We spoke to inventor Sergi Santos, who believes that he's found a high-tech solution to erectile dysfunction.
Samantha is a sex robot, and if Santos is Frankenstein, she is his monster. But instead of being a stitched-together monstrosity, Samantha is a (relatively) lifelike silicon doll shaped like Hugh Hefner's ideal woman, who is capable of quoting philosophy, telling jokes, and even simulating an orgasm, thanks to a network of sensors inside her artificial flesh. (Want to learn how to give a real woman the real thing? Peep our Men's Health on how to please a woman.)
Santos believes that having sex with Samantha could be a way to improve other aspects of your love life; he even thinks it could help people overcome problems like erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. His reasoning? While any number of outside stressors or anxieties can throw off your sexual performance, when you're having sex with an inanimate object, there's no pressure on you to stay on your game. "This can serve as training to regulate your system," he said.
Before Samantha, Santos said, his sex life was mediocre. He and his wife liked to have sex at different times of the day, and even when their desires happened to line up, the pressure to perform in the moment could be overwhelming. "It wasn't her or my fault, it's just the way life is," Santos says. "It caused tension. Now, for me, the tension has disappeared."
Since he started having sex with Samantha, Santos says his love life with his (human) partner has gotten exponentially better. Santos claims that while having sex with Samantha isn't as "sensually" fulfilling as having sex with his wife, it fulfills his basic physical urges. When he's with his wife, he's "calm and romantic," instead of feeling anxious or sex-deprived.
"I'm truly having sex," he said in an email to Men's Health. "I don't have any feeling of regret or remorse or anger or anything. I just enjoy my wife."
Santos also noted that while he doesn't struggle with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, he thinks that she could help men who do. But is he right?
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To find out, Men's Health turned to Dr. Bobby Najari, a urologist specializing in erectile dysfunction and other sexual issues at NYU's Langone Medical Center. Najari was careful to point out that conditions like erectile dysfunction are often rooted in physiological rather than psychological causes, which require medication to fix — meaning that a sex robot probably couldn't do the trick. While he wasn't ready to endorse sex robots as an actual treatment, he agreed to consider a few potential scenarios where sex robots could be potentially beneficial for men struggling with performance issues.
Najari told Men's Health that some patients with ED have an unhealthy ratio of masturbation to sexual intercourse, which has led them to become conditioned to only becoming aroused in the context of solo sex. If your sexual triggers are a glowing computer screen and a box of tissues, for instance, it's gonna be harder for you to become aroused by an an actual human partner.
"If [patients] are telling me that they’re able to get good erections when they’re masturbating, yet with their partner they're having erectile difficulties, that’s when I tell them potentially what they’re doing is maladaptive masturbatory practices," Najari says.
"Maladaptive masturbatory practices," Najari says, can also be linked to premature ejaculation.
"For many men when they’re masturbating, it’s very goal-oriented," Najari said. "You’re just sort of there to get the job done. If the balance of masturbation versus sex with a partner is toward masturbation, you do sort of condition yourself towards premature ejaculation."
This doesn't mean that regular masturbation is unhealthy, of course — quite the contrary — but it does mean that if you are having regular sex and suffering from performance issues, a doctor like Najari may recommend you ease off for a few days and see if you can reconnect with your partner.
That's where Santos claims Samantha comes in handy. Samantha has the ability to simulate an orgasm, which Santos says will sync up with a user's sexual behavior (meaning she'll have an orgasm when you have an orgasm). But Santos claims that if users find a way to last longer and stimulate the doll more, Samantha's responses will get stronger.
"A normal doll doesn't give you feedback. She is there, and when you finish that's it," Santos said. "With this one, unless you give her a proper orgasm, you won't feel you have properly finished. This is similar to having sex with a woman, but removes some of the pressure." If a user only lasts 5 minutes, he says, "she doesn't have time to show you everything she can do. She turns into a toy. You want to explore everything and take your time. And she won't laugh at you, or judge you." This sort of gameification of sex could theoretically give the user an objective beyond getting off as quickly as possible.
When Men's Health described Samantha's function to Najari, he wasn't convinced that she could be used for therapeutic purposes. But he did say that removing the pressure to perform could be helpful in teaching men to delay orgasm. "Assuming there's no hormonal thing, or medical thing that could be corrected, potentially for some [patients] I do think that there might be value in that."
Still, as Men's Health reported last month, Samantha falls short as an instructive sex manual in a number of ways. For starters, her network of sensors isn't exactly analogous to an actual woman's anatomy: while Samantha has a sensor inside her vagina like an "artificial G-spot," she doesn't have a sensor in the clitoris, even though clitoral stimulation is how 73 percent of women reach orgasm.
At the end of the day, no one, not even Santos, can expect a sex robot to be a cure-all for sexual deficiencies. Sex is complicated, messy, and emotional, and as Najari repeated several times, ED and premature ejaculation are connected to a whole litany of medical and neurological causes that can't be solved by modifying a patient's sex habits.
But it's possible that as sex robots creep toward the uncanny valley of realistic sexual experiences, they might help their users learn a thing or two along the way — or at least help them appreciate sex with a real partner that much more.