Sex robots, teledildonics and the rise of technosexuals
For many of us, 2020 has been a year lived online. It includes our sex lives.
As home orders followed the spread of COVID-19 around the world, we turned to our devices. The work and games were done on Zoom, while the sex work industry has also gone digital. Technology has reshaped every element of our lives, even the lonely moments. According to a new study released by sex toy company We-Vibe, 28% of 1,000 participants surveyed about their robotic sexual preferences admitted to being turned on by their Amazon Alexa.
That might sound like a shocking number, until you consider the context: Men interviewed claimed that the smart speaker helps keep locking loneliness at bay, turning to the female voice for camaraderie and to create. a feeling of intimacy.
The intertwining of technology and sexuality is nothing new. Online pornography is estimated to be worth up to $ 97 billion a year, and electric vibrators exist since the 1800s, albeit in a much less sophisticated form than what we know today. Dating apps are now by far the most popular way to meet a partner, and many sex workers now provide online services via webcam. The lines between technology and sexuality are blurring, and the lockdown has triggered a significant shift for some as real-life interaction has been taken off the table.
“Most people need an intimate connection, and that doesn’t go away during a pandemic,” says Amanda Gesselman, associate director of research at the Kinsey Institute that focuses on how technology can facilitate meaningful connections. “I think people are actually learning to adapt technology to their needs, even though it’s a situation we’ve never really been in before… Technology provides a sure way to satisfy our inner needs, and we see people indulge in it. “
For most people, the use of technology for sexual gratification is more related to apps like Tinder or online pornography as their smart speaker. But being excited about technology is nothing new. The idea of technosexuality – defined as being activated by machines – has long been hyperbolized in science fiction and pornography. And as tech developers have increasingly pushed the boundaries of how sex technology interacts with our intimate experiences, the idea of technosexuality has shifted from a niche concept to a more realistic perspective.
Companies that create sex robots have attracted a lot of attention in recent years, with new designs that may even hold conversations alluding to consumers’ desire to have a more personal relationship with their robotic romantic partners.
Sex robots are an extreme example of technology exploited for sexual gratification, and their price, ethical concerns and the taboos surrounding them mean that they still cater to a relatively small pool of consumers. Still, some aspects of the sex tech industry are expected to become much more mainstream. Sex toys incorporating artificial intelligence are now in development, with designers who explore everything from voice activated vibrators to applications which track your orgasms and train your toy to deliver a more personalized and optimized experience. Virtual reality porn is also gaining popularity and profit, with a estimated at 60 percent of the best virtual reality websites now porn sites.
With so many new ways to incorporate the latest technology into our sex lives, technosexuality is no longer the preserve of fetishists. In fact, technology has the potential to become an integral part of our intimate interactions.
“The stigma attached to using technology for sex and relationships has really started to crumble,” says Neil mcarthur, professor of philosophy at the University of Manitoba and editor of Robot sex: social and ethical implications. “I speculated that we are starting to see the emergence of ‘digisexuals’, people who see technology as essential to their gender identity… Sex toys are getting more sophisticated, better designed and generally more fun. , and we are also seeing the emergence of immersive technologies such as virtual reality, teledildonics and sex robots. ”
There are obvious benefits to introducing technology to our sex life. Access to safe sexual experiences in times of isolation can be a lifeline for some, or just an exciting way to experiment with new gadgets for others. As research suggests, we are not only living in a public health crisis, but loneliness epidemic, the ability to interact with others and have intimate experiences using technology responds to a clear need. Yet the extent to which technology should be a part of our gender identity is still hotly contested.
“Overall, these technologies are positive for people, and they have been crucial for many of us over the past six months,” says McArthur. “But there are concerns. We don’t want these technologies to increase people’s isolation, especially in the midst of the pandemic. There are also concerns about access. We have talked a lot about the inequalities in access to education that occurred during COVID, but we have talked less about the inequalities in access to privacy. Both come from the same causes and have a different impact on different demographic groups. “
For some experts, concerns about technology and sexuality are even more pronounced. Kathleen richardson is professor of ethics and culture of robots and AI. After worrying about the effect that new technologies can have on human relationships, she founded the Campaign against sex robots, who argues that the development of sex robots could reduce human empathy. She is also concerned that over reliance on digital devices for social and sexual interactions could lead to the objectification of women and exposure to extreme sexual behavior.
“From a sociological perspective, young people were already engaging in less face-to-face interactions, but now they’re being pushed to connect with others exclusively online,” she says. “Allowing pornography to be disseminated directly to users or to people who engage in online interactions has dramatically changed the way sex and sexuality are mediated and practiced in society and has led to a proliferation of harmful sexual practices. .. sex and sexuality have always been mediated by social and cultural mores, however, what has changed is the amount of external influences that shape sex and sexuality today.
So could we possibly live in a world where online intimacy trumps real love? Where are sex robots our closest companions, and are all of our interactions behind a screen? And if we did, would reality be as bad as Richardson feared? According to Kate devlin, senior lecturer in social and cultural artificial intelligence at King’s College London, fears robots devouring our romantic lives are unnecessary.
“The headlines suggest that sex robots are inevitable and unavoidable,” she says. “But the reality is, they’re incredibly niche… there’s a lot of fear that human-human relationships will somehow be replaced, but I don’t think that’s likely. We humans are wired to search for other humans.
It looks like sex technology could be an inevitable fusion of the digital world we live in and a basic human desire. But for Devlin, that certainly doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
“Hopefully the future of sex technology becomes more and more customizable and personalized – something that works for us as individuals, regardless of our body type,” she says. “There are big companies that are making sex technology accessible and breaking taboos… And imagine a pandemic where we didn’t have the internet. I think we’re really lucky… if people find solace and companionship in technology, then who are we to judge? “