I had an unexpected encounter with some 21st Century smut this past Mother’s Day: I was given the opportunity to test out a model of Oculus Rift. If you’re not familiar, it’s the virtual reality headset developed for a fully immersive gaming experience which gained headlines last year after being bought by Facebook for a whopping $2 billion. I was attending a family get-together at my future “in-laws,” and was informed that my boyfriend’s very tech-savvy cousin was bringing over the whole set up to give us a demonstration.
“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” said my boyfriend’s stepfather. “It’s like you’re really there.” He went on to describe teetering on the edge of a synthetic cliff and riding a virtual reality rollercoaster. “And there’s something on there for you,” he said, pointing to my boyfriend. “You gotta check out the porn. It’s gonna blow your mind.”
I’m no stranger to pornography myself. In today’s self-righteous and sexually liberated culture, it’s more common for women to admit to watching and enjoying porn. However, the stigma behind it hasn’t completely disappeared. I’ve known women who have felt threatened by their S.O.’s habits and tried to shame them into not watching it. I’ve dated people who either avoided the subject or approached it apprehensively, as if it would be some devastating blow to find out they enjoy visual stimulation. I wasn’t surprised that my boyfriend’s stepfather didn’t direct the offer at me in the assumption that I wouldn’t be interested. He is from a different time and probably wouldn’t guess by looking at me that I’ve typed the keywords “forced bdsm gangbang” into a searchbar more than once.
“There was one video with two chicks in the room,” stepfather continued, “It was like I could really reach out and grab ‘em, if you know what I mean. Like they were really right there in front of me,” he gestured, flexing his fingers. “I heard they’re working on something you can slip over your pecker, to make the experience even more real.”
It didn’t surprise me to hear that the adult entertainment industry would look at Oculus Rift as an exciting business opportunity. Executives for the VR technology have stated they’ve no intention to block any software from their platform, X-rated content or otherwise. Japanese manufacturers are rumored to have already started production on the aforementioned pressure sensing fucksleeve. It is clear that the often depicted and sought after world on digital intimacy has now presented itself in its earliest and roughest stages.
Although porn is something I enjoy, the sheer amount and accessibility online sometimes frightens me. It’s no question that porn culture has bled into real life and provided a sadly inaccurate depiction of what sex is supposed to be like for a lot of young men and women. There are people who prefer actresses with seemingly absent gag-reflexes and eagerly gaping assholes over real women with leg hair who had Chipotle for lunch. So, what happens when you provide a fully immersive experience like Oculus Rift in the decade where women are finally voicing their maybe-not-so-sexy opinions about their patriarchal oppressor? Why fuck a girl with prickly pube stubble when your ten freshly waxed Asian love slaves are waiting for you to fill all their virtual orifices? How far away are we from being able to sync up a person’s Facebook profile to a digital mold, and you can finally show Stephanie Henderson who’s boss after she denied your request to go to Homecoming sophomore year? I suddenly envisioned myself an Oculus Rift widow, coming home to a man once again so submerged in a crafted sensory enlightenment, he can’t notice me packing all of my belongings and fleeing to Alaska to live off the land sans technology, like the people on National Geographic’s “Life Below Zero.”
When it finally came time to try things out, I was eager to see how enveloped one could really become and elected to go first. I slipped on the headset, calibrated my eyes and was soon walking through an Italian Villa. I ended up being a little disappointed, as the “It feels like you’re really there,” statement was quite a stretch. It was more like, I was “really there” in a Playstation 3 game. Once everyone had a turn trying out the rollercoaster and, in turn, recovering from intense motion sickness, we relocated indoors to celebrate America’s most honored and traditional Mother’s Day activity: watching porn as a family.
It might have just been an older and more experimental video, but the first thing I noticed was that my perspective wasn’t actually 360 degrees. While a young woman was furiously sucking my “dick,” all I wanted to do was turn around and look at the wall art above the couch I was sitting on, but was disappointed to see only a harsh black edge. It was no different than if I had been pressing my face against an old box television set. I felt detached from my male extremities and wondered if they had any plans to make POV videos for women. Not so much from the point of view of the woman getting nailed, but perhaps rather as a spectator in the corner of the room, just sitting in a lounge chair with a cigar, watching. The woman in the video would occasionally glance at me and whisper, “Who is that” to her male counterpart while I intermittently let out robust chuckles and soft golf claps.
Although I had been certain that this would truly be the beginning of the end of my sex life, I was assured in that moment that there was much work to be done before I could truly feel the threat of robot overlords. Oculus Rift has quite a lot ahead of them before they can completely wipe out my purpose as a sexual being. And I found some comfort in that. I’ll be excited to see what they have to offer when the device is finally released in 2016 for commercial purchase, and until then I will be reveling in my new found appreciation for genuine intimate interaction.