The Future of Sex, Porn and Tech


Words by Georgia Grace, illustrations by Neryl Walker

She will be a more efficient lover, she will fulfill your wildest desires, she will replace the need for human connection, and intimacy will be lost.

This dystopian view for the future of human sexuality is informed by science fiction, where hyper-sexual fembots eventually go rogue, shoot their masters with nipple guns and take over the world.

We’re on the cusp of a sexual revolution, robots are alive and well and their potential for mass destruction will certainly capture headlines and evoke all kinds of emotional responses, but innovation and problem-solving on a broader scale are the more exciting aspects of sextech. The reality is, the future is already here and we have glimpses into what sex may be like; so, how much control will we have as technology integrates some of our most intimate experiences, and what do we have to do to ensure sex still feels human?

The predictions we hear about the future of human sexuality are depressing and overwhelming. But within all this fear and catastrophe, we’ve misunderstood sextech. Sextech is any technology designed to enhance sexuality, its social innovation, sexual health education, crime and assault reporting, masturbation and pleasure coaching.

Sextech is a $30 billion industry that we surprisingly know very little about. Fear, sex and technology are often in bed with each other—it’s like the toxic relationship no one wants to acknowledge. If we can openly discuss the usefulness of sex-tech in making sex accessible and pleasurable, we will remove shame and stigma. Sextech is here to stay, porn is shaping human sexuality, but it’s imperative that we’re able to maintain our humanity within it all.

But let’s go back to the very beginning. Where did you first learn about sex? When I ask people this, I hear a few common responses: friends, experimentation and porn. The odds of raising a generation of reliable and informed lovers are not looking good. By failing to teach people about sex, they’re left to rely on their own inquiry. No longer are they heading to the bookshelf, pulling out the dictionary, flipping to ‘S’ and looking up the word ‘SEX’. Instead, they’re turning to Google and free porn sites, and this has become the new sex ed—and one of the many damaging and false images portrayed in free porn and mainstream media is that it is normal to have sex this way. We don’t acknowledge that these are actors on a set. As feminist activist Jameela Jamil says: ‘Learning sex from porn is like learning how to drive from watching The Fast and The Furious; a fucking terrible idea.’ This false belief that porn is real sex, leads to people having confusing, uncomfortable, unsatisfying, and painful experience.

Many of the real parts of sex are missing from porn: awkward bodily sounds, negotiations of consent, reapplications of lube, clumsy positions, bored or distracted facial expressions, flaccid penises and early ejaculation, requests or checking in, dirty talk missing the mark… and most of all, women are  rarely portrayed as people who deserve pleasure, but rather as the object in these fantasies. Porn exists and people will find it. It’s like junk food—sure, eat it and get that dopamine calorific hit, but if you eat fast food every day, you’re not going to feel good or last long.

There is ethical, explicit and beautifully intelligent porn involving real sex with filmmakers like Erika Lust of Lust Films and XConfessions, and Cindy Gallop’s #makelovenotporn pioneering a social sex revolution. Given that most porn is created for the male gaze, it’s hardly a surprise that women are leading the way in providing a healthy and fresh alternative for steamy passion in sex. Encouraging people to be conscious porn consumers isn’t always well received, as it requires intentional responsibility. Pornhub draws in 92 million visitors each day who only use the platform for an average of ten minutes; they visit efficiently for a reason and they’re not online to support social change.

Ethical porn can be seen as a two-part process: how you consume it and how it’s produced. Ethical consumption of porn is mindful, aware and marked by sexual integrity. It is produced consensually, where the performers are engaging in acts for which they are paid a fair wage. Ethical porn production doesn’t exploit the performers or the consumers, it portrays sexuality in a healthy way, and is inclusive of diverse sexual interests, bodies and desires.

These ethical filmmakers face enormous barriers in business, with concerns that being sex-positive will sexualise vulnerable minds, but with more than 92 million daily viewers to just one porn site, it’s safe to say we’re already sexual. By silencing ethical porn, the shame and stigma prevails and people head to the dark, quiet corners of the web.

Pornography will only become more dynamic with the fusion of technology enhancing the user experience. As porn has always been on the cutting edge of technological revolution, we’re already seeing VR productions allowing the wearer of the goggles to be the main character, so they can feel like they’re in the room. In the coming years, we can expect to see three-dimensional holographic images, so the VR user can be in the room with them. The answer, though, is not to ban porn—that will never work. The solution is to teach healthy, real sex, so porn is understood as fantasy. And ironically, technology may provide the education currently not offered at a systemic level.

Technology is used in every aspect of our lives, so naturally sex and relationships are no exception. Technology changes culture, it creates a new language and, whether you like it or not, it is already common practice to use technology as a way to connect, feel and relate with others: ‘He slid into my DM’s… she liked an old pic… they sent me a nude… we sexted last night.’ We can already see how technology is shaping human sexuality and can expect it to become more sophisticated. The fusion of sex toys and the internet will continue, making dick pics and Skype sex seem old school. Lovers separated by distance, work or travel can already control each other’s toys to induce orgasms with customisable features on an app, and at a more advanced level, toys stimulated by other toys, allowing one user to activate a vibrating masturbation sleeve by sucking or penetrating a connected dildo. If you’re new to this concept, let me introduce you to teledildonics: high tech sex toys remotely controlled over the internet.

Fear and sex often coexist. Today we fear a future of passivity, lacking intimacy while lonely loser gamers curate our orgasms, and funding for tech developments are in the hands of old heterosexual men who have a linear idea of what’s sexy. Many people still believe myths taught in high school based on sex-shaming rhetoric, like if you masturbate too much you’ll run out of orgasms or vibrators can desensitise your genitals. (Both untrue.)

The reality is, we will not be replaced. Technology is good for algorithms and data. As much as you love a toy for the reliable gift of orgasm, it will not replace a human. Bots and VR headsets are cool and interesting and may arouse excitement, but they don’t have the essence of being human with all the creativity, imagination, uniqueness and flaws. Technology is created to enhance our human experience, but the human experience will prevail.

The future is here and the sex tech industry is thriving. But before you get your dildos in a twist, the innovations may surprise you. A leading authority on sex tech, Bryone Cole interviews hundreds of entrepreneurs, therapists, and scientists about technology’s impact on sexuality for her Future of Sex podcast. The conversations about bodies, sexuality and identity optimistically predict intimacy’s survival and invites listeners into the advancements changing the way people experience their bodies.

The biggest myth about sex tech is that it’s chasing the orgasm, but it is so much more than that. The most exciting innovations can be seen more broadly as tools for making our sexual experiences fulfilling, consensual and exciting. These tools are created with the user at heart, supporting them in learning about sex, reducing pain or uncomfortable experiences, practicing communication, and are overwhelmingly created by women intending to solve a problem and make sex more accessible to all.

Take OhNut for example: a soft, ring-shaped buffer device intended to be worn by the penetrative partner to eliminate pain during sex. Or a vibrator controlled by voice activation for people with disabilities. Or Mend, an app powered by AI designed to comfort and support those suffering heartbreak; or Slutbot, designed to help users improve their sexting capabilities. Or OMGYes, offering interactive videos teaching users how female pleasure can be explored. There are apps helping us find love and hook-ups, technology transmitting touch via long-distance, AI-powered counselling, erotic audio stories allowing users to explore their fantasies in privacy, and sex toys connected to apps.

 

This technology is working to make pleasure and sexuality normal and accessible to all people, regardless of their ability, gender, relationship choice, body shape or level of experience. In the last few years, we’ve seen the emergence of vibrators and dildos that don’t look like massive, veiny, throbbing penises. They are instead sleek and discreet pleasure items that consumers are proud to invest in. This bold move away from mimicking anatomy is revolutionary, as it acknowledges that a penis isn’t the only source of pleasure. It removes expectations from what a penis should look like and allows for the toy to be seen as an addition, rather than a replacement, to human genitals. Everyone’s a winner.

Unboundbabes, for example, is a rebellious feminist brand, constantly innovating products to keep up with the latest high-tech trends. We-Vibe designs and manufactures world-leading vibrators for couples and individuals, as well as air suction technology which emulates the sensations of cunnilingus as an option for people who don’t like the intensity of vibrations. Most women and people with vulvas will not climax from intercourse alone; they need clitoral stimulation. This new technology has their pleasure at the heart of the creations, solving the shame, fear and isolation that so many women have experienced for not feeling normal and not knowing if they will ever ‘get there.’ 75 percent of women will experience painful sex in their lifetime. That’s an unfathomable reality for the majority of women. Not just boring sex–painful sex. At the very least, technology can be used to make sex pain-free. These innovations are supporting all people, whether you have a vulva or you have sex with a vulva, because when pleasure is shared, sex will be better for all.

Technology is transforming and informing sexuality; it can even support people in feeling more human. Of course, there are many issues and concerns around the future of our relationships and society as a whole, but if sextech continues creating solutions for equal access to pleasure, supporting conversations about sex and intending to connect people with their desires, we’re safe from the nipple guns for now. The current sex revolution values sexuality as a vital part of being human, in practicing love, empathy and using technology to support us in doing so, including skills to identify when it is being misused or abused.

The most exciting advancements to come out of the industry are those that allow us to learn, explore and understand sex as a human right. Ethical porn and technology can support the human experience in destigmatising and normalising conversations about sex. Pioneers are already doing it, and we have a responsibility as consumers today to ensure we use this tech consciously in the future. In learning from the lessons of our past, perhaps if we leave innovation in the hands of women, we will be safer. Reading this, you may have experienced a range of responses: fear, shock, outrage, arousal, excitement. But don’t worry, this is all part of being human—a sexbot couldn’t feel that.

See more from Issue 64 of Monster Children by grabbing a copy here.

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