Sex robots in care: Setting the stage for a discussion on the potential use of sexual robot technologies for persons with disabilities

Eduard Fosch-Villaronga, Adam Poulsen

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review

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Although every human should enjoy physical touch, intimacy, and sexual pleasure, persons with disabilities are often not in the position to fully experience the joys of life in the same manner as abled people. The United Nations stated in 1993 that persons with disabilities should enjoy family life and personal integrity and should not be denied the opportunity to experience their sexuality, have sexual relationships, and experience parenthood. However, after nearly 30 years of discussion, universal access to sexual and reproductive health remains an unfinished agenda for the disabled, as if society failed in recognizing people with disabilities as sexual beings. In this respect, a growing body of scholars have started to explore the idea of using technology to help disabled people satisfy some of these needs, although not without controversy. In concrete, ideas surrounding the use of robots for sex care purposes have been put forward, as service robots performing actions contributing directly towards improvement in the satisfaction of a user's sexual needs. This paper continues to explore the potential use of these robots in disability care for sex care purposes, including for those with physical and mental health disabilities, which is currently underexplored. Our contribution seeks to understand whether sex robots could serve as a step forward in realizing the sexual rights of persons with disabilities. By building on a conceptual analysis of how sex robots could empower persons with disabilities to exercise their sexual rights, we hope to inform the policy debate around robots' regulation and governance and set the scene for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHRI '21 Companion
Subtitle of host publicationCompanion of the 2021 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction
PublisherIEEE Computer Society Press
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781450382908
Publication statusPublished - 08 Mar 2021
Event2021 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction: HRI 2021 Virtual - Virtual
Duration: 08 Mar 202111 Mar 2021 (Conference proceedings) (Conference website) (Conference schedule)

Publication series

NameACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction
ISSN (Electronic)2167-2148


Conference2021 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction
Abbreviated titleBolder HRI
OtherIt is our great pleasure to welcome you to the 2021 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction - HRI 2021. HRI is a premier, highly-selective meeting presenting the latest advances in the field, with broad participation from a range of scholars, including roboticists, social scientists, designers, engineers, and many others. HRI presents the latest advancements in technical, design, behavioral, theoretical, and methodological ideas in HRI.

Although initially planned to be held in Boulder, CO, USA, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a change to an online virtual format. This format has its challenges for meeting and presenting across different time zones, but it also offers opportunities to reach a wider audience who could not normally attend. Talks are recorded but also live question and answer sessions and booths are included in the schedule.

The theme of this year's conference is 'Bolder HRI," reflecting recent worldwide events and the need for real-world solutions to meet health and societal challenges. This year papers on reproducibility for HRI have been incorporated into our four theme areas, 'Human-Robot Interaction User Studies," 'Technical Advances in Human-Robot Interaction," 'Human-Robot Interaction Design," and 'Theory and Methods in Human-Robot Interaction."

The call for papers attracted 184 submissions from across the word, including Asia, Pacific, Europe, Africa, and North America. Each submission was overseen by a dedicated theme chair and reviewed by an expert group of program committee members, who worked together with the program chairs to define and apply review criteria appropriate to each of the four contribution types. All papers were reviewed by a strict double-blind review process, followed by a rebuttal period, and shepherding if deemed appropriate by the program committee. Ultimately the committee selected 42 papers (23%) for presentation as full papers at the conference. As the conference is jointly sponsored by ACM and IEEE, papers are archived in the ACM Digital Library and IEEE Xplore.

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