a passing fancy: sexbots

sexbots are common scifi gags.

just wanted to let that sentence sit there for a minute. how are you feeling? okay if i continue? good.

seriously, we’ve seen a lot of them, they’re an old idea – as a reminder, here are some:

The Stepford Wives, of course

Pris, from Blade Runner

Fembots, from Austin Powers

Various, from the mind of Joss Whedon

right, now you’ve got the proper context.

the thing is, there are a lot more Echos than there are Roxxxys.  we see them all the time.  “the culture” is in awe of them, patronizes them, uses them, throws them away and then creates a new one.  the modern sexbot is the Girl As Empty Vessel.  and this idea, while something that has been projected at girls for years and years, is now something that girls are projecting back.  it’s been accepted as The Way To Be, and we judge young women on how good they are at pulling it off.

Consider this interview with Megan Fox:

Fox says outrageous things. She takes sexy pictures. She looks good on film. But she doesn’t try to pull at your heartstrings by pretending to bare her soul. She doesn’t attempt to demystify herself through overexplanation. She doesn’t try to really prove anything to you. She just gives you what she thinks you want and keeps the important stuff for herself. (Interview)

[emphasis mine]

Or consider this review of Emily Gould’s book of essays, “And the Heart Says Whatever“:

After nearly a decade of New York life she is sadder but, she insists, no wiser. “I can look back and recognize the things I’ve done and said that were wrong: unethical, gratuitously hurtful, golden-rule breaking,” she writes. But “I would be lying if I said I was a different person now. . . . I would do it all again.” She seems to think this is a brave and honest stance, and maybe it is, but it’s also unpromising Is there nothing she would reconsider? At times she comes across, confusingly, as a character in a coming-of-age novel — but alas, no novelist arrives to explain her to herself. (NY Times Book Review)

[again, emphasis mine]

What troubles me about this phenomenon is not merely the lives and futures of the women who participate in it, but in how we assess them and what they represent.  Megan Fox is known for being the hot chick in the Transformers movies, an Angelina Jolie wannabe, a sometime bisexual, a girl with tattoos… oh wait, after the Angelina Jolie remark, the rest is redundant.  The trouble is that when she tries to do something else, we can not turn away from the sexbot she maintains for our benefit.  And you see this in criticism of her other work:

“Cody’s underdeveloped writing and Kusama’s ambiguous direction are further stymied by Fox’s own inconsistencies as an actress, and her own off-camera status as an A-list fetish object. While she sufficiently did what was expected of her in the Transformers movies, she hardly exceeded expectations, and did herself no favors by condescending to the franchise that made her a household name—especially since she’s done nothing else thus far to justify the world’s interest in her.” (Cinematical)

That’s some cold shit.

And what about Emily Gould?  In the end, she seems to be reduced to two no doubt oversimplified sketches.  The first, an image that is invoked in the opening sentences of many of the reviews of her book.  The second, a characterization of her time at Gawker, and her subsequent departure, as a public ‘mental meltdown‘.

I’m not sure how to be fair, or to whom.  But it does put me in mind of a conversation I had last night with a friend about pornography.  It’s been years, honestly, since I looked at an issue of any of the following magazines, but here was how I described my impressions:  Playboy [NSFW] presented a fantasy of what a worldly, sophisticated, sexual man enjoyed while also trying occasionally to stimulate his other sexual organ, the brain; Penthouse [NSFW] presented a kind of verite – it wasn’t ‘real’ but it reflected back images that go with the stories men tell each other about the sexual conquests they never really have; and [srsly I don’t have to tell you this is NSFW!] Hustler goes around the bend towards a kind of mocking honesty about the messiness and averageness of sex.  They’re all presenting fantasies about sex and about women.  Some of those are presented qua fantasies, others as realities you don’t live in.  All of them probably set up unreasonable expectations for men and women alike about sex, sexuality and our bodies.

But the kind of psychological pornography that these women portray through a stylized ‘over-sharing’ combined with lack of insight is creating just as big of a problem.  It’s setting unreasonable expectations for men and women about who they should be, how they should interact, what intimacy is, where boundaries lie, and what they fundamentally want.

Living and going out in New York, you can hear this cacophony of silence as people pantomime personas at one another but do not commune, hook up but do not connect, email/text/twitter/check-in but do not communicate.  It’s deafening. And it hurts.

Posted by Farrah Bostic via email from reminds me of robots

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