We talk about tech innovations in every areas, from foodtech to transportation, to medicine to smart cities. We talk about everything except what is a big part of our lives: sex.
It’s summertime, temperature is rising : let’s talk about sex(techs) baby.
Pornography is as old as humanity. We found ancient engravings and sculptures representing sex parties, that have nothing to envy to the writings of the Marquis de Sade nor the latest porn productions.
In many cultures, the most shameless sexual practices were part of sacred rituals. Sex has always been intimately connected to the spiritual, because it’s linked to some cultural fundamentals : our identity, our roles in society, our ways of connecting with each others. The sexual energy is sometimes perceived as divine, and the sexual intercourse as sacred because it represents the origin of life : we all come from “there”.
Sex is fascinating to us, not only because it’s forbidden, but also because the pleasure we get from it transcends us. This pleasure can, of course, be dissociated from intercourse and become solitary, which requires a little creativity. That’s why sextoys are just as old as eroticism. Pleasure objects were found in ancient Egypt for example, sometimes carved from precious materials, sometimes made with what was “on hand”. Nothing new under the sun, since the invention of the zucchini. Except today. Our time has reached another level, since technology has penetrated every areas in our lives, including the bedroom.
Sex and tech are a good match. Through history, sex has been a driver for innovation.
Often, a technical breakthrough is diverted for naughty use, because we love to do that – in the same way that we divert the meaning of a word, or a symbol (take the eggplant emoji). A simple example : photography and cinema. Porn movies exist since the Lumière brothers. Being able to fix an image on a film also meant being able to create erotic pictures to be a support of fantasies.
This diversion of inventions from their initial use has often allowed their development, especially in terms of funding. Take for example the market of VHS and video clubs, that was strongly supported by porn movies productions.
In the age of the Internet, let’s just take a look at the statistics (for the USA alone) : 12% of websites are pornographic, 25% of Google searches are for porn, the all thing generates a turnover of about $ 3 billion in the US. At a global scale, the online X industry is worth nearly $ 5 billion, and this is nothing next to the sextoy market: $ 15 billion in 2016.
Porn and sextoys are now connected, and porn in the future promises to be more realistic than ever. For example, new gloves with micro pressures on the hands will give you the impression that you are caressing the shapes of a body… Tesla, for its part, has developed a haptic combination, the Teslasuit, able to reproduce all sensations, from tickle to blows, from heat to cold. The device is currently aimed at passionate gamers (due to its price), but no doubt it will conquer the world of porn, coupled with virtual reality.
VR helmets already allow unbeatable 360 ° immersion in a movie scene. The POV category makes fully sense now, and reaches 4.0 mode. You can now interact with actors, influence the scenario etc.
The next step will undoubtedly be to feel the effects of what we are looking at, for the better or the worse…
Algorithmic orgasms and long-distance relationships
Sex toys are definitely a progress. They played a significant role in the sexual liberation, in overcoming taboos, normalizing pleasure and opening a discussion about a better knowledge of our body and our needs.
The ugly (plastic) duckling has come a long way. Today, sextoys are intelligent and connected. They are adaptive, equipped with sensors that can be connected to a porn movie or an erotic audio book, so that the sensations synchronize with the scenes.
The latest innovative sextoys are augmented with artificial intelligence: they adapt their movements, vibrations and rhythm in response to the physical reactions of their user. Custom your algorithmic orgasm, and press “repeat”.
Above all, these objects go beyond the solo use, they’re meant to spice things up while playing at two, three or more (who knows).
These intelligent sextoys are connected to a mobile app and can be remotely controlled, making the reactions of your partner quite unpredictable in the middle of a dinner at the restaurant. This can also make sexting sessions way more explicit and effective, whether you haven’t met yet or you are away from your partner for a short period of time. This technology also promises to meet the needs of long distance relationships couple.
Connectivity in sextoys goes further than just spicing up the game between lovers. It’s opening the possibility to experiment with strangers in virtual sex rooms.
The toys need a platform to function anyway, whether it’s a mobile app, a software or a website. Just like Uber, whose logic was not only to connect customers and drivers, but also and above all to collect data, these virtual sex rooms will record and analyse the habits and tastes of users. All of this In order to allow a better targeting by advertisers, as it’s often the case when it comes to our data.
Is cheating in VR really cheating?
It’s important to understand that today, through virtual reality and/or new generation sextoys, we are able to trick the body and the brain into feeling and perceiving anything, even if it seems virtual.
Tomorrow, exactly like in the Striking Vipers episode of the last Black Mirror season, we will be able to experiment soft or hard romances, with strangers or not, without limitation of time and space in the scenarios. We will also be able to change body and gender, for some brand new sensations.
The episode was particularly accurate in depicting the way innovation in adult entertainment affects everyone. Whether one lives in a rather festive celibacy, going from one night stand to one night stand, or in a committed, stable and (a priori) monogamous relationship: the needs are the same, and the stake too. It’s about finding what makes us vibrate, what will surprise us and take us out of the everyday life, which most of the time, is not fun at all. Eroticism is a matter of imagination. It must constantly be fueled by novelty, if not, desire fades or becomes a simple need for mechanical satisfaction.
Human sexuality is complex, polymorphous and subtle. It will be tempting to try in a virtual world what we wouldn’t try in real life.
This is where the ethical questions appear : what can be done in a virtual environment ? How far can one go to satisfy one’s fantasies?
I don’t think it’s that easy to draw the line between what’s real and what’s virtual, and we can’t simply decide that one has no impact on the other. It would be absurd to say so, while screens are everywhere in our lives. Everything that happens on one side of the black mirror is directly related to what happens on the other side.
The laws of the market apply here : for every demand there is a supply, and if in porn we can unfortunately find everything, obviously content producers will meet all kinds of requests, including those that will go against the human dignity.
This is an extreme aspect of the problem. On a lighter note, and back to the Striking Vipers episode, we will necessarily witness societal changes compared to traditional patterns, especially around relationships. Things have already deeply changed, but we have yet no idea how much technological innovations will impact our social behaviors and change the rules. Of course, couples will have to answer the question: “Playing sex games in virtual reality, is it cheating ” And it’s up to everyone to set their own rules and boundaries.
The younger generations will take their first steps, and have their first love experiences, in a world where porn is absolutely common, where it’s everywhere, to the point of feeling saturated. From an early age, young people will be used to navigate a virtual world, where they will evolve under their avatars. The border between virtuality and reality is becoming more and more porous, and the risk of dysmorphism (mental and physical) too.
Sextechs need more diversity
In January 2019, the Las Vegas CES decided to cancel the prize that an intelligent female sextoy received, because it was “immoral” according to them, while the sexdolls also present at the CES were not, apparently. The organizers, following the scandal, changed their minds. An entire section of the 2020 CES will now be dedicated to intelligent sextoys.
Sextechs need more diversity, starting from who create them, to whom they address, and the sexual orientations they cover.
Once again, the evolution of sextoys shows that we went from a simple “imitation of nature” (that is to say, the good old dildo) to gadgets way more intelligent, able to adapt to any anatomy and any taste, all genders included. And without excluding people who supposingly have no sex life, because they are very old or disabled.
In short, we need more diversity. If eroticism is in essence, as we said, a world of pure imagination, we can design sextoys with shapes, colors and options that are unusual, with no link with the classical outlines of sex between two humans. If you are into monsters, like octopus in hentai and all, why not.
Sextechs for happier sex?
The true challenge about sextechs is at a higher level. It’s time to get out of the puritan paradox which is : we don’t talk about sex, but behind closed doors, we do all the wrong things. There is obviously a sexual education issue with sextech : how can it participate in a better knowledge of our own sexual happiness and that of our partners?
The question is : how can sextechs make our approach to sex safer, more consent-focused, more fun and more able to create human connections?
When it comes to inventions or start-ups ideas for exemple, it’s the whole difference between a connected condom that measures “performance”, and a condom that detects STDs by changing color.
TAs in all technological advances, the issue for sextechs is to increase our well-being, and not to harm us. Sex gadgets are not a substitute for intercourse itself, they are a tool, a plus. A way more disturbing question to come is about sex robots with artificial intelligence : will it replace us and replace our partners? Will we fall in love with our robots? Are we going to witness the extinction of humanity because of that?
To be continued …