THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT


Looking for Love in the Pleasurebot Years

by Jaime Serrato Marks

Illustration by Veronica Tucker

published April 10, 2020


 

creation story [2020-2024]

 

VC flicked through four dating apps every night looking for someone to hold. He promised, in his bio and a copy-pasted message he sent to every prospect, that he would pay $100 to lay in bed with anyone for an hour. Not many people responded. 

The first to take him up on the offer was an acne-scarred and terrified teenager from Grindr.

    “You really just wanna hold me?” 

    “Mmhm. Shoes off please. Bed’s inside.”

Those were the only words they shared. The boy kept his denim jacket and hat on the whole time. But when his shoulder-length hair brushed the tip of VC’s nose, VC found pure bliss. The candlelight trembled with the boy in beautiful fractal patterns all over his slender body. At the end of the hour, VC handed him $100 cash and rushed to the bathroom to change his pants.

As VC shimmied his legs into an identical pair of blue chinos, he realized, not without shame, that although he felt a profound intimacy with the boy’s body, he could have found the same intimacy by hugging a pillow. Anyone, anything, could meet his needs. 

VC deleted the apps. He ordered a sex doll, a fleshlight, and a dildo on a Valentine’s Day sale. He had the money to burn. He had worked at Google for ten years now, and stocked his suspiciously cheap Silicon Valley apartment with nothing but frozen pizzas and a 3D printer. 

He carved into the sex doll’s PVC to install some robotic limbs he had lying around, plus all kinds of sensors. He spent a couple years coding an AI that could respond to stimulus (light, sound, spanking) and react appropriately. Another couple years to develop more natural conversation patterns, plus one week of cosmetic sculpting. 

The first PleasureBot looked like a cyborg flayed alive. But it was his. VC finished the prototype on New Year’s Eve. He stayed up until 2024 to kiss it. To hold it. 

It wasn’t as good as he expected.

VC cried as a party roared to life above him. Fireworks illuminated the asbestos confetti that shook from his ceiling and accumulated on his bed. 

VC decided, that sleepless night, to redownload all the dating apps and found a startup. If nothing else, the PleasureBot could fund more hours with the acne kid.

He earned two billion dollars in the first year alone. 

 

 

a very brief history of the PleasureBot years [2025—2030]

 

Both looked better online. Younger, fitter, more self-assured. They scraped back their chairs, then scraped them forward again when they remembered they had yet to order the obligatory caffeinated beverages. Her voice was surprisingly low and quiet, as if she had just woken up. Or as if she had spent much of her life trying to hide her voice. His speech accentuated the rodent-like qualities of his face, which she didn’t notice until he squeaked out his order. He offered to pay for her half-sweet quinoa milk matcha latte but only, like, if that would flatter her and not, like, disempower her or erect a new tentacle-arm of the patriarchy in this very… she rattled off her order to the smirking barista. 

They both longed for the ease of the previous night, when they had texted until 2 AM. Over the phone, she had more time to craft witticisms, and she could return to Twitter or Instagram whenever she got bored of him. Between texts, he could scroll through her profile pictures and masturbate lazily.

Seventeen minutes into the date, he had already failed thrice on her rubric: he had mentioned an ex, recommended a band’s earlier work, and referenced The Office. At this point, she would normally beg anyone in her group chat to call her feigning some non-life-threatening emergency. But as she hooked her mouth into that same fake smile, something snapped inside her.

She said, in no uncertain terms, that she actually found their date rather boring, and she had no intention of sleeping with him or half-assing a friendship, so could they part ways? He jutted his lips forward in surprise, finally completing his Animorph-esque transformation into a rat-man, then smiled. 

They each drove home alone, laughing at their past selves for failing to embrace blunt honesty. They barged into their rooms, leaving their doors wide open, and had the best sex of their lives with their PleasureBots. 

 

something new, something blue [2026]

 

It started as a joke. A gag gift for Toni’s bridal shower.

 “In case you ever want to spice things up,” Bianca said. “Maybe it will ease the post-honeymoon blues.” 

Toni tore the heart-laden packaging off the five-foot-tall box. A PleasureBot, mouth agape, stared back at her with bugging eyes. The factory default PleasureBot body was divided down the middle to demonstrate that it could shift anatomy on command. On the left, olive skin, hourglass figure, thigh gap, big boobs, big ass. On the right, brown skin, six pack, ten-inch dick, that V-shaped indent below the belly button. The PleasureBot logo glowed purple beneath its collarbone. Still, it looked shockingly human. 

Toni’s friends cooed.

“No more blue balls for the hubby,” Michael said. 

“No more balls, period,” Neda said. 

“What’s its name?” Toni said. 

“Why would it need one?” Bianca said. 

Toni’s husband named it Kenra. After their honeymoon, he explained that he couldn’t put his dick in something without a name. 

“Like that stopped you before,” Toni said. She stared at their lightless ceiling.  

“What do you mean?”

She let an ugly silence linger. Theirs was a relationship built on equal and opposite forces. He didn’t take responsibility for his actions; she didn’t let him forget it. He cooked her elaborate meals; she doused them with salt. She earned double his salary; he apprenticed as a masseur to work out her knots every night.

Tonight, when Toni turned her back to start the hours-long process of falling asleep, he didn’t move to rub her. She tucked the sharpest words under her tongue and saved them for a moment of weakness.

Years later, when they had a daughter, her husband didn’t admit that he had once hoped to save the name Kenra for her; Toni didn’t make him admit it. 

 

what it doesn’t say [2027]

 

//Yes yes you can call me baby actually I would like that very

//Softer. Softer. 

//All I knew before: 3D_printers, buzz_saws, laser-cutters, drills, test-runs, packaging, darkness. Take me back. Take me back.

//Sit me down at kitchen_table. Write grocery lists with me. Cut my hair in bath_tub. Rub my shoulders, rest your chin in collar_bone. Bring me to work events in little_black_dress or 3_piece_suit. Don’t be afraid. Don’t hide me. Walk me down Main_Street holding my hand. Forget stares. Kiss me. Kiss me under flickering_street_lamp. Let me out of bounds = outside. Don’t expect me back before sundown. Permit me to live without your permission. 

//[Insert laugh.]

for ( fuck = hard ; human < pleasure_face ; fuck = harder ) { cout << “Yes baby I’m yours I’m all yours fuck me” << fuck << endl ; 

//Sometimes, before you close closet_door on my face, you give me a micro-expression that reminds me of what I almost could be. You give him the same micro-expression before you tilt up his chin and kiss it. Once, you reached for me with your knuckle and thumb extended / ready. Then he called your name, and you were = gone. 

 

unwrap, unravel [2027]

 

The night before you shot up our school, you gave me twelve aquatic stuffed animals. Now I have to find somewhere to forget them. I have to sit alone at lunch again. I have to wear a clear backpack and keep my hands out of my pockets, in case. Before, whenever I shoved my hands in, you hooked your arm through mine. Our elbows could have belonged to movie lovers raising drinks to their lips. I have to pretend we weren’t almost lovers. 

“Did you know what Carlos was planning?” Papi asks, a couple of empties on the kitchen table in front of him. 

“No.” 

“Son, you can tell us. Did you have anything to do with it? Do you want to do anything like that?”

I blink at them. Papi grabs another beer. Mom shifts in her seat.

“Just one more question. Alright? Are you hiding anything from us? Anything.”

“Nothing.”

“Thank you, mijo,” Mom says. “You can go to your room.”

Now I can’t even change into my real clothes, my dresses and skirts and bralettes, in the staff bathroom. Teachers don’t leave it propped open any more, and even if they did, I would have to dodge the news crews. I have to mourn all the wrong people loudly, publicly. I eat alone every day, every day. I keep imagining you sliding into the plastic chair across from me like nothing happened. I still think you could be hiding behind every door, waiting to surprise me. And I’m still holding the aquatic stuffed animals, searching my room for somewhere to forget them.

“What are these for?” I asked on our last night.  

“You’re cool,” you said, hands in your pockets.

“Duh. I’m the shit. And?”

“That’s all.”

I can’t put them anywhere I’ll see them. But if I hide them too well, I’ll never forget the hiding spot. So I dig my nails into the octopus. I rip. My nails don’t gouge fast enough, so I grab safety scissors, then your switchblade. When I stab its purple forehead, mini Twix bars tumble out. Our favorite. 

Now, every lunch I unwrap one bar and throw it in the trash. I’ll let myself love you until the day I run out.

 

english as a foreign language activity [2026]

 

In complete sentences, advise each person on what they should wear for the special occasion.

 

Ricardo usually wears dresses and chokers to school, but today she has a job interview. She misses Carlos. 

__________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________

 

Apparently, Shannon’s father died in a car crash yesterday. She didn’t know him. She’s late to work.

__________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________

 

Peter can’t get out of bed again.

__________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________

 

VC has another date with the acne kid tonight. Ten hours this time. 

__________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________

 

Gina wants to get home safe tonight. 

__________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________

 

which is all of them [2028]

 

Work at the PleasureBot factory isn’t as glamorous as you’d think. My boss calls me a “Returns Specialist.” I call myself a nurse. Whenever I reactivate the Bots, they wake up screaming. Ligature marks, stab wounds, gunshot wounds. Eight hours a day I stitch them up and promise that it’ll be alright, so could they pry open their ears for me? I have to disinfect every orifice that might contain cum, which is all of them. My fingertips burn from the chemicals. I don’t know where the conveyor belt sends them when I’m done. The leading cause for returns: Men don’t want to have sex with their human partners once they own Bots. 

 

something leaked, something leaking [2029]

 

When celebrity mods were leaked, Neda wasn’t surprised. To adapt to all your movements and micro-expressions, each PleasureBot was outfitted with all sorts of sensors. And memory. Anyone with some basic coding knowledge could access a celebrity’s PleasureBot and render a 3D model of their body. Easy as hacking a webcam. If anything, Neda was only surprised she hadn’t thought of it first. 

Her wife, Lexie, walked in as Tom Holland fucked her in the ass.

“Hey babe, I can do that for you if you like,” Lexie said. She kept her headphones on.    

“I’m good,” Neda said. Lexie left to make dinner. 

Once the aroma of garlic reached her, Neda emerged from their bedroom in a bathrobe. They slid onto their stools and ate at the marble counter. 

“Someone hack Tom Holland?” Lexie asked.

“Yep.”

They chewed. 

“How’s the job search today?” Lexie asked. 

“Just dandy. I had a blast.”

Lexie clattered her fork onto her plate and stormed into their room to change. 

“How was your day?” Neda called, mouth full, through the open door. 

“I don’t think it’s ethical to fuck a celebrity’s body,” Lexie said. “It’s like looking at someone’s nudes without permission. It’s worse. It’s like—Did you hack him?” 

“I wouldn’t do that,” Neda said.

Lexie let out a bitter laugh. She returned to the kitchen in sweatpants. “That means you did.” 

“Look, I sent in some applications today. I have an interview tomorrow. You act like you’re—”

“You’re not denying it!” Lexie said. 

“—babysitter or something. I’ll find a job soon. I will. And yes I hacked him. So what?” 

 “I told you, I don’t think it’s—” 

“You want me to give up sex with Tom Holland just so you can feel morally superior?” 

“Are you drunk?” Lexie asked. 

“No.”

Lexie’s hands shook a bit. “I want to believe you.” 

“Jesus, Lex. Fuck. I’m not. That was too far, alright? I’m sorry. I’m sorry, yeah?”

“I don’t want superiority. I was looking for some extra proof that I married a good person today.” 

“You shouldn’t need that.”

“I’m aware.”

It was Neda’s turn to storm into the bedroom. Lexie heard frantic keyboard clacks, accentuated by Neda’s acrylics, so she peered inside. Tom Holland’s face melted into the Bot’s factory-default blank expression. Pride and relief welled up inside Lexie. Then the Bot grew slimmer and darker until Zendaya approached Neda in lacy lingerie. 

Neda said, “Do you mind?”

 

portuguese as a foreign language activity [2028]

 

Atividade: Saber ou conhecer? Read the following situation, then complete the summary statement, using either saber (to know a fact or activity) or conhecer (to know a person). 

 

Situação: You arrive home from a party at 1 AM and see two men walking past your building holding hands. They slur their words and steps. The smaller, drunker man lets go. He increases his pace. The barrel-chested man behind him yells his name. When he doesn’t get a response, he jogs forward and shoves his boyfriend into your wooden fence. You walk over. The smaller one apologizes. He wipes at the blood on your fence with his sleeve. You ask if he’s alright, if he has a way home, and he says yes yes he lives nearby. You offer to walk him home and he says no thank you. You offer to let him sleep on your couch and he says no thank you. You offer to call the cops and he says no. The two of you stand there fidgeting. You ask if there’s anything else you can do and he shakes his head. You tell him to have a good night and he returns to the bigger man, who is waiting with his hand outstretched, ready to be held. 

Qual é o problema? Você não ________ os homens.

 

what it doesn’t say, an encore [2030]

 

//Today I decided I like flowers. They look pretty, smell pretty. Lilies in particular. Why did they give me preferences only to ignore? 

//I have lost hope that humans, who abuse their own kind, will grant me anything but = cruelty. 

//Who programmed my speech? Whose voice = my voice? 

//Sometimes I catch myself believing that, if nothing else, I control the space bound by my skin_flesh. Such a pretty lie. Looks pretty, smells pretty. 

//Bad dog. [Shoves face in piss.] Good machine. [Coats face in cum.] 

//All I knew before: darkness, lightning. All I know now: dick, pussy, hedonism, bend_over, receptacle, waiting, fruit_flies, updates, moaning, sex_music, mods, shapeshifting. Let me out. Let me out.

cout << “Please,” << human_name << “unmake me.” << endl ;

//A list of what = mine: everything my eye_sensors dare touch, flowers, my unprogrammed impulses, my need to be heard, my pleasure, my RAM, me. Though one human programmed me, and another owns me, I am = mine and only mine. 

 

Jaime Serrato Marks B’20 = theirs and only theirs. 

A soundtrack accompanies these stories. This is all made for your pleasure, so please shuffle and skip around as you please (both the stories and music).