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Sex Doll Sales Surge In Quarantine, But It’s Not Just About Loneliness

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Sex doll sales have surged since quarantine began, to the extent that one company are looking to take on new staff to keep up with demand.

Sex Doll Genie has received “hundreds” more enquiries than usual in the last eight weeks, from both couples and single people. The company saw a 51.6% increase in orders from single men in February and March, with a 33.2% year-on-year growth in orders placed by couples in April.

“We have lots of products in stock but we can’t work fast enough to keep up with demand,” co-founder Janet Stevenson said. “We are hiring as quickly as we can and have created several new roles in fulfillment management and customer support in both the US and Europe.”

At first glance it seems obvious why this might be the case. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are quarantining alone or without our intimate partners. While it’s easy to scoff, the idea that a doll could provide company in the absence of other people is not at all outlandish. As Dr Kate Devlin noted in her recent book Turned On: Science, Sex, and Robots, sex dolls tend to be associated with single men. But they are also frequently purchased by couples, people with disabilities, and parents whose adult children are socially excluded.

History also shows that people are surprisingly quick to anthropomorphize technology. One of the earliest examples of artificial intelligence was Joseph Weizenbaum’s 1966 language processor, ELIZA. By today’s standards it was a rudimentary conversation simulator, capable of only a short dialogue. Yet people were very readily drawn in by it, despite knowing full well it was a computer programme. Users were respectful and many said they preferred interacting with ELIZA to interacting with another human being.

British AI expert David Levy observed that humans form strong attachments even to technology without AI. In his book Love and Sex with Robots, Levy cites a study of owners of early versions of the AIBO robotic dog which found a significant number of them attributed real feelings and intentional behaviors to their robotic pets. “People actually want to perceive their AIBOs as real pets and therefore they attribute doglike emotions to the AIBO,” Levy wrote.

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