The latest in fake-girlfriend technology

Can you really "curl up" with a two-dimensional female?

By Kate Harding
May 19, 2008 11:25PM (UTC)
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Real Dolls are so 2005. Today's discerning Dude Who Wants a Fake Girlfriend has much higher-tech options, thanks to NYU grad student Drew Burrows, who recently debuted his new "virtual girlfriend." Writes New York magazine:

"It's simple to behold -- a single mattress, tucked into a dark, curtained back room of the showcase space. On it: a lithe brunette. She's perfectly quiet, but once you sit or lie down, she responds to your every move. Lie on your back, she snuggles up right next to you in a log position. Curl up in the fetal position, she spoons. The only hitch: She's 2-D. 'Yeah, you can't feel the girl. That's the thing,' Burrows explained as he demonstrated his invention, an 'infrared sensitive' light projection (meaning it reacts, and the projected woman moves, based on an infrared sensor) called INBED. 'Still, it's so nice if you're tired and worn out to have someone to curl up with.'"


I'm sorry, but when did feeling the other person cease to be a crucial part of "curling up with" someone? The technology here is cool to behold, but when your girlfriend-replacement product makes me think a plain old blow-up doll would be preferable, you've got a marketing problem.

Of course, I'm not the market -- which is, according to the New York piece, "traders, lawyers, or any other single guy in Manhattan who simply works too hard to keep a girlfriend." I guess it's not really worth suggesting that they cut back on the hours and brush up on their social skills, huh? I mean, just last month, Catherine Price wrote about robot sex being in our relatively near future. The drive to build a better fake girlfriend isn't going away, apparently.

As Catherine noted, "plenty of people have vibrators, dildos and other sex toys that get the job done with no emotional baggage. If someone prefers silicone to flesh, who are we to judge?" But still (there's always a "but still" with these things), vibrators and dildos aren't simulacra of real human beings, and you don't cuddle with your Hitachi Magic Wand. When you stop trying to create a simple orgasm delivery mechanism and start trying to create a sex toy that's as much like a woman as possible -- except for, you know, eating, pooping or having independent thoughts -- you're inviting questions about your product's symbolism, to say the least. And when your symbol of the ideal girlfriend is, quite literally, two-dimensional, you're most definitely inviting cranky feminist bloggers to issue a big, fat "Ewwwww." (Via Boing Boing)

Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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