrative that dominates the design of the sex industry today. Currently a workaholic in denial, Yvonne also researches the music industry, gender, and mass media on her website. Check Yvonne's latest work on:

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