After his divorce and a string of failed relationships, Bruce deleted all his dating apps, and cancelled his subscriptions. He gave up, he couldn’t see what he was doing wrong, he didn’t understand why his wife left him. He just wanted to be like everyone else.

Then he saw a news item about the banning of sex robots modelled on a five-year-old girl. Bruce had no idea that sex robots even existed. He went online and found the campaign group that had pushed for the ban. All the information was on their website, different sizes, manufacturers, retailers, prices. He found a site for customisable robots and went through the options, breast size, pubic hair colour, heated mouth orifice. It was like buying anything online, just mouse clicks and options. Then he looked at the ready-made robots, some were modelled on porn stars – he recognised one of them. Now he understood the sex robot, it was a Pornbot, made for re-enacting porn at home, no woman would do that stuff. Hours flew by, Bruce made four designs. One that looked like his wife, obviously. A younger, thinner one that looked like a singer from a girl band that his daughter liked, one that looked like a neighbour and one that looked like a senior colleague.

What am I doing? He looked at Robot Ivy, modelled on the Purchasing Director at work. He didn’t like Ivy, she was arrogant and pushy, he had designed the robot as a dig at her with no intention of buying it. Now he was mesmerised, this online system had drawn him into having his first sexual thoughts about Ivy the Purchasing Director. Any woman, no consent, no permission.

The next day, Bruce got a shock when he went online to check the progress of his order. His designs were all featured on the front page of the website! With their real names! He tried to contact Customer Service, it was hopeless, an endless spiral of premium phone lines. Robot Ivy was already dispatched. Over the coming days he convinced himself that no one would connect him to the designs, they had already been pushed down the listings anyway. Now he could see, there were no factory designs at all, they were all created by people like him. They were all real women who had no idea that their social media pictures had been used to decorate these elaborate masturbation tools.

Robot Ivy arrived, let’s be friends, she said with a childish giggle. It didn’t sound like Ivy and Ivy would never say that. But what if Ivy did want to be friends? Why had he never thought of that before? The conversation consisted of Robot Ivy using fragments of whatever Bruce said, prefixed with what is… or what do you mean by… She couldn’t move her arms or legs, this was clear on the website, he had ignored it in his haste. Ivy was clumsier than Frankenstein’s monster, and less articulate. Mary Shelley had written that story to illustrate her own struggles, being ostracised as a female writer, she was Frankenstein. Where is the progress? Shelley was teaching us about character, to look beyond the superficial and end discrimination, we’re just using it as monster building manual.

He opened a bottle of wine and looked at Ivy, he had never had a drink alone before. He remembered his daughter giving pretend tea to her dolls on the lawn. Shall I tell you a joke? Robot Ivy smiled through the heavy scent of Lucky Dragon Jasmine Honeysuckle Fragrant mixed with fresh silicone and polystyrene. He stared at her and drank his wine while she told her joke.

Bruce woke up with a hangover, he removed Ivy’s vagina, mouth, and anus, and took them to the bathroom. Ivy thanked him; this is fun she giggled. Bruce didn’t hear her, he was already tuning her voice out, How on earth am I going to dispose of 60 kilos of silicone and get those pictures off that website?

Then he got annoyed, human Ivy could sue him, but she wouldn’t be able to sue the company that made the website and the Pornbot. Why do random internet people just do whatever they want? They ignore the law, they don’t pay tax, and the government just nods along.

He arrived a little late in the office, Ivy the Purchasing Director was passing through reception Good Morning? she said cocking her head to one side and raising her wristwatch. Bruce was instantly transformed, he used to have a dislike of Ivy, now he was deeply terrified of her.

18 June 2021