For most of us, technology is involved in some aspect of our sex lives, more so now than ever. Whether that is using a smart vibrator connected to a lovers bluetooth, watching porn, making porn yourself or perhaps even an orgy via Zoom. When technology is increasingly mediating our sex lives, how may we think critically about the evolving nature of our sexuality?
With the level of integration of technology in our sex lives, to a certain extent we are all digisexual. The term digisexuality was coined by researchers Neil McArthur and Markie L.C. Twist in "The rise of digisexuality: therapeutic challenges and possibilities." A digisexual is someone whose "primary sexual identity comes through the use of technology." Digisexuality explores possible sexual expressions of the future, where sexuality is mediated by technology. The sex bots are coming.
These bots can take the shape of virtual reality, online erotic games, “teledildonics,” (interactive, internet-connected sex toys facilitating remote sex) and erotic agents (or erobots) such as sex robots or virtual partners. This sex tech may help alleviate the sexual tension borne out of the forced solitude and in some cases celibacy. Soon such devices may become a naturalised kind of sexual activity, particularly for Gen Z'ers and millennials, who grew up in an age where intimacy is already happening digitally.
Erobotics is a field of study celebrating the importance of pleasure, freedom and diversity in our sexual needs. This transdisciplinary research explores interactions with artificial intelligence erotic agents and the technology producing them. How can erobotics contribute to well-being? Can sex bots help with intimacy-related fears and anxiety or help trauma victims get reacquainted with their body and sexuality?
But when it comes to sex and artificial intelligence, who's intelligence is it anyway? Who writes the algorithms? Is the intelligence based on a heterosexual relationships? What about the LGBTQIA+ community? Or those who do not fit neatly into societies perfectly formed norms?
There are many myths and stigmas surrounding digisexuality and legitimate reasons to be concerned. What are the ethics of fucking a robot? The issues of hacking sex technologies and lack of self control around sex tech remain to be fully studied.
Neil McArthur, digisexuality researcher and associate professor of philosophy at the University of Manitoba reassures that this phenomenon is not on its way to derailing the world’s idea of sexuality. “There will be lots of digisexuals in the near future, but it’s going to be okay. Digisexuality will take its place alongside other non-mainstream sexual identities, and society will go on.” But to think critically about the development of sex tech is as crucial as the mediated tech-induced orgasms.