Love and Sex with Robots: The Rise and Fall of Chobits

It needs to be prefaced that anime and manga can be weird. When I was in high school — my sophomore year to be exact — there was one manga that I could not escape. Everywhere I looked, I was surrounded by my male classmates all reading one manga: Chobits.

Chobits is a manga written by the popular female manga writing group, CLAMP, in 2000. Chobits tells the story of Hideki Motosuwa, who finds an abandoned “persocom,” or personal computer with human form, which he names "Chi" after the only word it initially can speak. He finds her in an alley and brings her home and turns her on. They, of course, fall in love.

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However, — and this is a big however — if she is turned off, her memory of him will be wiped. I’m sure at this point you’re thinking, “well that’s fine, don’t turn her off.” Here’s where the romantic/ sexual tension of the story comes into play -- the on/off switch is located in her fake robot vagina. They can never consummate their relationship with sex.

…………He found her turned off…and then he turned her on…using the switch …inside her vagina…HE RAPED THIS ROBOT!!!!!!!!!

Though if she is a robot, does she have rights to her body as a person and therefore can be raped? Or is she just an object that has no need for consent? I’m sure this question never crossed the minds of any of the high school boys who read this manga, who could justify that it wasn’t about sex, it was about “romance.”

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However, Chi — like many sex robots including Quin in 2050 — are programmed to be exactly how the owner wants them to be and are purchased and hold no autonomy for themselves. If that is the case, then how is it really a romance story if it's already in their code? The point of a romance is to see the two come together, to watch them deal with their differences and become two people in love. Where’s the fun in watching a man fall in love with a being that he programs to be perfect for him and follow his every command and wish?

Also, why are all the sex robot stories about female robots and human males? In David Levy’s book Love and Sex with Robots, he predicts by 2025 “at the latest, artificial-emotion technologies” will allow robots to be more emotionally available than the typical American human male (though that bar is fairly low). This just proves my point — sex/love robot stories should always be about male robots! Why don’t we have any of those?!

Oh, wait we do. Absolute Boyfriend…and we all ended up crying at the end.

Interested in the sexual politics of robots and humans? (Who are you kidding, of course you are.) Be sure to catch 2050 at #OtherWorlds2018 - screening on Saturday, 12/8 at 9:45pm. Badges ons sale now!!