In­tro­duc­ing the world of sex tech­nol­ogy

From ro­bots to Toronto-based apps for ev­ery­thing from three­somes to toy de­liv­ery

Annex Post - - CURRENTS - DR. JESS

Look­ing for a ca­sual hookup down­town or a three­some north of Bloor? How about a sex ther­a­pist in the An­nex or a vi­bra­tor de­liv­ered be­fore lunch? What­ever your needs, there’s an app for that, and sev­eral of those apps are home­grown.

The Happy Touch app, for ex­am­ple, con­nects you to “plea­sure prac­ti­tion­ers” — from holis­tic sex ed­u­ca­tors to cer­ti­fied coun­sel­lors — with the touch of a but­ton. HotMe.ca, also based in the GTA, is of­fer­ing sex toy de­liv­ery within the hour. From main­stream apps like Tin­der (and Tin­der Se­lect) and Bum­ble to niche ver­sions like Feeld (for three­somes) and Happn (which con­nects you to peo­ple you’ve crossed paths with lo­cally — my favourite!), sex­ual con­nec­tions abound on­line.

Toron­to­ni­ans use tech­nol­ogy for more than just hook­ing up, and cou­ples con­tinue to in­te­grate tech into their re­la­tion­ships.

“I’d say about half of the sex I’m hav­ing these days is on­line,” says mid­town res­i­dent Nancy*. “Since my di­vorce, I’ve dis­cov­ered a whole new world and it’s not just about dat­ing.” Nancy says the sex is bet­ter on­line be­cause you’re forced to be more creative. “It’s not all about fin­ish­ing. Guys on­line seem to take their time, and we do other stuff that we prob­a­bly wouldn’t have tried in per­son to be­gin with. Some­times it’s a strip­tease in the dark, and the cam­era fil­ters enough that you feel less self-con­scious, and some­times it’s sex with a toy that he con­trols re­motely from his phone.”

Cana­dian brand We-Vibe helped to pi­o­neer sex tech in the adult in­dus­try over the past decade. Many of their prod­ucts (from wear­able Gspot vibes to bul­let vibes and pe­nis rings) can be con­trolled from any­where in the world us­ing their app, and you can even pro­gram the vi­bra­tions to hum to the beat of your favourite song.

“We in­vested in sex tech af­ter see­ing the tremen­dous po­ten­tial to con­nect cou­ples re­gard­less of the dis­tance be­tween them,” ex­plains We-Vibe spokesper­son Denny Alexan­der. “We launched our WeCon­nect app in 2014 and have seen tremen­dous de­mand from cus­tomers for more sex tech.”

Be­yond app-en­abled vi­bra­tors, the sex tech in­dus­try is de­vel­op­ing tech­nol­ogy that fa­cil­i­tates com­mu­ni­ca­tion, in­ti­macy and sex­ual health. Pro­grams like InTheMoodApp.com and Happy Cou­ple al­low cou­ples to sched­ule sex and dis­cuss de­sires, bound­aries and fan­tasies in a play­ful and safe way, and prod­ucts like the OhNut help to ad­dress sex­ual pain. Mul­ti­ple plat­forms in­clud­ing TalkTabu.com and O.school pro­vide free on­line sex ed­u­ca­tion that is in­clu­sive and ad­dresses in­ter­sec­tional is­sues re­lated to age, gen­der iden­tity, in­come, race and abil­ity that tra­di­tional sex ed­u­ca­tion tends to ig­nore.

Video-synced toys are also un­der de­vel­op­ment so that you can feel the move­ments you’re watch­ing on­screen via toys like the Flesh­light, and in­no­va­tors prom­ise in­te­gra­tions with other toys in the up­com­ing year. The field of teledil­don­ics con­tin­ues to grow with sex ro­bot de­vel­op­ers in­te­grat­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence into their lat­est pro­to­types. There are, of course, eth­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions to sexbots, but ex­perts, like Neil McArthur, co-ed­i­tor of Ro­bot Sex: So­cial and Eth­i­cal Im­pli­ca­tions (MIT Press), be­lieve that they may have the po­ten­tial to en­hance re­la­tion­ships — es­pe­cially those in which sex is the pri­mary strug­gle.

“Even the most com­pat­i­ble cou­ples aren’t go­ing to be in sync about that all the time. Ro­bots let peo­ple in re­la­tion­ships have as much sex as they want, when they want, what­ever kind they want, with­out al­ways hav­ing to put pres­sure on their part­ner.”

Sex­ual health care has also gone dig­i­tal across Canada. Toron­to­based @GetMaple, an app that al­lows you to see a doc­tor on­line within min­utes, is par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive to pa­tients with sex­ual health con­cerns.

“Pa­tients of­ten see sex­ual health is­sues as ur­gent and sen­si­tive or em­bar­rass­ing, so they may not want to go to the clinic,” says Dr. Brett Belchetz, ER physi­cian and co-founder and CEO at Maple. “See­ing a doc­tor dig­i­tally feels more pri­vate, and they don’t have to face a wait­ing room where they have to tell their is­sue to a re­cep­tion­ist.”

So what does the fu­ture hold for sex tech? Ac­cord­ing to McArthur, we’ll see more imag­i­na­tive in­no­va­tions that are less tra­di­tion­ally gen­dered and not ex­clu­sively hu­manoid. This means more char­ac­ters, mys­ti­cal crea­tures and im­mer­sive en­vi­ron­ments.

“Robotics and vir­tual re­al­ity will be­come more in­te­grated, so that you in­ter­act with vir­tual en­vi­ron­ments that are in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated,” he says.

The way I see it, vir­tual ex­pe­ri­ences need not de­tract from in-per­son ones, but rather have the po­ten­tial to en­hance them. Af­ter all, if I’m go­ing to don my VR gog­gles to ride a vi­brat­ing uni­corn through a glow­ing for­est of gi­ant sun­flow­ers, I’d rather do it with my part­ner than on my own.

*Names have been changed and re­la­tion­ship de­tails have been shared with per­mis­sion from all par­ties.

Jess O’Reilly is a sought-af­ter speaker, author and sex­ol­o­gist (www.SexWithDrJess.com).

Won­der­ing what a sex ro­bot looks like? Here’s an ex­am­ple.

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