Author Tom Wells charts how sex tech is forcing the industry to embrace a more inclusive future.
It’s not that long ago that masturbation was a highly taboo topic. Somehow, through a combination of open discussion, medical literature, popular culture and perhaps just common sense, it has been accepted as healthy and natural.
The world of sex tech is currently undergoing the same process. For female sex toys, the process has been much quicker. For men, there is still a lot of work to do. A recent survey of 6000 participants from 12 countries – commissioned by Womanizer in honor of International Equal Masturbation Day – found that 27% of those asked found it more acceptable for women to use sex toys. Yet acceptance among the tech industry has been even slower still than among users.
But the tide is turning and as sex tech finally begins to come of age decades-old barriers are being broken down.
The CES debacle and what it meant for sex tech
The Consumer Electronics Show is the zenith of the tech calendar. Over the course of this January weekend, the planet’s most inventive Glitterati descend on Las Vegas to try and divine what products will take the world by storm in the coming year.
This makes CES an excellent barometer for an invention’s level of acceptance in the mainstream. And in the case of sex tech, it’s been a bumpy ride, to say the least.
In 2019, for the first time, a sex tech product won an award CES. However, very shortly after the award was rescinded with CES saying the product is obscene. Pretty bizarre for a supposedly progressive tech conference.
Lora DiCarlo, recipient of the award, responded stating “I was appalled, because we don’t think sexual health is obscene—it’s sacred,” “Sexual health is human health.” DiCarlo’s stand coupled with the public backlash forced CES to accept that the public are ready for sex tech and it should no longer be “outlawed”. The award was sheepishly reinstated and the tech world was forced to take note.
So in 2020, CES changed its attitude and invited more sex tech startups than ever before to exhibit their sex tech products. And this time as CES awarded for the best sex tech on the market, they stood by their decisions.
What is sex tech?
Sex tech is an umbrella term for any product that combines technology and sexual pleasure. This can include vibrators, dildos, prostate stimulators, but the term can also extend to the technology surrounding it. For example, this could include an app, VR or AR technology used to expand the experience with a sex tech product.
Why is sex tech important?
Sex tech may at first glance seem an unlikely vehicle for change. But on closer inspection there are quite a few important trends that it is driving forward:
Forcing the tech industry to be more open and inclusive
As in the case with Lora DiCarlo at CES, sex tech is slowly forcing a very male-dominated tech world to be more open-minded. By accepting that sex is part of a healthy lifestyle, sex tech is being more integrated into the mainstream tech industry.
Encouraging women in tech
A lot of the emerging sex tech startups were founded by people identifying as women. As sex tech gains more acceptance and these companies flourish, this will inspire more women to enter the tech world and encourage more female entrepreneurs.
How has sex tech changed our lives?
Sex tech has changed society quite a lot. The following are just some of the changes:
Sex tech is empowering because it enables everyone to have sexual pleasure. This may be something that many people take for granted
It also helps break taboos
Sex tech by necessity has to address topics that are by their nature taboo. This includes self-pleasure, But also increasingly things like erectile dysfunction (ED) — many guys may suffer from ED but would find it hard to talk about it. Now, products like wearable penis rings are able to help many guys have stronger erections. As more solutions become available, the less stigmatized these conditions will become.
It’s changing our views on sexual pleasure
It has also changed the way we view sexual pleasure. Before the advent of sex tech, sex was largely viewed as a partner activity, with masturbation just a hollow replacement for “the real thing”. Nowadays, some of the toys on the market allow solo users to experience super intense orgasms without having to find a partner. For many, sex tech has become a normal part of their sex life, both solo and with partners.
What are the latest trends in sex tech?
Like any tech segment, sex tech is developing at a rapid pace. Here are some of the main trends for 2020:
1. Sex tech can cure real medical conditions
Sex tech aiming at curing medical conditions. For example, at CES 2020, one company unveiled a wearable patch that can prolong premature ejaculation. Through clever perineum stimulation, the nerves can be stimulated in such a way that the device delays ejaculation.
2. Smart/responsive sex tech
Many of the innovations in sex tech revolve around smart sex tech. There are toys on the market that can be paired with sex apps for a custom control, like the Chorus by We-Vibe, for example. For couples in long-distance relationships, this remote control smart sex tech can greatly boost their sex lives.
3. Male sex tech revolution
Discussion about male sex toys has not taken place in the mainstream. There is still some shame and stigma attached to male sex toy use. But progress is being made and sales of male sex toys are skyrocketing, with some of the most popular including wearable cock rings and masturbators/strokers.
The final frontier (particularly for straight guys) is prostate stimulation and even this is becoming less taboo. We are regularly reminded that clitoral orgasms are much stronger than male ejaculations. Yet, what we are not told is that a prostate orgasm is mind-blowingly intense and something we are all capable of. Prostate stimulators like the Vector from WeVibe make this holy grail of male orgasms well within reach.
4. VR/AR additions
Black Mirror fans will already be thinking of the Striking Vipers episode, where the characters enter into a game with an AR headset, and things take a sexual turn. But sex tech companies are already making strides towards connecting their toys and products to VR and AR. This foray into the world of virtual sex is going to continue.
Sex tech is on its way to the mainstream
If CES is anything to go by, then VC funds and angel investors are acknowledging that they cannot ignore the rising tide of sex tech. It’s time for everyone, including guys, to embrace this pleasure-enhancing technology. Let’s make 2020 the year of the male sex tech revolution!