In 1975, a US sociologist and philosopher called Ted Nelson coined the term “teledildonics” to refer to technology that would (basically) facilitate remote, realistic mutual masturbation via data link. Today, that technology is a reality – and, given the times, it could be the new frontier in human sexuality.
For many of us, the parameters of sexual intimacy have been drastically altered by the outbreak of Covid-19. Some (generally newer) couples elected to go into quarantine separately, while others have been sundered by the mandates of the territories in which they live. Many long-distance partners, in particular, have now gone months without knowing when next they’ll be able to connect in person. At the other end of the spectrum, a large contingent of happy, healthy, sexually active singles has been compelled to suspend amorous escapades indefinitely.
It’s apparent that most of us predicted the sexual ramifications of a global pandemic quite early on, since the sex toy industry is one of a very few to have experienced a boom – a boon! – since the onset of worldwide lockdowns. Chinese sex toy manufacturers Libo Technology has reported a 30% spike in sales since it resumed production at the end of February. International sex toy producers are now even turning would-be buyers away.
Of course, sexual gratification and sexual intimacy are distinct (albeit sometimes related) outcomes, and while a vibrator and pornography might be conducive to an orgasm, they’re almost antithetical to warm and fuzzy feelings. But there’s no need to resign yourself to a permanent state of masturbatory solipsism just yet; the fast-growing accessibility of VR technology might mean that our quasi-sexual encounters are about to become a whole lot more … holistic.
Ela Darling is a former reference librarian who is widely recognised as the world’s first virtual reality porn star. Darling co-founded a company called VRTube.xxx, a live webcam platform with VR content: essentially, the women you meet there are in 3-D. Similarly, BaDoink, a leading producer of VR porn, produces first-person POV fantasy-scenarios, featuring an array of beautiful women and detailed, realistic environs. This commitment to realism does not, however, extend to the depiction of the first-person penis, which is rendered as much-bigger-than-likely.
Several producers of VR porn have reported that their users gravitate towards tender scenarios, rather than the violent or rough-play skits that usually dominate porn sites; a trend that producers attribute to the enhanced believability of their offerings.
More to the point, perhaps, synchronised sexual experiences are now theoretically possible for partners through similar platforms. Of course, both VR porn and VR sex require certain accessories, and the quality of your experience depends on how much you’re willing to spend, not least on the headset.
Each participant needs to strap themselves in to their respective teledildonic harnesses. Imagine a motorized vibrator for women, and a motorized Fleshlight masturbator for men, and you’ve more or less got the picture. The reciprocal feature that lends this set-up appeal is that each partner can control the other’s tele-dildo, by means of just a few opportune keystrokes here and there. Sadly, people who sampled variations of this configuration have reported awkward lags, awkward mishaps, and just awkwardness in general, which, on reflection, isn’t exactly surprising.
Before we catapult ourselves into the future groin-first, we might do well to opt for other, simpler sexual resets, mid-pandemic. In many ways, this lockdown is a uniquely opportune time to engage in some sexual self-discovery; and while haptic technology is still too new and too expensive to be widely accessible, a rich array of podcasts and apps is available to kick-start your sex drive, or to proffer advice on connecting with your partner from afar.
Try Coral, Isharna Walsh’s “mix of science, stories, and practical exercises created by experts, curated for you”.
Otherwise, there’s always Pornhub.
Credit: Paula Andropoulos