A round of applause follows as a Julie Gillis, co-founder of Bedpost Confessions, asks the crowd, “Can we get some love for all the sex workers out there?” A kinky, sex-positive, open-minded group of educators, techies, and adult entertainment professionals gathered for a panel on Sex Tech organized by the Southwest Sexual Health Alliance (SWSHA) and BaDoink VR.
As soon as a new technology is created someone starts using it for sex. The day after the camera was invented the first naked picture was taken. Dildos were created and used along with the earliest known stone tools in the paleolithic era. Steam powered vibrators were used by doctors in the 1600s to treat women for hysteria presenting with symptoms of anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability, erotic fantasies, and wetness between the legs. Women would go to their doctors for an orgasm. Satisfaction was the cure and it was good. Vibrators did not become home appliances until the 19th century when smaller, lighter batteries became widely available.
Technology of today exists in the non-physical realm and is touching us more than ever. Partners can now connect intimately across long distances through voice chat and remotely operated toys. Virtual reality from companies like BaDoink immerses the viewer in a sexual scene where you can be the object or the doer. VR development is currently being dominated by the adult industry, but the uses of VR go far beyond pleasure seeking. From a sexual health perspective VR could be critical in the future for education, therapy, and accessibility.
“Healthy is a loaded term,” says sexual health educator, Dr. Karen Rayne. You should define healthy for you and your relationship. Each new piece of technology comes with a fear narrative, says McPherson. What does it mean? How will it affect us, our kids, and our relationships? Adult entertainment VR is particularly controversial. The intensity of the immersion and possibility for integration with physical devices creates many questions for couples. How should we define cheating? How will the use of VR affect my sex life and relationship outside the headset? These are questions everyone will now need to answer. The consensus of the panel is to discuss new sex tech with your partner before incorporating it into your relationship. Answer the questions above, expect the fear and anxiety, discuss boundaries, and schedule relationship check ins.
Purity as an ideal is fading. “In 50 years, everyone will have naked picture on the internet somewhere and it’s just not going to seem important anymore,” says Rayne. Privacy, right now, is a bigger issue and problem for people than it will be in the coming years. Morality and shame are still working to keep sexuality in the private sphere, but openness is spreading. Awareness is in and bigotry has been voted off.
“There is no normative sexuality, variance is the norm,” says Gillis.
Technology has created a platform for sexual diversity to be acknowledged, accepted, and accommodated. From FetLife to 3nder alternative communities are gaining exposure. Not only is it easier to find what you’re looking for you can also find people looking for the same. The future is normalization where the alternative is just that, an alternative.