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Sex Tech and Relationships: Navigating the Boundaries

Plus 6 sex tech innovations changing the pleasure game



Like it or not the digital age is here to stay—and with it comes extraordinary advances in sex tech. From VR pornography to wifi sex toys to whatever comes next...it’s time for couples to start talking about boundaries and expectations regarding sex tech and fidelity.


The thrusting point of sex tech innovation


Sex tech has always represented a driving force in innovation and occupied a significant slice of the economy. From sheepgut condoms to Victorian “hysteria-relief machines” to the first sepia photograph of a naked ankle sold for two bits.


Yet somehow as a society we’ve been unable to talk candidly about it until recently—including within relationships. But conversation is vital. In the sense that vital means staying alive. Without empathetic and effective communication, the clash between assumption and conduct can be deadly in a relationship.


In the digital age, sex tech is evolving as fast as any industry—faster even, if you factor together apps, toys, VR, Pornhub, etc. Innovations in sex tech have cultivated a multibillion-dollar industry of tools helping people get off.


And like any tool, sex tech can cut both ways.


Benefits of sex toys and technology

Tool use is part of our social DNA. When we face a problem our instinct says reach for a tool. And sexuality is part of our actual DNA. We rank among the horny elite of animals who have sex for pleasure’s sake. The confluence of the two has flooded the fertile ground of our imagination, spilling the seeds of an enormous marketplace helping people solve sex problems.


Sex tech helps people:

  • Safely explore fantasy and achieve release without risk

  • Rekindle the routine-bound bedroom

  • Spice up date night with wifi wearables

  • Maintain long-distance intimacy anywhere with internet


Think about soldiers deployed overseas. Once upon a time they’d have to send letters and wait for replies, hoping maybe for a photograph. Then email made it quicker—and introduced the dick pic. Now service members can Facetime with a lover back home, each of them using a toy connected through wifi to an app on the other’s device. What’s coming next?


(Rest assured, somebody is.)


But sex tech can also drive a wedge between expectations and outcomes in a relationship. What if your partner lets someone else operate their toy from a distance? Is that cheating? Or within your boundaries? What if they operate a pornstar’s toy as a paid service? What if porn gets so realistic it makes your partner uncomfortable?


With great power comes great responsibility


Sex play is an orchestra of power. Pleasure, trust, control...it’s all better when everyone’s in tune and harmonizing. Introducing power-tools adds a whole new layer of expectation and consent. And that means fidelity contracts need to evolve in sync.


Fidelity is relative, personal, and based on consent. And consent is a moment-to-moment agreement—not a notarized writ. Though society’s fidelity default is monogamy, the variations are endless. Anything goes as long as everyone involved is informed and consenting. But unilateral deviation from the understood agreement—whatever it may include—is infidelity. Cheating.


There are two kinds of infidelity: perceived and actual. In this case we’re dealing with perceived infidelity. It always comes down to assumption vs discussion. Always. And the key? You got it: communication and empathy.


Common issues involving sex technology couples may face:

  • Masturbation (with/without porn)

  • Porn and fantasy—desires and discomforts

  • Compulsive use and addiction

  • VR and immersive experiences—what’s too real?

As the song says: Unvoiced expectations are premeditated resentments. Have the conversation. It may be awkward at first but it’ll bring you closer together through empathy. And you might find some shared excitement to propel your pleasure.


6 sex toys and tech you should at least read about


1. Oculus and other VR porn

2. WeVibe and WeConnect

3. Lovense

4. Kiiroo – for him and her

5. Fleshlight

6. Deep fake porn


Where porn and reality meet



Humanity as a whole is entering a brave new intimacy—sexual and otherwise. As digital worlds edge closer and closer to reality, the lines between can blur from a psychological standpoint. The immersive nature of VR and the complex nature of porn viewership come together in a delicate chemistry that can easily meltdown the pillars of a fidelity agreement.


What if you found your lover watching deep-fake porn with your image substituted in for the actor, making faces and sounding just like you? What if it was your best friend’s face? Is th at cheating? Or just porn?


The answer of course depends on the person. Which is why (again and always) clear communication is key. Talk about masturbation and porn. Ask about boundaries and fantasies you can fulfill for each other. Engage in empathy and forge a deeper connection that will ultimately lead to a better, more powerful sexual experience.



Need some guidance?


Ask a therapist




Produced with Quillpower


Sex Therapy at Home

Better communication for better intimacy

Exercises for mastering anxiety & facing fear

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Richmond, VA 23294

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© 2020 by Valerie McDonnell

Wordwork by Quillpower