“Online sexual activities no longer are restricted to text, pictures, videos, webcams, and audio. Nowadays, while still in its infancy, we have teledildonics. Teledildonics is essentially a virtual reality application that allows individuals to have sex interactively with people miles away. At present, mobile phones can call up and activate internally worn vibrators. Futurists have dreamed up many other potential ways that technology can be used to pleasure people. In the future, we expect that full body suits will exist that will be able to stimulate all five senses” (Whitty & Fisher, 2008).
“Virtual Reality, or interactive graphical simulations, has been clearly demarcated by the owners of the means of production as an almost exclusively masculine enclave. Almost all applications (at least those that are marketable) respond to specifically male needs, be they physical, emotional, recreational, technical, military or sexual. As with most current Internet commercial activity, female exploitative, male-targeting pornography (‘phallocratic’ applications) will dwarf other applications by the sheer volume of activity. “Teledildonics” (from dildo: artificial penis) will provide unimagined, unlimited and customisable sexual services to male clients” (Walberg, 2006).
“[Male clients will be able to] wriggle into a condom-tight body suit embedded with thousands of miniature electronic sensors, computer controlled to simulate the feel of any object from rubber to skin. Suitably protected participants could then interface sexually with any partner, real, imaginary, or re-created” (McKie, 1994)
“[Teledildonics is] the virtual-reality technology that may one day allow people wearing special bodysuits, headgear and gloves to engage in tactile sexual relations from separate, remote locations via computers connected to phone lines” (Chicago Tribune, 1993).
“Futurologists are predicting drugs which sort out every kind of sexual malfunction and switch libido on and off like a light, ‘teledildos’ operated by computer for those who like to be probed from afar and underwear packed with sensors for couples bored with the limitations of current video games” (Twinn, 2007).
As these opening quotes demonstrate, visions of sex in the future are commonplace and often mention ‘teledildonics’. According to Wikipedia, the term ‘teledildonics’ was coined by hypertext inventor Ted Nelson in his 1974 self-published book Computer Lib/Dream Machines. In his book, Nelson hypothetically described a computer system that could translate sound waves into tactile sensations that could be affected in or on the body via user-operated stimulator device (i.e., a wired sensor system that was capable of converting sound into tactile sensations). However, a short article written by Charles Platt describes a teledildonic hardware device (but does not use the term itself):
“Many men display more affection for their cars than their wives; perhaps the ultimate love-object could be a plastic thing, with many alternative orifices, offering various tactile qualities, shapes and depths…The idea of something like a long sausage, vibrating softly, full of warm treacle, has certain attractions as a sexual toy”.
More recently, it was Howard Rheingold’s essay ‘Teledildonics: Reach Out and Touch Someone’ in a 1990 issue of the cyberculture magazine Mondo 2000 that popularized the concept and is viewed by many as a ‘must read’ for anyone (as Jane Fader asserts) “interested in the intersection of sex and technology, social networks and identity, or history of thought”. I first came across the word in 1993 when I appeared on a Channel 4 television documentary talking about video game sexploitation (in fact, Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices defines ‘teledildonics’ as “sexual arousal from computer sex games”). The online Urban Dictionary defines it as the “computer-mediated sexual interaction between the [virtual reality] presences of two humans”. Alternatively, Wikipedia claims that teledildonics refers to:
“…electronic sex toys that can be controlled by a computer to reach orgasm. Promoters of these devices have claimed since the 1980s they are the ‘next big thing’ in cybersex technology. ‘Teledildonics’ can also refer to the integration of telepresence with sex that these toys make possible. In its original conception, this technology was to have been used for remote sex (or, at least, remote mutual masturbation) where the physical sensations of touch could be transmitted over a data link between the participants. Sex toys that can be manipulated remotely by another party are currently coming onto the market”.
For Rob Baedeker, author of the article ‘Virtual Sex’ on the Web MD website, teledildonics (or cyberdildonics as he also calls it) simply relates to any sex toy that can be controlled via a computer. To give an example, Baedeker describes a wireless vibrator called the ‘Sinulator’ that works via an online application controlled by somebody other than the person that physically has the vibrator. He also describes the ‘Interactive Fleshlight’ corollary – “a penis sleeve for men that transmits in-and-out action into vibrations for the Sinulator on the other end”. For his article, Baedeker interviewed Regina Lynn, author of Sexual Revolution 2.0 who in relation to teledildonics was quoted as saying:
“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”.
However, now that we have Skype where couples can have mutual masturbation sessions with each other real-time and face-to-face, it does beg the question whether teledildonics has a future. It will ultimately come down to whether individuals want and/or prefer tactile over visual cues from their sexual partner. As Antal Haans and Wijnand A. IJsselsteijn note in a 2009 conference paper they wrote 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…Interestingly, in the domain of internet-based adult toys there are several commercial systems available that take advantage of combining tactile stimulation with visual feedback”.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Baedeker, R. (2009). Everything you’ve been afraid to ask about sex in cyberspace. Web MD. Located at: http://www.webmd.com/men/features/virtual-sex
Cybersex (2014). Teledildonics. Located at: http://cybersex.wikispaces.com/Teledildonics
Castronova, E. (2009). Fertility and virtual reality. Washington & Lee Law Review, 66, 1085-1126.
Fader, J. (2010). ‘Teledildonics’ by Howard Rheingold. September 15. Located at: http://janefader.com/teledildonics-by-howard-rheingold-mondo-2000-1990/
Haans, A., & IJsselsteijn, W. A. (2009). I’m always Touched by Your Presence, Dear”: Combining mediated social touch with morphologically correct visual feedback. Proceedings of Presence 2009.
McKie, D. (1994). Cybersex, Lies and Computer Games. In Green, L. (Ed.), Framing Technology. NSW: Allen & Unwin.
Twinn, F. (2007). The Miscellany of Sex: Tantalizing Travels Through Love, Lust and Libido. London: Arcturus.
Walberg, S. (2006). The ideological and cultural processes that represent new communications technologies as’ masculine’. Located at: http://serge.walberg.tripod.com/GenderEssay.pdf
Whitty, M.T., & Fisher, W.A. (2008). The sexy side of the internet: An examination of sexual activities and materials in cyberspace. In A. Barak (Ed.), Psychological Aspects of Cyberspace: Theory, Research, Applications (pp. 185-208). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wikipedia (2014). Teledildonics. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teledildonics