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More than just sex

Turning pornography from a passive viewing experience into an interactive one qualitatively changes the nature of the game. It is now possible to make the experience not only about sex, but about feeling close another human being, even if that person isn’t real.

Japan in particular has a tradition of creating “dating simulators”, some of which have explicit content and some which do not. These involve wooing one of several romantic possibility and (depending on the type of game) you may be rewarded with the opportunity to be intimate with that character if you make the right choices.

These sorts of deeper interaction take on a whole new dimension when applied to virtual reality. Sony’s Playstation VR HMD was announced along with a number of software titles. One of them, Summer Lesson, puts you in the role of a tutor that must spend time with a number of girls in their bedrooms. The game isn’t explicit, but it shows the potential of virtual reality to craft intense experiences that are about more than just sex.

In fact, virtual reality experiences may eventually serve as a substitute for human contact. Something which is a legitimate concern, voiced by media commentators and academics. Technologies such as virtual reality pornography may have a profound effect on the society of the future.

The future impact of virtual reality pornography

Technologies change society and sex is always a fundamental part of any society. So it stands to reason that a technology that changes sex itself could have a double impact. It’s not only virtual reality, but related technology such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence and robotics that are set to change how humans conduct their sex lives in the future. Already some ethicists are calling for a pre-emptive ban on sex robots. The same argument against sex robots would hold true for virtual entities.

Even today some people are highly susceptible to fantasy, getting lost in virtual worlds to the detriment of their health and quality of life. There are also a whole host of ethical questions that come to mind. For instance, if you have teledildonic sex with a stranger over the internet, does that count as infidelity? What if it is with a recording, or an AI character? How emotionally invested will people become in fantasies that can literally touch them so intimately?

We don’t have the answers to such questions yet, but new technologies that drive new ways to express our sexuality are emerging at the same time as major attitude changes to sex, gender identity and the bounds of what is permissible are happening. Only time will tell the consequences of these events, but there is almost no doubt that virtual reality will continue to play a central role in them.'

© Georgina Rowlands, all rights reserved