Virtual girlfriend as art my ass.

girlvr08.jpg
Image by Drew Burrows
NYU student Drew Burrows showed off his new girlfriend at the Tisch School of the Arts show, in which she was the art, via the Daily Intel:

It’s simple to behold — a single mattress, tucked into a dark, curtained back room of the showcase space. On it: a lithe brunette. She’s perfectly quiet, but once you sit or lie down, she responds to your every move. Lie on your back, she snuggles up right next to you in a log position. Curl up in the fetal position, she spoons. The only hitch: She’s 2-D. ‘Yeah, you can’t feel the girl. That’s the thing,’ Burrows explained as he demonstrated his invention, an “infrared sensitive” light projection (meaning it reacts, and the projected woman moves, based on an infrared sensor) called INBED. ‘Still, it’s so nice if you’re tired and worn out to have someone to curl up with.’ (Emphasis mine)

Shudder. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg:

Burrows suggests his new alternative to a full-body pillow or (ugh) blow-up doll could provide late-night comfort for traders, lawyers, or any other single guy in Manhattan who simply works too hard to keep a girlfriend.

Just…wow. Some are defending this as a simple art project addressing intimacy and loneliness, but Burrows seems to have created this – and is blatantly pitching it – not as art, but seriously as an adequate substitution for a woman. Not okay.
Via Boing Boing. (h/t to reader Austin)

and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

123 Comments

  1. CoasttoCoast
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    You aren’t the only one that took offense to SarahMC’s comment, alllife.
    I’d also like to shout out to dean, that in one of your comment you seemed to lament the fact that women have sex toys to spice up their mono-sex life, while you didn’t. I’d just like to let you know, that male sex toys/masturbatory aids rock my socks off. I’ve just last week recieved my first vibrating anal plug, and… my god.
    “This device is completely involved in gender politics as much as prostitution or getting a younger trophy wife is. Women are constantly made to feel uneasy and unhappy because men can easily “replace” them, and this threat is designed to keep us in line. ”
    Sera, I take offense to this. Quite simply, many of these things are NOT about you. Deal with it.

  2. jxthree
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    CoasttoCoast- I found YOUR comment to be extremely offensive. As I am sure you are aware this is a feminist blog that discusses WOMEN’S issues. I am quite sure that Sera is a woman and therefore has every right to take issue with an installation (by a man-let’s not forget) that uses the figure of a woman.
    How dare you put her down. This issue is all about her as well as every woman!
    On a more general note-
    My problem with this piece is not whether it can be classed as an ‘adequate substitution for a real woman’ or not. I would prefer it if more men would be in relationships with imaginary women instead of real women and would abuse them instead of their real-life partners.
    My problem is with the fact that it is ALWAYS women that are depicted in this way. Be it in the bible or in every lad’s mag or in any product that is aimed at men, women are put on earth to service men’s needs. I am sick to death of this portrayal.

  3. open_sketch
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    There is a single big difference between a women using a vibrator and a man with this device. A man with this “virtual girlfriend” is getting the illusion of comforting intimacy from this device when a real women could provide real intimacy. When a woman uses a vibrator for sexual pleasure, she is getting something that cannot be provided by a man.
    The virtual girlfriend makes up for it’s user’s incompetence with the opposite sex, whereas the vibrator makes up for the user the incompetence of the opposite sex.

  4. All-Life-Decays
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Well thats just fucking beautiful open-sketch. Thank you for providing a nice reminder of what a fantastic lifestyle choice I have chosen.

  5. LogrusZed
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    open_sketch:
    Lonely man = always the man’s fault.
    Sexually frustrated woman (or simply a woman wanting to get off w/o having to socialize or go through hoops, but her lack of desire to do this is different from the aforementioned “lonely guy” for some unnamed reason) = always mens fault.
    I’ll have to write this down so I don’t forget what a shit-heel I am.

  6. Ismone
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    ALD, you’re doing it again! Because open_sketch, one person who you presume is female, says something you think is awful, that supports your lifestyle choice to foreswear all women?
    Ack!
    But no I don’t agree with open_sketch—not entirely. I don’t think men are inadequate because, regardless of shape, you rarely vibrate in the manner that certain toys vibrate. But I do think it is creepy that the compliant personality-free female is seen as companionship. That real dolls, for some, are seen as companionship. Not that I object to what someone might get out of owning a sex toy like that, but to call it companionship instead of some form of solo sexual expression seems really weird. And kind of sick.

  7. All-Life-Decays
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Ismone, sorry, I was actually talking about sex when I said about my lifestyle choice. I can see how it looks like Im saying “Im glad I dont bother with women”, but its not. I was trying to snarkily suggest Im glad I dont bother with sex, but I obviously didnt communicate it well enough.

  8. timothynakayama
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Ninapendamaishi:
    Minor tangent here: but I do feel like there’s also pressure on women to “perform” if you will… Like I know that guys I’m friends with talk appreciatively of women with experience, and I have performance anxiety, fear I don’t have enough experience and know-how, what have you. I think part of this could be generational, since in older generations in western culture women weren’t really supposed to have experience…
    Nina, I concur with you. It was never my intention to imply that women don’t face any pressure to perform, but merely that the larger burden is placed on the men. I think this is merely a function of biology, since, correct me if I’m mistaken, it requires more time for a woman to reach orgasm then a man (generally, of course). Therefore, more time and “skill� is required to satisfy and please a woman than for the reverse.
    However, because of this very perception, I feel that this can cause some women to wonder what’s wrong when they can’t get their male partner to orgasm/ejaculate. Because of the very popular conception that is extremely easy for men to have an orgasm, this might indeed put pressure on the lady in question and question her attractiveness, her “skills� , etc , which is of course not right and should not happen!, and ties into the whole concept that sex must involve orgasms to be satisfying.
    With women being increasingly sexualized in popular culture, and with certain sex acts getting notoriety where once they would prove scandalous 20-30 years ago, it is no wonder that women are also starting to feel the pressure to perform.

  9. timothynakayama
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Above quote by Ninapendamaishi should be in parentheses. My bad.

  10. timothynakayama
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    [Opensketch]:“There is a single big difference between a women using a vibrator and a man with this device. A man with this “virtual girlfriend” is getting the illusion of comforting intimacy from this device when a real women could provide real intimacy. When a woman uses a vibrator for sexual pleasure, she is getting something that cannot be provided by a man.
    The virtual girlfriend makes up for it’s user’s incompetence with the opposite sex, whereas the vibrator makes up for the user the incompetence of the opposite sex.â€?
    Ah yes, men are incompetent and are unable to provide sexual pleasure to women, and THAT’s why women use vibrators.
    Is it any wonder that men face performance anxiety once in a while, and some men take Viagra in order to keep an erection so that they can be good as a vibrator/dildo?
    Sorry, but I am not going to imagine that just because one woman (I assume that opensketch is a lady) states this, that it is the opinion of all women out there. There are many reasons women use vibrators, and while some women may be of the same opinion as opensketch, here’s to hoping its not true for all women! =)….
    Throughout all this, I have yet to see someone counter the statement made by H-Nasty in an earlier post. Is there ANYWHERE that says that the artist thinks the 2D image is “just as good as a real woman�? I can’t know what he thinks about the image, but I doubt he finds the image as some sort of wonderful replacement for a real flesh-and-blood woman.
    [Ismone:]
    “But please don’t think that when a woman treats you badly all the rest of us are on the hook. We other women are only on the hook to the extent we perpetuate/engage in the bad behavior, and some of us do not. Really. The same is true of men. Good men are not responsible for the men who have disrespected me, and they are only on the hook to the extent that they have encourageed/engaged in mistreatment of women.â€?
    I agree with you, Ismone. Painting an entire sex as bad due to the actions of a few specimens is stereotyping and unfair to the rest of said sex. I have had bad experiences with a couple of women, but no way am I going to avoid relationships just because of a few sour experiences. It might make me more wary, more cautious, but avoiding them altogether? No.
    But one thing I have always wondered, is that I’ve noticed that in popular media, women are always painted as saying “All the good men are either gay, taken or married� or something along those lines. Since I’m not female, I’ve always wondered whether this is anywhere remotely true, whether the dating “market� for single women is as abysmal and as terrible as people make it out to be. Thoughts?

  11. Posted May 20, 2008 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Timothy, I disagree with the notion that how long it takes to reach orgasm is wholly (or even mostly) determined by biology. I think it’s at least as much influenced by culture. When someone receives the repeated message, over and over, that sex is bad and dirty and unhealthy and that engaging in it makes you a worthless, unlovable person, it’s really only natural that you’ll have a harder time enjoying it, even if intellectually you have put those thoughts to rest. Women still get this message a lot — not nearly as much as we used to, of course, which is why there are fewer inorgasmic women in younger generations. But we aren’t completely there yet. I suspect that if the societal treatment of sex were truly equitable and non-gender-biased, you’d see very little difference in the relative ease of achieving orgasm as between women and men.

  12. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    “There are many reasons women use vibrators, and while some women may be of the same opinion as opensketch, here’s to hoping its not true for all women! =)….”
    Hmm… I definitely believe that vibrators, for most women, make reaching orgasm far /easier/ and /quicker/ even if it’s not /impossible/ without them…
    “I suspect that if the societal treatment of sex were truly equitable and non-gender-biased, you’d see very little difference in the relative ease of achieving orgasm as between women and men.”
    Really? I mean sure, I know that a lot of women (myself included) don’t start masturbating until they’re much older than most boys are when they start, but still… I for instance, need a lot of pressure to get there -almost more than I can provide with my own hand, even… I feel like it’s biological, b/c I don’t have much trouble getting turned on/ready for sex itself…

  13. Ismone
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    About the ‘dating market’ I can’t speak for everyone, but my experience was not that all the good men were taken, but that a lot of the men who made an effort to get me did so based on superficial criteria. (i.e., guys would start making a serious play for me without first figuring out who I was or what I was like. which showed a lack of self-respect as well.)
    And after having asked men out, my theory was that while many of my girlfriends would think, oh, he’s okay but not my type, and go on the date anyways, many of the guys I pursued (or who I was friends with) would turn down dates with women if they had any doubt.
    Things got a lot easier for me when I went on match, b/c guys had to deal with me in print (and vice versa) and also, as my guy pointed out, people online who paid for a service are generally pretty serious about wanting to date.
    But before him, I definitely felt like I was going to have to compromise on something important to me–I’d end up with someone who didn’t get feminism, or who wasn’t supportive of my career, or who was just slightly sexist. So in that way, I feel like the deck is slightly stacked. A lot of good women end up married to pretty good men who don’t really treat them like equals.

  14. ShifterCat
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    open_sketch, are you a MRA trolling in the guise of a feminist? Seriously, this is the second time in as many days that you’ve posted something which is 1. contrary to the philosophy of gender equality and 2. easily refuted.
    As a former sex-toy saleslady, I repeat: toys cannot replace people, nor are they meant to. Humans desire the contact of other humans — that’s just how we’re wired. However, even the most accommodating partner can’t be sexually available 24/7. Also, no matter how much caffeine they have had, a human can’t vibrate. For the guys: a masturbation sleeve will allow for flesh-like sensations and no friction burn, and straight men have prostates too.
    Back to the original subject matter: those of you who read all the way through my second comment must realize that I’m not against “artificial companionship” — quite the opposite. I do think it’s best if the people using it are able to recognize it as a coping mechanism, but I can’t bring myself to be too outraged if they’re not.

  15. open_sketch
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    I was not saying that women can replace human contact with sex toys. I was simply stating that, for the most part, men are incapable of sexually satisfying women (as you said, we can’t vibrate, nor are we capable of going as long as women want, or reading women’s mind to know exactly what they want, etc) and so it is understandable why any woman would have a vibrator. Meanwhile a man looking for intimacy and comfort from a human being can get that from any person, male or female, that is willing to put up with him and who he can attract, and things like this “virtual girlfriend” show that either he can’t work up the courage to meet these people or he’s too much of an asshole/slob to avoid driving them away. One is a requirement brought on by man’s biological failings, the other a crutch for a man’s emotional and psychological failings.

  16. timothynakayama
    Posted May 20, 2008 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Ninapendamaishi:
    “Hmm… I definitely believe that vibrators, for most women, make reaching orgasm far /easier/ and /quicker/ even if it’s not /impossible/ without them…â€?
    Well, I was not disputing that fact! I’m sure it does…it would make sense. After all, how can a flesh and blood penis possible compare to a machine that is powered by batteries that does not fail and goes on and on (and Vibrates!!- show me a penis that can vibrate? Clearly one is going to be superior than the other. I was merely taking issue with the whole “men are incompetent in sex and cannot sexually satisfy a woman� meme that was being passed around by opensketch. If that were indeed the case, why bother sleeping with a man at all (assuming you’re a heterosexual woman)? Afterall, if a penis is indeed inferior to a vibrator/dildo and women cannot get true sexual pleasure from a real flesh and blood man (as opensketch implied)…well, things do look rather bleak for men and their penises worldwide! Haha. A vestigial procreation tool that would only function as a waste disposal organ….it would make a good sci-fi story for sure, and maybe even become a reality one day.
    The Law Fairy:
    “When someone receives the repeated message, over and over, that sex is bad and dirty and unhealthy and that engaging in it makes you a worthless, unlovable person, it’s really only natural that you’ll have a harder time enjoying it, even if intellectually you have put those thoughts to rest.â€?
    “I suspect that if the societal treatment of sex were truly equitable and non-gender-biased, you’d see very little difference in the relative ease of achieving orgasm as between women and men.â€?
    I agree with you somewhat, in the sense that society’s message towards sex does affect the ability to reach orgasm, but, coming from a culture that sees American openness with sex as hedonistic and immoralistic, I can say, from personal experience and anecdotal stories, that it might affect a man’s ability to reach orgasm as well, and not only women’s. Afterall, if you have society saying that sex should be something done only after marriage, and it’s sinful to have pre-marital sex, then, yes, it definitely has a psychological impact on men, and women. Of course, in Western culture, the pressure would be less on the males, and more the females.
    I’m not sure about your statement regarding the idea that if such barriers were down, that women and men would have similar ease to reach orgasm. Since I am not a woman, I can’t say for certain whether the relative ease for women to reach orgasm is affected largely by society’s attitude toward sex. But if it were true, that would be great for women.

  17. Posted May 20, 2008 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Timothy, well, I’d say it has more to do with the *woman’s* attitude toward sex. Where society comes in is that it’s really, really tough to undo decades of social conditioning (i.e., once you realize you’ve been raised in a sexist society).
    And I completely agree with you that social conditioning has just as much of an impact on men as on women. That’s likely part of why, in modern American culture, it’s pretty easy for a guy to orgasm — it’s not only acceptable, it’s expected. Which, sure, is its own kind of pressure, but an American male doesn’t have a *ton* of sources — at least relative to women and to people in less sexually open cultures — of disapproval for having and enjoying sex.
    And, to be clear, Nina, I certainly didn’t mean to suggest there are no biological differences with respect to orgasms. Clearly there are — but they may well be just as much between individual women as between men versus women.

  18. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    “I suspect that if the societal treatment of sex were truly equitable and non-gender-biased, you’d see very little difference in the relative ease of achieving orgasm as between women and men.”
    I think it depends what you mean. If you mean equal ease by intercourse, then I disagree just because of the simple fact that the male glans (head of penis) is directly stimulated during sex while the female glans is not (clitoris).
    If you mean that sex viewed in a positive way and celebrated and people communicate openly and people were free to explore all avenues without prejudice, I still don’t know if we can clearly say achieving orgasm would be as easy for women as for men on average. All we can do is clearly conclude the disparity would be far less than it is currently.
    NINA: “That’s likely part of why, in modern American culture, it’s pretty easy for a guy to orgasm — it’s not only acceptable, it’s expected.”
    I think you meant to say “most guys” or “many guys”? Obviously there are many men for whom that isn’t true, for reasons relating to performance anxiety, stress, disability, health, natural variation, etc.
    TIMOTHY “I can’t say for certain whether the relative ease for women to reach orgasm is affected largely by society’s attitude toward sex.”
    I think it’s safe to say there is a great deal of social pressure that makes women think of sex as dirty, impure, and discourage women from exploring their sexuality (see feministing post on “purity balls). This leads women to start exploring sex later, to not explore what makes them orgasm, and to be less interested in sex.
    The pressure on many men is different. It’s not pressure to think of sex as dirty or impure. It’s intense pressure to perform, to be take charge, to be skilled, to objectify women, etc. It’s pressure to approach sex in a specific way, rather than to view sex as dirty or wrong (relative to the average experience of women).
    Of course there is the religious fundamentalist experience, which is a whole nother ball game.

  19. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    In my last post, it says I was responding to Nina but it was actually the Law Fairy.

  20. ShifterCat
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    open_sketch, I call BS on both of your arguments.
    “…for the most part, men are incapable of sexually satisfying women (as you said, we can’t vibrate, nor are we capable of going as long as women want, or reading women’s mind to know exactly what they want, etc…”
    Even if a guy doesn’t have the natural talent for going a long time, it’s a skill that can be learned. I’m not going to list all the methods here, because I don’t think this is the thread for it — read some books and sex-advice columns for more.
    As for figuring out exactly what a woman wants in bed? ASK HER. That’s how you learn.
    “Meanwhile a man looking for intimacy and comfort from a human being can get that from any person, male or female, that is willing to put up with him and who he can attract, and things like this “virtual girlfriend” show that either he can’t work up the courage to meet these people or he’s too much of an asshole/slob to avoid driving them away.”
    Having watched several friends, male and female, struggling to get and to keep significant others, I can say that this too is false. Finding someone you click with physically and psychologically is not a given, and while it’s good to have emotionally supportive friends, they simply don’t provide the same kind of intimacy and companionship. Small wonder a lot of people crave an intimate relationship so badly that they need some sort of virtual coping mechanism.
    And hey, even if someone’s lack of a real significant other is in fact due to weakness of character rather than bad luck, how is looking down your nose at them in any way helpful?

  21. Posted May 21, 2008 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    you bloggers are unbelievable.
    do some research before you cut and past someone else’s tongue-in-cheek article and act like its fine to make judgements on a piece youve never seen nor even gone as far as to do a simple google search on.

  22. Ismone
    Posted May 21, 2008 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Well, drew, did you make the comments about the blow-up doll and full body pillow? And did you read the debate going back and forth in the comments here?
    There is a lot of discussion about loneliness, about sex toys, about what real companionship means, and if you can’t understand why women get fed up with passive idealized voiceless female images in art, perhaps you should give more thought to that.

  23. Posted May 22, 2008 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    I didn’t like the “pitch” the artist used for his piece, but I’m willing to believe that might have been taken out of context. As a stand-alone installation, without the benefit(?) of his comments, I rather like it. It’s evokes a stark loneliness, and an ache that’s almost lovely, really. I think it’s kind of a beautiful piece.

Feministing In Your Inbox

Sign up for our Newsletter to stay in touch with Feministing
and receive regular updates and exclusive content.

196 queries. 0.723 seconds