A decade of techno-sex: Look how far we've come
Ten years of turn-ons - is society tuned in?
(Some of the links in this story may be NSFW.)
If the last decade has seen major changes to legal and social attitudes towards sex and sexuality, a question that will have commentators engaged for some time to come is what role has been played in such change by technology.
Does technology lead the way, encouraging and enabling behaviours that would have had a previous generation blushing? Or does it merely follow on, reflecting trends that are already deeply embedded in society?
As we reported previously, the past ten years have been a mixed bag when it comes to legislation in the sexual arena. In the UK, the government has obsessed over the right to say no – and paid rather less attention to the right of an individual to say yes.
Nannying is definitely the order of the day – unless you have some "unnatural" predilection for being treated like a naughty schoolboy, in which case stop it this instant, young man.
Richard Longhurst of online sex toy purveyor Lovehoney is highly upbeat about what has been happening to the market, arguing that it is beginning to show "dangerous signs of maturity".
Durex has transformed itself from boring contraceptive manufacturer into a sex lifestyle brand. Ann Summers has gone from 12 stores in 1997 to 120 today. Longhurt's own organisation has gone from a standing start to shipping more than a thousand orders a day.
In other words, sex and sexual gismology is now mainstream as never before. Of course, when it comes to the mainstream, a great deal of everyday product is now manufactured in China.
However, the West – and Japan – continue to make waves when it comes to innovation. One notable feature of the adult trade is the appearance of "inventors" – often, men in their middle age, with degrees in engineering and a burning desire to resolve some issue of erotic ergonomics. Hence the "sqweel", a new and frankly scary multi-tongued rotatory device and the we-vibe, which allegedly sets up "an erotic carrier wave" between clit and g-spot.
While women are now increasingly regular visitors to sex shops as purchasers of sexual gadgetry, men have benefited greatly from developments through the decade which, in turn, reflect a new approach to male eroticism. At base, most sex toys are about masturbation. A decade ago, the majority of male sex toys appeared to be designed as though such a purpose was quite incidental, with the primary focus being the creation of inflatable female shapes that fooled no one.
For those who really do like the idea of simulating sex with a partner who lies there and does nothing, it is now possible to up the erotic ante (and the price) by investing in some form of Realdoll. Even there, the technology is moving on apace, with German company First Androids announcing, late last year, the creation of a realistic sex android that has a pulse and appears to breathe.
Earlier this year, it was the turn of American inventor Douglas Hines, of True Companion, to introduce to the world Roxxxy, billed as the first sex doll with artificial intelligence. A pulse vs intelligence? It is reported that the manufacturers of the German doll have already received four million advance orders at just over £2,000 apiece.
For those unable to afford the four or even five-figure ticket for such items, it is now possible to purchase an anatomically correct blow-up sheep for a fraction of the price.
Been there done that... twice :-(
"For those who really do like the idea of simulating sex with a partner who lies there and does nothing."
They make marriage dolls now?
AC for obvious reasons
I used to be a member of bondage.com : a "lifestyle" portal style site catering to BDSM. It was somewhere I went as a country boy to feel admist others of my varyingly degenerate creed. It was a good place. over the last ten years, both it, and its competitors have become more and more mainstreamed as BDSM becomes more and more 'trendy' in the marketplace.
Genuinely non-normal people were marginalised for an influx of casual users talking about sex and furry handcuffs, and as a community we split over whether or not this would be beneficial to varying legal problems we all had, and while we argued and goofed off, something a little more sinister was happening : we were leaving, Most-extreme-groups first.
Our portal site started refusing photographs of our exploits : Whilst hosting adult and X-rated pictures is apparently ok, hosting pictures of 'violent content' suddenly became not ok You think a hand on your throat is hot? you're no longer welcome to post or discuss that. nevermind the bruises on your ass, or talking about your piercings. The vast majority of users that favoured the more exoctic depravities in the bedroom became marginalised groups. The influx of mainstream users further made certain fringe groups unwelcome : heavy latex fetishim, infantilism, people into role-play-rape, etc were publically mocked and derided on forums, and the undercurrent of unwelcome feeling came from site ownership : we were banned from discussing rape, violence, and a slew of other topics that cluster around BDSM.
Whilst this is happening, we see the rise of nannyism and intrusive moderation against the breadth of sexual rights in the UK : you can be as sexy as you want, unless its kinky, in which case we'll be seizing your computer, have fun!
You can say we're all heading towards a more liberated place, and the more normal populace are : average person X watches more porn with their partner, has more sex toys, probably has a more enlightened outlook on sex and sexuality, but please, dont convince yourself this is a population-wide broadening of views. it isnt. those of us out on the fringe are increasingly threatened, made unwelcome by the sites built to harbour our kind, and as sexual issues become more acceptable to discuss, so we find ourselves mocked more openly in the newspapers.
Average joe is having more fun in the bedroom. Good for average joe. Anyone kinky has battened down the hatches, is vetting their playmates, is worried about losing their job should their predilictions become public knowledge.
Virtual worlds and MMORPG
Thanks, idai...though if you'd checked out my record, you'd see that when it comes to Second Life, i tend to buck the trend. I'm a longstanding participant - and admirer - though i do question at times where that particular world is going.
You may see it as something beyond MMORPG's...and in many ways, i would agree. But its a point of view - and one shared by many longterm inhabitants of sl. Whatever else it is, it is not a swipe of any kind at virtual worlds.