How Technology Has Impacted Our Sex Lives — For Better And For Worse
The digital revolution has undeniably changed the ways we work, socialize, date, and get laid. Today sex tech is no longer a corny sci-fi fantasy populated by randy replicants, libido boosting meals-in-a-pill and consequence free virtual reality romps, but a very real billion dollar industry dedicated to improving intimacy between couples and with ourselves. In addition to the many forms of sex-enhancing hardware out there is the software side of sex tech: the countless sites and applications that facilitate human connection — and hookups — in ways that have reconfigured the dating landscape forever.
As these advances have allowed people to experience orgasm for the first time, play with a partner despite being miles apart, and create community with likeminded people, feminist entrepreneurs are making waves by injecting activism into their companies and products, too. With MakeLoveNotPorn, Cindy Gallop is reframing what pornography is — and who can star in it. Through sex toy Eva, vulva-having folks can enjoy hands-free stimulation designed by women while getting it on, uninterrupted. And by using dating app Bumble, female daters can avoid a lot of the harassment they incur on other dating apps.
It's a big, beautiful, brave new world of sex out there. Here are some ways that technology has impacted our sex lives for the better — and worse.
1. Sex Toys Are More Accessible Than Ever
Folks under 25 take note: it was beyond difficult to get sex toys when I was in high school in the late 90s. A leering, mustachioed dude straight out of a cliche cartoon always seemed to be running the sex shops I patronized, I had to travel at least an hour to get to one, and most of the toys were shoddily made — and toxic.
Now, it's anyone's game. There are a bounty of quality toys sold online in all price ranges designed by women for women, and mainstream sites like Amazon even sell pleasure tools, too, so you can slip in a vibe while picking up a book or a pair of shoes. The democratization of pleasure is well under way, and more folks than ever have access to high tech sex toys that will quite literally blow your mind.
2. Pornography Is Available To Anyone With Wi-Fi
The non-stop availability of internet porn is both a blessing and a curse. Because technology has made it so much easier and cheaper to create and disseminate porn, a variety of diverse genres has been able to proliferate (hello feminist and queer porn!) that centers the pleasure of folks outside the cis het male bracket.
On the other hand, children are often getting their sex ed from porn since it's so easy to watch, which can impart some seriously problematic sexpectations. One British study of 1,001 11-16 year old children who had viewed internet porn found that 53 percent of boys believed it presented a realistic depiction of sex, while 39 of girls said the same. Now if only we could invent the technology to improve sexual education...
3. Sex Is At Your Fingertips With A Swipe
Location-based dating apps have taken over contemporary dating, and it's never been easier to get some. Tinder is the biggest name amidst the sea of apps, boasting over seven million monthly users with the median age of 26. OkCupid has over 2.5 million monthly users with the media age of 32, and Match has over two million monthly users with the median age of 45.
Whichever of these you choose to kill time with during your commute, waiting for a friend, or on a rainy Saturday night, they all can produce results ranging from immediate sex, a casual date, or long-term romance.
While some view the proliferation of digital dating as a fantastic leveling of the playing field since you don't have to be a master of game to meet new people, others think it has created a monster, where misogyny reigns (even more) supreme, and women and femme-identifying folks suffer the consequences. Whatever your view, there's no turning back culturally, but individually you can always opt out since deleting your dating apps is always an option.
4. "Phubbing" Derails Intimacy Between Couples
Technology is great when it brings people together, but just as often, it can tear people apart. Not only have social media and dating apps been linked to infidelity, there's that whole depressing phenomenon of "phubbing," which is the all-too-common practice of snubbing someone in their presence by being on your phone. (No one is immune to this, no one.)
A recent study revealed that millennials are having the least amount of sex compared to other generations, and one sociology professor at UT Austin suggested it might be due to constant connectivity. Professor Mark Regnerus told The Verge: “Look around you — people out to dinner often seem more interested in the box in front of them than in the person across from them...Of course sex will suffer under such circumstances.” So the paradox remains: in theory we can have more sex because of technology, but in practice, technology might be causing us to have less of it.
5. Creating Community Based On Your Sexual Preferences Is Easier Than Ever
Throughout history, so many forms of consensual pleasure have been pathologized, from kink to queer sex. With the community the internet has created, however, hubs across social media have made it easier than ever for folks to finally link up with the likeminded. Like BDSM? Want to try pegging? Prefer your relationships without sex? Instead of having to broach such questions with strangers you meet at a bar, dating apps, websites, and social media groups abound to get you started.
In the end, there are very real downsides to how sex and technology have intersected that we should not ignore. However, when it comes to sex, information and access is power, which is one way that technology has impacted human sexuality for the better.