Could Teledildonics Save Your Long-Distance Relationship?
The Debrief: As in electronic sex toys, that can be controlled, remotely, by computer. It's the fucking future, guys
The last time I had a long distance relationship was in the 90s. Before mobile phones and sexting and Skype and '…could you just lower your cam a little please babe… oh yeah, that’s the ticket.'
Sex was sparse. When we finally got together after weeks of waiting we’d go at it like a couple of rabbits trapped in space pod. In between meet ups however it was another story. The only non-physical sex we could have was phone sex. That’s not to say it was a more innocent time. Far from it. If any one ever picked up the downstairs receiver they’d get an earful of filth as my mum did on more than one occasion. 'Oh sorry dear you’re on the landline… Don’t be too long mind… Uncle Tom said he’d call about the toilet…'
If only there was some kind of smart technology which facilitated long distance wanking? Something you could plug yourself into and howl like a cat on heat as your non-present partner – sat miles away in a library studying Kant – twisted and tweaked the controls? Remote sex for remote lovers.
The concept of technology-enabled sex was around as early as the 70s. The idea of something tactile worn on, in or around the body with sensors to generate sexual stimulation was a common feature of sci-fi stories. You only have to watched Woody Allen’s Sleeper to see that.
In fact, in 1970 Charles Platt – editor of the British science fiction magazine, New Worlds – posited, 'A coital labour-saving device on more elegant lines would work on the ‘waldo’ principle: in, for instance, experiments with radio-active materials, the movements of the operator's hand in a metal ‘glove’ lined with sensors are translated into impulses which operate a metal ‘hand’ at a distance.”
He went go on to define a haptic or teledildonic device (without using the actual term) as 'a metal "vagina" lined with sensors which would feed an artificial "phallus," not only mimicking the operator's movements, but, if desired, amplifying them. The artificial phallus in turn would sense the woman's pelvic movements and vaginal contractions, feeding back to the artificial "vagina." The mutual feedback, lubrication, constriction and so on could be easily adjusted to suit. Partners would only need to move minimally for the mechanical "genitals" to simulate violent coitus.”
Platt’s ‘metal vagina’ would resemble 'a long sausage, vibrating softly, full of warm treacle.' Just be thankful he doesn’t suggest jam.
Five years later in 1975 tech visionary Ted Nelson invented the term teledildonics in his book Computer Lib / Dream Machines. And by the 1990 issue of the cyber culture magazine Mondo 2000 Howard Rheingold – in his essay ‘Teledildonics: Reach Out and Touch Someone’ – predicted this new tech would be 'ubiquitous' by 2020.
Wishful thinking? Not according to the new brands on the haptic block.
First up 2015 XBIZ Award winning KIIROO. Inspired by the movie Demolition Man (namely the scene where the characters played by Sandra Bullock and Sly Stallone get it on, fully clothed, wearing headsets) KIIROO seeks to replicate sexual stimulation in real-time through the Internet, using sex toys for men and women.
Interestingly though it’s not all about the nookie. Alex T Legret, KIIROO’s Creative Director says the company’s founders are particularly interested in 'bringing people in LDRs back together' in response to the 'increase in human distance caused by mobile technology.'
Lovense are another company producing toys for long distance relationships. Eddy Olivares, Marketing Manager, says their founder developed the concept after he and his partner were separated in their late twenties.
'He was working abroad in the UK and his girlfriend was in China. It was difficult to connect on a sexual level,' Olivares says. 'Sexting wasn’t as prevalent as it is today and they found it hard to express themselves verbally. They looked for options to help them stay intimate at a distance but didn’t find any solutions. When our founder returned home he started researching the opportunity and the rest is history.'
As a result, Lovense’s whole marketing strategy is focused on long distance couples; something which is evident when you look at their warm and playful website with couples sharing laughter just like they do in homeware commercials.
But here’s the killer question: Do teledildonics sate the human libido?
'In my opinion, they 100% satisfy people in an LDR,' says Legret. 'People forget to keep this topic in context, because we expect all or nothing - texting or real sex. But when you think about being thousands of miles apart from the one person you love and having no other option... teledildonics are a no brainer.'
Olivares isn’t as certain. He says because the human libido varies in intensity and is affected by individual kinks teledildonics will not satisfy everybody’s needs.
'I'd say the majority of LDR couples are already sexting and having Skype sex on a regular basis, but it can be awkward for some or leave them craving each other more. Teledildonic technology is a natural next step for these couples. It provides a more physical and interactive experience,' he says. 'Nothing replaces the human touch, but for people in LDRs, teledildonics helps fill the intimacy gap [and] when you are hundreds or thousands of kilometers away from your partner, this is the best solution.'
Teledildonics might not replace human touch yet but some academics believe non-tactile intimacy can have a similar effect on the brain as physical touching.
In 2009 media psychologists Antal Haans and Wijnand A. IJsselsteijn produced a conference paper on telepresence: 'Touching is an important part of our social interaction repertoire. Despite the significance of touch, current communication devices rely predominantly on vision and hearing. In recent years, however, several designers and researchers have developed prototypes that allow for mediated social touch; enabling people to touch each other over a distance by means of haptic and tactile feedback technology. Designers of such systems conjecture that the addition of a haptic or tactile communication channel will enrich mediated interactions, and generally refer to the symbolic and intrinsic (e.g. recovery from stress) functions of social touch, as well as to the supposed intimate nature of addressing the skin.'
There is no doubting that interaction over the Internet has already fuelled shifts in the way in which we consider our immediate physical surroundings and moreover our body’s reaction to new virtual environments.
For instance eSports and more casual online gaming can lead to expressions of aggression and, likewise, when we see a loved one via Skype or photos of a new born family member posted on Facebook we can easily go emo. There is no denying the virtual can have a very real impact on our actual lives.
Sex tech expert Regina Lynn believes the term ‘virtual’ is already outdated. Writing about teledildonics in her book Sexual Revolution 2.0., Lynn says, 'It’s not sex but it is sex I don’t like the phrase "virtual sex" because it trivializes the experience. There are many ways to share sex with people in virtual spaces, and you still have to communicate to the other person what you like and don’t like. It’s such a mental and emotional experience. That’s part of what turns people on.'
Telledildonics. It’s the fucking future.
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