I’ve been pondering sex the last couple of days. I do know that there are those of you in the audience, of course, that are saying right now, “A couple days? I thought it was your way of life?”
Be that as it may, let me get a show of hands: “Is there anyone out there who still isn’t convinced that without the influx of money from porn, they wouldn’t be reading this on the web right now?”
Oh, you–the guy in the white shirt in the back row who came here to read about polygamy. Tell you what, I’ve got this lovely ‘65 Les Paul guitar for you for only $3000. If you don’t want that, I’ve got a unicorn hair for only $2000–make you live forever, it will.
Let’s talk about masturbation, “hooking up” virtually and all kinds of wonderful non-procreative sex for a while. We’re in the middle of a technological and societal revolution, and before we know it, it’s going to change the way that men and women relate to each other forever.
What started me on this particular round of pondering was this article from C/Net News about a new virtual sex device for men that uses a computer and DVD with an additional track to run the machine. While viewers have been using computers to provide themselves with textual and visual stimulation at least since the start of USENET, (which last time I checked still had 464 different newsgroups in the alt.sex.* category,) this is the first time that I have seen a commercial device set up to provide a true “cybersex” experience for men. I find it fascinating that this is a traditional garage start-up tech company.
The Sinulator, for women is a few years older, and has an interface for the sending end that looks a lot like a racing control for a Playstation 3. It has a small but fervent following in the Webcam community. The revolution for women, on the other hand, is not only in technology, but in distribution and acquistion, as well. I’ll get to that in a little bit.
At the moment, there is a legal battle going on over in Second Life over the theft of some software that allows the avatars of the virtual space to, well, “do it.” It is possible that this theft could cost the designer thousands of dollars in business if the pirated software was distributed widely.
So, in my pondering, I’ve ended up with some questions that I’d like to put out to the readership for discussion:
How is the popularity and easy availability of sex toys for women changing how they relate to each other and to men?
Pure Romance is a $60 million business based in Ohio that has, with its 15,000 consultants nationwide, changed the way in which women buy and use sex toys. Operated similarly to Tupperware parties, the consultants bring demo models of the latest developments in stimulating devices to the homes of customers for all-women parties. While the sale of sex toys is still illegal in a number of states (Texas and Alabama being the most-often mentioned cases,) the parties have spread in popularity among groups of women ranging from the Hollywood A-List to the girls in the trailer-park behind the diner in small-town America.
The consultants don’t just provide toys, lotions and scents, though. They also provide a pro-sex attitude that some of the women at the parties have never experienced before. Women in their sixties have been able to ask questions that have been puzzling them for decades about their sexuality. Young women, just out of their teens, are finding out that they’re not the first generation to discover sex and that their grandmothers have done things that would give them the gosh-willies.
The kind of gender power-structure that has been present in America since the first sexual revolution of the 20th Century in the 1920s has been that women have power because they possess the sex for which men are willing to provide material goods and security in exchange. Only in the 1960s, when female-controlled contraception appeared, were the stakes lowered enough for women to begin to truly examine the necessity for their pleasure as well.
This new, empowering distribution of the means of pleasure now uncouples men from the process completely. There are many, many customers of Pure Romance who are married. In many cases, their husbands are consulted during the ordering process, so they are certain to get something out of the whole process. However, the emphasis is on maximizing the pleasure for the women involved and that decision rests solely in the hands of those women.
Will superior cybersex for men lower the amount of power women hold over men?
There is, of course, the other side of the coin. Men, in many cases, tolerate behavior from women that would get another man slugged at worst or shunned at best simply because they are desperate for the sex that the women could possibly provide. In the worst possible cases, men (particularly naive ones) actually marry completely incompatible women simply because of that sex. Often these women are discarded for a younger model when their beauty and sex-appeal begin to fade and the man has become successful enough to extend the age range of his attractiveness.
Right now, however, there’s a competitor for that younger woman. There are a growing number of men who are being termed “porn addicts,” since they are seen as neglecting their wives, who are pining away in the bedroom, for the glowing screen in the den and no-strings sex with a webcam girl or downloaded movie.
I don’t think it’s an addiction, whatsoever. What it is is a case where the sex with the machine is superior to the sex in the bedroom for the man. This kind of “addiction” seems to be very prevalent in those parts of our culture where men have been coerced into marriage in order to get sex in the first place–fundamentalists have been shown to be so prone that some churches are taking part in the “elephant in the pew” movement this month to combat this “perversion.” It can best be summed up by the phrase, “the fucking he’s getting is not worth the fucking he’s getting.”
What I feel will take place, as virtual sex gets better and better, is that women and men will be forced into a situation where they will have to negotiate their relationships, for the first time in human history, without the dichotomy of power that has existed up to now. It is possible that when couples (or more, can’t forget us poly people) get together in the future, it will be more likely that it will be out of mutual respect and love, rather than fleeting sexual desire.
Is cyberphilia an indication of a new gender?
As the available technology of virtual sex advances, there are going to be those individuals who consistently prefer the stimulation of the cyber-world over that of the squishy, smelly, troublesome real world. We will need to move beyond thinking of these individuals as obsessed, addicted (keeping in mind that the Victorian concept of hysteria is that of a woman who had the ability to become sexually stimulated) or lacking the ability to interact with other human beings.
Instead, we can think of a new gender that is primarily attracted to machines–a technosexual, so to speak. It is interesting to think of the potential intersection of this new gender with the growing number of individuals who would be, at the same time, adopting wearable or permanent hardware. Would it be possible that the most attractive thing about the young woman at the bar would be the 24/7 earpiece that she is wearing or the under-the-skin computer processor that was surgically implanted? What would sex be like between two individuals with VR glasses and stim suits that do not touch at all, but still hump like rabbits two or three times per day?
What’s the next step beyond these?
This new change is the third big change in sexuality that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I was born into the artificially repressed world of the 1950s, with the unnatural nuclear families born of the suburbs and superhighways. When the Pill, feminism and gay rights arrived in the 1960s, I watched a hedonistic society spiral to a point where having sex was approximately equivalent to playing tennis–good exercise after which you took a shower. The Plague Years in the early 1980s put an end to that, with many of us in the more avant-garde circles losing up to ten percent of our friends.
Now, we’re on a platform powered by the cheap availablity of both cyber and bio-tech. Will people be able to choose new genders at will in a generation? Will they be able to switch back the next night? What about folks like Furries with an orientation that’s biologically possible to create, but completely out of the ordinary? And the biggest question of all…
What would a society be like in which everyone had as much sex as they wanted and needed every day?
Disclaimer: One of my wives currently sells Pure Romance products and I have written for their consultants’ magazine. While I do enjoy the products that she sells, this article in no way is an advertisement or endorsement of her business.