With virtual reality and the growth of teledildonics, sex in the cyber sphere seems to have become more popular and definitely more possible. However, it still feels like there is some societal hesitation when its comes to teledildonics and the incorporation of more complex technology in our sex lives.
Virtual reality refers to software and hardware that create a simulation of different auditory, visual, and tactile sensations usually depending on a virtual reality headset. Moreover teledildonics is a form of technology for remote sex (or mutual masturbation), where sensations are sent from one device to another. The idea of techsex, or technology incorporated into our sex lives, I think is moving towards becoming the future of our sexual interactions.
Although there may be some uncertainty towards incorporating teledildonics in our lives, there has been an increase in support, and I think we’re headed in the right direction. Nonetheless, I do have my reservations how we need to proceed considering that it adds another complexity into our already complicated sex lives. Given how we struggle to talk about consent, for example, we need to be cautious when diving headfirst into technology and sex without assesing the risk it may pose to ourselves and our sexual partners. Nonetheless, I do believe we need to recognize the potential technology has to enhance our sex lives.
Lovesense, a company focused on high-tech sex toys, started a crowdfunding project to launch their “long distance” sex toys that allow partners to simultaneously pleasure each other. The premise is simple: When one toy is touched, the other one reacts resulting in close to real time reactions and enabling long-distance pleasure. This form of technology is moving in the right direction to bridge the physical gap in long distance relationships, and we see that in the positive reviews this technology has garnered in the LDR (long distance relationship) community. However, long distance relationships should not be the sole marketing focus of these companies. As technology develops, and transhumanism becomes more popular, I believe we will come to accept these technological interventions as regular parts of our sexual experiences, rather than niche advancements aimed towards a specific population. It will no longer be technology that is solely marketed towards couples in long distance relationships, but an aspect of our regular, daily sex lives. For example, we might see an increased use of technological gadgets like vibrators added to our sex to enhance pleasure. Although there is limited information on vibrator use, in 2009, a survey funded by by Church and Dwight Co. Inc., maker of Trojan brand sexual health products (important to keep this in mind) reported that around 50% of their sample group had used a vibrator. This study does show that individuals are incorporating gadgets into their sex lives, however we do not know the context (ie: with a partner or not). Nonetheless, we can see that societal attitudes are shifting and are becoming more accepting of the use of technology in the bedroom.
Moreover, with the growth of virtual reality and its integration with the porn industry, I can only see this tech trickling down into our intimate relationships with our partner/partners. For example, Tenga, a sex toy company for men, is selling a full body sensorial suit that is meant to be paired with a porn virtual reality experience. Although some people have criticised this as sad and a little daunting (they fear transhumanism will overtake the primal human experience associated with sex), I think that with some tweaks and edits, it may prove to be a technology we will be seeing more of. Right now virtual reality and teledildonics are progressing beyond the rudimentary, niche stage, and I suspect (and hope) they will become more popular and economically viable as they become more accepted by the general populace.
The porn industry in the United States is estimated to generate 8 billion dollars annually, and they are investing heavily in virtual reality. Seeing as the porn industry has become the modern Westerner’s gateway to new sexual experiences, porn will be the prime instigator towards a transhuman teledildonic norm. Anne Lee, an important player in the porn industry, suspects that the future holds “the integration of AR and VR together eventually leading to having your favorite performer on your lap, in your bedroom doing a custom performance for you and responding to your verbal and physical cues.” Virtual reality and porn have the potential to change our sexual experiences, but we need to extrapolate this information and see how it is going to affect our interpersonal relationships. We might be able to participate in threesomes with our partners without a high emotional risk by incorporating VR in the bedroom. Or we may be able to have sex in the middle of Times Square, but in the comfort of our home. Virtual reality is going to revolutionise the way we think of sex, the way we have sex, and the way we want sex.
Recently, a study on robot and human interaction stood out to me as a symbolic advancement for the future of sex. Participants were asked to touch robots’ different body parts, and it was noted that when they were asked to touch the robot’s private parts they would experience symptoms of arousal. Jammy Li, co-author of the study reports, “Our work shows that robots are a new form of media that is particularly powerful…Social conventions regarding touching someone else’s private parts apply to a robot’s body parts as well.” What does this mean for us as humans? It show that we are slowly embracing and reacting towards the incrementation of technology not only in our everyday lives, but in our sex lives. As Marshall Mcluhan stated in The Medium is the Message, this technology, “is the medium of a medium of a medium.” In other words, it is a technology that is going to give way to a range of new inventions that have the power to revolutionize the way we have and think of sex. It is not the way the technology vibrates or responds, but it is the fact that we are moving towards a more tech-directed society which will encompass our sexual desires.
When it comes to sex, I think most of us are hesitant about thinking of technology as an inherent part of our sexual practices and relationships, but just as the condom (a simple technology) revolutionized our sex lives, VR and teledildonics have the potential to pull the same feat. These advancements can close the physical gap between long distance couples, or even bring fantasies to life without any of the negative social consequences with which they have been traditionally associated. For example, individuals who are attracted to voyeurism will be able to simulate a public space through virtual reality in the comfort of their homes without any of the legal and moral consequences of doing so in public. These “freedoms” or “possibilities” that technology grants us are not immune to moral scrutiny or criticism, so we must proceed with caution. Nonetheless, the ultimate verdict is that technology is a crucial factor in our everyday lives. It is a force to be reckoned with, rather than opposed, and that includes its incorporation into sex. No, the average Canadian may not actively seek artificial intelligence and VR as their main form of sexual release. The average Canadian may not currently be in a long distance relationship. They may not even have any kinks or fetishes that require new technologies such as teledildonics. Nonetheless, this is a new enhancement to an ancient and primal medium; this is an enhancement that will enrich our lives and encourage us through our sexual paths.
Don’t get me wrong: I agree with individuals who have their reservations with the merger of technology and sex, I have them too, and I hope to delve into them in a future column. However, I cannot help but think that technology and sex is a highly likely combination in our near future. Seeing how we are moving towards incorporating technology in our lives at a faster rate than ever, I think that the 21st century is man’s best attempt to experience sex as this special and intimate experience is through technology. This is an adaptation process, and we are the first (read: lucky) generation that is going to experience this intermingling of technology and sex. Even if this sounds like a scary route, we shouldn’t be reluctant to try something new and to embrace what is already coming our way.
Micaela Kong is a first year student looking to specialize in Psychology at the University of Toronto. She is fluent in Spanish and English, having lived in Uruguay and Miami, and is currently serving as the Technology Editor at The Foreign Observer