Robot fetishism (also ASFR, mechaphilia or technosexuality) is a fetishistic attraction to humanoid or non-humanoid robots; also to people acting like robots or people dressed in robot costumes. A less common fantasy involves transformation into a robot. In these ways it is similar to statuephilia, which involves attraction to or transformation into statues or mannequins.
Robot fetishism can be viewed as a form of erotic anthropomorphism. When transformation or roleplaying is involved it can be thought of as a form of erotic objectification.
By its enthusiasts, robot fetishism is more commonly referred to by the initials ASFR. This acronym stems from the now defunct newsgroup alt.sex.fetish.robots. Many devotees of this fetish refer to themselves as technosexual, or as "ASFRians". ASFR can be divided into two distinct but sometimes overlapping types of fantasies.
The first of these is simply a desire to have a ready-made android partner. This partner can be desired for sex, companionship, or any combination of the two. The main distinguishing feature of this fantasy is that the android is a completely artificial construct, manufactured solely to fulfil the wishes of its owner. This type of fantasy or situation is referred to as built.
The second type of fantasy prevalent within ASFR is referred to as transformation. This involves a human who has been either willingly or unwillingly turned into an android. That person can be either oneself or one's partner, or both. It is usually the process of transformation (through whatever means it is achieved) that is the focus of this fantasy.
Many people in the ASFR community prefer either one or the other. In some cases this preference is very strong, and people can be as equally repelled by one type as they are attracted to the other. In other cases, there is as much appreciation for built as there is for transformation. A recent informal survey of ASFR community members found that three fifths prefer built while the remainder prefer transformation or some combination of both.
The aspects of this fetish that are most appreciated by members of the ASFR community are greatly varied. For some, things like robotic appearance, motion, or sound are important for arousal. For others, these are not, and a completely life-like android that appears to be human is desired. This holds true for other aspects, such as sentience or self-awareness. Often, the ability of the android to remove parts of its skin or other bodily appendages in order to reveal its circuitry are quite pleasing to some, but distasteful to others. There is a further divide between those who prefer an android to appear human-like and those who would prefer a more mechanical looking robot, i.e. made of metal.
As realistic androids and humanoid robots do not currently exist in a form readily available to the consumer, this fetish can only be acted upon in a limited number of ways. Primarily this is done through fantasy, involving either self stimulation or sexual roleplaying with a partner. ASFR art is therefore important to aid in the reinforcement of imagination.
Art with ASFR content includes but is not limited to science fiction movies, television shows, novels, short stories, illustrations, manipulated photographs, songs and even television commercials. Such works are sought after by technosexuals since economically viable androids are not yet available. Realistic sex dolls such as the RealDoll remain the only concrete way to fully explore this fetish. However, recent developments in robotics and artificial intelligence, such as those seen in the Actroid or EveR-1 can only lead to the production of more advanced synthetic partners.
It is also worth noting that some ASFRians do not wish to use synthetic partners at all, and instead would prefer human partners to participate in forms of fantasy play.
Robot fetishism in popular culture
References to this fetish can be seen in movies, television, music and magazines. These range from the subtle to the obvious. Robots and androids can be portrayed as attractive or sexy for no reason relevant to plot or background, or they can be specific objects of desire because of their artificiality.
- The song "Electric Barbarella" (from Duran Duran's 1997 album Medazzaland) focuses unambiguously on the topic. The lyrics tell of a man professing his love for a female robot. The video for the song features a fembot being purchased and moving in a machine-like way. It also features scenes of a panel on the robot's back being opened to allow its battery to be changed. Electronic circuitry and wires can then be seen inside.
- In the 2004 video for the song "Plug It In" (from Basement Jaxx's 2003 album Kish Kash) two security guards activate some fembots after factory closing hours. The immodestly dressed robots move in the stereotypical jerky and mechanical ways and end up malfunctioning to the point of severe damage due to the overzealousness of the two guards controlling them.
- In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the android, Data, was the object of sexual desire more than once up to actual sex and was "fully functional" and "programmed with multiple techniques"
- The low budget 1981 science fiction film Escape from DS3 (produced by Anne Spielberg) features female robots that are used as a plot device for a prison break. In one scene, one of the robots has a large portion of her back removed, revealing complicated looking electronics underneath. The male lead is then heard to remark "You are so beautiful".
- Realistic sex robots are widely manufactured by robotics firms in the 2001 film A.I.. A main character in the film is the mecha prostitute Gigolo Joe, played by Jude Law.
- In the 2005 movie Serenity, the character Mr. Universe owns (and is married to) a companion robot, even though she is partly operated by a remote control unit and acts in an obviously machine-like way.
- Futurama has used the term "robosexual" as a synonym of technosexual in description of Fry and the Lucy Liu Android's robot fetishism relationship.
- The 1987 science fiction film Cherry 2000 is about a man whose robotic love interest breaks beyond repair, after which he goes on a search for a replacement.
- "ASFR", documentary short by filmmaker Allison de Fren, 2004 (streaming video)
- "Let's mech love", by Lisa Scott, Metro daily paper, 7 February 2007 (web page)
- "Acting Like a Sex Machine", by Kate Hodges, Bizarre Magazine, October 2004
- "Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex", by Katharine Gates, Juno Books (October 1999), ISBN 1-890451-03-7 (web page)
- "Remote Control: Romancing the Robot" (clip only), SexTV documentary episode featuring interviews with members of the ASFR community (streaming video)
- "Transformation vs. Built Poll", Fembot Central Message Board, Sept. 26, 2006 (web page)
- "Wrong Turns Down The Sex-Info-Highway 5.07", by Martine Duplessis, Exotic Magazine, 1996 (web page)
- Fembot Central message board - ASFR community hub
- ASFR entry on sexuality.org
- The Technosexuality, Pygmalionist & Mind Control Fetish FAQ 3.0
- Sexually Interactive Autonomous Robots (Friedman and Kubat, M.I.T.)
- Interview with David Levy, author of Robots Unlimited: Life in a Virtual Age
- Fembot central