The Big Ideas of 2010

Relationships

in Late Capitalism.
Relationships in Late Capitalism

M. CARONNA / REUTERS

It comes as no surprise that technology and consumerism have radically altered the way we interact with one another in the twilight of late capitalism. But as we crawl further down the rabbit hole toward our new reality, how exactly are we changing?

The breakdown of marriage and the implosion of the nuclear family throughout the 20th century led to the emancipation of the individual who – no longer trapped by tradition – was able to pursue a more liberated, modern approach to relationships, dating and sex.

This ongoing process of fragmentation – or rather, reorganization – recently entered a new stage: teens and twentysomethings have started to abandon dating altogether in favor of “hooking up.” Dating seems to have become too commitment-centric for modern youth. The freedom to have multiple partners rather than be tied down to one is more congruent with listing 600 people as “friends” on your Facebook profile.

While dating is on the decline, the use and acceptance of sex toys has risen sharply. Vibrator users, both men and women, are now in the majority. What was once a sign of sexual dysfunction and alienation can now be purchased at your local 7-Eleven – in the toothpaste aisle.

Ta-Bo sex doll collection

Japanese engineer Ta-Bo reads anime in the company of his many love dolls in his Tokyo apartment. Ta-Bo owns over a hundred love dolls, all scattered around his apartment which he uses for sex and companionship. He claims that that unlike real women, love dolls are low maintenance, do not nag, cost very little to please, and will never be unfaithful.

But perhaps the most telling indicator of how late capitalism is shaping human sexuality is found in the proliferation of next-generation sex dolls. Primarily produced by RealDoll (US) and HoneyDoll (Japan), these life-size, 100% silicone dolls are highly detailed, fully customizable and provide a physical experience that users find comparable to actual sex. Retailing at around $5,000, the dolls have been embraced by many single men not as only pleasurable sex toys but also as a viable alternative to human females.

In Japan HoneyDolls have become popular with single, middle-aged businessmen, who – due to long working hours and the inability to develop relationships with members of the fairer sex – find HoneyDolls provide a convenient replacement for female companionship. While the dolls are currently void of interactivity, HoneyDoll engineers are working on developing a stimulus-response system that will produce an orgasmic sound effect when you stroke the doll’s nipple “correctly.”

David Levy, former chess master, AI-engineer and author of Love and Sex With Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships, believes that these dolls will rapidly evolve into full-blown robots and that robot-human relationships will become technologically possible and socially acceptable within a mere 20 years.

Douglas Haddow

24 comments on the article “Relationships”

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Brian Mason

The acts of intercourse with; a doll, someone of the same sex, or two consenting adults of any particular age, all seemingly normal things, which a certin margin of the any public is personally interested in, resounds with me as inevitable in a free and open society. Should a Person, responsible for their interests, find happiness and love in the pursuits of such interests, then he or she is entitled to that venture. It is up to each of us to chose the correct paths for ourselves, and to hold ourselves accountable for their consequences.

Brian Mason

The acts of intercourse with; a doll, someone of the same sex, or two consenting adults of any particular age, all seemingly normal things, which a certin margin of the any public is personally interested in, resounds with me as inevitable in a free and open society. Should a Person, responsible for their interests, find happiness and love in the pursuits of such interests, then he or she is entitled to that venture. It is up to each of us to chose the correct paths for ourselves, and to hold ourselves accountable for their consequences.

Brooke Sorensen

My mother commented that she thought dating was a little different for my generation than it was when she was young. I believe her. Almost every relationship I have been in has taken months and months to progress past "casual" because my partners didn't want the commitment of calling what we had a "relationship". My friends have similar stories, or are commitment-phobes themselves. I don't see a problem with using sex toys or masturbatory aids to enhance sexual relationships or provide occasional release. But the key word missing in a lot of sexual material and media is "relationship." Having products like these sex dolls that encourage isolation is part of a social sexual environment that is extremely selfish and isolated. I believe it is a continuum of the casual way strangers can find sex with online hook-up sites. When city health clinics have "Do you sleep with people you meet online?" as a lifestyle risk box to check along with intravenous drug use, it seems to signal that certain types of promiscuity and me-centric sex have progressed to an extremely damaging norm. I am not trying to press a puritanical view. I believe any sex between consenting adults is no one's business but theirs. However, creating an atmosphere where the person one is having sex with could be any stranger met online, or even a doll, seems incredibly damaging.

Brooke Sorensen

My mother commented that she thought dating was a little different for my generation than it was when she was young. I believe her. Almost every relationship I have been in has taken months and months to progress past "casual" because my partners didn't want the commitment of calling what we had a "relationship". My friends have similar stories, or are commitment-phobes themselves. I don't see a problem with using sex toys or masturbatory aids to enhance sexual relationships or provide occasional release. But the key word missing in a lot of sexual material and media is "relationship." Having products like these sex dolls that encourage isolation is part of a social sexual environment that is extremely selfish and isolated. I believe it is a continuum of the casual way strangers can find sex with online hook-up sites. When city health clinics have "Do you sleep with people you meet online?" as a lifestyle risk box to check along with intravenous drug use, it seems to signal that certain types of promiscuity and me-centric sex have progressed to an extremely damaging norm. I am not trying to press a puritanical view. I believe any sex between consenting adults is no one's business but theirs. However, creating an atmosphere where the person one is having sex with could be any stranger met online, or even a doll, seems incredibly damaging.

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