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Sometimes I Get Tired of Dealing With Women Too

October 25, 2009

I have become increasingly concerned about the number of articles I’ve found describing the Japanese’s attempt to create virtual or robotic girlfriends.

  • There’s this gem which is a virtual anime girlfriend that lives in a box on your computer screen. She comes with a variety of outfits (including one that makes her look like a stuffed cat?) and interacts with a couple of tools provided for the user that they wave in front of their webcam for her to react to. One of them is a paddle…which is used to beat her up…and one of them is a finger prod….which is used to undress her. The first half of the wonderful video from the article shows the girl getting repeatedly smacked around while the second half is her getting her clothes ripped off, which ends with her crouching on her box, crying. But don’t worry, she is soon appeased by the presents you buy her, like a stuffed teddy bear.
  • Then there’s a cellphone application which allows the user to flirt with a hand-chosen girlfriend (who is really just a computer with preprogrammed responses) via text. The “girlfriend” is realistic in the sense that if they don’t treat her right (coming on too strong or too weakly) she’ll reply with bitchy emails, and if they bore her (by talking about sports) she won’t reply at all. Yet if she’s successfully seduced she’ll treat the pursuer by “slowly revealing her most intimate secrets.”
  • Another form of a cell phone mistress is a nagging housewife stressed-out businessmen can carry around with them all day! Choose from four personalities: a professional businesswoman, a kind housewife, a young trendsetter and a maid. Then, a cheerful anime graphic pops up on your screen four times a day reminding you to eat healthy by avoiding high-calorie meals and fatty foods.
  • Finally, (although who knows how many more I’ve missed), there is of course the lady robotwhich is still in development. This lifelike fembot has touch sensitive skin, can recognize objects, read in Japanese and English, do math and, by seeing what the weather’s like outside, advise their owners on what to wear and remind them to drive carefully. My favorite line: “He said he did not build Aiko as a sexual partner, but said she could be tweaked to become one.”

Never mind that this is extremely creepy (the virtual girlfriend and robot’s sites in particular made me feel like I was watching some kind of superkinky porn) and extremely pathetic (how many desperately lonely men are there??) but through Japan’s quest to create the perfect girlfriend, their highly disturbing and misogynistic views of women become all to clear. Three out of four of these prototypes are essentially slaves by taking on an traditionally obedient role, whether it be a sex object, a wife or a twisted sort-of secretary. Both cellphone features portray the annoying-girlfriend stereotype and, without need for explanation, the virtual girlfriend is utterly derogatory. Perhaps the female robot can be construed as respectful, since she’s apparently supposed to be smarter than the human male owner (although the fact that the first lifelike service robot is female is a tad demeaning). That is, until you see what she’s wearing and the…tweaking…most certainly occurs.

But despite all that, what does this say about Japanese men? There is obviously some sort of a demand for these kinds of services or else I wouldn’t have stumbled upon four examples within a month. If all of these products were purely sexual, then it could be brushed aside as just another bizarre fetish. But the last three examples were created with the apparent goal of men establishing relationships with these imaginary girlfriends. The flirtatious text application, in particular, was one where men admitted to becoming attached to their “girlfriends.” There was even a quote where a man described breaking up with his.

If your imaginary relationships are just as difficult or annoying as real life ones potentially are, then why bother? Why are men turning to screens and robots instead of engaging in human interaction? My immediate reaction is they all must be too scared, too lazy, too ugly or don’t care enough to seek out and maintain a relationship, but their justification is this same type of behavior has always been apparent in their culture. As a man quoted in the second article puts it, 

“You have the happiness of a secret woman, a hidden relationship, with none of the fear that your wife will find out and be angry. My grandfather had the geisha, my father had the bar hostesses and I have Love By Mail. It is maybe hard for others to understand, but these substitutes, or additions, for the everyday relationship between a husband and wife are well accepted in our culture.”

Maybe it’s just my close-minded American view, but, I’m not going to accept cultural differences are the explanation, here.

Originally written December 10, 2008

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