A Virtual Partner: Questions and Concerns

I recently read an interesting article, the title: “More Japanese cutting out the middleman with dating sims and sex toys” published in English translation on the Mainichi Daily News website. This article discusses the rising use of “dating” computer software games, masturbatory aids and frigidity common among young Japanese men (and women). My initial thoughts on this come through Masahiro Morioka’s work and the concern that with the rise of the virtual (anime, comic books, AV movies) real “flesh and blood” women will become obsolete. That is, if men can find a suitable and stimulating virtual outlet for dating and romance, then the idea that one must be in a relationship with a real woman, obsolesces.

I wonder if the more public a society makes it’s pornography, the more men come to see the images of the women as being real enough, so as to not need interaction with a real person? That is, perhaps, as the image of woman as an erotic object increases, the distance between men’s interest in real women also increases. The gap widens. And, in Japan, it is hard to escape from the publicity of the scantily clad female image and the ease with which one can access such media. One only need to ride the train, visit any convenience store, certain districts in any big city or video rental shop, to see the prevalence of the erotic female image (not to mention the eroticization of schools, hospitals, authority figures and just about anything else you can imagine).

I also wonder if this preference for virtual women and virtual pleasure is a consequence of such a media driven country? What does it mean to be in a relationship with a virtual person who is programmed to respond to your typed input? How does one’s interaction with such a program influence one’s ability to communicate with real “flesh and blood” people? How does or how can a relationship flourish and be challenged under such conditions? Moreover, how is the idea of “pleasure” transformed through such media?

I would like to briefly turn to Alan Watts as he writes about what he wants in a female partner. From his essay “What on Earth are We Doing?” he writes, “I want a female companion who will, alternatively, melt into me and wrestle with me, obey me and object to me, admire me and then suddenly show that she can do so many things much better than I (Watts 137).” In what ways do simulated women and men wrestle with one’s existence and challenge one to achieve and imagine? What growth for relationships does the virtual environment offer?

Original link to article: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/culture/waiwai/news/20080304p2g00m0dm005000c.html