Emma & Bianca Discuss Virtual Reality Porn

 
 Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

The Math Magazine staff, quite naturally, ends up talking about some very interesting topics. So, we thought it would be fun to share a conversation between Emma, writing in from California, and Bianca, who is working from Arkansas. We hope you enjoy! 

Emma: Hi! I’m a design intern at Math Magazine and I’m currently working on a coloring book inspired by Math! I’m a recent graduate from California Polytechnic State University where I studied psychology, specifically how the social and cultural stigmatization of subjects like mental health, pornography, or drugs can impact healthcare and wellbeing. I’m always interested in starting dialogues around taboo subjects and the emergence of VR porn as a growing technology is no exception.

Bianca: Hey there, I’m also a design intern with Math Magazine. I graduated with a BFA in Communication Design from the University of North Texas, and I’m really interested in the overlap of the human condition and design. My projects range from layout design for the magazine to renderings of playful graphic patterns representing the fun and cheeky nature that is Math Magazine. One day, I brought up the topic of virtual relality (VR) porn to our team members and it struck up an interesting exchange between us. I’m no expert on the subject of VR porn, yet I’m interested in the prolific potential that it has in the sex industry and many of the conversations revolving around the topic.


Bianca: I’d like to start this conversation by saying that I didn’t know that VR porn was even a possibility until very recently. The other day, I had the house to myself, so naturally, I planned on masturbating at some point. So, I’m sitting on the couch in the living room and I got onto PornHub and found their “VR Porn” section and clicked on it out of curiosity—compatibility wise. How is this different from the other porn videos on here? I asked myself. I don’t even own a VR headset. Soon, I was watching my first VR porn video on my iPhone 7. I was able to rotate my phone in a panoramic motion and I felt like I was in the room watching the actress please herself in front of me. At first, it was pretty hot, but I felt taken out of it pretty fast too. Mostly because the environment felt too clinical and the actresses’ “dirty talk” felt so conventional. It felt just like any other standard mainstream porn.

Emma: I had similar feelings when I tried it, which was also on a phone but with one of the headset holders (Can’t recall the more explicit one I watched, but there’s some PG 13 stuff on YouTube like VR18). I’ve heard other people complaining of problems with the stitching together of the videos or proportions, eg. “it looked fine when she was in front of you but then if you look up she’s curved up, hovering over you like a giant,” or the logistical clunkiness of having something strapped to your face and the resulting sensory-deprivation like environment. Because it’s relatively new technology it seems like much of it is about capitalizing on new capabilities. But it seems gimmicky to me. For example, some of the stuff I watched had a girl posing in front of me, and then she’d walk around so I have to turn a full 180 degrees to see her again. And I guess it’s cool that we can do that but for me turning my head or body doesn’t add to the emersion.

For both 2D and VR porn I think the emersion is more based on a person’s mindset and willingness to suspend disbelief than the realism. My problems with immersion were similar to yours, more critiques of the content rather than the technical execution. Again given that it’s relatively new technology, I think VR porn is going to have most of the same problems of mainstream porn in terms of only representing a very narrow scope of sexality and only producing content that fits neatly into the pre-existing, stereotypical, searchable categories.

 Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Paramount for the sensation of  immersion  into virtual reality are a high  frame rate  (at least 95 fps), as well as a low  latency .

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Paramount for the sensation of immersion into virtual reality are a high frame rate (at least 95 fps), as well as a low latency.

Bianca: I just wish we could get out the gate with the all-inclusive content. You know? New technology, new mindset! I guess some of my biggest questions are: with VR porn, how will I receive the stimulation in the passion I feel during sex? How is the VR experience supposed to be any better than 2D? I understand that solo-masterbation and sex with actual people are different, but I wonder if VR can bridge the gap of experience. It wasn’t too long after trying VR that I decided to exit out of PornHub and go back to blogs on Tumblr to watch videos of real couples who enjoy making their own amatuer porn videos and share it with their followers.

In a nutshell, what I’m examining from my own behavior, is that we seek some form of humanity, personableness, or “realness” when it comes to finding a stimulating porn experience. I believe this can be achieved with VR porn, and it most certainly has in some aspects. For example, you can be intimate with real people anywhere around the world via the power of the internet and teledildonics. Kiiro, a fast-growing sex-tech company located in Amsterdam uses compatible sex toys to stimulate your partner(s) from a distance. And it’s not about pressing a button and suddenly some magical vibrating underwear or bullet vibrates (although that’s cool too). Get this, literally every stroke you make with your toy, the other person feels what you’re doing, and vice versa. But of course… what if it lags? That might take somebody out of the experience.

Emma: It’s interesting to me that there’s a lot of investment in interactive ways to connect people through VR, but most people I’ve talked to, and it sounds like maybe us included, would be way more likely to use it to enhance solo-play, rather than try to exactly simulate what it’s like to be with another person long distance.

 
 

GIF courtesy of GIPHY

Bianca: That’s true, I don’t think VR porn would always revolve around two people interacting, it could be solo-play or even more than two like in massively multiplayer games (which are already extremely popular)! Like you mentioned, VR porn inherently feels a little bit like a solo-act. But, I think VR porn has a lot of potential. It’s a step into our sexual future. Personally, after having an experience with it, I’d love to see what pioneering pornographers like Erika Lust can do with it, or Cindy Gallop.

Emma: Totally. I also think there’s potential for VR in industries like the camming industry or any kind of other self-made content. Personally, I would like to see future VR projects really take advantage of the unique spatial abilities in non-corny ways. There are a lot of interesting ways to play around with space and the body that are unique to VR. For example, that weird proportion glitch I mentioned earlier that made women seem giant could be taken advantage of to make a dominant figure or otherworldly being that much more intimidating and larger-than-life seeming. You could also simulate something being behind you to sneak up on you and create suspense or surprise.

Bianca: Yes! I would love to see some dom-play or what could happen with cam-girls and cam-couples and how it could change the way they interact with their patrons! What if we can have sex with them via a VR attachment? Or, what about the porn stars we enjoy performing in videos and movies? What if they pre-built a scene (similar to a game) where interacting with sex-workers via these devices we can put on our genitals? Or strap on a headset to watch a live-stream of people having sex who aren’t performers at all? I think the possibilities are endless!

Bianca: My biggest curiosity with VR porn is how accessible and common it will be in the next decade. Currently, it has gotten major attention from the gamer scene. I’m interested to see more people of all backgrounds using it.

Emma: I’m really curious to see what subsets of VR take off the most and what kind of unanticipated legal and ethical issues come up. Since we began working on this article we’ve seen deepfakes become a huge controversy in just a matter of days. I imagine that as time goes on we’ll see more of an overlap between machine learning or AI generated material and VR. And when it does I’m sure we’ll be here to commentate again!

 

MacKenzie Peck