Do vibrators behold the future of sex?

Sex on Blogday

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Matthew Kirschenbaum/Staff

This past Tuesday, I attended a party at the Berkeley location of Good Vibrations, a Bay Area-based sex shop filled with classy and delicate goodies. The event was co-sponsored by the Berkeley Free Clinic, a sexual nonprofit health care center. I had a blast playing dildo ring toss, listening to my idol — sexologist Dr. Carol Queen — and learning about the specifics of sex toys. But it dawned on me that Good Vibes was being taken over by vibrators, pulsators and electronic gizmos. Is technology the future of sex?

During my extensive tour, before we delved into the more advanced electronics, we focused on inclusiveness and genderless marketing. Carol Queen made sure to lightly emphasize that cock rings (or rather just rings), for example, can be placed on a phallic body part, not necessarily a penis. I had never thought about anatomy lying on a spectrum like gender identity. Sex toys too are gendered and can be found problematic, but Good Vibes tries to eliminate gender problems when shopping for sex. Good Vibes is definitely the place to be to feel appreciated regardless of gender or sex identity.

Although we may not live in a post-gender society, one of my favorite modern theorists Donna Haraway argues that post-gender implies that humans are cyborgs — technologically-embedded beings. Although it sounds like science fiction, think about it: With all the growing and changing technology today, it is a bit spooky that humans are adapting to code their brains as like computers. While society may not be ready to move into a post-gender realm, we are ready to move into the cyborgian realm of electronic sex.

Foreign, nonhuman objects have been used for sexual pleasure for years. Back in the nineteenth century, vibrators were used to supposedly cure women of hysteria. And thus the vibrator was invented out of yet another patriarchal institution. We are humans, we have pleasure points and erogenous zones, therefore we should be able to please ourselves in whatever way feels best — maybe from body-to-body contact, maybe from object-to-body contact. Is society moving into an cyborgian age where technology cannot escape the bedroom?

I believe that it is fun and healthy to incorporate robotic extensions into one’s sex life. While in conversation with Carol Queen about the worries of using too much technology, I pondered the possibility of a negative consequence to using too much technology for sex. I asked her about her opinions of bodily versus technological contact. Her views: “Having it both ways gives us more knowledge and greater degrees of flexibility in our erotic choices”. So be sure to try it with and without electronics: You never know what you will like best.

It is important not to allow the common association between females and vibrators to deter anyone from using a sex toy, regardless of gential status. At Good Vibes, I was pleased to see that their collection of vibrators and pulsators did not include solely phallic-shaped objects. I found vibrators that looked like penises, mushrooms, dolphins, cylinders, you name it! But it doesn’t stop there; vibrators are not meant only to be placed in an orifice. You can put vibrators in the vagina, on the vulva, on the corona, in the anus, on the perineum – the list is endless. Use sex toys wherever feels good to you.

I’m not too worried about technology overcoming body-to-body experiences. Sex toys provide another form of pleasure for many, so why not use them to our advantages? To quote Carol Queen in an email response: “To the person who finds out their significant other is using a toy: Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s about you. It’s just about their own desire and response. It’s a wonderful extra in a relationship to be able to share someone’s path to orgasm — however they get there — and you can learn a LOT by watching someone with their favorite toy.”

Contact Matthew Kirschenbaum at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @mpkirschenbaum.