The Future Is Gearing Up for the Rise of Sexual Technology.
When most people think of sexual technology or “sextech,” they think of life-like £10,000 sex robots, 3D pornography and automatic blowjob machines. They think of ways that new technological advancements facilitate socially awkward shut-ins to remain reclusive. The media perpetuates this idea as the sole future of sextech because articles likes these are more “scandalous,” often attracting a large number of readers.
However, the $30 billion industry is so much more than elaborate sex toys and high-tech ways to consume pornography. It’s actually being used to provide more accurate sexual education, helping those with disabilities better enjoy sex and facilitating connections in the real world.
Take MakeLoveNotPorn, the world's first and only social sex video sharing content platform. On the surface level, it may appear like any other amatuer porn site, but Cindy Gallop, founder and CEO, says the site does far more than provide videos of “normal” people having sex. It’s true mission is to encourage all types of sex that extend beyond traditional porn through both communication — like any social platform — and visibility. People are able to share their experiences with sex, and in doing so, normalise all different types of pleasure.
“I made sure MakeLoveNotPorn was in line with my own personal philosophy, which is about using tech to further connections in real life and bring about positive change in the real world,” explains Gallop. “[And] when our members write to us, the words they use to describe our content are words like happy, joyous, positive life-affirming and celebratory.”
One man in particular wrote to Gallop with a message about his previously established sexist attitudes about women he learned through porn. That all changed after he was sexaully assaulted in college.
“It completely traumatised him, but he said MLNP was able to help him think completely differently about sex and sexuality,” she says. “In doing so, it was able to help him recover from his sexual assault.”
The site tries to cater to couples as well, helping to resolve any problems that could arise in their relationship.
One man with severe ED discovered MLNP through his therapist, and after watching MLNP with his wife, contacted Gallop to thank her for saving his marriage and reinvigorating his sex life. “They were able to reconnect through non-penetrative forms of sex, and now their sex life and marriage is better than ever before,” she notes.
Gallop sees MLNP as a pioneer in the social sex revolution. “The revolution part isn’t new, but the social component is,” she explains. And a large part of the social component is holding communal screenings of MLNP videos where people laugh, cry and give out sighs when a tender moment happens on screen.
“After the screening, we have this fantastic discussion, which really exemplifies our mission: talking openly and honestly about sex,” adds Gallop.
Bryony Cole is also someone trying to make an impact with her business. She runs The Future of Sex, a company which works to promote real world sexual connections in a non-pornographic manner. What initially started as a popular podcast morphed into a sort of think tank that hosts “hackathons.” Basically, over the course of a weekend, folks with a range of expertises from app development to sexual education will come together to solve a problem pertaining to sex.
“How do we reinvent sex education for teenage boys?” is an example of a question Cole says would be asked at one of her events. Strangers at the hackathon would then meet, share ideas and team up to solve the question. If a team comes up with an idea for an app that has famous porn stars providing information in a fun, sexy and accurate manner, a porn star, app developer and sex education teacher would come together to work on fleshing out the idea. Hopefully by the end of the weekend, they have developed a rough prototype (or at least thorough plan) for app creation. That team, along with about a dozen others who developed their own ideas, would then present, and in a “Shark Tank” like-fashion, the winning team receives prize money and resources. Numerous investors are often present at hackathons, too, so even if a team doesn’t win, they can potentially still obtain the resources to develop their project.
“There's this concentration of people involved in sextech that have all the money and are defining the future direction for everyone,” says Cole. “I found this terrifying, which is why I started doing these hackathons. It’s a great way to start businesses, especially for people that don't have access to capital or mentorship.”
Lisa Houck, founder and CEO of Camasutra Industries, hopes her erotic tech company will revolutionise virtual reality. Using hundreds of cameras, Camasutra creates real digital avatars of leading adult performers. When viewers reach out and “touch” them, the avatar’s image projected on the VR headset will respond or “move.” Camasutra Industries is also working with a teleildonics company to sync sex toys with the avatar movement in real time. Meaning, if the avatar is moving up on down, that will be felt in, say, a masturbator sleeve.
Houck is aware that this type of technology could further push the socially awkward, chronic masturbator to become less connected to the real world, but that isn’t her intent. “Of course, there’s always going to be a misuse and overuse of any new technological advancements, especially ones that are entertaining, distracting, or easy,” she says.
Nevertheless, she hopes that these products will be used by women to create a more fulfilling experience where they can embrace their sexuality. This can be done by creating solo “scenes” with a single male porn star. She also believes that couples can use VR together to create a more intimate and satisfying sexual experience.
“I believe that [women and couples] wouldn't overuse this in a way that maybe your average or cliche adult [male] consumer would. So we want to market to that demographic and elevate the experience,” she notes. “I personally believe that there's no stopping technology and that this is something that people need to be personally responsible for themselves.”
And she’s right. There’s no telling what the future holds for sextech. Right now, it’s best to highlight and support the numerous companies out there who are figuring out ways to use technology to help consumers connect with others in an educational way. It’s organisations like MakeLoveNotPorn and The Future of Sex, led by smart, thoughtful women, that are the real future of sextech.