In both cyberpunk scifi and anime, a female character is often more capable than the male. In Neuromancer, Chase does little as "console cowboy" and lived on the edge in the black market, out of control, whereas Molly is a powerful (if not empowered) fighter, largely in command of her environment. Molly's prowess is augmented by finger-blades and the neural programming that allows her to use them as weapons. Her femininity is almost obscured by her mechanization, but sex in the Neuromancer trilogy is infused and even integrated with technology, so Molly is still sexy, if somewhat androgynous.

A similar female character in Snowcrash, Y.T. also has enhancements, and is an ambitious, independent youth who is capable of accomplishing almost anything. She uses a dentata to prevent sexual assault, but this actually increases her allure, particularly when this device pierces Raven's sensitive area. Does the dangerous sexuality of the female cyborg in some ways undermine her power and reinforce her objectification? Or is the peril of sex here an extension of the danger of technology?

It might seem unnatural to think of a robot as a sexual creature, but if so many of the characters in scifi anime are semi-human, how else could such a series manage to couple -- or find a partner for -- almost everyone in the show? Can even a disembodied A.I. be a sexual creature? The connection between technology and sex in Gibson's world culminates in the fusing of animate and inanimate, and similar relations exist in other cyberpunk novels like Dervish is Digital.

An A.I. might need a host body in order to procreate, or even survive, and it would naturally use a process of combinatorial optimization to select the perfect one. But do the men in anime view cyborg women any differently? A cyborg girl's power and skill lends her high rank as a potential host or seed-bearer, and her impeccable physique makes her sexually attractive. What distinguishes between the woman-seeking methods of a male A.I. and a man?

When a cyber-femme like Major chooses her mate, why the A.I.? Is it the complex algorithms and abstract data structures, or the offer of freedom from the confines of human existence? All of the above contribute to the decision, but at its core is the underlying cyberpunk lust for information. Sex and technology are one: the higher-tech, the sexier. The abstract, almost ineffable quality of an A.I. might also appeal to the cyborg. No meat (body) necessary, instantiation optional, unlimited access to gigaquads of information... But why do some cyborgs strive for humanity? Is it because they still have an instinctive desire for society?

Course Website cyborg Body & Self

Last modified 14 April 2005