Sex and the Metaverse
Well…here we are…finally! It’s 2022 and I’ve been contemplating how to write my New Year’s piece. In previous years I’ve summarized the accomplishments of the year gone by. Then, I’ve tried to measure how much progress I’ve made toward the goals I’d set when the year began. Finally, I usually set some new goals. Looking back, yep, 2021 was just an incredible shit show. Like any year in my life, it had some remarkably amazing moments…but also, some horrifically awful ones. My initial thought was to quote Charles Dickens…” It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Unfortunately, that doesn’t really do justice to the morass that I muddled through during the year of our lord two-thousand and twenty-one.
So, to avoid rehashing all of it, and foisting a sad novella detailing all that nonsense onto you, I’ve decided to shrug it off entirely and write a more forward-looking piece in its place. Hence, the title of this post.
Much to-do has been made about the metaverse and how it will replace the internet with a more interactive interface. An interface that one day, much like the internet itself, will occupy an increasingly important space in our daily lives. I’m slowly becoming a believer in the possibility that we may spend a lot of time in the virtual world. Perhaps, almost as much as we do in the real one?
If the metaverse is to be an extension of the internet, then sex, and porn, will inevitably constitute a significant portion of it. After all, 13 to 20% of internet searches have been estimated to be porn related. Even in an era where the larger players would like to sweep it under the rug, it seems unlikely that the metaverse could cut out such an important component of the human experience.
The physical act of sex, intimacy, relationships, experimentation, expression, and desire will all need to be part of the virtual experience. Myriad other facets of our favorite three-letter word, will also need to be included if we are to leverage the metaverse to improve upon our collective sexual experience. Someone once famously remarked that the internet is for porn! However, given the reluctance of the big players to participate, and the harassment that can occur without safeguards in place, it seems likely that sex will remain detached from our virtual existence for quite some time. We probably won’t be able to have a steamy romp with our friends in a virtual space before going out to see a concert together, all in the same world, any time soon.
What then, might sex in the metaverse look like? I think that the first toes to be dipped in the slippery puddle of metaverse sex are already quite wet. One need only look to the explosion of 3D porn and ready availability of interactive toys to see the first tentative ventures into this space. My first experiences with this happened only recently when I reviewed Hot Octopuss’ Pulse Solo Interactive toy. That toy really did add a whole new dimension to my experience of viewing porn. I obviously quite enjoyed it. However, they are certainly not the first to venture into this realm.
In fact, interactive toys from just about every major luxury toy manufacturer have been available for quite some time now. Prominent examples include the Lush from Lovense Kiiroo’s entire line of toys, Fleshlight’s Launch, and Lelo’s remoji line. All of these represent the first generation of interactive toys that allow a partner (or a pre-recorded video) to control a user’s toy from afar. Long distance sex was arguably the first chapter in our rendezvous with the metaverse.
But where might we go from here? If we simply stay on the current trajectory, we’re headed for a world in which long-distance sex becomes ever more engaging and realistic. Toys that truly replicate the complete experience of sex are not yet available to the masses. Even so, one can imagine that what is required is technology that can more fully engage all five senses.
Most experiences require us to take in information in through our senses, and sex, overwhelming as it may be, is no different.
Our sense of hearing was probably the first we extended into the virtual realm. One might even argue that our first ventures into the sensual side of the metaverse began the first time a couple engaged in phone sex. After all, the sounds we hear are an important part of sex.
All of the sounds our partners make, whether it’s a moan of pleasure or the delightful wet smacking of aroused bodies engaged, are a potent part of sex. It is for this reason that I think we have long since conquered the first dimension of metaverse based sex.
Of course, we’ve improved upon it quite a bit. Certainly, whatever devices we use for our aural arousal in the future won’t rely on a twisty, windy cord. Even so, the experience of hearing those dirty, dirty words on your partner’s breath has essentially been available for a century.
Similarly, our sense of vision, has been happily ogling the objects of our desire from afar since the first nude photo was taken. Obviously, the advent of film, and more recently, virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 or the Vive Flow have brought our visual enticements enormous leaps forward over the years.
If you and your partner are lucky enough to have the appropriate gear it might one day be quite possible to watch and listen as you fuck each other from opposite sides of the planet in real time. Of course, the lagging, buffering nature of our current communication systems could become an obstacle. However, porn has always been an industry leader when it comes to innovative use of new technologies. When 5G is finally widely available, there is good reason to expect it’s most cutting edge uses will be seen first in porn.
Hearing and vision are the two most accessible senses in terms of producing a realistic sexual experience in the metaverse, but what of our senses of touch, taste, and smell? Can we engage those? Certainly, our real-life sexual experiences are heavily laden with input from these senses. Sex wouldn’t be complete without them.
Our sense of touch, in particular, is critical in any encounter. I suppose it’s in partial recognition of this fact that many of the interactive toys on the market today are designed to engage our sense of touch. Thus far, there has been an obvious focus on genital stimulation. While it’s intuitive to go there, since touching our most sensitive parts elicits the most potent response, it leaves a tremendous gap in the experience.
It’s incredibly exciting to control my partner’s vibe and watch her come, but what if I want to take a more nuanced approach? What if I want her to feel a simple caress, or a kiss? What if I want to feel those things in return?
Happily, progress is being made! A whole field encompassing haptic stimulation is currently exploding with prototypes. One of my favorites is the Tesla suit, but I think it’s too early to place any bets. That said, I’ve yet to find anyone that publicly declares their prototype is meant for use in virtual sex. Sooner or later though, someone will go there. It’s too big of a space to leave unfilled.
That leaves taste and smell. Again, crucial elements to reproducing a real-life experience. Surprisingly, inroads are being made here as well. There are a few start-ups building prototypes that are able to reproduce up to 200 different smells and a wide variety of tastes. At Raspberry Dream Labs, a smell reproducing technology is even linked to a virtual world that is purpose built for imaginative sex!
Other technologies are emerging as well, like multi-directional treadmills that could hold you in place while you move in and experience a virtual world.
Certainly, more technologies will be required as well. Will we ever be able to process and transmit data fast enough for a couple to exchange five-sense sexual favors in real time? What happens to all of the…um…fluids? It’s a space that is simply ripe for invention!
But why stop at the typical sexual experience? What if you’re hungry for an encounter with a multi-tentacled monster? What if I want to pose as one? How will I feel sensations from limbs I don’t possess? What about augmented reality? Perhaps you’d like to sex up your world by posing your favorite porn stars around the room?
What are the ethics surrounding such things and how will they impact the evolution of human sexuality moving forward? How will access be granted, regulated, and policed? How will we buy and trade in virtual commodities? Will similar laws to those in the real world govern a space that is essentially borderless in geographic terms? All of these are important topics to explore, but we definitely need to prepare. Sex is inevitably coming to a virtual world near you. I, for one, am anxious to see just how it will all play out!