Photo from David Cronenberg's film Existenz
I wish I had time to really discuss my own thoughts and projections about how sex will evolve (or devolve) in the future. The latest issue of h+ that I have been blogging about lately has a section titled: "Sex and the Singularity" in which various professors and even a resident of Second Life project their ideas of sex in the future in under 400 words. One futurist, Ben Goertzel, CEO of AI companies Novamente and Biomind pontificates:
The experience of gaining pleasure via in some sense merging with another
being... that will probably survive the Singularity, but will likely be customizable
into various forms, which may end up bearing little resemblance to “sex” as
we know it today....
The idea of trying on simulated relationships for size in also discussed. In essence, it seems like the future provides one huge beta-testing ground. But one thing I wonder about, having done extensive study into fetishism, erotology and paraphilia over the years, is how differently future generations will perceive this issue compared to us.
Most of us into adulthood have formed various preferences and sexual fantasies based upon things that happened to us in younger years, various bonding mixed with decades of media and society conditioning. But what if you have just been born in this day and age, and you are growing up into this new world where your first experiences could be simulated sex. In a way this has already happened with the internet, and teenagers discovering cybersex, RPG games and online POV porn.
I look at sites like MrSkin.com where movie moments are collected and analyzed for actresses showing a nipple or any nudity and celebrity sex scenes to "fast forward to the good parts." Back in the day it was still actually exciting for people to see some type of tamer version of movie sex and teasing in mainstream theater. I know it still is today in the movie industry. But really, most people can remember certain classic scenes of nudity or sex in films like the famous masturbation fantasy scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. These are iconic for our generation and I think they had more long lasting impact on us than straight porn because of the story and characters which bring some level (even if slight for some) of emotional involvement into the mix, as well as that certain flavor or taboo, and tease and denial that mainstream cinema offers as opposed to porn that just makes sex plain, and then even kinky sex becomes plain, and the consumer finds they can only reach climax from wildly exotic or absurd due to desensitization and overindulgence in synthetic, disposable, one-dimensional sexual experiences .
But what happens if while growing up, young people do not have the same base experiences with maternal bonding, or they grow up with the turning points in their first memorable sexual experiences being with say, some type of synthetic human? Maybe not even that advanced. Take the famed Living Dolls--what if they went way down in price. Check out this latest new version of sex doll for instance:
(She also has a “heavy breathing” function and an actual G-spot.)
If these become more advanced, then the young man's point of reference for initial sexual experiences becomes something synthetic. Next thing you know, later in life he has a rubber fetish or something, and needs the slight scent of rubber in order to trigger release. There are so many different types of fantasy triggers that seem to implant in men by a much larger ratio than women for reasons that have never been really explained scientifically. You don't see near as many female shoe fetishists for instance as you do men (although the women are generally profiting on men's fetishes)
But the point is that if the early sexual frames of reference change dramatically, the emotional triggers, in the next generation, then I believe we will really be dealing with some interesting situations, some very confused people perhaps. Maybe people that may not even understand why they are depressed and lonely, especially when they have so many "friends." (On a side note: Jeffrey Dahmler used to sleep with and keep mannequins which he carried out sexual acts with and simulated acts of violence. It's easy to see that having "dolls" could possibly lead to some other desensitization.)
The other thing that I find interesting is wondering about how polarizing this issue could become. I am a woman, and I am obsessed with ai, robotics, the future. I fully plan on having a wonderful non-human boyfriend as soon as that is feasible (which I hope will be in the next decade, even if a bit rough still). However, the reasons that men and women would choose such companions seems very different in my opinion. As it is now, if I start a discussion about androids or ai, the first thing men think about is the creation of what would essentially be hot female sex slaves. And if you look at any female bots being created right now, like the animatronic versions and such in Japan - I guarantee you they are all in some type of subservient role. Females are used to be tour guides in museums, and to ask "how can I serve you" or "how can I help you" in a pleasing female voice in smile. Our female robots are already being groomed as Stepford slaves. Meanwhile, look at the current examples of male robots - they are shown as wise sages that answer difficult questions and have far greater intellectual range. Their creators create these male bots in their own images, using their own faces at times. People flock around them and ask questions in a far more respectful manner you would give to an authority on a subject. We don't see male robots poised to clean your house anytime soon.
The other method of sexual slavery/consumerism presented in the future doesn't come in the strictly physical form, but more of a direct hook up to the brain in the form of "going into another world" in a sense, more of a direct sex with a machine, a computer just by plugging in and experiencing fantasies, and maybe hooking up to nerve impulses to provide a form of remote stimulation. This offers an even more complex situation of alienation and distance between biological humans. No one has to be in real physical contact anymore. We touch base mentally. We do it now by email, social media, text messaging. We keep in touch more, but we see each other less somehow.
But going back to the strictly physical, look at the current sex trade, and sexual tourism. I went to Bangkok myself and sampled this once and wrote about it. (I'll save that story for another entry) While there is a considerable amount of research and commentary on men's use of women (or men) in the sex trade and male consumerism in this area, there is virtually none on women. Why don't women hire sex workers? Or in the more rare instances that they do (if it is even available), why do they do it?
The answers to this I think are key in figuring out where sex will evolve (or as I said, devolve possibly) in the future. If a man hires a sex worker, it is just about unequivocally for the purpose of a physical experience (no withstanding cases where someone may have a disability or be considered undesirable enough that perhaps they seek more overall human contact beyond just sexual) Men want "no strings attached" more often than women. Whereas when women may hire a sex worker, it is more in an "escort" capacity. They want a man to take them to an event, take them shopping, tell them they are beautiful, get the door, make them feel special. So keeping that in mind, where will that lead us in the future, with non-biological beings?
A couple films come to mind for me (besides Stepford Wives) on this subject of developing relationships with mannequins or dolls. I think I will post them in my next entry.