Everyone seems to be talking about the metaverse these days. From Facebook transitioning to Meta Platforms to numerous competitors like HTC Vive and Microsoft also pushing ahead with their own customized metaverses, it appears that living in a virtual world of unreality is going to be the next big thing for work, leisure, and perhaps even love. But where does that leave the everyday human being? With so much of our interpersonal communication – from doctor visits to job interviews to education to socializing and dating – experienced via technology, sex is inevitably heading in the same direction.
Meta’s Oculus line of virtual reality devices has sold millions and far outperformed even its closest competitors. Thrusting a huge audience of new and experienced VR users into a Meta-owned world of virtual gaming, communication, and activity, the success of Oculus devices has presented a few challenging questions along with its obvious benefits. Do users experience motion sickness? Is the company formerly known as Facebook tracking and monetizing our VR use? And, at one end of the spectrum, does VR sex amount to cheating on your partner?
Meta-Cheating and Virtual Fidelity
One of the reasons most intimate relationships aim for monogamy is one of identifying parentage. If two people with the potential to procreate only ‘mate’ with each other there’s no question as to who might be the father of a prospective offspring. Add to this the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and infections, even in the age of widespread condom use, and it doesn’t take an evolutionary biologist to see why the traditional value of monogamy exists. Today, however, there’s not only condoms but phone sex, video conferencing, online dating, in-game relationship building, and the kind of deeply immersive adult entertainment seen via such venues as VRPorn.com. If this doesn’t throw traditional notions of monogamy and infidelity out the window to create a space for individual sexual experimentation outside of established relationships, what will?
For those lacking confidence in the sexual arena, VR can offer opportunities to roleplay and experiment, even to train, in the art of lovemaking. Sure, there’s a degree of remove in the virtual that isn’t available in the actual but that’s a feature, not a bug. How else can a VR user pair up with people normally out of their league? There’s no better way to learn a new skill or hone an existing one than to be shown or taught by someone with superior capabilities. With VR porn shot for a female audience only becoming more common, there’s even the opportunity for users of all genders and orientations to explore how they might be seen by a prospective partner. Of course, porn is heavily reliant on fantasy but its roots are in very real lived experiences of attraction, lust, eroticism, and even love.
Virtual Sex, Real Satisfaction
One lingering issue with virtual sex, as opposed to real sex, is that like any form of modern entertainment, you can simply turn it off when you’ve been satisfied. With no requirement for treating your VR partner as an equal with equal needs and their own specific demands, there’s a risk of dampening the empathetic and the sensitive requirements of a sexual interaction. As the tech progresses, though, that could (and should) be easily dealt with. AI systems can now create wholly believable images and videos of human faces that do not exist, suggesting we’re a short time from AIs creating humanoid VR partners that come with their own emotional and pseudo-physical needs. Hook up with a VR partner 15 years from now and you might find yourself holding back on your own orgasm to ensure they don’t end up unsatisfied.
Virtual reality sex as it exists today offers an immersive and fulfilling sexual experience to the VR user. And with numerous metaverses appearing over the technology horizon, it’s only going to grow in depth and variety, making virtual intimacy something we’ll all have to grapple with before we can truly enter the all-encompassing virtual existence previously regarded as pure science-fiction.