Nybbles & Bytes – The Coupling of Technology and Sex – Digisexuality

Nybbles & Bytes

The Coupling of Technology and Sex

virtual reality photo technology digisexuality


What is Digisexuality?

I recently spoke with Dr Neil McArthur, a philosophy and ethics Professor at the University of Manitoba. We talked about the fascinating emerging area of sexuality called “digisexuality”. Simply stated, it is the intersection of technology and sex. While he might be the first to use the term, I suspect we will be hearing more about it in the future. It describes how humans use advanced applications, such as computer programs and other technologies to make connections with others. Additionally, it encompasses the possibility of having sex without another partner at all.

During the conversation, Dr McArthur spoke of two waves of digisexuality as well as the possibility of this being an emerging sexual identity.

What is “First Wave”?

The first wave consists of those technologies that allow us to connect with a partner. The key is that there is someone else involved, whether they are physically present or not. This classification would include applications that assist us in meeting someone else, as well as those used to bring sexual pleasure to another being.

Examples of “First Wave” Technology:

We are already using many forms of “first wave” technology. When I started researching this topic, I reconsidered some of my own experiences. I needed to reframe my sexual life and realised that I am engaging in digisexuality on a regular basis. In fact, I entered into the local BDSM scene as a result of my use of technology for sexual gratification.

“First Wave” are technologies that involve another human. It serves as a means to connect or to augment the sexual experience.

If you consider the following examples, I am sure that you have experience with some of these technologies as well.

  • Sexting.
  • Dating and Hookup apps and websites are very popular ways to meet prospective partners.  Additionally, social media sites have come to serve the need of connection.  While they are not intended to be dating sites, people meet partners through these on-line networks.
  • People frequently use webcam and voice chat programs, such as Skype or PalTalk, for sexual purposes.
  • You know those remote controlled sexual aids?  The fancy name is teledildonics.
  • Websites like SecondLife allow people to interact and direct their avatars to engage with one another.
  • If you want to watch porn from the perspective on one of the participants, you can. Porn viewers can now access POV (point of view) pornography where they can choose whose eyes they wish to use. (This may be a Second Wave Tech.)

There are many examples of technology that is used to get off with someone else. People engaged in long-distance relationships, in particular, have found ways to make use of Smartphone and web-based applications to build and maintain their connection to one another.

And, “Second Wave”?

So, if the First Wave involves other people, Second Wave are those technologies that do not.

Examples of “Second Wave” Technology:
  • I think the technology that many people will think of first is sexbots or femme-bots. This fantasy is already classed as a fetish. Remember, a fetish is defined as sexual arousal over an inanimate object. @PreacherBear recommended a documentary entitled My Sex Robot.
  • Fully immersive Virtual Reality where you are interacting with and within a digital environment. Think Star Trek’s holodeck.
  • Virtual girlfriends, such as LovePlus. (I don’t know if they have a virtual boyfriend option). @Cypress, one of the hosts of The 3rd Rail, directed me towards a documentary called Dark Net (season 1, episode 1). In it, they discuss the impact that the Nintendo game is already having on young males in Japan. They are opting out of dating humans, instead choosing a digital partner who will never break their hearts.

Emerging Sexual Identity?

Drs McArthur and Twist included this possibility in their presentation on Digisexuality at The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Annual Conference in 2016. Say that ten times fast! Dr Twist sent me their presentation when they recommended I speak to Dr McArthur. This intrigued me. I believe that we can choose how we wish to identify ourselves, especially sexually.

I looked up the meaning of sexual identity, and this is how wikipedia defines the term:

“how one thinks of oneself in terms of to whom one is romantically or sexually attracted”

Based on that definition, a person could identify as a digisexual, especially when you consider the Second Wave. I use First Wave technologies a lot to cultivate and maintain relationships, but I don’t consider them a major factor in my sexual attraction. However, with the continued advancement of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, we are developing a new class of sexual partner. As I mentioned before, sexbots are already considered a bona fide fetish.

The Ethical Dilemma

As is usually the case, emerging technologies present ethical questions. Dark Net does a wonderful job of pointing out some of the challenges that we face with the ever advancing technology. With the advent of sexting, we see spurned lovers weaponizing the images as revenge porn. Every advancement has the potential for good use, and sadly for bad as well. Society and Lawmakers frequently struggle to keep up as we charge forward as rapidly as the science will allow.

Every emerging technology meets objections to its application. This is especially true when we throw sex into the mix. Society, by and large, still views sex as a procreative means and anything that could complicate that process meets great (and usually vocal) opposition. The vibrator, for example, was readily available and advertised in national magazines at the beginning of the 1900s, until they were used in stag films.

As Dr McArthur points out, these objections are not entirely without merit. However, the benefits are also substantial. I think we must dismiss the romanticised notion of sex and look at the potential benefits of sexual technology to society.

My thoughts

I see these technologies, yes, even the sexbots, as potentially positive. During the show, we talked about the objection that using sexbots could lead to a dissociation. People who fuck robots, especially in a rough manner, will consider degrading and violent sex the norm, leading to increased sexual violence. I think I heard this song before. While I cannot say for certain (we don’t actually have enough sexbots to make an observation), I believe it will be similar to pornography. The more accessible they are, violent crime statistics will drop. Rape isn’t about sex, it is about power. It is often about pent-up aggression with no means of release.

As long as we don’t give them personhood, robots could serve as a sexual surrogate for many people who cannot effectively engage with others. People with physical limitations or those who are hospitalised could make conjugal use of a robot. Long-term military deployments could include an army of sexbots.

If we approach animatronic sexual partners as an active extension of our sexual fantasies, they could also help people with paraphilias cope with their urges in a constructive way. Prison populations may see less violence among inmates if they can release their pent-up sexual aggression on a nonsentient device.

It’s the end of the world as we know it

The way we connect with others has been changing rapidly since the invention of the telegraph and the telephone. Other than telemarketers, will anyone argue that telecommunications have destroyed our lives? I won’t. Likewise, I see the potential benefits in digisexual technologies.

The Future of Sex

Without a doubt, we will see sex and technology coming together to enhance our sexual experiences.  If you like reading about advances in sexual tech, I recommend adding Future of Sex to your feed.

Camille Beaujolie
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Camille Beaujolie

On-Air Personality at Stereo-Typed on TPOK Radio
Host of Stereo-Typed on TPOK Radio, an educational, research-based internet radio show/podcast that seeks to challenge beliefs about and within the Alternative Sexuality cultures. Contributor to the TPOK Monthly newsletter.
Camille Beaujolie
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