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A decade of techno-sex: Look how far we've come

Ten years of turn-ons - is society tuned in?

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What's next, and whether or not it should be stopped

Is that a bad thing? The argument here is very circular. If you see a particular activity as inherently wrong, harmful or immoral, then the effect of the internet does appear in part to be the normalisation of that activity – and therefore the role of the internet is by definition negative. If, however, you have few problems with the activity itself, then any boost it may receive through the internet is going to be a good thing.

As we look ahead into the next decade, we are left to predict two further developments, and one related issue.

Let’s start with the issue. Over the last decade, the internet has spawned a series of MMORPGs – multi-player role playing games – of which virtual worlds such as Second Life are a leading example. These have quickly been taken on by those who wish to recreate their favourite fantasies online, adopting new shapes and bodies, and acting out fantasies with other (presumably) adult players.

A major issue has been the way that they enable individuals to act out wholly non-consensual and illegal fantasies, including scenes with children or animals. On the one hand, defendants of these games point out that "they are only games" and there is a world of difference between role-playing a scene and doing it in real life.

On the other, critics have worried that acting out a fantasy is just one step away from committing it – and therefore individuals should be prevented from doing so and, in some cases, punished if they try to. This debate – the boundary between real and fantasy – is likely to continue and if anything to be exacerbated by two further technological developments.

The first is that of teledildonics: the ability to use telecomms technology to spur remote – usually vibratory devices – into action. It has been possible for a few years now to set off vibrators remotely via mobile telephone technology. The last year or so has seen similar developments arising through the internet – particularly through MMORPG’s – that ensure that when an individual "feels" something in game, they will also get to feel it wherever they are sat.

It is at this point that we move from the known and familiar to the sci-fi and faintly scary. As the tele- part of teledildonics becomes firmly established, so the range of what may be controlled remotely via the net becomes ever greater. Nerve implants, body suits, and systems that mimic far more subtle interaction and contact are now emerging from the labs, bringing the prospect of genuine "cyber sex" ever closer.

It may be that we are now at a turning point: if the past decade has been about technology more closely mimicking what people want to feel, and the internet facilitating real world communication, the next may see at least a partial reversal of that. In future, you will be able to have the sex you want with whoever you want without ever stirring from your keyboard.

Bad news, perhaps, for those celebrating St Valentine’s day – but possibly not such bad news for the more techie-minded. ®

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