Navigating Ever-Changing Social Norms About Sex As a society, we talk about sex more openly today than ever before. But so much still goes unsaid. This week on the Hidden Brain radio show, complicated stories of intimacy and attraction.
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Mechanical Sex: The Relationship Between Intercourse And Intimacy

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Mechanical Sex: The Relationship Between Intercourse And Intimacy

Mechanical Sex: The Relationship Between Intercourse And Intimacy

Mechanical Sex: The Relationship Between Intercourse And Intimacy

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/731731328/731822789" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Javier Pierini/Getty Images
Computer scientists are developing robots that can provide intimacy, rather than just sexual pleasure.
Javier Pierini/Getty Images

Many people start exploring their sexuality in college. The lessons they learn about intimacy and attraction during these years lay a foundation for the rest of their lives.

"I have students who have had sex many times drunk but have never held someone's hand," says Occidental University sociologist Lisa Wade.

In her book, American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus, Lisa catalogs the rules of hookup culture.

"One of the saddest realizations for me when I was writing the book was just how powerfully hookup culture has convinced students that they should be embarrassed for having feelings, and feel weak for wanting connection."

This week on the Hidden Brain radio show, we explore complicated stories about intimacy. In the first half of the program, we speak with Lisa Wade about hookup culture. Computer scientist Kate Devlin joins us later in the show to talk about sex toys. She charts the history – and the future – of humans seeking out artificial lovers in her book Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots.

"The media like to paint sex doll owners as being very isolated men who are bad at social communication – probably, you know, stuck locked away in their basement or their bedroom with a sex doll," Kate says. "These people who own the dolls do so for a number of reasons [...] In fact, very few of them are driven by sex."

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Jennifer Schmidt, Parth Shah, Rhaina Cohen, Laura Kwerel, and Thomas Lu. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.