The state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law – this was the original Merriam-Webster definition of marriage.  The state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage – this is the revised and added second definition of marriage.  With times changing and ideas that were once taboo becoming integrated into society, how long will it be before non-human marriage is appended to these definitions?  With the advent of technology and increasingly expanding definitions of what love and marriage can entail this abstract topic seems to be closer in sight than it seems. Through both virtual and physical manifestations these marriages are being made possible by the human component.  This can take the form of physical proposal to a virtual character that is witnessed by both online viewers and live friends or family similar to a common proposal today.  In addition the receipt of a marriage certificate from an online marriage website can be obtained but the legality of this is in question.

When a person marries a video game character or robot it is difficult to see how the theory of Structuralism and binary oppositions would apply in this situation.  But while the male-female binary opposition is lost in the somewhat confusing realm of technology, new ones appear like human-nonhuman or living-nonliving.  The joining of a human and non-human challenges all of the traditional theories surrounding marriage such as bride wealth or dowry, exogamy or endogamy, monogamy or polygamy.  It is questionable as to whether these even apply to non-human.  It even challenges the entire societal structure of marriage.  While Structuralists can find binary oppositions like the ones mentioned to analyze, the question still remains as to whether these binary oppositions are actually mutually constitutive.  Technically human and non-human would be, but humans exist without the presence of virtual, robotic and other human-like variations.  The originators of Structuralism were not in the presence of this wave of technology so it was not an issue.  It raises questions that some modern Structuralists would have a hard time answering.

As technology progresses and these human-like variations become increasingly available and realistic, definitions of sexuality and gender might be made to exclude such things or integrate them.  So as a result of that, Feminist Anthropologists may see another wave that concerns how this new gender or form of sexuality is treated and received by society.  There may be a return to study of how gender is constructed culturally in order to see what effect, if any, these new genders have on the culture of a place.  Also whether or not there will be a shift in the definition of gender or whether they will be treated like the other ignored gender forms.  Feminist Anthropologists will need to ask if there are inequalities in their treatment or what, if any, hierarchies are formed.

— Chris I.

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27 Responses to Technosexuality

  1. Halle Bennett says:

    A marriage in American culture is typically a social demonstration of love, a symbol- if you will. I can’t expect them to make marriage between technology and humans legal because it lacks the ability to love or reciprocate feeling. I know that other cultures have arranged marriages, but the people entering into those marriages- while maybe not in love during the ceremony- they will grow to love them. “Love comes later” typically after sex. Sex is another thing one cannot engage in with a piece of technology or truly even over technology. Sex usually forms an attachment to whomever you are engaging with because it releases chemicals that promote this. It cannot be reciprocated with technology- so marrying a robot- and it does not produce the long term effects of the chemicals through technology- phone sex, for example. Without the physical contact the chemicals do not come or stay for long periods of time and, therefore, love via attachment is not formed. From there there can be no social representation of love without love and, therefore, it can be surmised that this aspect of marriage will remain unchanged for some time.

    • Hannah Limov says:

      Halle, interesting comment, though I took from this essay more that it had to do about the limits that US marriage can take, more than the literal meaning and execution of marriage itself. The transformation of marriage in the US has been huge, beginning with semi-arranged (or arranged) marriages, to consensual marriages between a man and a woman of the right age limit, to (in many states) between a man or a woman. This progression certainly brings about the question that, if this is where we’ve come from, where will we go to in the future? I think it may also be interesting to look at how our views of marriage differ from the rest of the world, and about how this would affect the limits of our interpretation of what marriage would be (practice theory of meaning constraint…yay for Ahearn!)… Some places, like Junigau, tend to view marriage more singularly as a reproductive practice, others more for social or kinship ties. I think when the US defined marriage as being for more than reproduction, and for a concept called love, the cat was let out of the bad and the range of our interpretation for marriage was widened greatly. I definitely understand where you are coming from, but it will certainly be very interesting to see where our ideas of marriage take us into the future.

  2. Alex Bayer says:

    Whoever wrote this has some great creativity. Since technology can’t love I find it hard to think relationships between technology could ever exist. To a symbolic anthropologist they might look at the relationships with technology as symbolic love. Meaning people rely on on there technology so much that with out it, some my feel lost. In that sense there is a one sided love for technology.

    • John Vertovec says:

      I agree that this person has some great creativity. I also agree with you, Alex, that symbolic anthropology can be used to examine this phenomenon. Yet instead of technology being symbolic of love, I feel that this could be symbolic of our times. Technology is becoming such a significant matter, that people can consider falling in love with it. Using thick description, this matter is communicative of an emphasis on technology.

  3. Brenda Camenga says:

    Great and innovative essay, didn’t expect it after reading the title! Unfortunately, I’m going to have to disagree with what Halle wrote; though your argument is definitely true, it is not taking into account the sexual and emotional desires that some, though very few people have and are open about. I was watching a segment on “objectum sexuals”, where a woman was being interviewed on the Tyra Banks Show after marrying, yes, marrying, the Eiffle Tower. As crazy as it sounds, as the woman explained her love for the Eiffle Tower, it became clear that her ability to love another person was as crazy as an average person falling in love with the Eiffle Tower. For some reason, the chemicals in her body were not stimulated by the human touch, but instead by cold and rusty iron. I think a Symbolic Anthropologist would have a lot of fun with this specific realm of love, and how a person with feelings and a brain could fall in love, enough to marry, something that couldn’t think, touch, or talk back to you in any way. What is it about the Eiffle Tower that this woman felt the need to affirm her love, and openly marry the famed building in order to feel at ease?

  4. zackparrinella says:

    Wow, I had never thought of the idea of a human and a non-human marrying each other. Although our culture is moving tremendously towards a reliance on technology every day, I don’t think humans as a whole would stoop that low as to make marriage between humans and pieces of technology legal. Now I could definitely see some people in the future trying to marry some virtual being, but that would be rare, as humans as a whole species could not choose a virtual person over a real person. This leads to the next step of when we get to creating robots to do tasks for us (which is already somewhat the case), and after that making robots designed to love an individual person. But at this point we would be following in the footsteps of “I, Robot”, and we all know how that movie ended……

  5. Rebecca Powell says:

    To me, the idea of marrying inanimate objects or non-humans is a bit strange and not something that’s far off in the future but rather something that’s far off in maybe a parallel universe. However, I think you raise some really interesting points. What I found myself thinking about as I read your essay were things like Second Life and World of Warcraft and The Sims. As people become increasingly attached to technology, simulated relationships become more attainable than tangible relationships.

    I wonder if the idea of having something like a Second Life spouse would come before wide acceptance of things like a marriage to the Eiffel Tower. The idea of meeting somebody online, in either a dating profile or a simulated world like Second Life, seems safer and to some more appealing when you never have to worry about meeting the person on the other side. I could picture a world where people become legally married to a Second Life spouse who they never tangibly meet. To me, that’s more the direction that technolove is moving in.

  6. kellyloud says:

    I like the feminist approach that you applied to this essay. It makes me wonder whether or not the concept of gender’s disappearance is progressive or regressive. Are we gaining power by removing gender, or are we losing what genuinely makes us unique?

  7. Luke Nelson says:

    Thank you for this very creative essay. To me, its all about changes in cultural practices changing a social institution, marriage. The cultural practice would be these technological advances that allow you to detach from reality and instead live complexly online, and a structural functionalist might look at how this is changing the established social institution of marriage, and who now is occupying it. I’m a little confused about the application of feminist anthropology though, but that might just be my ignorance and confusion on this topic as a whole showing. I thought that people had avatars online that were still male and female, and they were getting married, or a human male would be married to a “robot” female. Are you saying that the technological people could have different gender roles, or that there is such a variation of matrimonial combinations online that necessitates a new classification of these techno marriages?

  8. Erica Edelberg says:

    I have never really considered the idea of a fully online marriage, and my first instinct was to say that this would not really constitute as a marriage at all. After thinking about it for a little bit, though, I came to realize that in our society our views on gender, sexuality and marriage have been undergoing some serious reconstruction and I suppose it would be possible to make a marriage work online, if that was what you truly wanted. Marriage is about commitment, love and support, and while it is certainly an unconventional way of going about these factors, they are all in one way or another, possible to carry out via technology. I’m not necessarily saying we should immediately legalize online marriage, but I thought this essay brought up an interesting point that most people would never even consider.

  9. Megan Long says:

    In the 80’s film series “Back to the Future” they portrayed the year 2015 filled with hover cars, hover boards, and freeways in the sky, along with many other futuristic items. This all now seems very silly to us that are living in the year 2010. When we think ahead 30 years and imagine what the new rage will be and what type of technological abilities we may have, the possibilities are endless. I definitely hope that our future does not recognize online marriage as a legitimate form of marriage. Honestly, it is the most absurd thing I have ever heard! Everything that a marriage stands for does not exist in an online marriage. The whole point of a marriage is to have a loving relationship where offspring are produced, and an online doesn’t provide this(unless you could virtual children?). It seems like a virtual relationship could possibly be a little hobby, like the game SIMS where a family is created and you determine every aspect of their lives. Online dating could be some sort of recreational activity I suppose, but to legalize this sort of marriage would be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! I wholeheartedly hope this will not be apart of my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren’s future!

    • Courtney O'Rourke says:

      I found your reply post to this essay very interesting. Your first reaction to this virtual-human type of marriage was finding it absurd. However, I think it is important to analyze why you feel so weirded out about this idea. Your reaction to the idea of marrying a virtual character is not strange given how you were culturally brought up to think about marriage. The fact that you define the purpose of marriage as ” to have a loving relationship where offspring are produced” is a reflection on American cultural expectations. Like in Laura Ahearn’s book, perhaps in the future, new structures of feeling surrounding techno-marriage and technosexuality will emerge that will differ from your initial reaction of shock.

  10. laine smith says:

    You really never know do you? Alright, who watches Glee? Sue Sylvester tries to marry herself. She says no one will ever live up to her standards except herself. This seems totally insane, but with the definition of marriage slowly changing over time, who knows? The idea of marriage between a man and a woman is today’s definition, hopefully the future will expand this definition to include man to man and woman to woman marriages. As Megan pointed out, old movies pointed out crazy technological advances that today still seem absurd, but also has some that we have far surpassed. Who knows if what we find absurd now, like the idea of marriage through technology, will be that ridiculous in the future?

  11. hannah chatelain says:

    The first thing I thought of when reading this was movies and t.v. shows that represented some form of a human loving an object. I also noticed from all the comments given that most people had the same reaction as I did. I saw the Tyra Banks show when the woman came on that married the Eiffle Tower as well and I thought how very strange it was that this woman lived a life where she was clearly very in love, and thought the towers spirit loved her back. She was allowed to marry the tower and to me that seems incredibly unfair. The reason I say this is because in many places gay marriage is still not allowed, so how can we start allowing people to marry objects before we allow passage to all marriage rights for all breathing, living, people? Also looking further into the economic side of this, why would people want to start marrying objects and material goods. Have we become so consumed in mass production and material items that we not only have to hold possession of these beloved items but marry them as well?

  12. Dana Melby says:

    As I read your essay it was very difficult for me imagine the likely hood of someone legally being able to marry a non-human piece of technology. This doubt is mostly fueled by difficulty which has occurred in the legalizing of gay marriage. If people are not willing to legalize the marriage between two living, loving, human beings I find it doubtful it will ever occur between a human and non-human. Like, Rebecca this essay caused me to think of SecondLife which people take very seriously to the extent that it becomes more their life than their face to face human interactions. I remember on an episode of True Life many of the players were agoraphobic and the game was their chance for socialization and without it they would be completely isolated. So perhaps in that realm I can see a marriage being formed.

  13. Amanda Kim says:

    There are millions of individuals who had developed crushes. I think people do this as a way of getting their romance and ideal needs met in fantasy relationships, especially when they are not being met in real life. I mean, you see a fictional video game character who is super masculine with a strong sense of justice or maybe a character in a romance novel who is super human with super gorgeous looks [think Twilight]. We have such fantasies about fictional characters because we are creative beings with a complex mind. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship, but we never give up on the idea of “true love”. Fictional characters represent the absolute ideal.

    There has been a growing trend of being in a relationship with a fictional character in Asia, such as this clip for example:

    This essay was fascinating to me since I related this to my personal experience when I was a little girl who once had a huge crush on “Tuxedo Man” in a 1990s’ cartoon titled Sailor Moon. Hopefully we won’t be consumed by fictional character love and make it our norm, or else who knows what we have created in society.

    • QT says:

      I think you bring up a good point of the possible origins of why some people would have a desire to marry inanimate objects or fictional/online characters. I think it may have a lot to do with changing structures of feeling towards love and marriage. As you can see in Invitations to Love, the younger generation started to have different expectations and notions on love than their parents. Junigau’s elders just expected love can come after marriage with someone of appropriate kinship, while the youth as shown in their letters wanted to marry someone they loved whether it was their matrineal cross cousin or not. Countries like America though, the youth seem to be having even greater expectations towards love and relationships. Sometimes though expectations can be unrealistic. For example, during the Twilight craze as you mentioned, I saw many posts on FML of guys saying their girlfriends broke up with them because they weren’t “Edward enough.” This makes a relationship with fictional characters especially appealing because nonhuman characters can be whatever you imagine them to be, so they can never disappoint you. To delve further, I wonder if a Structuralist could find binary oppositions for what traits of these nonhuman characters are most desirable and which aren’t.

  14. Mark Lamberti says:

    I find a few things wrong with this essay. Maybe I read it wrong but in your last paragraph are you arguing that our society might create a new gender for already female or male video game characters (or robo/cyborg) before transgendered or intersexed? Also in your second paragraph you said that marrying a nonliving thing challenges our society norms because of dowry/bride wealth. This culture clash of marrying computer generations is probably more specific to America then to places that still use bride wealth and dowry systems. Instead this disturbs our culture norms because men are expected to be with women and vis versa, not man with man, woman with woman, and especially human with computer image. I would be interested in learning more about people practicing this type of marrage.

    • Courtney O'Rourke says:

      To answer your question, I think the author of this essay is introducing the idea of the possible creation of a “cyborg” gender and how this relates to the study of feminist anthropology. However, I don’t think this new gender would ever be truly recognized, especially not before transgendered/intersex, because gender is culturally constructed and based on the acceptance of society. Since this concept is so new and very much opposes what American culture defines as an acceptable marriage, I doubt that it will be naturalized as a typical gender anytime soon.

  15. Sarah Kell says:

    This essay is not what I was expecting to read, but I’m really intrigued with the ideas! Marriage to some sort of technology seems so absurd but the idea of marriage has changed so much over time that it really does make sense and I can’t even imagine what will come in the future. Because of these strange, non-human marriages, I started thinking about what a symbolic anthropologist might think about these marriages and the idea of marriage itself today. The majority of us, when we think of marriage, think of love. However, there are so many legal issues and legal rights tied to marriage these days that it seems marriage really entangles the couples in legal documents and liabilities rather than love. We see that getting married gives both parties many legal opportunities, like citizenship or financial benefits. However, there are many legal costs, for example in divorce. Couples in divorce must endure through a mountain of legal snares. While marriage seems to be symbolically tied to love (in our country), is it really?

  16. Michelle LaGreca says:

    I would be interested in knowing what a Cultural Marxist would think of “technosexuality”. It would be a new perspective on the topics presented to see a different understanding of how people perceive the newly accepted (and unaccepted) forms of marriage and what constitutes morality. The marriage debate has been a more recent addition to the political and social table discussions, and I am interested in seeing how far the members from each side of the issues will go to get their opinions heard, and furthermore, how far will the government go in sanctioning said questionable and controversial unions?

  17. Alex Myers says:

    This topic was talked about in my sex, gender, and society class. It is legal for people somewhere in Asia to marry two-d figures. People marry video game characters and pillows. One guy was caught on film on an airplane with his pillow wife strapped in next to him. This brought up many questions, such as; what happens if you lose your game, do you wife missing? What happens if your game or pillow is destroyed, is your marriage over or do you get a new pillow/game? What if someone marries the same character? How would society deal with this? I think this is a very fascinating topic and i like the two theories you used to describe it.

    • Mackenzie Clarkson says:

      It’s like James Franco’s Kimiko-san in 30 Rock. Yeah! I definitely think there are some interesting things to think about regarding this topic. It’s kind of strange to think about marrying an object, but it often seems like that is much of what our culture is about, materials and the celebration of stuff. I kind of think marriage is a bogus (technical term) institution in many regards. Sure it is sacred, is in fact one of the Catholic sacraments, but the way that it is treated as some sort of pastime makes me lack a lot of faith in the ceremony. When I think about some of the terrible marriages I’ve seen where the individuals treat each other like objects, and marriage is supposedly about love, right? So when it comes down to it I can’t help but think that if someone really feels like they’ve found love, then they should go for it, make the commitment that might actually last.

  18. Amanda Pruess says:

    Whoa, this is quite the mind-blowing topic. I had no clue that such a thing like this even existed. Having a human marry a non-human wouldn’t be able to create offspring, thus being quite anti-evolutionary (don’t get me wrong I AM TOTALLY FOR whatever float’s people’s boats…). Organisms on this earth ultimately exist to reproduce, and that’s what their brain tells them to do. Humans are so different because some of us don’t really want to reproduce, some don’t even want to get married, and some want to marry robots! From a biological stand-point, are these people just looking for surrogates? Are they looking for love, and feel as if an inanimate object is the only thing can provide that? This just proves how everyone’s brains work in rather different and strange ways. The acceptance of this in a culture could show a lot about that culture in particular.

  19. Sean Butler says:

    I believe that the binary opposites in life are crucial to the formation of social structures, the basis of structuralism. Without the male to female oppositions life would not exist. It is possible for some to feel a sense of attraction to non-human forms, but this cannot be considered a common trend due to human’s natural need to create offspring and continue the species. This cannot be done with a non-human partner and if, for some reason, this form attraction became increasingly prevalent, society would have to alter itself entirely to maintain our species. I think it interesting that these attractions exist but they cannot replace the basic needs of human to human contact.

  20. Brenna Hokanson says:

    First of all, we need to recognize the distinction between, say, an artificial intelligence robot and a pillow. Techno-love and Objecto-love may be related in that they’re emergent forms of human sexuality, but they are distinct in the degree of reciprocity they offer. While it is artificial, our technology has the capacity to mimic human reactions, emotions, etc. On the other hand, any response that one might get from a pillow, or even the Eiffel Tower, is simply a delusion (assuming that we’re operating within the realm of reality, in which the soul of the Eiffel tower cannot fall in love and consent to a marriage).

    Second, while I’m sure that you didn’t mean it in a derogatory way, I was a little shocked at the leap you made at the beginning of the first paragraph:

    “The state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage – this is the revised and added second definition of marriage. With times changing and ideas that were once taboo becoming integrated into society, how long will it be before non-human marriage is appended to these definitions?”

    It’s quite a stretch, comparing the level of taboo of a same-sex marriage and a non-human marriage. I think that the only reason that non-human marriage seems so innocuous is that it’s so off the average person’s radar that it’s inherently nonthreatening. I believe that in this sense, techno-sexuality could fall into the category of Doxa, the realm of things that are so far removed from a culture’s experience that they don’t even enter the realm of discourse.

    Not to mention, by drawing this parallel you’re kind of saying that it’s not a far leap from homosexuals to non-humans, which implies that homosexuals are less human than heterosexuals. Just sayin’.

  21. Landon Shumaker says:

    Marrying something that is not human could potentially mess up what current structures of society. The author of this essay did a very good job trying to interpenetrate how anthropology sees this evolution. Structuralism was created before anything like this was even thought of, and coming off that it would be interesting to see how this evolution will effect society. It will cause couples to stay home and interact with their robot other, this will cause slight economic set backs because they will not being going on actual dates in public. People can current marry objects such as Eiffel tower and other objects that are clearly not human, so i dont think technology will have an effect on structuralism.

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