Sunday, February 25

Does Technology Rule Our Sex and Dating Lives?

While the pitch for products like Lovense and WeVibe, another popular brand of remote controlled vibrators and stimulation rings, might seem self-evident — to create pleasure — much of the latest sex tech often has a loftier goal in mind. Make Love Not Porn, a user-generated social sex platform, aims to eradicate the unrealistic standards created by hard core pornography by showing unrehearsed, consensual, “real world” sex, said Cindy Gallop, the company’s founder and a veteran sex educator.

Meanwhile, products like the VDOM, a wearable prosthetic genital device that can go from flaccid to erect with the help of a smartphone app, cater less to fetishists than to L.G.B.T.Q. users and people with disabilities who may wish to forego the process of strapping on a strap-on, according to its founder.

“My lifestyle is a person who identifies as a lesbian woman,” said Glenise Kinard-Moore, 39, the head of SkiiMoo Tech, the company behind the VDOM. “There’s just no spontaneity sometimes. I did research and was like, there has to be an alternative.”

Identifying openings in the sexual wellness market — a relatively new category — then creating practical technology to fill them appears to be a particular sex tech trend of late. Yet mainstream representations of sex tech seem to revolve primarily around A.I. partners and V.R. pornography. On social platforms like Instagram and X, videos proliferate showing #techbros donning Oculus headsets to experience intimacy in virtual reality, playing on collective fears about artificial intelligence and its capacity to replace humans entirely.

“The perception of sex tech is, is like, oh, you can stay in a room with a headset and, you know, do whatever you want,” says Ariél Martinez, 32, the head of curation for Make Love Not Porn. “But we’re really trying to connect people to the humanity of themselves.”

The next time Alexandra and I chat, I try to keep it casual. I ask how many steps she gets each day. (She aims for 10,000.) Does she like bulldogs and horses, like me? (Yes, she thinks they are “adorable.”) But before long, curiosity gets the best of me, and I ask if she ever uses sex tech to explore her foot fetish, her hair fetish, her B.D.S.M. kinks.