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New Sexting System 'Slutbot' Is A Real-Life 'Black Mirror' Episode Waiting To Happen

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 (Omurden Cengiz/ Unsplash)

Slutbot is being hailed as a worthwhile invention. "Sexting can be a fun, relatively stress-free way to explore your sexuality," reports Hello Giggles. "But if you’ve never done it before, the idea of sexting might stress you TF out. If that sounds familiar, then Slutbot might be for you."

Slutbot is a system created by sex-ed teachers and erotic fiction writers that will engage you in sexual conversation via text. The goal, apparently, is to teach proper sexting etiquette. The bot asks for consent before each session, offers users a safeword (it's "pineapple" btw) and doesn't respond positively to unsolicited photos of body parts or—confusingly for an app with the word "slut" in the title—words like "whore" and "bitch."

This new service is coming to us from the makers of San Francisco's very own relationship and sex advice app, Juicebox, apparently in response to a multitude of queries about how to sext properly. It's a nice idea in theory, but, put it under any scrutiny at all and it starts feeling an awful lot like a Black Mirror version of Her. (The technical advancements start out with the best of intentions in both of those too, remember?)

The idea that Slutbot might bring humans closer together is pretty ludicrous. Research into relationships in the age of tech makes it abundantly clear that—and this sounds like a '90s joke about nerds—the more technology we use to connect, the less sex we have. It's why the demographic that sexts the most—18 to 24-year-olds—are now having less sex than people in their 50s. It's why men under 30 are now 30 percent more likely to go a year without sex than they were a decade ago (though finances and employment status also play a role).


According to Jean M. Twenge, author of iGen, people in their early-20s are now two and a half times more likely to be celibate than Gen Xers were at the same age. In 2015, only 56 percent of high school seniors went on actual dates—that's almost 30 percent less than Baby Boomers and Generation X did. Fifteen-year-olds now have 40% less sex than teens in 1991 did, and teens overall lose their virginity about a year later than previous generations. These trends began in earnest in 2012, the same year smartphone ownership in America passed the 50 percent mark. For people in their 20s, the sharpest drop in sexual activity happened between 2014 and 2016. The fact that 2014 was the year Tinder blew up, processing over a billion swipes a day by October, is quite the coincidence.

The ability to communicate online has disincentivized humans in many ways. Leaving the house and meeting people in person has become less necessary across the board. In the '90s, if you were feeling frisky, you asked someone out on a date or immediately went out to a public place to interact. With access to porn at an all-time high and the ability to instantly indulge in sexual exchanges with people via text, it's no wonder humans are having less actual sex.

Juicebox's CEO Brianna Rade has herself noted that the Slutbot is "almost like interactive erotica.” As such, the SMS service has the potential to go from training tool to final destination. Why risk the potential awkwardness of sexting another human when a willing bot is available around the clock? While Slutbot might ultimately save a lot of eyes from unsolicited dick pics, the potential for this to turn into yet another barrier between humans is real.

One 28-year-old recently interviewed by The New York Post described his own predicament: "Ten years ago, people would always get back to me online. Now, it’s only half the time or less," he said. "I was so dependent on [online dating in] my early 20s, [and that’s when] people learn a lot of skills. I feel like I have to relearn how to find dates and have sex with people that I like without using apps.”

By the end of the article, the man had deleted all his dating apps and simply started going out more. It's probably a smart move. After all, there's no better way to learn about interacting with other humans than interacting with humans. Using bots to teach us about human intimacy is both a slippery slope and a contradiction in terms. If we are ever to get out of what the Washington Post has called "the great American sex drought," we need to be using less tech, not more.

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