Sex tech made the news again, this time it was MTV spouting off on the “evolution” of sex. I say “spouting off” because while columnist Tess Barker may be clever & know her tech, I’m not sure if is all that sex savvy. She writes:
The old version of phone sex was always a little ridiculous, but “teledildonic” devices such as We-Vibe (along with its We-Connect app) and OhMiBod allow partners to create pleasurable vibrations from afar. These days, distance can make more than the heart grow fonder.
What’s ridiculous about “the old version” of phone sex, Barker? Talking together, be it dirty fantasy play or emotionally intimate talk, can lead to a mind blowing, orgasmic, thrilling fuck fest; because while it may employ individual masturbation it also engages the mightiest sex organ of them all, The Brain, via the ultimate connection ~ a human one.
While your partner may not be able to touch your body via phone sex, they can touch your mind. You can share a sexy mind meld, with or without the Star Trek role play.
As for the “teledildonics”, there are other ways to achieve that without pushing a button on an app; play control freak with your partner’s mind and tell them the what, where, when, why, and how of the masturabatory action. Be it their hand or a toy, controlling the scene and the action is hot. Super hot.
Unless that’s what you’re into. Maybe you really like to monkey around; I don’t want to judge.
But just as two minds may be better than one, two minds may also be better than one and a trendy bit of sex tech.
Science and technology will make innovations in sexual toys and, once they figure out the truth of the female body, even perhaps in sexuality itself ~ but, as I’ve said before, it won’t replace the human components. It can’t.
Sex with robots will be no more therapeutic in its release than a vibrator made 130 years ago. The stimulation of our genitalia occurs, but what of our brains, minds and souls?
Sure, I admit that technology & culture are fluid bump-and-grind influencers, driving everything from changes in actual human needs to the “Because we can!” advancement mentality.
A case in point is Invisible Boyfriend (and sister site, Invisible Girlfriend). Make no mistake; the idea behind such services is not to provide human companionship, but to help the client lie to well-meaning family & friends by offering “proof” of a non-existent relationship partner. You know, to get mom off your back about being single. For a monthly fee, the platforms promise “virtual and real-world social proof” of your invisible “relationship” via texts, voicemails, and even snailmail. Mark Wilson gave it a try and found the experience, well, I’ll say a bit clumsy:
Syntax problems. Lazy wikipediaing. Look, I knew my invisible girlfriend was fake, but I began picturing what must be going on here—thousands of people typing out text messages, many pretending to be another gender, in a strange symphony of digital escorts.
Wilson’s description of his experience isn’t far off the technical reality, as he explains:
[I] learn that Invisible Boyfriend relies a bit on the artificial intelligence of chat bots, but most requests are handled another way: The St. Louis startup has teamed up with a fellow St. Louis company named Crowdsource, which manages a frontend interface to Amazon’s mechanical turk. That means Invisible Boyfriend sends your texts to a sea of micro laborers, who pick up all sorts tiny tasks during the day. They see very basic information about the character they play and text you back.
Again, in defense of Invisible Boyfriend & Invisible Girlfriend, co-founder Matthew Homann has clearly stated, “We’re not trying to help you believe you’re in a relationship. We’re trying to provide that proof [to others].” And, in fact, the sites themselves address the issue of “love” in the FAQs:
My Invisible Boyfriend… will I love him?
Seems a bit far-fetched, and a sit down between you and Jerry Springer may not be out of the question.
But nevertheless, the issue of technology ~ even that designed to meet a human “need” (I use quotes because I still don’t get the need to lie about being happily single) ~ has some issues. Not just the clumsiness of new technology, but the reality of being able to meet the human desire for connection. More from Wilson’s article:
Homann says that some early beta testers can get quite attached to their invisible partners. He describes one woman who has had an invisible boyfriend for a month and a half now. She flirts with him, but she tells him secrets, too. She’ll even ask him questions, like Siri, about movies playing in the neighborhood. (Homann says that’s an off-label use, but there’s no reason a mechanical turk can’t Google something for you.)
…”Even though I know how it works, behind the curtain, when I get a text message, I feel compelled to respond,” [Homann] says. “Technology has compelled us to respond even when it’s not necessary.”
These comments evoke visions of the film Her, in which—minor spoiler—humanity is overcome by the virtual companionship of conversational software. Right now there are limiters in place. The mechanical turk makes a lousy companion. And you can’t sext—guidelines prohibit the turk from responding to explicit content.
Which prompts the question: Should Invisible Boyfriend be thinking beyond the novelty factor? Could you fall in love with an Invisible Boyfriend? Or, could you at least sext with him? “If the marketplace wants to demand something, we certainly have the capability to deliver it,” Homann says. “We can train a workforce comfortable with adult-themed content, but it’s not something we’re trying to do now.”
While Homann likely ponders the quest for money from all sides (including both the large sums to be made from adult entertainment as well as the negative aspects of getting funding with an “adult” label), Wilson nearly hits the nail on the head:
Telephone based for-hire companionship—be it sexual or conversational—certainly isn’t a new idea. Invisible Boyfriend’s $25/100 text message premise isn’t so far from the pay-per-minute 1-900 psychics and phone sex lines of yesteryear. The business model might be similar, but the social experience is admittedly different. Those were 1:1 conversations with real people.
Yes, the one-on-one is the vital part. It’s the real human connection that matters here; even when naughty bits aren’t touching, we want to know we are in touch with another person. This is something many phone sex operators know well. And not just those of “yesteryear”, but those who thrive today, many of whom have expanded their phone sex to be true digital courtesans.
This desire to connect, human to human, isn’t limited to body parts only. Not even when we just want to get off. And the tech world, its columnists included, would be wise to realize it.
PS Also, please stop bashing everything that’s “old” or from “yesteryear”; doggy-style & missionary have been around forever and they still fuckin’ work.
Image Credits: Romantic robots, Steadfast & True by Leuckit.