Sex technology includes sex toys, wearable devices, virtual reality and robots. It has the power to change our lives and be a force for good by helping us explore our sexuality and strengthen intimacy and connection with our partners. It also raises issues of confidentiality and consent. Although there are some sextech technologies currently on the market, they are very expensive, said Dr. Lemailer, who expects them to become more commonplace in the next 10 to 20 years.
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The Future of Everything spoke with Dr. Lechmiller about the next generation of sex toys, the evolution of touch, and the potential risks of virtual sex.
is the future of sex technology?
Yes, as most other areas of our lives, including work and relationships, become virtual. And while this technology is being developed for financial gain, we can also benefit from it. For example, we know that novelty is necessary in sexual and romantic life. Studies show that the happiest couples are those who try new things in and out of the bedroom. People crave novelty, and this is true when you share something new with your partner.
Justin Lemailer expects Sextec to become mainstream in the next ten to twenty years.
Rachel Talia Fisher of The Wall Street Journal.
Let’s talk about sex toys.
Some toys are for intimacy, not just sex. The robots will be able to hold your hand or provide other reassuring options. There are already devices like Kissenger that allow you to send your partner a kiss from a distance. You place your lips on the artificial mouth and kiss it, and the ownership of that kiss is transferred to your partner’s device. We’re working on a pillow that transmits the partner’s heartbeat. So when they sleep somewhere else, you can still be deeply connected to them because you can hear and feel their heartbeat.
There are now remote-controlled toys that allow for sexy hands-free communication – you can use them alone or your partner can control them remotely. And the future will be even more interesting. Some doctors implant electrodes near the spinal cord to induce orgasm by pressing a button. This technology can help people with disabilities or those who have difficulty reaching orgasm. But it runs the risk of becoming a crutch, and instead of trying to cultivate a satisfying sexual experience, people go straight for the climax.
Is our sex life becoming more virtual?
The question is to what extent VR technology will become accessible. It will be possible to customize what you see, who your partner is, what activities take place. Your partner can be anyone, anywhere in the world – even an ex-partner or a deceased spouse. And you can present yourself however you want. In my research on fantasies, I discover that many people fantasize about becoming a different person or changing their bodies.
Plus, in VR you can try things that you might not dare to do in real life. It can allow people to explore their sexuality, share their fantasies with their partner, or help their partner get to know them. Technology can reduce infidelity by allowing people to explore their fantasies or interact with others in VR without breaking the bonds of monogamy in the real world. Of course, all this may change the definition of cheating, and some people may not distinguish between virtual and real infidelity.
Dr. Lemailer says he hopes technology will serve as a complement to our sex lives, not a replacement.
Rachel Talia Fisher of The Wall Street Journal.
What are the disadvantages of VR sex?
One is how we handle consent and whether it’s appropriate to bring someone you like into your virtual sex world. Do you need someone’s permission to have virtual sex with them? Another disadvantage is that we do not know what the effect of participating in a virtual fantasy will be. If someone takes a virtual action that would be illegal in real life, does that expand their imagination and make them want to play in the real world?
I think the issue of privacy is also very important. Whatever you do in the virtual world, it leaves a digital footprint. Who has access to it? What happens if your sexual information is hacked and made public?
We need to consider the long-term implications. If people consider virtual sex more important than real sex, how does that affect fertility and the survival of our species? Another question is how it affects the quality of our relationships with others – does it alienate us or reduce our empathy?
Will we be in touch in the future?
Yes. Touch is a vital human need – there is nothing that can truly replicate it. Skin contact releases oxytocin and has a physiological effect that makes us feel connected, comfortable and reassured. Does the affectionate robot release oxytocin? We don’t know. But assuming robot touch does not cause the same changes in the body and brain, the need for touch does not disappear.
Will we all have sex with robots?
We are the gateway to the versions you see in science fiction movies. What they’re going to do is have robots with some sort of artificial intelligence that actually respond to you. They have a built-in heating element that allows them to warm the hands. When they touch you, they feel more like people. They have personality and you can adapt them to your needs. They will respond to you and interact with you like a real person.
I don’t think sex robots are for everyone. But they can enable people with problems in human interaction to have sex. They can help combat loneliness.
The robots look scary. What’s bothering you?
Big question: Who makes these programs? Do they develop them to meet our needs, or do they impose their sexual beliefs and values on us?
But we’re still going to have sex with someone else, right?
I hope so. Hopefully, we will use these objects as a supplement to our intimate lives, not a replacement – as a way to explore and add something new to our fantasies, but not to replace the human experience.
The interview has been shortened and edited.
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