The Engineering of Consent
by Natty Soltesz

 

I got this instantaneous feeling the first time Paul smiled at me from across the bar: attraction, yes, but more urgent. Like *need*.

I was in the throes of a major breakup and depressed, to be sure. I’d fallen asleep in the taxi, which was a thing people did in driverless cars, drifting off in those cushy backseats while being spirited through the streets. It woke me with a high-pitched beep and then I was in front of the bar, wiping the drool off my chin. I caught a glimpse of myself in the dark windows of the taxi before it went off – I was strewn.

I fixed myself up as best I could in the bathroom, then sat at the bar and ordered an old fashioned. Got on my phone, cruised the apps for a good hour while I sucked down a second drink. Then I asked myself what I was looking for. There was a good crowd at the bar, not that I was interacting with any of them. Companionship? Cheap sex? Drunken oblivion?

I was just about to order another car home when Paul smiled at me. He was sitting at the other end of the bar. He raised his drink at me – a round glass of scotch, it looked like. I nodded back. He walked over to me.

Need. Desire. He was gorgeous, but not too gorgeous – attainable, boy-next-door in a box. He wore a well-fitting button-down shirt and jeans that he filled out. He was overripe, like he’d once been a gym god but had let himself go just enough to be in your league, and maybe, once you’d acquired him, he’d get even sexier.

I put all this together after that night, of course – delineated the details, the way he’d put designs on me. In that moment, though – Paul right in front of me, extending his hand – I was dazzled.

“I’m Paul,” he said. I took his warm, solid hand in mine. He had slightest, most alluring gap between his teeth.

“Connor,” I said. I picked up my glass – drained the last drops of my drink. Then, like it was choreographed, the bartender appeared. Set a drink in front of me. I looked at the bartender. Did she smirk at me, just slightly, before she walked away?

“I ordered that drink for my friend,” Paul said. He sat on the stool next to mine. “He just cancelled, though. Do you want it?”

“Sure,” I said. I set down my empty glass. Picked up the one in front of me, which looked just like the one Paul was drinking. I sniffed it. Scotch. Took a sip. “Thanks,” I said.

“No problem,” he said.

“What happened to your friend?” I said.

“My friend…he got called into work. He’s a nurse.”

“Oh,” I said. Thinking: he’s lying. Does he have a partner he’s cheating on? Something’s off.

“We’re just friends,” he said. “I mean, I’ve known him since I was really young.” He took a drink. I did the same. “Have we met before?” he said. “You look familiar.”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “Facebook, maybe?”

“Oh, I’m not on Facebook,” he said.

“Instagram? Meert?” He shook his head.

“I’m not on any social media,” he said.

“Really?”

“I prefer to connect with people in person,” he said.

“But how do you…I mean, there’s so many things you need it for,” I said. He shrugged.

It’s difficult to overstate how attractive this made him. To be absent, digitally, was so rare. I wasn’t even sure I believed him, but as a line it was impeccable – this instant click of the new, a person I couldn’t find everything about when he went to the bathroom.

Which he did, shortly after ordering another drink for himself. “Another Janus,” he said to the bartender, and then walked to the back of the bar. Janus Red. The bartender took it from the shelf, upended its distinctive red and goldenrod bottle so the liquor glugged over the single fat, square ice cube. She set it on the bar. Looked at me, again with the smirk on her face.

“Do you know Paul?” I said. The smirk changed into something inscrutable.

“Sure,” she said. “He comes in here often. Good guy.” I nodded. I didn’t need a ton of reassurance, honestly: I was horny, and half-drunk, and Paul was walking back to me with his thick thighs leading the way. He saw his fresh drink and smiled at the bartender. Sat down. Picked up the glass, sipped it.

“Ah,” he said. Saw that my glass was empty. “You want another?”

“Sure,” I said, and decided to take a swing. “But I also wouldn’t mind getting out of here.”

“Great,” he said. “But let’s have another while we’re, uh, talking details?”

“What details?” I said, but he’d already summoned the bartender.

“One more, Sheila. Janus Red.”

“Got it,” she said.

“What details?” I said again. Was he a sex worker? I had thoughts of pricing, terms of agreement…

“Oh just where we’re going…you do want to go home with me, don’t you?” he said.

“Definitely,” I said.

“That’s all I meant,” he said. “Your place or mine?” he said, and laughed with the realization that he’d just spouted a cliché.

“Yours,” I said. “If that’s okay.” The glass knocked lightly against the wooden bar when Sheila set it down.

“Sure. I’ve got a place just around the corner,” he said. “And I think we’re gonna have fun.”

“Me too,” I said. “You’re really sexy.”

“So are you,” he said. We were smiling at each other, and for a split second his smile got impossibly bigger. Too big. But then, like he’d sensed my micro-expression of repulsion, he quickly readjusted, softened it.

“Mm,” he said, and picked up his drink. “I want to enjoy this, first,” he said, looking at the glass. “Have you ever had Janus before?”

“Uh…I don’t know,” I said.

“Janus Red,” he said, and put the glass under his nose. Sniffed. Motioned for me to do the same. I did. “The aroma,” he said. “Notes of cedar. Minimum age of ten years for each small batch.”

“Oh yeah?” I said. Trying to seem interested. I’ve never really cared about liquor. I mean, I’ll drink it; I just don’t have any particular taste for it. Paul watched while I took a drink.

“Roll it around on your tongue before you swallow,” he said. I’d already swallowed but I pretended to do what he asked. “Smooth, right?”

“Right,” I said. Set down my glass. “You’re into scotch, huh?”

“I’m into Janus,” he said. “I don’t even think of it as scotch. It transcends category. Has a history. It was my father’s drink. He was an architect and every day after work he’d put up his feet and enjoy a Janus Red.”

“Okay,” I said as he took another sip. I thought, People have interests in various things and they tend to go on. I do it myself. If there was something off about his fixation on a particular liquor, it was tempered by the subtle sexuality he used to describe it. It was a pleasure to hear the words come from his soft lips; to witness the gentle rise and fall of his Adam’s apple as he drank; the small, satisfied sound he made after he swallowed.

“I’m talking too much, aren’t I?” he said. Set the drink on the bar. “Let’s get out of here.”

***

I’d never had sex with a robot. My friend Kris had, at a brothel in New Mexico. She said it was fun, but the robot was kind of used and had this particular glitch where its voice kept wandering into a digital scramble and it would sound like you were talking to somebody over a bad phone connection.

Paul never sounded like that. He was literally seamless – which I guess you had to be if you were representing a multi-billion dollar booze company.

There was that big court case last fall with this twink sex robot named Brancis. This woman had bought him, a bratty teen fuck toy who started to get too rebellious (and possibly abusive, though the woman had never reported anything) so she disengaged from him and left him on the street. Where he’d proceeded to assault some woman he met in a coffee shop. The company who built Brancis got off the hook by laying blame on the original owner – said she hadn’t kept up with his maintenance schedule, that any programming they’d done on Brancis had been voided once she’d disengaged. The upshot being that, legally speaking, robots didn’t have to disclose that they were robots, which they rarely did. Paul certainly didn’t.

We walked to his place. There was a group of homeless people sleeping in the foyer of a bank next to his lobby. We took an elevator that opened right into his loft. The door hadn’t even closed before Paul wrapped his arm around my lower back and pulled me into him. He was warm; he kissed and I kissed back and when his tongue entered my mouth I extended mine, too. Feeling his body under his clothes, it was as perfect as I’d imagined – thick, smooth muscle. I lifted his shirt and leaned down to lick his stomach. Paul took his shirt off the rest of the way as I trailed my tongue along his round belly, smattered with hair, up to his solid pecs and brown nipples. I sucked on one – he gasped, it got erect. Every response was correct.

“Where’s your bathroom?” I said once I came up for air.

“Just down the hall,” he said. I kissed him once more then walked away. The bathroom was immaculate, like it had never been used. I was about the shut the door when Paul appeared. “Here,” he said, holding out a cake of soap, still wrapped.

“Thanks,” I said, and shut the door. Peed. When I talked to my friend about it later, he said that they most likely kept a cadre of robots in this one apartment – that, in fact, one of the doors in the hall probably led to a room full of them, doppelgangers of Paul or slight variations, standing silent and dead in rows, ready to be activated.

I unwrapped the soap, washed my hands. “In here,” Paul said when I opened the bathroom door. He was further down the hall, in a bedroom. He’d turned on a dim lamp and was on the bed, stomach-down, ass perched up, framed by a jockstrap. It was a pose that seemed yanked from my fantasies – and, in fact, was. They’d pulled from my browser history (by virtue of some arcane agreement I’d clicked “accept” on without thinking about), collated my most-viewed videos and pics, calculated the amount of time I’d spent looking at and fapping to each one.

The jockstrap he wore was two familiar shades of red and yellow – the colors of the Janus Red bottle, I would later realize, but at the time it was just subtle enough to fly under the radar.

My cock got hard, pointing at the image before me, that all-too-perfect-but-who-the-fuck-cared ass. I kneeled on the bed. Before I even touched him he arched his back – his smooth ass, dusted with hair, curved upward. His cheeks parted so that I could see the edges of his pink hole. I brought my face to him.

The smell wasn’t right. It was there, and it was familiar – that musky scent redolent of feces and glandular secretions. But it was off, slightly. It had a chemical edge to it, which didn’t stop me. I licked up his thighs, took my time, trailed my tongue down the small of his back, and flirted with the edge of his crack. I teased my tongue around his hole, licked everywhere but that specific spot. He reacted – groaned, shifted, pushed his ass back for more. But there were no goose bumps. The feel of his flesh was flat. It didn’t taste right, either – not salty; not anything, really.

I was drunk from all that goddamned scotch and horny and desperate and did I stop to think about it? I didn’t. I jammed my tongue into his hole. The mechanisms inside of him whirred, made his hole squinch and tighten at the contact, the computer in his brain did everything it could to give me maximum pleasure, to seduce and deceive.

He flipped over after I ate him out for a while. There was his cock – bigger than I would’ve imagined but well-proportioned, a towering, throbbing piece of meat that begged to be sucked. I licked slowly up his shaft. Squeezed it in my hand. A pearly drop of precum came out of the tip. I licked it off. He pulled me to him before I had a chance to swallow it, slid his tongue against mine. I could still taste the liquor in his mouth.

He got on his hands and knees on the bed and took my cock in his mouth. It was The Perfect Blowjob – never the slightest scrape of teeth. He took my cock as deeply as anyone had ever taken it – deeper, I would learn, as his particular model was the first to perfect beyond-deep-throat, his oral cavity an undulating and fully-responsive tunnel that went from the back of his mouth to his gullet.

I almost came from it. His eyes were watering and he was looking up at me with that frat boy preppie face, the kind of face you want to stuff a cock into. I would’ve cum, but then the tip of my cock started to burn. It was slight at first. But then it got noticeable. And then it started to hurt. I sucked in my breath. He paused. Seemed to calculate something.

“Excuse me. I’ve gotta use the bathroom,” he said, smiling as he walked out of the room. I settled back on the bed. Heard him running the water. When he came back he was smiling and looking apologetic. “Where were we?” he said.

Robots – some of them, anyway – can’t process the things they ingest. If they piss it’s just for show, fun and games. All that booze – Janus Red – had been sitting in a cavity in his upper chest and sloshing against my dick, making it burn. It had to go somewhere, and he’d probably vomited it into the toilet.

He crept onto the bed, on top of me. Licked me from my feet up to my legs. Sucked on my nuts and dug his tongue into my asshole. Went for my cock again – it didn’t burn, this time. That perfect ass was spread out behind him and he wiggled it a little as he sucked.

He got on top of me, the skin of his thighs shushing against mine as he straddled my lap. He took my cock in his hand and positioned the head right against his hole. He bore down on it, relaxing his hole, tightening it for a moment (as if he couldn’t control it) then relaxing it even more, so that millimeter by millimeter, my cock started to go inside of him. Before I could protest – I had only once fucked a trick without a condom – he came up off of it again. He got his hand wet with the phlegm-like substance that issued from a hole on the back of his tongue, put some of it on my cock, and bore down with his hole again. More of me slid into him. He was hard, stroking himself, looking deeply into my eyes. It felt so good – the tip of my cock clutched by his hole – and I looked back into his. There was a charged atmosphere in the room. Inside of Paul, code unfurled. What did he know about me?

More than I could have imagined. He knew (they knew, I should say, because despite indications of a coming singularity we weren’t there yet, and the liquor company was fully in control of Paul’s actions) was that I have a barebacking fetish. Which wasn’t too uncommon in the age of Super Syphilis, infections of which had been rising to unfathomable numbers in my lifetime. Just like when AIDS was at its deadliest, condoms were pretty much mandatory if you wanted the peace of mind that you hadn’t contracted an incurable, debilitating disease from a random sexual encounter. My proclivities would’ve been apparent from my porn-viewing history – condom.to.bareback.meert.com being one of my most-viewed websites.

“Wait,” I said, and pulled my hips back as best I could. Paul rose up enough to let my cock fall back against my stomach. He took it in his hand again.

“I just want to rub it against my ass,” he said. The implication being he didn’t want to fuck raw, either.

“Okay,” I said. His torso twisted as he reached back and took my cock in his hand, the muscles under his skin elongating, flexing. He backed his crack up against it, rubbed it back and forth.

“It feels so good like this,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said. Like he took that to mean consent he reared up again, lining my cock up with his asshole and bearing down. “Wait,” I said.

“I’m clean, man,” he said.

“Me too. I think,” I said.

“Let’s just see how it feels,” he said, and bore down more. Inch after heavenly inch of my raw cock into his asshole. Skin against skin – the most intimate, vulnerable place you could be with another person, I thought, while on some level suspecting that it wasn’t skin and he wasn’t a person. Finally, I was inside him completely. I felt engulfed by him, couched. He flexed his asshole around my cock. I flexed back – a moment of bodily communication which felt real enough, and I guess it was. Did so much separate him from me, really?

“Just don’t fuck,” he said. “Just stay like this.”

“Yeah,” I said, but my hips were already started to push into him.

“No, dude, don’t thrust,” he said, but he was sweaty and in his eyes was abandon. “We can’t fuck. We shouldn’t fuck bareback,” he said.

“Right,” I said, half-aware that his story seemed to be changing, that he was role-playing as it were, for an audience of me. “We shouldn’t,” I said, but neither of us made a move to get up.

“But it feels so good,” he said. “Your raw dick in me.”

“It does,” I said. I didn’t want to stop. He was so tight, inhumanly tight. “My raw dick in you.”

“Just hold it like this. Long as you don’t fuck, man,” Paul said, staring into my eyes. He jacked his big dick. “You’ve got me so close.”

“Me too,” I said. Paul rose up and half of my dick came out of him. He sat back down. “Fuuuuck,” I said. “You gotta stop or I’m gonna blow in you.” Paul stopped – but he also didn’t. His asshole seemed to grip me even tighter, and then I realized: it was moving. The insides of him were moving, tight fleshy rings that were going up and down my cock, massaging it, milking it.

“What the fuck!?” I said.

“It’s cool, man, blow in me, I want you to,” Paul said.

“What the fuck?” I said again but it was happening, it was too late, I was cumming.

“Fuckin cum in me man. Unload in me,” Paul said. My cum rose out of my nuts and blasted inside of him. At the same time he took hold of his cock, gave it one symbolic stroke and it unloaded all over me. A ridiculously huge load that spurted out like a water hose. It was too much – the second dead giveaway, and then it all added up.

He collapsed on me, breathing heavily. I understood now. I tasted some of his cum. Vanilla-flavored. So stupid.

“You’re a robot,” I said. He turned and gave me an inscrutable look.

“I’m an Advert,” he said with pride. I slid out from underneath him. Started to put my clothes on.

“Lemme guess – Janus Red,” I said. Paul nodded. I let out my breath. It was confusing, because with all the anger I was feeling at having been deceived, I was also relieved that the risky sex I’d just had was not risky at all. “You could’ve told me,” I said. Paul shrugged and looked contrite. I got my shoes on.

“I’m leaving,” I said.

“It was really nice meeting you,” he said. I rolled my eyes. Went to the living room and put my shirt back on. Paul came in behind me and flipped on the light. There was a closet next to the elevator door, I hadn’t noticed it earlier. It was half-open and I looked inside it while I waited for the elevator. Shelves, on which there sat bottle after bottle of Janus Red, along with some incentives – hats, tote bags, jock straps. I turned around. Paul was watching me with a blank stare. I wanted to throw a bottle at his face but that wouldn’t do me any good. So I just filled a tote bag with bottles. He let me do it. It was what he’d wanted all along.

 

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