Reminding us all that there’s no female-voiced object so inanimate that dudes somewhere won’t try to flirt with it, condescend to it, or otherwise harass it, the team behind Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana has said that they’ve gone out of their way to discourage such chauvinistic behaviors in users. Talking at the ReWork Virtual Assistant Summit in San Francisco last week, Cortana writer Deborah Harrison revealed that large portions of users’ interactions with the service—first introduced in 2014—are taken up by sexual harassment of the fake, bodiless woman who lives in their phones, and that the writing team that pens her dialogue has done its best to wave them off.
“If you say things that are particularly assholeish to Cortana, she will get mad,” Harrison told attendees. “That’s not the kind of interaction we want to encourage.” The team apparently spoke to actual assistants, who have to put up with and deflect this sort of behavior in real life (because society, on or offline, is awful), to get tips on how to slap people’s sad robo-passes down. Hence, Cortana’s vocal irritation at sexist talk, lack of apologies, and general refusal to act subservient to her users.
Of course, pop culture isn’t exactly helping in the fight against men trying to turn their digital secretaries into digital mistresses; 2013’s Her depicted a romance between a lonely guy and a virtual companion (although at least in that case, the program in question was sentient), while The Big Bang Theory had an episode where the gynophobic Raj imagines his way into a relationship with Apple’s Siri.
Meanwhile, those desperate for a magical computer lady who will fawn over them might be in luck. Talking at the same conference, Robin Labs CEO Ilya Eckstein said that her company has identified a strong demand for an assistant that’s “more intimate-slash-submissive with sexual undertones,” providing all the would-be Joaquins out there with the bangable cell phone of their dreams, and the rest of us with the taste of bile leaping rapidly up our throats.