Eichenberg, Khamis, & Hübner (2019). The Attitudes of Therapists and Physicians on the Use of Sex Robots in Sexual Therapy: Online Survey and Interview Study


Back­ground: Various types of robots have alre­ady been suc­cess­fully used in medi­cal care, and the use of new tech­no­lo­gies is also play­ing an increa­sing role in the area of sexua­lity. Sex robots are mar­ke­ted as advan­ced sex toys and sex dolls with arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence. Only a few con­side­ra­ti­ons about the the­ra­peutic use of sex robots in sexual the­rapy are deba­ted in expert dis­cus­sions.

Objec­tive: The aim of this study was to con­duct a first explo­ra­tory sur­vey on the atti­tu­des of sex the­ra­pists and phy­si­ci­ans toward the the­ra­peutic bene­fits of sex robots.

Methods: This study com­pri­sed a quan­ti­ta­tive online sur­vey and a qua­li­ta­tive inter­view study. A self-constructed ques­ti­on­naire was used to sur­vey the gene­ral atti­tu­des of sex the­ra­pists and phy­si­ci­ans regar­ding the bene­fits of sex robots in the­rapy. The qua­li­ta­tive study was desi­gned to gain in-depth insight into the par­ti­ci­pants’ beliefs and atti­tu­des. The­re­fore, semi­s­truc­tu­red inter­views were con­duc­ted. The quan­ti­ta­tive data were eva­lua­ted by sta­ti­s­ti­cal ana­ly­sis, and the inter­views were tran­scri­bed and ana­ly­zed by using a groun­ded theory approach.

Results: A total of 72 sex the­ra­pists and phy­si­ci­ans com­ple­ted our self-constructed ques­ti­on­naire (res­ponse rate 15%, 72/480). Only a few respond­ents (11%, 8/72) said that the use of sex robots was not con­ceiva­ble for them, and almost half of all the­ra­pists and phy­si­ci­ans could ima­gine recom­men­ding sex robots in the­rapy (45%, 33/72). The atti­tude toward sex robots as a the­ra­peutic tool was very hete­ro­ge­neous, with gen­der (P=.006), age (P=.03), and occupa­tio­nal dif­fe­ren­ces (P=.05); female the­ra­pists, older the­ra­pists, and psy­cho­lo­gists (in con­trast to phy­si­ci­ans) were more cri­ti­cal toward the the­ra­peutic use of sex robots. The ana­ly­sis of the 5 inter­views iden­ti­fied 3 high-level core the­mes that were repre­sen­ta­tive of the par­ti­ci­pants’ res­pon­ses: (1) the import­ance of the per­so­nal defi­ni­tion of sex robots for the assess­ment of their the­ra­peutic bene­fits, (2) the­ra­peutic bene­fits and dan­gers of sex robots, and (3) con­side­ra­ti­ons on the qua­lity of human-robot sexua­lity. Initial insights into the pos­si­ble the­ra­peutic use of sex robots in dif­fe­rent dis­or­ders (eg, sexual dys­func­tion or pedo­phi­lia) and situa­ti­ons were gai­ned from the per­spec­tive of sex the­ra­pists.

Con­clu­si­ons: The results of this study pro­vide a first over­view of the poten­tial the­ra­peutic use of sex robots. Moral, ethi­cal, and treatment-related issues in this con­text are still unre­sol­ved and need to be fur­ther rese­ar­ched. We sug­gest inte­gra­ting the topic into the trai­ning of sex the­ra­pists to form opi­ni­ons bey­ond media images and to show the­rapy pos­si­bi­li­ties. Sci­en­tists enga­ged in sexual rese­arch should be invol­ved in the deve­lop­ment of sex robots to design robots with posi­tive effects on sexual edu­ca­tion, sexual the­rapy, sexual coun­se­ling, and sexual well-being for inte­rested groups.

Eichen­berg, C., Kha­mis, M., & Hüb­ner, L. (2019). The Atti­tu­des of The­ra­pists and Phy­si­ci­ans on the Use of Sex Robots in Sexual The­rapy: Online Sur­vey and Inter­view Study. Jour­nal of Medi­cal Inter­net Rese­arch, 21(8):e13853. DOI: 10.2196/13853.