Almost 20 years ago, I wrote a column examining new sexual frontiers (new at the time, anyway) made possible by advances in technology. This column is an update on this fascinating topic. We’ll look at some of the latest sexual technology achievements, as well as some technology that isn’t quite ready yet—or that, when applied to kink, may never be ready.
For many years it has been an open secret that the “adult entertainment” industry was an early adopter and popularizer of new inventions and technologies. Soon after their introduction, technologies such as photography, motion pictures, instant cameras, cable television, VCRs, DVD players, personal computers, webcams, internet video, streaming video, smartphones, and tablet computers all were used for erotic purposes.
In 1999, I described three innovations in sex technology. For men there was the Bonerman, best described as a milking machine’s evil child. It was custom-fit to each purchaser, and therefore very expensive. For men and women there was the PoniRocR, an upholstered hump containing mechanics that could vibrate and move any of over 160 different combinations of flexible attachments.
Either the Bonerman or the PoniRocR could be remotely controlled through the emerging science of “cyberdildonics.” At the time I wrote, “Your computer’s mouse will give new meaning to the word ‘joystick’ as you control your lover’s PoniRocR, Bonerman, vibrator or other ‘marital aid’ from any Mac or PC with an internet connection and a web browser—while you watch their reaction via WebCam, of course.”
Today these devices seem so quaint, don’t they? Time and technology have marched on, and the Bonerman’s and PoniRocR’s descendants need no power cords and no wired connections to a computer or the internet. The new breed of dildos, vibrators and stimulators are small, light, portable, cordless, and connect to the internet wirelessly by Bluetooth or WiFi. Instead of a Mac or PC, they are controlled with a smartphone, which also takes the place of a webcam. “Cyberdildonics” has become “teledildonics.”
Erotica is another example of stunning technological change. In 1999, an erotic film could be viewed in a theater—and it really was film, not video. Video was for at-home viewing—perhaps from a DVD, but more probably from a videocassette. And the television set used to view the video almost certainly was a bulky box containing a picture tube that produced a fuzzy image.
Today, erotica is streamed on demand over the Web. The crystal-clear images are viewed on flat-screen TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones. Even more dazzling, virtual-reality porn is now a thing as well, for audiences both straight (who have lots of choices) and gay (who have fewer choices). If you’re looking for a new use for your virtual-reality gaming headset, here it is. Or you can view virtual-reality porn by getting a cardboard virtual-reality headset shell into which you insert that jack of all trades, your smartphone.
One of today’s hottest developing technologies is AI, or artificial intelligence—and AI, too, is being explored for erotic applications. Clients of one prominent Internet dating/hookup service turned out to be communicating with artificial intelligence bots rather than real people. And efforts are underway to turn sex dolls, which have been used since at least the 1700s, into convincing sex robots (female and male, by the way) by endowing the dolls with artificial intelligence technology. (Stepford Wives, anyone?)
Unfortunately, there may be a few flies in the technological ointment. One example: According to internet reviews, some implementations of teledildonics technology can be buggy and temperamental.
But beyond that, there is the whole matter of using technological advances appropriately. Technology used to enhance sex can be great. Technology as a substitute for sex? Probably not as great, even if it’s sometimes necessary.
When it comes to enhancing sexual pleasure, there are things technology can do and things technology can’t do. For example, Bluetooth-enabled dildos and vibrators are available now, but I don’t know of anyone building a Bluetooth-enabled, remote controlled flogger.
You could probably tie up a sex robot, but what would be the point? And good luck finding a sex robot that can tie you up.
A person watching a BDSM video on a virtual-reality headset might feel as if they’re right there in the dungeon watching the action—but they can only watch, not participate. At this point in history, at least, participation requires a real dungeon and real people.