Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/05/25/sf_teledildonics_hack/

Dominatrix steals 'Sex Hacks' show with live demo

Taking the innuendo out of back-end IT

By Bill Softky

Posted in Bootnotes, 25th May 2007 20:21 GMT

NNNNSFW San Francisco - birthplace of the gangbuster "startup" culture - also breeds alternative sexual communities and practices. Where better to host a small symposium on Sex Hacks? (And where better to encounter loyal Register fans crawling out of the woodwork to introduce themselves?).

The Center for Sex and Culture, a modest library-like room furnished with pews, this week hosted four presentations, which were so disconnected from "normal" sex as to veer from comical to creepy. But most were entertaining, if only accidentally.

Platform shoe, or shoe platform?

The creators of The Aphrodite Project make a big shoe for prostitutes, loaded with gadgetry. But they can't decide if their high-tech footwear is meant for self-protection, self-promotion, or sheer beauty. Which may be why it doesn't seem to do any of those things. The oversized, over-kitted shoes are, however, a brilliant self-parody.

The project website says it best: It is a "sexologically hacked shoe for sex workers," or perhaps "Social sculpture: an interactive, wearable device that is a conceptual homage to the cult of Aphrodite." That's "conceptual," as opposed to "practical."

In real life, what actual streetwalker would wear a huge shoe containing a semi-functional GPS tracker, a high-decibel alarm, and an endless-loop video player - the screen visible at sidewalk-height - which she might program with self-promotional, er, footage?

Only the most diligent and talented hookers would even have the opportunity to sport this weirdly "wearable computing," since all the shoes will be DIY: between turning tricks, she must buy all the electronic kit, construct her own magnetic-latched doors, mold her own plastic support structure, and cover it with fabric herself. Oh, and she has to wait for the instructions to be published in Make magazine this fall. Any working girl who could build this could probably earn more as an engineer.

Shot of the sex's workers shoe with lots of buttons

Gnudity

Say, as an engineer like green-haired Kyle Machulis of SlashDong.org, an inveterate sex-toy tinkerer who promises to open-source as many sex-toy interfaces as he can get his hands on.

He is a funny, frenetic talker, with lots of soundbites for an ubergeek audience("computer-sex interfaces are like fucking your printer driver"). He has lots of eager ideas on the mechanics and electronics of genital stimulation.

How many ways can one drive an off-the-shelf vibrator? With voices and music separated by bass and treble? With graphical icons representing whole rhythm-patterns sculpted for optimum effect? With the "rumble" outputs from game controllers, or HTTP queries from virtual Second Life paramours?

Machulis also works with "electro-stim" (mild electrocution), and with plain-old-mechanical back-and-forth stroking machines, but prefers vibrators because they're non-threatening, cheap, and easy to inject his precious signals into.

His is a typical geek pleasure; he waxes lyrical not about the nuance of teasing a clitoris, nor the yumminess of orgasm, but about the elegance of Fourier-modulated amplitudes, the coolness of using 2.5mm jacks as a standard interface, the patent-bashing benefits of Open Source. "I don't think even five people have actually built the toys I describe... I write about them mostly to get people interested in robotics and to educate them." True passion.

A pro turns on everything

Next to the overexcited amateurs, professional dominatrix Natasha Strange stuck out like a sore, er, thumb (her web site).

Not just by her appearance - although her exaggerated breasts, corseted waist, and alluring smile would stop many a Register reader in his tracks - but by an explicit and honed knowledge of sex and stimulation.

People pay her to dominate, tease, and humiliate them, and she's good at it.

As she beckoned "Pet," a naked, smooth-skinned stud walked out and lay on his back on the head table. "Pet is not nervous at all, is he?<tinkly laugh>" "Yes, mistress." She fitted him with LED relaxation goggles and headphones - "Spread 'em Pet!" - and inserted a massive metallic butt-plug connected to an electro-stim box. The current turned on; he turned on; people applauded his visible response.

"I think the humiliation will keep this erect," she mocked with a silvery laugh, turning up the juice.

As he moaned and twitched, she gracefully explained electrical "play": the equipment, sensations, dangers. She explained that the electrical butt-plug gives a "thrusting, fucking" sensation, but admitted that the other electro-stim "toys" tend to produce more pain than pleasure. At which point she wrapped "Pet" with a conductive scrotum-band, and inserted a conductive urethral catheter, wiring them into the circuit.

The audience (and your reporter) squirmed in sympathy, the young man groaned and trembled, the erection disappeared. We felt even guiltier when the current was driven by a microphone, so every laugh or grunt produced more pain.

Don't get your hopes up

This woman knows sensation, teasing, and desire; for her, electrical gadgets are just tools, no better than whips or ropes. Her expertise was the most authentically sexy, but it still involved fringe sexuality: degradation, domination, and pain. Especially pain, which is what electrified genitals tend to feel. Electricity is not the path to mutual pleasure.

Judging by these presentations, and by the wares on sale at San Francisco's premier sex shop Good Vibrations, pleasure technology is still built around dildos, viagra, and especially vibrators. The self-proclaimed technologists aren't yet discussing the psychology and physiology of sexual pleasure; their technology only offers new ways to adjust the motors. So don't wait up.®

Bill Softky has written a neat utility for Excel power users called FlowSheet: it turns cryptic formulae like "SUM(A4:A7)/D5" into pretty, intuitive diagrams. It's free, for now. Check it out.