From vibrators to robot brothels? Sex tech is getting out of control
It started with vibrators — as so many things do. From there, it’s only been getting weirder, stranger, more abstract.
Sex-tech is advancing at a rate that humanity may soon struggle to cope with. Things are changing and they’re changing fast. The line between porn and reality is getting blurrier by the day and before we know it we are going to be faced with challenging ideas that we never could have foreseen or imagined.
For instance: is it cheating if a married man or woman goes to a brothel and fucks a sex robot? Should a person feel jealous if their partner is engaging in virtual orgies with strangers around the globe? What happens when people can forge extremely realistic sex videos of celebrities, politicians, friends or ex-lovers using face-swap and voice reconstruction software?
This is all coming – there’s no doubt about it. And in fact, a lot of these sex technologies are already here. Already pounding their way into our society and culture, changing our relationship with sex, taking it to an utterly surreal place.
Let’s begin in Texas. The Lone Star State. That place where “everything is bigger” and where succession is a regular topic of conversation. Down there, the sex industry was recently about to take a very strange turn as America’s first “robot brothel” prepared to open their doors (and their bionic legs) to the world.
Now, the robots they planned on using, while attractive in a very fake way, are still very clearly robots. They look almost human, but not quite – just enough to fool your Johnson. It would have undoubtedly been a smash hit and could have paved the way for more of these kinds of brothels to open up around the nation.
But they got shot down. The city of Houston, in the weeks leading up to the grand unveiling of their city’s robotic sex business, crafted a law that would effectively prevent them from opening their doors.
“It’s not the sort of business that I want in the city of Houston,” said the town’s Mayor, Sylvester Turner at a press conference.
Understandably. This kind of thing confuses people – especially when they’re worried about things like PR and family values. Nevertheless, it could have been a really good thing for Houston.
Because, on one hand, by making prostitution a robotic business, it could have put a dent in the illegal sex trafficking industry. One could even make the argument that robot brothels where men and women could go bang their sexual energy out on an inanimate doll, might have been good for relationships throughout the state; might have helped mitigate adultery (albeit in a very weird way).
But, then arises the question: is it cheating? If someone is relieving their sexual urges, not with another human being, but with, what is essentially an expensive sex toy, is it morally wrong?
It probably depends on the couple.
But that moral qualm gets even deeper, because while robot brothels will almost undoubtedly, eventually become a thing, there is technology out right now that allows people to get intimate with other human beings that aren’t even in the same room.
It’s called Teledildonics. A remote-controlled pleasure technology that allows people to engage physically with one another, over vast distances. The device can be controlled or activated via wifi, so someone in America could conceivably give someone in Australia or China or Antarctica, even, the orgasm of their life. The patent on this technology was recently lifted, which means that any company can now make teledildonic devices without paying a licensing fee.
Then there’s “Veins!”, a film that aired at the Sundance film festival in 2015. Veins! (which means “Come!” in French) is the latest venture of Carl Guyenette, a renowned 3-D filmmaker, who describes his groundbreaking orgy masterpiece as, “An experimental immersive film, to expand minds about what sex is really about.”
Strap on your VR goggles and get ready to get weird. Complete with surround sound, Veins! submerges the viewer in a sea of naked bodies engaged in tantric sex, in a sunlit warehouse somewhere in Paris (where else?). The film dissolves the boundaries between porn, artistic filmmaking and virtual reality – bringing them all together in a bizarre conglomerate.
Veins! won’t be the last venture in virtual orgies, either. Spanish researchers told the DailyMail back in 2016 that they too, were working on developing cutting edge orgy tech. Technology that would allow the user to actually interact with the onscreen actors via handheld tablets and vibrating seats – not unlike Teledildonics.
Yes, it’s strange – but in an exciting way. Many within the sex-tech industry think that these technologies could have huge benefits for our society; positive outcomes that could help to dissolve some of the taboos around sex.
Stephanie Alys is the co-founder and “Chief Pleasure Officer” of MysteryVibe, an award winning British pleasure brand. She explained how she believes these kinds of advances will help to open up our society, and free love, so to speak.
“People think, obsess even, that the future of sex-tech is weird, kinky people doing even more weird, kinky things,” she says. “But when we look at the industry and the possibilities it throws up more closely, we can actually see powerful examples of people who are unable to have a healthy sex life becoming able to find that through technology.”
For instance, she says, people who have been sexually traumatized or who are socially incapable of meeting partners in real life, might be able to safely explore their own sexuality through virtual intimacy – through films like Veins!, at robot brothels, and with technology like Teledildonics.
“Our inability as a society to adjust to a culture that is sexually healthy has less to do with robot sex and more to do with the amount of shame and lack of communication surrounding sex. I see a future where the rise of sex-tech – from robot sex to teledildonics to dating apps – creates conversations that help us to address our cultural fear of intimacy.”
That makes a lot of sense. And, to someone who has always subscribed to the philosophy of “the weirder, the better” it sounds like a nice place to be headed.
But, not all sex technologies will be used for good…
As things like face-swap and voice reconstruction software get better and better, more advanced, people will undoubtedly start using them for pornography. And that is something we should all be very weary of… Not just because it will allow people to start forging incredibly believable sex videos of celebrities and politicians, but because “friends” and ex-lovers could start using it to make sex videos of you.
It would usher in an entirely new era of blackmail and confusion: was that actually a video of Donald Trump getting pissed on by Russian hookers? Or was it a fake? Is that actually Jennifer Lawrence getting railed by Danny DeVito on a pile of cash? Or is it a forgery? Is that ME fucking a donkey?! Or have I been duped? …
It is sad that we live in an era where sex-tech could be weaponized like this, but it’s our reality. And it’s one that has come a long way from the simple vibrator — the OG sex-tech. Where it goes from here is largely up to us. Can we handle a future where our wives and husbands engage in digital orgies, or stop by the robot brothel on their way home from work? Can we resist the temptation to make porn videos of everyone just because we can?
Only time will tell.
Regardless, you better prepare for some serious Strange. We all better. Because, from this vantage, at least, the future of sex is looking very technological, very weird and very liberating all at once.
“Sex tech isn’t creating new kinks as much as it’s creating new ways to explore them,” says Alys. “We should evaluate whether those explorations are safe, sane, and consensual, rather than how weird or sensational they are.”