The Sex Bots Have Arrived
Last month Dr. Helen blogged about the development of sex-robots.
Now Susannah Breslin -- the most talented journalist writing about pornography today -- has a fascinating report on an industry in transformation.
Fixx is the market research manager for the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network, an online adult company that bills itself on its website as “THE #1 ADULT VIDEO ON DEMAND THEATER IN THE WORLD!” Among other properties, AEBN owns PornoTube, an X-rated YouTube, and xPeeps, an adult webcam site that encourages users to “xpose yourself.” It also produces the product Fixx is hawking.
I stick my finger into the rubbery, flesh-colored slit on the side of a plastic grey peanut the size of a very large loaf of bread. This is RealTouch, an “award-winning male masturbator” designed by a former NASA engineer that syncs with adult movies to simulate sex for the male with which it is interacting through your computer’s USB port. The device retails for $325, and the package includes 120 RealTouch VOD minutes, anti-bacterial cleaner, and a 90-day limited warranty.
More recently, the company has begun marketing the RealTouch JoyStick, the lingam to the RealTouch’s yoni, which is to say it looks like a dildo. Available only to adult webcam models at this time, the joystick serves as a remote control for the RealTouch device, enabling users in remote locations to have “True Internet Sex™!”
Per Fixx’s instruction, Savannah Steele, a busty blonde porn star in a lab coat, moves the joystick, and the mechanism tightens around my finger and increases speed.
“It feels like having sex with a robot,” I announce. I extract my finger and wipe it off with a wet wipe from the box on the table.
Earlier this year I reviewed Doug Rushkoff's graphic novel A.D.D Adolescent Demo Division. The sci-fi vision of a near-future with hyper media-savvy youth. He predicted this development and also the response many Millennials will have:
In A.D.D., Rushkoff -- like other science fiction authors -- creates his own form of slang, much of it inspired by new media and web culture. The word "dekh," used by the book's protagonist above, is the most important idea of the book, of the same significance (and comparable meaning) to "grok" in Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. To "dekh" something is to perceive the hidden patterns and biases programmed within a piece of media. When you "dekh" something, you are seeing the mechanisms that are being used to trick you. The strings on the puppet. The Great Wizard of Oz is really just an old man playing with smoke and mirrors.
So in the case of we Millennials and our immersion in a culture of Baby Boomer-fueled, post-60s, mainstreamed sex and pornography, what is it that we have dekhed and what will the backlash be as these new bizarre sex-simulators develop into full-blown digital, virtual sex?
For baby boomers growing up in the '50s and '60s, their teenage sexual education might include a discovery of Dad's stash of Playboys. For Gen-Xers in the '70s and '80s, it was the era of porn-chic, memorialized forever in P.T. Anderson's Boogie Nights -- for them it was the era of the uncle's stash of John Holmes VHS tapes. But for Millennials coming of age in the early days of broadband internet, it was a level of access to unrestricted, wild, hardcore pornography unprecedented in human history.
How bad is the stuff kids have access to today? Here's a must-read piece by Breslin (warning: disturbing and NSFW) describing the output of Max Hardcore, a man actually successfully prosecuted for obscenity in the last decade.
The problem the boys who grow up exposed to this stuff have to deal with: women in the real world are not porn stars. Most of the sex acts in porn disgust emotionally healthy, self-respecting women. So what happens to a boy who's trained himself to only be able to climax with porn star fantasies instead of real women? This humiliating New York Magazine article talks about the struggle of some young men today.
Well, as I wrote about in my review of Dennis Prager's new book, every male has to choose between whether he's going to be a boy dedicating his sexual energy to his own pleasure or a man with self-control building a family. And in choosing the latter, one starts to dekh through what porn really is. The etymology of the word:
1857, "description of prostitutes," from Fr. pornographie, from Gk. pornographos "(one) writing of prostitutes," from porne "prostitute," originally "bought, purchased" (with an original notion, probably of "female slave sold for prostitution;" related to pernanai "to sell," from PIE root per- "to traffic in, to sell," cf. L. pretium "price")
The problem of porn isn't necessarily that it shows naked people and sex acts; it's that it depicts the pimp-and-prostitute model of exploitative sex as normal. And in enjoying a porn film a man usually doesn't think about how that 18-year-old woman got there and what kind of circumstances would lead her to choose that life. (Go out with a few girls who act like porn stars on the first date and you'll find out soon enough what painful early life experiences often fuel promiscuity.)
When you realize that most of the women in most porn films got there because some man started abusing her from a young age, then it's much more difficult to get aroused. And when the porn is filmed somewhere overseas and the woman has a strange accent and a sad, tired look on her face, then the reality sinks in that most of the world's prostitutes aren't like the ones on HBO's Cat House and would probably rather be doing something else.
That implication has big consequences as we move further into the Brave New World of sex robots. Right now the stage one thinking seems to be that "Oh, well some day people will be able to have sex with some blond porn star robot. Harmless."
But what happens when the robot isn't a woman but a child? What happens when the sex being simulated isn't erotic and intimate but violent and destructive? What happens when the sexual simulation ends like a combination video game and snuff film? What happens when a bunch of teenage boys pool their money to buy a robot prostitute they can gang rape? And what happens when that is what 13-year-old boys experience as their first initiations into a sexual life?
What will our world be when people lose their virginity to a machine?
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Rhonda Robinson: Cohabitation: How to Become a 21st Century Concubine
Megan Fox: 5 Myths That Will Destroy Your Marriage