Written by: Glenda Shaw
Womanizer Pro, We-Vibe 4 Plus, Magic Motion Dante/Candy, KIIROO Pearl and Onyx, blueMotion Nex 2, and Lovense Lush Vibrator represent the increasingly collaborative (and lucrative) relationship between the sex toy industry, haptic technology, mobile and wireless technology, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Sometimes referred to as Teledildonics or less frequently, Cyberdildonics, marketing often promotes these products in terms of the benefits they bring to long distance relationships, in addition to discreet public play.
Teledildonic products allow the toy-owner/user to share their sexual experience with intimate others via a smart device (i.e., bluetooth or wifi), the Internet, and a smartphone app. Apps allow the product to be remotely controlled and are often combined with in-app voice, chat and video capability, that allows “excitement to build”. Smart toys work by connecting the toy to an internet connection using the product app; messaging or calling your partner using the product app. You are encouraged to ‘tease’ and ‘chat’ and otherwise engage with your remote partner and when you are ready to engage in sexual activity, simply begin using the sex toy and the toy will respond to your use by sending feedback (about your movements) to your partner. Lovense products offer three ways to engage in long distance sex using their products: 1. your sex toy controls your partner’s toy 2. your partner’s sex toy controls your toy 3. both toys sync and interact with each other.
The public attitude toward technologically mediated sexual practices is often negative, especially in relation to the increasing collaboration between AI and sex dolls. For example, the 2nd annual Congress on Love and Sex with Robots was deemed illegal and abruptly cancelled in 2015, presumably because it was believed there would be actual sex taking place between robots and well, people. “There’s nothing scientific about sex and robots,” inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar told a press conference, explaining why. “It is an offense to have anal sex in Malaysia [let alone sex with robots].” A group of robot ethicists have launched the Campaign Against Sex Robots, seeking a ban on the development of robotic sex companions, specifically those made in the likeness of children, on the grounds that human-sexbot sex degrades human relationships and reinforces a view of women as sexual objects. “Persons are not things and things are not persons. Supporting practices that present persons as things and things as persons will continue to impact on the real lived lives of human beings in the most horrific ways.” Other criticisms of intimate human-robot interaction argue that such relations are not at all authentic and are therefore morally problematic.
Other issues this sector is confronting, includes the technologies’ vulnerability to hackers. Software firm, Trend Micro, has warned that sex toys connecting to the Internet are likely vulnerable to cyber attacks/hacks. Further, when devices are in use, the toys may use its internet connectivity to regularly send information back to its manufacturer. For example, We-Vibe 4 Plus sends the device’s temperature every minute, and lets the manufacturer know each time a user changes the device’s vibration level. The company could easily figure out some seriously intimate personal information like when you get off, how long it takes, and with what combinations of vibrations.
Ethics of sex toys aside, as Internet of Things (IoT) devices entering homes in many ways including, security cameras, smart thermostats and smartphone-controlled appliances, such as personal sex toys, the opportunities for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities in private networks is increasing as are the opportunities for corporations to collect ever more data about its users.