The week of February 8th, 2014

What the Adult Entertainment Expo taught me about sex

By EJ Dickson

Last week, I went to the Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE) in Las Vegas, the largest annual convention for sex toys and novelty products in the adult industry. In addition to asking porn stars what their favorite emojis were and checking out the sights and sounds of the local ER (it’s a long story…), I spent a lot of time talking to innovators in the sex tech field about what the future of sex might look like.

As a writer who focuses on sex, technology, and the increasing intersection between the two, this is a question that comes up time and time again: What will sex in the latter half of the 21st century look like? Will we have machines that bring us to orgasm at the push of a button, a la Sleeper? Will we form relationships with husky-voiced digital voice assistants, a la Her? And when are we finally going to get those sexy robots we’ve been hearing so much about, like Michael Fassbender in Prometheus?

After hours of discussing these topics at length with experts in the field, I was excited to bump into Brian Sloan, the creator of one of the best-selling sex toys of all time, the automated oral sex machine the Autoblow 2. But when I asked him what his favorite sex tech innovation of the future was, he was fairly blase.

“People wanna just masturbate quickly and efficiently,” Sloan told me. “They don’t wanna power up, or configure, or navigate, or troubleshoot. They just wanna do their thing and that’s it.”

“People wanna just masturbate quickly and efficiently.”

I was dismayed. Was Sloan right? Was the future of sex technology really so bleak that there there no room for growth and innovation in the field? Was all the progress in the sex-positivity movement for naught? Did people truly just want to turn the lights off, “do their thing,” and that’s it?

Over the past few weeks, while working on this Valentine’s Day-themed issue of the Kernel, I realized that Sloan was spot-on. The future of sex isn’t going to be as wacky and extreme as Her or Sleeper or Barbarella made it out to be. The way humans have been having sex and masturbating for millennia isn’t going to drastically change anytime soon. There are just going to be some slight, shall we say, tweaks to the interface.

In this issue, we take a look at what some of these tweaks might be. We’ll be using apps to track our sexual performances more closely, if Miles Klee’s outrageously funny story about trying out the new sexual self-quantification trend is any indication. We’ll also likely be hacking our bodies to perform better in bed, and we’ll be improving our dating algorithms and using Facebook as a matchmaking tool, as Emma McGowan predicts in her piece on the future of online dating. Across the pond, Leslie Anne Jones explores the sexual revolution that’s been raging behind the Great Firewall of China. And yes, as Molly McHugh writes in her piece on android sex, we will definitely be having sex with robots.

Whether you’re excited by the technology-driven future of boinking or absolutely terrified of it, we hope you’ll read this issue and get a better of idea of what the next few decades have in store for us. Either way, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we hope it inspires you to grab your partner or your favorite toy and do a little research on the future of sex on your own.

Photo by Lianne Viau/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)