You might say we’re in the midst of a sexual revolution. The advancement of technology and the evolution of how we experience sex and sexual pleasure are intertwined, so it seems only logical that one will always influence the other.
It is this symbiotic relationship between technology and sexual gratification which has given birth to a potential new sexual orientation: digisexuality. From the famously patented 90s concept of teledildonics (how we might use computers to remote-control sex toys), to the sex robots of today; as long as the technology is there, human beings will use it to get off.
You may be wondering what the heck is digisexuality - and what does it mean?
Since this is a relatively new term, there is no real dictionary definition - yet. However, we can refer to digisexuals as people whose primary sexual identity comes through the use of technology. What the parameters of this definition are, only time will tell.
Technically, you could say that we are all somewhat digisexual. Viewing pornography on the internet, sending dirty messages or participating in phone sex could all be regarded as displaying ‘digisexual’ tendencies, because they all involve the use of technology to gain sexual gratification.
While this doesn’t mean we are all digisexuals, we do have to consider that our own sexual relationships and behaviours are indeed influenced by technology; and vice versa. We use apps to find sex, we use webcams to watch sex, we use vibrators to experience sexual pleasure; so it stands to reason that we will take things a step further when the technology allows.
However, it is unlikely that anyone who participates in the above would identify as being ‘digisexual’. Let’s face it, most of us have probably used technology to help us get off at one time or another-right?
Instead, people we refer to as being digisexuals use advanced technologies not just to enhance their sexual experiences, but rather to supplement the need for human interaction. This is where new and developing sexual technologies come into play.
What’s the difference between a blow up doll, and a sex robot?
No - that isn’t the opening line to a very bad joke - it’s a legitimate question. When you boil it down to the crux of the matter, the only difference is that one is a far more advanced sexual aid than the other. Sex robots are superior to dolls because they offer the possibility of an immersive sexual experience; the only thing holding them back is the technology available right now.
But the future will surely be different; as advancements in artificial intelligence is likely to surpass these glorified sex dolls. In fact, Kate Delvin - senior lecturer in social and cultural AI at King’s College London- said in an interview with Dazed Digital last year, that the future of sex and tech goes beyond simple sexbots;
“We’re very bad at making human-like robots, I see much more scope for immersive intimate experiences, or responsive materials providing sensuous feedback. AI companions also seem much more realistic than robot ones (and) soft robotics – flexible, elastic controllable materials – could mean sex toys that move of their own accord.”
The emphasis here seems to be not just on immersive sexual experiences using state-of-the-art robotics, but rather on artificial intelligence and feedback. It’s one thing to be able to have sex with a relatively realistic looking robot - but another thing entirely to have that robot respond to your touch, change temperature or move in sync with your own movements.
While Kate Delvin doesn’t seem to think much of mankinds advancements in the world of sex-bots - you could argue that the general public does not agree with her assessment that ‘we’re very bad at making human-like robots’. This becomes particularly clear when we consider the existence of Harmony - who is arguably the most sought after sex robot today.
She was an instant hit when she became available for purchase last year with a hefty price tag of £15000 ($18745), but what is perhaps more interesting is the fact that she has now been upgraded with a ‘foreplay’ feature. While Kate Delvin may have undersold the appeal of sex robots in her above quote, she was right on the money when she spoke about the importance of AI (artificial intelligence) and responsive feedback.
Harmony is powered by an artificial intelligence app called RealDollX - allowing users to communicate with a virtual version of the Harmony robot on their phone. But the recent upgrade has provided more than simple options to customise Harmony’s personality - a recently added ‘foreplay’ mode gives sex-bot afficionados the option to take their sexual experiences to the next level. Some models even include touch sensors and self lubricating genitals for that extra-immersive (and responsive) sexual experience!
While digisexuality is still extremely new - the mere fact that sex robots like Harmony even exist is testament to our innate desire to bend technology into serving our own sexual desires. And sex robots aren’t the only strain of sexual technology that is giving rise to this potential new sexual identity.
You only have to look at the porn industry to see how humans are striving to bridge the gap between virtual sex and physical pleasure. This could be something as simple as cam girls allowing paying customers to remote control of their vibrators, or something more modern like the recent boom in VR porn - or the crowdfunding of the Hum20 which claims to be the world's first intuitive AI vibrator!
But just because these technologies exist, does not mean that they will replace the need for meaningful sexual relationships with human partners. If history is anything to go by, then it stands to reason that acceptance and understanding are the key to a better future. New tech and the subsequent sexual orientations that may or may not arise - might be unnerving at first; but this is all the more reason to keep an open mind.
It’s really only a matter of time before we learn to accept digisexuality as something that can be totally normal and healthy, and a vibrant addition to our traditional human-human relationships.