The Bright Digital Future of Sex(t)

picture courtesy Peter Zuco via Flickr.CC was a typical GRUE class topic: Shame as a Barrier to Enthusiastic Consent & How to Fix that Through Porn. Yeah, just look at that title: how many layers of intersection do you have there? Can you really see that being a class taught at a “regular” convention?

Probably not, and I understand why; you have a limited number of classrooms, and you need to provide classes that will fill a certain number of seats. But at a GRUE, the seats are fluid (the Law of Two Feet takes people to and from sessions) so the idea of filling a certain number of seats is kind of silly.

You might expect that the group that did gather for the session would be focused on the discussion of consent – or perhaps shame. As it turned out, though, it was a group that was much more focused on the idea of porn.

It’s also crazy the number of sex toys available, just look at the selection on a web site like Adult Sex Toys City and you’ll see it’s just immense!

Specifically, how can we fix it?

I didn’t know it was broken…

…you say, to which I reply “You haven’t been paying attention.” The problem porn is having is the same one it always has: technology is outpacing the ability to make it pay. Video did it to the porn movie industry, and then streaming video did it to hard-copy DVD and tapes, and now chat and custom-made-clips are doing it to streaming video (not to mention piracy).

I suppose I should digress here and say: if you are automatically against porn, and believe that those working in it are exploited by default and no one would voluntarily do that kind of thing…this is not the post for you. Use the Law of One Click and find something that more matches your views.

Still here? Cool. As someone who writes erotica and Sex Magic Thrillers, I’m very interested in the way people tell their erotic stories. And this session at the GRUE was more than just How do we fix the industry? Instead it was How do we encourage consent and fight shame by leveraging the power of porn and technology?

And that’s where it got really interesting. Because the session leader had expected to talk about her particular brand of porn – the porn that she likes to create, which is character- and plot- driven. Which unfortunately is not the kind of porn that most consumers want – they want something that will get them off fast. It’s rare that you get a large fan base that’s actually interested in the characters, especially if it includes the hardcore sex. The days of the Red Shoe Diaries are over; whether you’re sad about that or not, it’s true.


The attendees of the session were a particular kind of mix. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but I remember the demographics. There were two or three sex workers (I use that word in the sense that the act of sex is a direct income stream), two or three writers, and a couple of developers – that is, computer program developers. And as they all realized that, things began to get weird. Conversations happened like this:

  • Sex Worker: I would just love to be able to show more of what’s in my head when I’m acting – the background stuff. What it’s really like to be a phone sex operator…
  • Writer: Wouldn’t it be cool if we could have a multi-layered production? Something like where you watch the characters have sex, but the characters are actually phone-sex operators for their job…and you, as the viewer, could pay them to have phone sex with you?
  • Sex Worker: Or you could eavesdrop on the texts that were going back and forth!
  • Writer: Or be BCC’d on emails between characters! It would be like an immersive soap opera!
  • Sex Worker: That would be great – but how could we make it all be delivered to people on-call? To their phone, their email, or on video?
  • Developers: Oh, we could do that.

I wish I could have bottled the delighted looks on everyone’s faces as they realized that they could contribute to the dream. It was beautiful. Frankly, being as we were in Seattle, I half-expected them to form a corporation right there.

The Future is Now-ish

While the next wave of immersive porn did not occur at that GRUE, it doesn’t mean the idea died. For one thing, one of the developers and I are working right now on a GRUE app that will help people better navigate the Open Space events (GRUE and otherwise). The fact that such a product would help people outside of the kink realm tickles me to no end.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.15.12 AMBut the idea of getting to know your object of lust through more than just passive video watching? That’s here too, through sites like Arousr. You don’t just get video clips (though many of the women have them). You have the ability to text them, swap pictures, even video chat one-on-one (or two-on-one, as they encourage you to bring a partner).

Yes, they are playing a role, providing a service – something like a lapdance for your brain – and you have to pay them for their time an attention. That is, after all, the way of the world, and whether they are serving you coffee or teaching you how to code, you pay everyone for their time unless they volunteer.

But I have to think that it does something to make that person more dimensional, more real, to have the ability to talk to them on multiple levels – “just like a real person” is often the phrase used there, as if sex workers weren’t already. But that’s another discussion.

The fact is that the tools are out there. YouTube, Vimeo, Xtube has the video component. Podcasting has been around forever. And now there are also open source tools like Twine that let you create interactive text-and-image based stories. It’s practically begging for a talented erotica writer to take it on.

Personally, I can’t wait.

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