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VR Sex: the Future of Porn?

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Humans are sexual creatures and one way they enhance the quest for erotic pleasure is through technology.  Have you played with the latest innovation, Virtual Reality (VR) porn?  If not, Virtual Reality (VR) sex may be your next hot erotic experience.

“I think VR porn has the capacity to bring an entirely new side of porn to the masses,” proclaimed Ela Darling, the queen of VR sex.  She is the star, creative director and co-owner of VRtube.xxx, a fledging VR porn company.  “Porn is my livelihood, it’s my everything,” she blushes, “so when I come across emerging technologies I see it through the lens of porn.”  She’s developing what’s described as “holographic 3D porn” for Facebook’s Oculus Rift system.  Is she a 21st century Bettie Page?

VR has been around since the 1980s, but its current incarnation — with lighter and more powerful headsets, more sophisticated programming and real-time connectivity — might finally make it a popular sex-toy phenomenon.  While the ostensible target users of the new VR systems are those into videogames and education, everyone in the know knows that porn will be a big driver.

VR sex seeks to combine representation with immersion, merging the phantasy of imagination with the power of physical pleasure.  It seeks to fashion a historically unique experience, one all consuming and erotically fulfilling – yet private, without a live, real other.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the corporate high-tech gadget-fest held in Las Vegas each January and this year VR (along with driverless cars) was the hot product.  At CES more than 40 companies displayed their latest “immersive multimedia” systems of device and programming.  Among the big players showing off their latest stuff were Facebook’s Oculus
sinsexsubRift (for Microsoft’s Xbox); Sony’s Morpheus (for PlayStation 4); Samsung Gear VR (for its Galaxy smartphone); Microsoft’s HoloLens (half virtual and half augmented reality); and Google’s Cardboard VR headset (for only $29.95).  Indicating what’s at stake, Facebook acquired Oculus’ Rift for $2 billion even before the product was launched.

A host of other companies offered new headsets and other devices, including FOVE VR, Zeiss headset (the optics company), Avegant’s Glyph, Razer’s OSVR and Freefly’s VR headset.  In addition, an increasing number of software companies are entering the emerging VR porn business, some offering online VR programming.  Among them are: VRSexperience, MetaverseXXX, VRTube, VirtualRealPorn, Virtual Porn 360, VRGirlz, SexLikeReal, Czech VR, Vixen VR and AliceX.

Raymond Wong, writing in Mashable, described a program from the VR porn company, Naughty America, running on a Samsumg smartphone:

I found myself transported into a bedroom. Kneeling before me was a female porn star who was seductively talking dirty to me. I looked down and saw some guy’s muscular body. Well, that’s not mine, I thought to myself. I was confused. Whose body was this? Then I realized, I was now this guy.

The porn star brought in another female friend, and the next thing I knew, they were both naked and performing oral sex on this VR guy, err, me, turning the party into a raunchy threesome.

Some media historians date the origins of VR to the early-19th century “magic lantern“ shows and the phantasmagoria they presented.  The media historian Joseph Slade believes that the first pornographic photograph was introduced in 1846, “depicting a rather solemn man inserting his penis into the vagina of an equally solemn middle-aged woman.”  In the ‘80s, Jaron Lanier introduced the multisensory DataGlove and goggles, and since then next-wave developments dubbed “3D environment” systems.

VR is a very different media than conventional TV or movies.  Andrew Marantz, writing recently in the New Yorker, noted:

Cinematic grammar no longer applies. There is no frame in which to compose a shot. An actor who directly addresses the camera isn’t breaking the fourth wall, because the viewer is already in the middle of the action. The viewer can look anywhere, so the director often adds subtle visual or auditory cues to indicate where to look, or to signal that the viewer’s gaze can wander without missing anything important.

This new visual style might profoundly affect how viewers perceive porn.

The sociologist Kassia Wosick estimates the globally porn market at $97 billion, with the U.S. accounting for between $10 and $12 billion.  According to one estimate, there are nearly 25 million porn sites worldwide making up 12 percent of all websites and Xvideos, the biggest porn site on the web, receiving 4.4 billion page views (pvs) and 350 million unique visits per month.

Today, one estimate claims that two-thirds (68%) of young men and one-quarter (18%) of young women view porn at least once a week and those numbers are growing.  Some worry that easy access to online VR porn could lead to a new type of sexual addiction.  Timothy Lee, Clinical Director of New York Pathways, a treatment center for sex addiction, warns of a possible intimacy disorder. “With VR porn — the whole empathic, intimate experience — I could see that being more devastating than someone just dealing with pornography,” Lee says.

Others are less worried.  Ben Delaney, author of Sex, Drugs And Tessellation: The Truth About Virtual Reality, “I think that virtual reality will actually cause some people to enjoy the real world more. Post the potential climate-change Armageddon, it will allow the survivors to experience what their ancestors so thoroughly f*cked up.” Regarding possible VR porn addicts, he says, “There will be virtual-reality addicts, just as there are porn addicts. Who cares? Better to keep them off the street.”

Today, most VR porn development seems focused on male pleasure, so what about women?  Will it reduce — if not eliminates — the need, let alone desire, for physical sexual pleasure with an actual living other?  Will VR sex fashion a new erotic experience or change the nature of pleasure?  Stay tuned.

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David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

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