The Future of Sex? 5 Trends That May Completely Transform Our Sex Lives
Photo Credit: Black Milk
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“Picture a world without pornography,” adult film actress Allie Haze pointedly asks viewers in a 5-minute spoof segment titled “Porn Stars against Santorum.” Haze, in conjunction with Vivid Entertainment, a pornographic film production company, filmed the segment to speak out against former GOP candidate Rick Santorum’s proposed crackdown on commercial sex.
With or without support from people in power such as Santorum, the commercial sex industry is able to transcend even current political debates. A future without sex work is difficult to fathom because of the global, widespread scope of commercial sex.
A recent study conducted by Extreme Tech magazine estimates that pornography, which comprises only one aspect of the commercial sex industry, now makes up 30 percent of Internet traffic. In 2006, the commercial sex industry contributed approximately $13.3 billion to the United States economy -- without accounting for prostitution. In fact, some estimates indicate that the U.S. commercial sex industry had 2006 revenues that were larger than the National Football League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball combined. Commercial sex is not only pervasive in the US, but it also has a global reach that extends beyond its borders.
Societal and technological changes have set the commercial sex industry on a trajectory to become more conventional and normalized. Below are five trend clusters shaping the future of the commercial sex industry:
1. The commercial sex industry will expand the definition of sex. Augmented reality coupled with advances in robotics will allow sex add-ons to supplement traditional offerings. Future of Sex editor Meg White points to three emerging areas of commercial sex including virtual sex worlds, remote sex and robot sex. For instance, online sex workers increasingly will link their movements to remote sex toys or even robotic look-alikes. In effect, these new areas may reduce the risks associated with sex workplace violence and STIs, modernizing the online sex marketplace globally.
On the other hand, artificial intelligence capabilities may add heightened levels of social interactions with non-human machines. As our non-sexual needs are increasingly fulfilled by robots, avatars or digital communities, our sexual needs may follow along. Further, distinctions between virtual and real interactions will blur in the future. The accessibility of technology will create a greater demand for sex-based products and services. “Sex-ond” lives will redefine what it means to be in a relationship, have sex, and be in love. Couples will seriously discuss whether sex with robots constitutes cheating; and policy makers will debate what rights exist for sex workers in online communities.
2. Tech innovations will raise the intimacy level of commercial sex. Passive sex industry consumption will be replaced by greater sex intimacy in the future. Successful sex workers from prostitution, pornography and adult entertainment will integrate technology into their workplaces in order to differentiate themselves. An actress in adult entertainment could create a realistic "girlfriend" add-on experience complete with anniversary gifts and love letters.
A high level of personalization would be achieved by monitoring how a user acts in both sexual and non-sexual spaces throughout the virtual and real world. According to a study conducted by UK researcher Jon Millward, the “girlfriend experience” -- the sense that the client has a personal, ongoing emotional relationship with the sex worker -- ranks above the “porn-star experience” in online escort advertisements and ratings. As technologies advance, sex workers may sell not only traditional sex, but also value-added services such as personal relationships with levels of sociability that transcend machines.
Sex-based technologies already intersect with the dating industry. Long-distance couples use technology to create remote sex lives for themselves. One start-up company appropriately named Pillow Talk simulates the intimate experience of lying in bed with a partner by mimicking a heartbeat in a large pillow. Another tech application known as Pair allows couples to share pictures, messages, videos, sketches, and locations privately. FakeGirlfriend invites male singles seeking female companionship to create a unique “girlfriend.” Men using FakeGirlfriend receive computer-generated text messages to fool others into thinking they are in a serious relationship.