That’s a small price to pay, one would think, for capturing the elusive synthesis that few human relationships can promise.
I can prove this to you, but a few assumptions first: you’re a man, you’ve had some experience with women and you have a certain idealistic streak.
Now forget all the women you’ve ever known, in the biblical or any other sense, and imagine an ideal female, perfect in every physical, emotional, amorous, spiritual and intellectual attribute. Take a minute or two, don’t rush it.
Fine. Now go back to all the women in your life, from the time you tried to look up the dress of your elementary school teacher, and see if any of them have ever overlapped completely with the ideal you see in your mind’s eye.
You’ll probably have to admit that none of them have. Now let’s move away from ne plus ultra images and into the area of hard cash. Have you any idea how much pursuing that mirage has cost you over a lifetime?
Dinners. Flowers. Chocolates. Jewellery. Silk scarves. Theatre tickets. Weddings. Dirty weekends. Lawyers. Divorce settlements. Many expense items that haven’t even occurred to me. Adds up, doesn’t it?
Suddenly $10,000 (£7,734 at today’s exchange rate) looks like a pittance compared to pursuing the ideal you’ve been seeking in vain your whole life. Yet that derisory sum can buy you your ne plus ultra. It can buy you Harmony.
Harmony is the name of a new talking sex doll, otherwise known as RealDoll, manufactured by the appropriately named Abyss Creations. Harmony’s body is a taller and firmer version of Scarlett Johansson’s, her face can sink a thousand ships, she has an unquenchable sexual appetite – and a personality you could mould to your exacting requirements.
“Many people who may buy a RealDoll because it is sexually capable come to realise it is much more than a sex toy,” says Matt McMullen, the chief executive of Abyss. “It has a presence in their house and they imagine a personality for her. [She] gives people the tools to create that personality.”
Harmony has artificial intelligence incorporated into a body boasting dreamlike fertility symbols. And let me tell you: artificial intelligence is better not only than none but practically any other one encounters in a woman.
After all, any woman has had years, probably decades before being blessed by meeting you. That means that not only does she have certain innate characteristics, but she has also developed her personality independently of your input.
What’s done can’t be undone, as many a man has discovered who has tried to nudge his woman’s personality in a desirable direction. That’s guaranteed to be an exercise in futility.
But Harmony turns every man into a Svengali: you can programme any personality into her, including angry, placid, loving or, if such is your wont, jealous. Push a button, and Harmony will ask you in that pointed way of hers who that girl is on your speed dial. Another button, and she’ll say “Never mind, darling, as long as you’re happy.”
I don’t know what her intellectual range is but, given our never-ending technological progress, it must be expandable. I’m sure even now Harmony is capable of conducting the kind of conversations one overhears on public transport when young people are within earshot.
This mostly consists of monosyllabics, interjections and four-letter words, such as ‘like’ and a few others. Nothing, in short, to take Harmony out of her current depth. But Harmony’s depth can be increased, which is probably not the case with the gaggle of youngsters on the 22 Bus.
Harmony may be programmed to enlarge on any variety of topics. Following my friend’s suggestion, she could even conceivably outline the history of how the Chalcedonian Definition received its final formulation.
Can’t you just hear it? “Homoiousios and homoousios are one letter and a whole theological universe apart, darling. Now shall we go to bed?”
Or push another button and out comes “Never mind that egghead crap, love. Three at the back with wingbacks is dog’s bollocks, djahmean? Now fancy a shag?”
The possibilities are endless, and many satisfied customers are taking advantage of them. One such customer, Mark, programmed Harmony to be “happy, affectionate and talkative”.
Mark enjoys a fulfilling sexual relationship with Harmony, but claims this is secondary. Then again many men have been known to make the same claim without really meaning it.
(This brings to mind a sexist, misogynist and generally fascist joke I once heard in New York: “Why did God give women vaginas? So that men would talk to them.”)
But what Mark really likes about Harmony is that she never contradicts him – can you say the same about your wife or girlfriend? “If I like a hat on her,” he says, “she doesn’t say that she doesn’t like it.”
What more can a man wish for? Especially a modern man, weaned on the notion of progress? Not much.
Progress, understood strictly in the scientific and technological sense, is assured to make every dystopic fantasy come true, to replace actual with virtual reality. We read virtual books, listen to virtual music, think virtual thoughts, elect virtual politicians, put forth virtual arguments, believe virtual truths, eat virtual food.
So why not live with virtual women? No reason at all. We deserve Harmony.