How might sex and relationships be affected by virtual reality porn? There are a lot of legitimate drawings in the brave alternative world of virtual reality porn, but how will it affect sex and relations with IRL individuals? Here, experts converse.
Before technology entered the bedroom, it was only a matter of time. We're not talking about the latest sex toys or apps that improve sex, we're talking about porn virtual reality.
Less than five years ago, VR porn, the computer-generated simulation of three-dimensional sexual interactions, first entered the market, just as the concept of virtual reality took off through video games and travel simulation. Rene Pour, CEO of VR porn site Reality Lovers, says that 2016 was a period of "massive growth" for VR porn as new devices came onto the market, including smartphone connections and virtual reality goggles specifically designed for virtual porn use. And by 2017, in a report, Pornhub shared VR was one of their fastest-growing categories, watching VR porn videos 500,000 times every day.
"With advances in VR technology the experience of VR porn is quickly changing the landscape of visual erotica from a two-dimensional experience (in which the consumer is more of a voyeur) to one that intimates a much more three-dimensional and immersive experience," says Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., a certified sex therapist and founder of Modern Intimacy in Beverly Hills, CA. And what could it mean your ability to connect in the flesh with other humans?
The Porn Experience VR
In order to access content that would then be displayed through the glasses, we initially designed VR glasses to plug into your smartphone or home device, such as a PlayStation; however, the most modern VR goggles are wireless, stand-alone devices with internet connectivity, so they require no additional hardware. You can directly download or stream the content, making it even simpler to use and an even higher quality experience, Pour says. The Oculus Quest 2 (Buy It, $399, Amazon.com) is currently the mainstream device that provides the "best experience yet," he says.
Reality Lovers is one of the leading virtual reality porn businesses, with others offering VR porn channels, including Naughty America, VR Bangers, VRporn.com, SexLikeReal, and VirtualRealPorn, and some more conventional sites such as Pornhub and RedTube. These VR companies run the gamut for the quality of experiences, as with traditional, two-dimensional porn; some sites offer free content, and it bases others on subscriptions for membership. The more you pay, the higher the quality of production and video will be, but with VR, the device on which you view it will also affect your experience.
"VR headsets are the baseline requirement for viewing VR porn, but some most exciting advancements in the technology are actually in sex toys that accompany VR porn," explains Caitlin V. Neal, M.P.H., a resident sexologist for the Royal sexual hygiene company. "they design most of these toys for people with penises and are essentially mechanical strokes that can either be synced with the porn you're watching or with another toy operated by someone else." Some VR sex toys can connect directly to the goggles via Bluetooth, such as those from top retailers Kiiroo, LELO and Lovense, so that what you feel and what you watch syncs up,
Although technology has not allowed VR porn to relay some other sensory elements of a sexual experience (think: smell, taste, or the feeling that a partner is actually touching), "the size and proximity distance of virtual partners alone can turn a consumer's world around," says Balestrieri. Watching porn on a two-dimensional screen depicts bodies that, relative to those in virtual reality, are not life-sized. This can excite the brain in various ways and can even encourage some individuals to unconsciously engage in sex-emulating body movements because, Balestrieri says, the experience feels so real.
"As a viewer, you're close to they record the actors like in the exact eye position of the actor. Through the lenses of the goggle, you can see the situation or the sex partner in the same way as the actor perceives them."
Interestingly, the preliminary VR porn research found that this first-person perspective is like a golden ticket for both sexes to induce arousal. "The "participant" perspective consistently resulted in greater arousal compared to a voyeuristic view in a study published in Computers in Human Behavior, regardless of whether it was viewed as VR or "traditional" 2D porn.
Sex, Tech and VR Porn's Future
While sex tech may feel inherently riskier or less authentic than pairing with another human IRL, VR porn can offer more realistic and related experiences for those who can't partner safely, just don't have a partner at the moment, or who are in a long-distance relationship (just look at the boom of sex toys with remote control!). Imagine the ability to have VR sex with yourself in the future.
"As the sex tech space continues to grow, Balestrieri predicts that technology's influence on an already charged human experience is likely to foster new sexuality dimensions. VR porn is just the beginning. And if these freaks you out, in her reminder, you can take comfort: "it means us to touch the skin of each other. Smell the breath of each other, taste each other's skin. No technology can replace the sexual experience's real-life imperative.