Most people will welcome current efforts being made by the University of Leicester to prevent sexual violence in our city. This is because all their students will soon have to “attend compulsory courses on sexual consent and alcohol abuse as part of a drive to stamp out ‘lad culture’ on campus” (September 30, Leicester Mercury).
Unhelpful stereotypical representations of women saturate mainstream media, advertising and general culture. Too often, women are presented as sex objects in our increasingly porn-dominated culture, ready-and-willing to be used and abused by powerful men.
As part of ongoing efforts to redress such gender inequalities De Montfort University researcher, Professor Kathleen Richardson, recently launched the Campaign Against Sex Robots. As she explained to the Leicester Mercury (September 16): female sex “robots create a negative stereotype of women that suggest they are only here to serve men. They’re harmful and degrading to meaningful relationships and will create another demand for the sex industry.”
According to the manufacturers of Roxxxy, the “world’s first sex robot”, their female robot “has a heartbeat”, and just like the real thing “can listen, talk, carry on a conversation…” She “has a personality which is matched as much as possible to your personality. So she likes what you like, dislikes what you dislike, etc.”
But as much as having intimate conversations with a robot will be appealing to some men, especially since the robot’s only purpose can be to satisfy their owner’s every whim, sexual congress is the main thrust of their loving relationship.
Thus “preprogrammed personalities” on offer run the gamut of porn stereotypes like Wild Wendy who is “outgoing and adventurous”; S&M Susan who is “ready to provide your pain/pleasure fantasies”; or Young Yoko who “is oh so young (barely 18) and waiting for you to teach her”. All are waiting to “spice up your night with some kinky talk!” Of course the erotising of Young Yoko is particularly concerning considering the rising rates of child exploitation here in Leicestershire (October 1, Mercury).
Moreover the ongoing commodification of women and their higher likelihood of facing sexual assault are intimately related. One in five women and one in 20 men will face sexual assault at some time in their life. While at least one in four women experience intimate partner violence. This needs to end!
In our male-dominated society, women continue to be treated as second-class citizens. This can be seen by the way in which women fill the majority of low-wage part-time jobs. A good example of such limited working opportunities is provided by the highly profitable clothing giant, Next, which is famously opposed to paying their staff a living wage.
On top of economic exploitation, Next, are not adverse to boosting their profits by celebrating sexual inequality; hence their recent ‘Pretty girls are the happiest’ t-shirt. But thankfully, following public pressure, common-sense prevailed. Next choosing to withdraw their controversial t-shirt after campaigners drew attention to the link between such sexist logos and the disturbingly high number of girls seeking help for mental health problems.