Durex Creates Smart Undies For Cyber Sexy Times

This Article Originally Appeared On Lip Magazine:
(http://lipmag.com/featured/transferring-touch-durex-creates-smart-undies-for-cyber-sexy-times/)
 

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Although pairing technology with sexy times is not new, recent innovations by Durex are being hailed as a ‘world first’ in wearable technology. Durex are currently developing underwear with inbuilt sense actuators that will be connected to a smart phone app, used for long distance transferring of touch. So, the app connects two smart phones through an Amazon server, and then connects to the men’s and women’s underwear. When stroking a picture of lady or man bits on the app, that touch is reproduced through the actuators in the underwear and felt by the wearer, taking cyber sex to a whole new level.

Durex ‘Fundawear’ (yeah, I know, hideous name, right?) is currently an experiment, but may become a reality in the near future. It is important to question whether this technology is entirely positive and what the possible social implications of its development may be. As with any new technology, especially those impacting on human relations, there is a tendency to fear its capabilities of dehumanisation. Will it get to the point where we don’t actually touch each other – we just use the app for that? You can just imagine future married couples in waning and loveless relationships sitting morosely in bed together engaging in ritualistic virtual foreplay instead of the real thing. However, it’s all too easy to lapse into these familiar moral panics around technology, and I like to take a more optimistic approach.

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Clearly the app/undies have obvious benefits for long distance couples and also just look like a lot of fun. Although the marketing is shamelessly heteronormative, with blatant his and hers sections full of pink and blue, not to mention the standard girly lingerie for ladies that just screams Male Gaze/compulsory hyper-femininity, this technology is not limited to heterosexual couples. Unless “his” phone cannot connect to another “his” phone…then there’d be a problem.

There are so many ethical and social questions that rise out of new social media technologies, and Durex Fundawear is no exception. What happens if you loose your phone and someone else uses it to cyber-grope your lover? What about hackers? These issues are not so problematic while the technology is a novelty, but what if the technology is developed to the point where it is normalised and standardised, so every pair of undies you buy are equipped with the Fundawear capability? Will anyone be able to connect with your server, to the point where you could be virtually pinched on the butt by a stranger in the line at K Mart without them physically touching you? It would be like the poke option on Facebook, but you would actually feel it. That could get scary.

I think this potential addition to cyber sex is positive in terms of the use of touch. It seems fairly futuristic to be able to create simulated sensations that are actually being controlled by the person you would like to be physically doing that stuff with, but perhaps can’t for whatever reason. Being able to physically feel even simulated touch could be comforting for those in times of loneliness and isolation. I know there have been times in my life where I would have loved to reach through the computer/phone screen to the person on the other end. There is no denying that simulated touch could never replace real human emotion and sensuality, but it’s better than nothing.

Post-structuralist feminist, Helen Cixious and Iris Marion Young have both argued that touch is an especially empowering and salient sense for women. Sight and visual stimuli have been largely associated with male (hetero)sexuality through the concept of the oppressive Male Gaze, which has been used to objectify women by giving men the power of The Look. A recent example of this at play is that of the scandalous Danish television program which featured naked women being judged by men on the “aesthetics” of their bodies. By introducing virtual touch as a new element of cyber sex, the objectifying power of the Male Gaze will be diluted, resulting in a less oppressive experience for women. Misogynist trolls will be less able to exploit women through things like creep shots and revenge porn if virtual touch becomes a bigger part of online sexual interactions. You can’t save touch and upload it later without someone’s consent. You can’t use virtual touch to slut-shame. When you are touching someone you are also being touched yourself, thus there is less of a power imbalance than being the person who actively looks and the person who is passively looked at.

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In Mad Men Season 1 Peggy tries out the ‘Electrosizer,’ another curious vibrating underwear…

As with any new technology, Durex Fundawear has both positive and negative aspects. Whether or not this technology is for you, it undeniably makes us think about the ways in which technology and the Internet are impacting and shaping the ways in which we create and perform our sexualities.

iDentity: Constructing Gender Through Apps and 4G Technology

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As we perform and construct gender through external costume pieces such as clothing, cosmetics and hairstyles etc, I believe we also portray ourselves as gendered through our material possessions. As we progress further into an information-based society our possessions are increasingly virtual, in the form of applications on smart phones for example. Although we see our use of these technologies as personalised, reflecting our individuality, what we begin to see are new discourses and norms around how to perform gender that reflect the stereotypes of the real world.

I am fundamentally interested as to what extent we are projecting ourselves into and through our online presence and use of Internet technologies. There are times when I have been sitting at my computer, or using my iPhone, when I have almost been entirely unconscious of my physical body. I may be interacting with my wider circle of friends in a legitimate and productive way, and yet I am doing this through an artificial and intangible networking system in which my body does not physically exist. In this situation how is my identity constructed? How do my friends make the conceptual leap from merely seeing a collection of symbols on a screen to actually feeling like they are interacting with the person they know to be me? As in all human creations and interactions, gendered meanings inevitably permeate this discourse even if it is disembodied in cyberspace. 

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I have a hunch that, as we progress into the future, you will be able to tell more and more about a person by their use of internet and smart phone technologies, to the extent that eventually someone’s combination of social networking profiles, photo sharing habits and applications will constitute a large portion of their identity. We can already see this happening in the ways people portray themselves online. What is it about a person’s Facebook page that tells us about their gender? They may have chosen male or female in their information, in congruence with their real life sex. There may be photos of their real world self that we can decode as being a particular gender according to their physical appearance, as we would in daily life. Perhaps they like certain pages, links and other profiles that may give an indication of their gender identity. I also think that the way we photo-share reflects our general worldview, which is profoundly influenced by our gender, and therefore works to construct our online image of ourselves through what we believe is worth sharing.

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I was inspired to write this blog because of my recent discovery of just how gendered many Apps are, and the extent to which we have projected aspects of our selves, our lives and our cultures through this new form of technology. There are copious numbers of pregnancy and menstrual cycle tracker apps for women. These often feature lovely pink backgrounds and graphics with cute little pictures. There are also gendered dating apps such as the infamous ‘OkCupid’ and ‘Grindr,’ which largely reproduce stereotypes and discourses of gender and sexuality in the outside world online.

I was simultaneously intrigued and enraged to discover earlier this week that Android are developing an iPad-like tablet “For Women” which features numerous pre-loaded apps (http://jezebel.com/5990404/tablet-for-women-is-like-a-regular-tablet-but-more-fucking-bullshitty?utm_campaign=socialflow_jezebel_facebook&utm_source=jezebel_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow). This is fine in the case of iPhones/iPads that come with gender-neutral pre-loaded apps like ‘notes’ or ‘calendar’ or ‘maps,’ however, this device’s pre-loaded apps For Women include things like yoga, recipes, fashion, shopping, pregnancy and weight-loss apps… All stereotypical feminine pursuits clearly implying homogenising value judgements about women. As with my problem in my last blog on gendered toys (https://riseofthefembots.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/the-other-50-per-cent-gender-socialisation-through-toys/) I have no issue with these ‘feminine pursuits’ and anyone who does enjoy these things, however, I just think choice for women is integral. Like Lego, the tablet that was seemingly gender-neutral had to be elaborated on For Women, indicating that the original product was for people (read: not women). As we increasingly construct our gendered identities through our use of technology, the danger with such products is that companies can make broad assumptions about what women want and what it means to be a woman and market them as absolute.

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A Dish Served Cold: Revenge Porn

It’s all very well to watch Mad Men and have a chuckle at the quaint, naïve sexism of the fifties. However, do not assume that because when you go to work no one pats you on the bum and calls you ‘Honey-Bun’ sexism no longer exists. This is wrong. Although women’s higher status in contemporary (Western) societies has fooled many into making (falsely) era-defining statements such as women ‘Have It All’ and ‘Feminism is Dead,’ there are still a number of facets of gender relations that indicate a festering, sexist zombie lurking beneath the glossy surface of our progressive Girl-Power mindset.

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In her provocatively titled 2012 book, The End of Men, Hanna Rosin argues that women’s almost worldwide soaring achievements in education and work indicate the imminent fall of patriarchy. This will pave the way for a new age of powerful, organized, super-competitive career women who somehow do eighty hours of work a week as well as raising (preferably female) children and doing all domestic cleaning/cooking/maintenance. Although Rosin’s book is thought provoking and rather inspirational for an overachieving twenty-something professional uni-student, I can’t help but feel unconvinced. Rosin can spew out as many well picked statistics about how “Women own more than 40% of private businesses in China” or that “the number of women with six-figure incomes is rising at a much faster pace than it is for men,” but I still think it doesn’t change the ideologies underpinning society. Call me a pessimist, but I believe that the more economically and occupationally powerful women become, the more a certain type of man will try to undermine this through damaging, objectifying and old-school sexist hate.

One thing that was obvious from reading Rosin’s book was that masculinity is under pressure to change, and although some men are totally up for exploring what the twenty-first century has in store for them, others are resistant, regressive and spiteful about the fact that it’s not the fifties anymore and they can’t just drink scotch in an office all day, wear a suit and beat their wife. But how can these ‘Omega Males’ vent their bubbling ooze of hatred, spite (and fear) of successful, powerful women who are smarter and earn more than they do?

Get revenge.

Recently online there has been a surge of a certain type of porn that involves ‘Creep Shots’ and ‘Revenge Porn,’ the existence of which I believe completely undermines Rosin’s hopes for “A New American Matriarchy.” Creep Shots are photos taken by men of women in public places going about their business with demeaning, objectifying, slut-shaming and rape-apologist captions. Wait! It get’s worse. Just when you thought you had got inside away from the sniveling sexist sleaze-balls out on the street, Revenge Porn takes creep shots to a whole new level. Ever made a home-sex vid with your boyf? Taken a few sexy shots to text him while you were bored? These just might have made their way into these sites where grumpy ex-boyfriends get back at their jilted/jilter lovers by putting them up for all their Omega-Bros to see. This has been personally damaging for women of all ages from slut-shamed high school girls to high powered executives who logged onto Facebook one day to find that ‘Those’ pictures had been tagged though their personal page to a Creep Shots page. Ouch.

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The reason this is such a problem for contemporary gender relations is that it signifies an underlying sense resentful masculine entitlement, a feeling that women’s bodies are public property, and that no matter how powerful and independent you think you are, these dead-beat, porn-watching losers have ultimate power over you, even after you think you got them out of your life. Germaine Greer once said, “The victims of pornography are men, not women,” however, in the climate of omnipresent Internet photo-sharing technology in which non-consensual sexual photographing of women by men has driven some women to attempt suicide or lose their jobs, I wonder if this is still the case. 

Robots Will Soon Fulfill All Your Sexy Nurse Fantasies

Some feminists have theorised that in the future, advanced technologies will eventually nullify the social concept of gender by freeing women from the biological constraints that have historically placed them lower in social strata than men. Cyborg theorists claim that cyborgs will be gender neutral due to their lack of need for biological sex which connotes a socially constructed gender.
However, I have always disagreed with this, and this post confirms why.
Because gender is a social construction, any technology we create will also be intrinsically gendered, due to the gender order in the world we live in. These predictions of the future in which there will be sexy lady robots everywhere pandering to the whims of every man prompts new questions for gender:
Is it just as bad to objectify a robotic woman? Would it be ethical for real women to benefit from the objectification of robot women?

Betabeat

Ah, the medical professional fantasy: pretty mundane fodder for a generation reared on porn, but still immensely popular. Bedding a nurse is the number one fantasy among men, in case you haven’t been to a Halloween party in the past 25 years.

Now, some futurists are predicting that robots will have a dual function in our impending utopian society: not only will they care for us when we’re sick, but they’ll also satisfy our sexual fantasies in the process.

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Gender & Artificial Intelligence in Videogames: The Threat of the Omnipotent Robot Mother. (Right Up My Alley!) Stay Tuned, As I Intend To Blog About Evil Robot Femininity Very Soon.

Hard Consonant

This was my first article for Unwinnable after Stu Horvath recruited me at the Game Developers’ Conference in San Francisco. It went up in March, and I loved the illustrations made by the talented Chris Martinez (@drakelake). Since then I’ve pitched some of my most daft ideas to Stu and he’s never once batted an eyelid. I have a thing I say to Stu. I say to him, “I have this crazy thing if you want it. If it’s shit, don’t put it up. Please, if it’s shit, don’t put it up.” He always puts my articles up. Either we both have really shit taste, or the stuff I do is okay. Thanks, Stu.

Imagine if your mother became your worst enemy. Imagine, if you will, that she is everywhere at once, controlling your every move, making sure you ate a certain thing, went certain places, picked up…

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Welcome To The Mothership (Some introductory thoughts)

A little while over a year ago I suddenly realized that I love robots. I love quaint vintage clockwork tin robots, but I also love anatomically correct robots or Cyborgs, think Bladerunner, iRobot etc.
I don’t love robots because of some childhood nostalgia, I never played with them or liked them as a kid, the reason I am so intrigued by robots is a bit more philosophical and complicated.

If you think about it, from the beginning of time humans have always created things in our image. Painted pictures of people on cave walls, carved effigies of the human form for ritual or religious reasons, or made toys for children, like dolls. We use our abilities to manipulate tools and technology to create reflections of ourselves. It seems triumphant.
I think the robot, an anthropomorphized machine, is the most poignant man-made reflection of humanity, as although robots symbolize our amazing abilities to create ever more advanced technologies, they may also have the ability to transcend human skill and strength. And we know this. We create and relate to robots, both as a reflection of how far we have come, but also, how flawed, mortal and frail our human condition is. We simultaneously fear and are intrigued by robots, our own creation.

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You may be wondering where gender and feminism possibly fits in here.

Throughout history men have been associated with technological ingenuity across all cultures. This, I believe comes down to what Sherry Ortner, a feminist writer in the 70’s and 80’s, referred to as the ‘Nature-Culture’ divide. Ortner claimed that the universally lower status of women in all human societies throughout time was due to the fact that women are associated with nature (ie. Childbirth, mothering, nurturing) whereas men are associated with culture (arts, science, religion, philosophy, physics etc).
I think Ortner’s thesis is incredibly relevant and interesting even today when you think about whether girls and boys are socialized differently towards technology. You only have to look at gendered enrollments/preferences of certain fields at any level of education to see a clear disparity between what is deemed masculine (mathematics, science, IT, engineering) and what is feminine (English, humanities, performance art). This is, thankfully, changing in today’s information age, where technology has become central to the lives of most people in some way, however, I wish to use this blog to look at how people of different genders use and relate to technology in different ways.

Technology has been used in the past to marginalize women in many ways as it was seen as the territory of men. However, feminists in the 50’s and 60’s, such as Simone de Beauvoir and Shullahmith Firestone, advocated for women to embrace technology as a means for empowerment. This primarily referred to reproductive technologies such as The Pill and other types of birth control, and also other medical technologies, so men and masculine institutions that had a monopoly on the use and knowledge of technologies could no longer control women.

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I believe that the way we use technology, and the types of technology we use is profoundly gendered and instrumental in shaping social constructions of gender. Men have been defined by their use of tools, weapons, and cars– Women have also been defined by their use of kitchen and home appliances, and their perceived inability to use other types of technology deemed masculine. However, all this has changed, we all use computers, smart phones and tablets irrespective of gender. The Internet and social networking have become central to every day social life for millions of people. This makes me question as to how gender, which was previously such an embodied, lived aspect of humanity, is now being constructed and played out in a disembodied cyberspace. There are many examples of how the Internet has negative implications for women and feminism (widespread pornography, online slut-shaming, gendered cyber bullying, body snarking), However, there are also a number of positive aspects, particularly the ability for women to access information and join online communities.

I am interested in the future of technology and what it means for gender, as it seems, both gender and technology are vital aspects of what makes us human, which is rather ironic as both of these are for the most part artificially created by humans ourselves.

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