Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English & Film Studies

Program Name/Specialization

Gender and Genre


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Andrea Austin

Advisor Role



Andrea Dworkin warned in her 1974 book Woman Hating that men would soon develop the technology to “create the sex objects that will gratify them” (199). This dissertation investigates one of those technologies: sex robots, as mediated through science fiction film and literature. While the sex robot is still an emerging technology, its embodiment, particularly when female-rendered, has been imagined and negotiated for centuries. Men creating women in a specific, desired image is not new, but the sex robot is currently being transformed from imagined representation to embodied subject. This dissertation traces a pattern of representation that has allowed us to naturalize not just the concept of embodied AI but its embodiment as sexual object.

The sex robot’s cultural and social implications become clear in the films and print fiction, which both reflect and create social reality. I am interested not just in what the sex robot offers as a site of analysis for feminist politics, including foundational concepts in feminist theory that continue to be applicable, but also in what film and literary studies offer the sex robot. I read the sex robot less as a discrete object and more as a function within a larger system of representation, a function whose embodiment (or disembodiment) speaks to larger anxieties regarding our remediation through technology. I suggest that we have developed a future oriented nostalgia not only for our embodied and "meaty" selves, but also for the futures we have already imagined, but which have not yet come to pass.

Chapter One traces a trans-historical genealogy of the sex robot through a cultural history of the doll. As a proto-robot, the doll straddles the categories of aesthetics and labour, look and function, categories necessary for a nuanced and expansive reading of the sex robot. Chapter Two traces how robotic labour was codified and became an inherently gendered form of labour. By taking up Villiers de l'Isle-Adam’s novel The Future Eve, Karl Čapek’s play R.U.R., and Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis, I consider how labour, particularly women’s labour, is essentialized and intrinsically enmeshed with how we understand embodiment. Chapter Three, utilizing Ira Levin’s novel The Stepford Wives, Walter Forbes’ film adaptation of the same title, and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner as case studies, explores the role of embodiment and memory in shaping subjectivity vis-à-vis the image. Chapter Four assesses the posthuman representation of sex robots and sex robot as prosthesis in Spike Jonze’s Her and Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. This chapter theorizes the concept of "future nostalgia" as an extension of the preceding discussions.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Available for download on Friday, August 15, 2025