VR Porn Is Ready for Its Money Shot But are you?

In the next 18 months, vir­tu­al­re­al­ity head­sets will change the way your part­ner – and you – have sex (as well as the peo­ple you have it with). Joe Mad­den pops one on for size

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

SIT­TING IN A WHITE-WALLED VILLA, I look down at ‘my’ body. I am perched on a metal chair and (rather un­usu­ally for me) wear­ing a white T-shirt and black trousers. Stranger still is that, kneel­ing in front of me, is a beau­ti­ful nun. She looks up and catches my gaze. Then she starts to talk in breathy, lusty tones. She says some­thing about want­ing to con­fess ‘im­pure thoughts’ to me, be­fore ex­plain­ing how she wants to make amends for them. She reaches out.

I watch her un­zip ‘my’ black trousers, pop out ‘my’ erec­tion and then start do­ing … well, you know what. ‘Am I do­ing it right? I hope I’m good enough for you…’

I’ve never har­boured a nun fetish, but I’m soon feel­ing the fa­mil­iar, heavy buzz of arousal. This has to stop. I pull off the head­set that has trans­ported me into this most sur­real of sce­nar­ios (one I’m em­bar­rass­ingly help­less to re­sist) and, bam, I’m back in a sunny, coastal-view apart­ment on the out­skirts of Barcelona.

HOW DO I AC­CESS VR PORN FROM A FE­MALE POV? Ac­cord­ing to BaDoink, fe­malePOV VR porn is in the works, but isn’ t widely avail­able. That said, at the time of print, Wankzvr had just launched its fe­male- POV VR porn in the be­tat­est ing phase, which means some of it can be down­loaded for free or at a dis­count. Visit Wankzvr. com/ fe­malepov to find out more.

Just min­utes be­fore, a man called Xavi Clos from porn-pro­duc­tion com­pany BaDoink had low­ered a Sam­sung Gear vir­tual re­al­ity ( VR) head­set onto me. He’d grinned, like he was about to blow my mind – which is ex­actly what he did.

Now, a few me­tres away, he’s chuck­ling. I couldn’t phys­i­cally feel the blow job, ob­vi­ously, but the sights and sounds were so real that I had to stop be­fore things got out of hand. I’m ric­o­chet­ing be­tween feel­ing amazed, amused, dis­turbed and more than a lit­tle guilty. I have a long-term girl­friend – did I, uh, just sort of cheat on her? Be­cause that went way be­yond the pas­sive ex­pe­ri­ence of con­sum­ing porn – it was in­ti­mate, in­ter­ac­tive and im­mer­sive, and I was a cen­tral, ac­tive part of it.

When I tell my girl­friend about the ex­pe­ri­ence later that day, she ad­mits to feel­ing un­set­tled and an­gered. Thank­fully I get a pass be­cause, you know, jour­nal­ism. But it’s a deeply awk­ward con­ver­sa­tion – and one that in­creas­ing num­bers of peo­ple are go­ing to be hav­ing, be­cause VR porn is ex­plod­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, which means a lot of part­ners are about to be un­know­ingly walked in on while did­dling away with a head­set on. BaDoink can barely keep up with its sky­rock­et­ing (94% male) mem­ber­ship.

The en­try costs are next to noth­ing: a head­set is no longer the flashy play­thing of wealthy early adopters. Sure, you could blow R10K on a swanky Ocu­lus Rift head­set – but you can also pick up a Google Card­board de­vice for about R165. Slot in your smart­phone and you’re away. In fact, 23% of BaDoink mem­bers use the lat­ter lo-fi method to get their vir­tual rocks off*.

‘Our mem­ber­ship num­bers dou­ble ev­ery month,’ says Clos, who acts as BaDoink’s head of pro­duc­tion. ‘Christ­mas 2016 caused a huge spike be­cause a lot of guys got head­sets as gifts – but 2017 is the year VR porn really takes off.’

The dif­fer­ence be­tween VR porn and ‘ tra­di­tional’ porn can be il­lus­trated by the heart­break­ing needs of its most com­mit­ted users. ‘We ask users for feed­back, and they al­ways want more in­ti­macy in the scenes,’ says Clos. ‘ They want the girls to lean in, kiss them, whis­per in their ear. Not what you’d ex­pect from porn, right?’ Some­thing like pity must be reg­is­ter­ing on my face, be­cause Clos chuck­les. ‘I mean, hey, maybe it’s a lit­tle sad,’ he says. ‘But then, guys can sleep with girls they wouldn’t usu­ally have a chance with, so that’s great, right?’

The sex­ual in­ter­course – non­vir­tual, real-world sex­ual in­ter­course – has started up again, just a few me­tres away. I should per­haps ex­plain that I am cur­rently on set for BaDoink’s lat­est VR pro­duc­tion.

Noth­ing gets peo­ple be­hind a new tech­nol­ogy like sex

There’d been a break in film­ing to snap pro­mo­tional stills of the ac­tors, Katana and Joel. To main­tain Joel’s all-im­por­tant erec­tion, a cum shot had been faked by smear­ing his pe­nis and Katana’s face with gloopy antacid medicine. Now, how­ever, they’re right back at it. I’m once again un­sure as to where to look. My feet? The ceil­ing? Di­rectly into the eye of the ac­tion?

Joel and Katana’s sex – while ex­pertly ath­letic – is a lit­tle awk­ward. In or­der to achieve the point- of-view shot nec­es­sary for VR, the cam­eras – a pair of GoPros fit­ted with spe­cial lenses – are placed di­rectly in front of Joel’s head. He must re­main com­pletely silent and sta­tion­ary, keep­ing his hands out of shot so as not to break the viewer’s il­lu­sion of ‘be­ing there’. He is, ba­si­cally, no more than an erec­tion with a GoPro.

There’s an­other break in film­ing, and I ask Katana how she feels about this new-found style. ‘I’d pre­fer to shoot stan­dard porn,’ she shrugs, while I stare very, very in­tently into her eyes to coun­ter­act the fact that she has no pants on. ‘You can see that there’s not much in­ter­ac­tion, and it’s strange speak­ing into the cam­eras. But that’s the job, right?’

I grab a mo­ment with Di­no­rah Her­nan­dez, BaDoink’s con­tent man­ager and the di­rec­tor of to­day’s scene. Smart and darkly funny, Her­nan­dez car­ries the wea­ried air of some­one who’s had way too many work days go south due to a flac­cid pe­nis. Does she fore­see VR porn’s im­mi­nent ex­plo­sion re­sult­ing in mass re­la­tion­ship strife? ‘It’s an in­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence, and I get how some peo­ple might find it kind of “adul­ter­ous”,’ she ad­mits. ‘But then I’ve heard of cou­ples us­ing VR porn to­gether: they both load up the same scene, from the male and fe­male points of view, put head­sets on and watch it si­mul­ta­ne­ously.’ Just pic­ture that sce­nario for a mo­ment, will you?

It was once thought that gam­ing would be the driv­ing force be­hind VR’s pop­u­lar­i­sa­tion – un­til it be­came ap­par­ent that it was im­pos­si­ble to de­pict move­ment with­out in­duc­ing se­ri­ous mo­tion sick­ness. There’s not much fun to be had in play­ing en­tirely static games, so that – for the mo­ment, at least – is that. Porn is now the ma­jor driv­ing force be­hind VR’s mass adop­tion, just as it was for VHS, dig­i­tal cam­corders and the In­ter­net. Noth­ing gets peo­ple be­hind a new tech­nol­ogy like sex.

VR does at­tract tal­ent and in­vest­ment from the games in­dus­try – but for strictly X-rated rea­sons. One such ship-jumper is Daniel Di­lallo, who made his name work­ing on gam­ing mega-brands such as Gui­tar Hero and Call Of Duty. Di­lallo now co-runs a buzze­dover start-up called VRClubz, and is us­ing his tech­ni­cal knowhow to build high-end VR strip clubs. I’m Skyp­ing with Di­lallo and his busi­ness part­ner, Jimmy Hess, who are both brim­ming with ex­cite­ment over the im­mi­nent launch of their first venue – a painstak­ing VR re­cre­ation of San Fran­cisco’s famed Gold Club, a glossy, pricey strip joint fre­quented by techin­dus­try high rollers.

‘What we’re do­ing with VRClubz is repli­cat­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of vis­it­ing a bricks-and-mor­tar strip club,’ says Di­lallo. ‘We re­pro­duced ev­ery room of the Gold Club to a tee, in 360° 3D, and com­bined that with hours and hours of VR footage of the hottest dancers in the world.

‘You en­ter the club, and the front- desk host­ess greets you and leads you in­side. From there, you’re into full-on im­mer­sion: there are girls at the bar, dancers on plat­forms and stages, bar­tenders, DJs. You can buy a drink, choose your seat, visit the VIP room, hit the ATM, “make it rain”… It’s the com­plete ex­pe­ri­ence.’

‘Ev­ery­one’s ex­cited about VR porn right now,’ adds Hess. ‘But for us, VR has the po­ten­tial to be so much more. It’s about par­tic­i­pat­ing in – not just watch­ing – sce­nar­ios that you never dreamed pos­si­ble. That’s what VR is be­com­ing, and that’s what we’re fo­cused on now.’

At the mo­ment, VRClubz – and the VR porn in­dus­try as a whole – is geared al­most en­tirely to­wards (sur­prise, sur­prise) straight males. Mar­ket re­search in­di­cates that 96% of con­sumers are men*, which means that fe­male-fo­cused con­tent just isn’t com­mer­cially vi­able – yet.

‘We are cur­rently look­ing for the right male-dancer club to recre­ate in VR, and of­fer that Magic Mike- style ex­pe­ri­ence,’ says Hess. Want to feel like you’re cen­time­tres from a ripped fire­man who’s gy­rat­ing naked, with­out leav­ing the com­fort of your sofa? Some of the smartest minds in tech are striv­ing right now to make that hap­pen for you.

With more than 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence un­der his belt, Robert Weiss is a noted ex­pert on sex and in­ti­macy is­sues unique to these postIn­ter­net times. He’s set up ther­apy pro­grammes at more than a dozen US re­hab cen­tres and has au­thored sev­eral sex dis­or­der-re­lated books – in­clud­ing Al­ways Turned On: Sex Ad­dic­tion In The Dig­i­tal Age. When I ask how he feels about VR porn’s im­mi­nent om­nipres­ence, his re­sponse is wary – but not apoc­a­lyp­tic.

‘We can only spec­u­late about the last­ing ef­fects of VR porn,’ he says. ‘But with ev­ery new ad­vance in dig­i­tal sexnol­ogy, ev­i­dence strongly sug­gests more and more peo­ple are chal­lenged by sex­ual ad­dic­tion and porn-re­lated in­ti­macy is­sues, and that these is­sues are tech-re­lated.’ Thank­fully, the prog­no­sis isn’t fa­tal. Most peo­ple, Weiss says, should be able to en­joy cy­ber-sex­ual ac­tiv­ity with­out be­com­ing ad­dicted – just as most peo­ple are able to en­joy things such as al­co­hol, gam­bling, video gam­ing and recre­ational drugs with­out get­ting hooked. ‘For the most part, it’s only peo­ple who are in­her­ently vul­ner­a­ble

to ad­dic­tions and psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­or­ders (usu­ally thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of ge­net­ics and un­re­solved trauma) who strug­gle.

‘Hu­man be­ings are adapt­able. The vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple will ac­cept VR, adapt to it, and learn to use it in healthy ways. Oth­ers will strug­gle. The peo­ple who adapt will sur­vive and thrive; those who don’t, won’t.’

But those who don’t – what be­comes of them? VR porn is so all­con­sum­ing, so re­al­ity-block­ing, that it’s not dif­fi­cult to imag­ine some­one who’s go­ing through a rough patch – the af­ter­math of a breakup, for ex­am­ple – re­treat­ing into that care­free, numb­ing world far more than is healthy. And while it’s fair to say that many peo­ple in longterm re­la­tion­ships ac­cept that their part­ner uses porn when alone, will they be as ac­cept­ing of their part­ner reg­u­larly get­ting his rocks off, one-on-one, with vir­tual hot­ties?

If you just can’t imag­ine your man get­ting all steamed up with a head­set on, con­sider that, just 20 years ago, mas­tur­bat­ing in front of a com­puter screen was con­sid­ered be­yond the pale. Just 10 years ago, mas­tur­bat­ing while watch­ing a phone screen was thought of in the same way.

It’s the day af­ter Joel and Katana’s shoot, and I’m at BaDoink’s slick of­fices in Barcelona’s city cen­tre. Clos has fired up BaDoink’s most pop­u­lar ti­tle – a guide to bet­ter love­mak­ing, en­ti­tled Vir­tual Sex­ol­ogy – and Her­nan­dez has lent me her Ocu­lus Rift head­set to watch it on. The ex­pen­sive Rift is a se­ri­ous step up from the more ba­sic Sam­sung Gear I tried yes­ter­day. The im­mer­sion is over­whelm­ing and leaves me id­i­ot­i­cally slack-jawed.

I’m in a bland, up­mar­ket ho­tel room. Porn star Au­gust Ames rises from a four-poster bed and shim­mies to­wards me, trac­ing the out­line of her breast through a half-un­but­toned blouse. A fe­male nar­ra­tor is ex­tolling the virtues of deep, con­trolled breath­ing dur­ing sex, and Ames is now cen­time­tres from my face, demon­strat­ing said tech­nique. Now she’s un­do­ing her blouse, moan­ing and pur­ring, star­ing into my eyes … and, dammit, I can’t help but be drawn in. I yank the Rift from my head, again un­will­ing to risk a pub­lic tumes­cence. ‘Yeah, that’s, uh…’ I man­age to stam­mer. Her­nan­dez and Clos are chuck­ling.

Her­nan­dez has am­bi­tious plans for where BaDoink goes next. ‘I’d like to cre­ate a series with a story run­ning through it,’ she says. ‘So it’s not al­ways these one- off, 20-minute sce­nar­ios. And we’re look­ing at VR porn for women, but the chal­lenge is that, un­like men, women don’t have ex­ter­nal gen­i­tals. If you look down at pen­e­tra­tive sex in VR from a fe­male point of view, you can’t see what’s “hap­pen­ing”. But there are ways around that – if you shoot with a very flex­i­ble model.’ Oh my.

Her­nan­dez and Clos are aware that we stand right on the precipice of the world be­ing for­ever changed by what they’re pi­o­neer­ing. ‘Oh, this is the fu­ture,’ says Clos with ca­sual con­fi­dence. ‘Once peo­ple try VR porn, that’s it. They don’t ever go back.’ ■

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.