Pushing the right buttons

Is technology replacing human intimacy?

The value of intimacy

By Mitra Kaboli

I am in a dry spell of Saharan proportions. I hate my life because I am not getting laid and it is making me an angry bitch. With all the time that I spend not having sex and not having sex with myself either, because it is getting boring, I cruise the Internet and think about different ways to hydrate the desert in my laced underwear.

My over-sexed partner in crime, Scott Nagao and I stumbled upon realdoll.com, a website that sells sex dolls that at first glance you’d swear were human beings. They have special features like an actual spine that mimics the flexibility of a real person.

I was shocked.

“Holy fucking shit, I am not sure if that is a real person or not,” I told Scott.

“I know, right?” he exclaimed in agreement.

That is when I got a bit freaked out. My initial concern was that I am not nor will I ever be as hot as that doll. I wondered, will real women become less attractive as sex partners because we are competing with life-sized Barbies? The thought of even less sex in my life gave me understandable panic.

I think the more pressing issue is not my sex life, but rather the rapidly changing climate of technology: to what extent will we distance ourselves from humanity? Can real human intimacy ever be replaced? And when I say real human intimacy, I mean the kind between you and I. Speaking of you and I, if you wanna give me a call and grab a drink or something I am cool with that. Yes, I just used The Link as a dating/hook-up service, what of it? Please don’t judge me.

I think intimacy is a two-way street. You and I could be real intimate if you want, but the guy living in his mother’s basement who is making sweet love to his Real Doll can’t. Intimacy requires a reciprocity that a Real Doll cannot provide—at least not yet. Being intimate with a doll will never satisfy our human need for love, care and social interaction.

But things are changing. The question should be asked: are we living in a culture where we are so integrated with our technology that we need less human to human interactions to survive?

I warm up to the idea of being intimate with technology when I think about all the ways it has helped me get off: sex toys, porn, cyber sex, webcams and genetically modified zucchinis. All of this is exciting. Some of these things I consider to be masturbatory aides. The others, like webcams and cyber sex actually create avenues of communication with other people when you are unable to be with them.

Real Dolls are awesome because you can create your ideal woman, have it delivered to your door and then do whatever you please with her. But when reading the testimonials, it is clear that many of the purchasers are not viewing their doll as a masturbation aide. These dolls are regarded as real people and as $7,000 companions.

Now, I am not being fair to the kinds of people who order Real Dolls. I am sure that not all of them live in their mother’s basements. Still, in reading the testimonials, I am led to believe that most of these purchasers are total creeps. The lonely people that buy these dolls for comfort only seem to increase their antisocial behaviour. This doll is not a real person and no matter how much you love it, it will never love you back, at least not yet.

The men who live with these dolls, seem to be pleased, even happy—but they have only avoided dealing with the real issue. They are living in a world of fantasy, one that they have made an artificial reality. They don’t have to put any effort in maintaining their relationship because, let’s face it, relationships are hard work. Their doll can be the delusional female ideal that they want it to be.

I can see the appeal. But at the end of the day, I think most of us want a warm body that will hug us back, who can move along with the rhythm of our love making and who will let out a resonating moan when your load gets blown on his/her face. Who knows, maybe I am just pissed off because socially awkward losers are getting pussy, meanwhile I am turning into a self-loathing masochist. Let’s face it, I am a total catch. Call me?

I think intimacy is a two-way street. You and I could be real intimate if you want, but the guy living in his mother’s basement who is making sweet love to his Real Doll can’t.

Nothing but a helping hand

By Scott Nagao

In the spirit of Mitra’s full disclosure of her sexual frustration, I masturbate to porn all the time even when I’m having sex on a daily basis. I don’t use the Internet to meet any human partners in real life. Does that mean that all my online sexual escapades are purely self-indulgent? Probably. But are they non-social? Not really.

Rather than just toughing it out until I get to see my lovely girlfriend, I opt for porn at two in the morning—something of fantasy, something artificial, something in the virtual world to quell my seemingly insatiable libido. Now is this so bad?

Vicariously living out fantasy situations with words, pictures and other objects has not seemed to stop the progress of human history thus far—raise your hand if you have ever made out with a pillow or danced with a broom.

Consider porn. Although many of us sometimes forget this, porn isn’t just some magic offspring of the Internet. It’s the love child of millions of real people who got drunk, needed some cash or simply wanted to get naked in front of a camera. In this case, technology made it extraordinarily easy for humans to share sexual content with other humans. When we get off to this stuff, we may be physically distanced from the humans who made it, but we’re still receiving that human pleasure.

So does your sexual partner need to be another real biological human? In those moments of lust, I can call my computer, my erotic books or even my own hand partners in the act. I mean, I never think of myself as fucking my laptop, my book, or my hand, but I am aware that they are playing a role in the experience. The pleasure is not as much about the objects I use, as it is what’s being presented or imagined. It’s about everything that contributes to the sexual experience.

I’m not so sexy, funny, or loaded with pheromones that my girlfriend wants to fuck my brains out five times a day and I don’t have a Bladerunner-level sex android to try and convince her to have a three-way with me. It doesn’t really matter anyway, because she expresses the same fear, envy and distaste for competition with Real Dolls and androids as Mitra. This isn’t an unjustified fear. We all already get blasted with images of hot plastic bodies each day.

If this is how she feels about an inanimate doll, how am I supposed to feel when she wants to use the massive vibrator with the clit tickler that glows in the dark and probably squeezes out frozen yogurt instead of cum? That vibrator is based on human bodies, is focused solely on the genitals, is usually exaggerated in size and has a motor. Have you ever heard of fuck machines? Machines where people attach things like dildos to household appliance or small motor vehicle engine to make a machine that will not just vibrate, but fuck at 3,600 r.p.m.?

So, can we answer Mitra’s question? Does technology compete with real humans for sex and love? I would say yes and no. What matters is how humans understand technology, how we use it and why we use it.

Sure, I’ll feel a slight sense of inadequacy with my body and my skill next to the glow in the dark yogurt beast, but should I worry about my partner actually choosing these machines over me, her human companion? If I need to, then I should probably be less worried about being replaced by technology than about why I am sticking with a girl who is entirely satisfied with a toy.

I don’t feel like I do though, and maybe it’s because I’ve invested so much time into analyzing the role technology plays in my life that I tend to view it as a natural part of my society, my life and even my body.

Even when my girlfriend chooses to use toys during sex that make me feel like a dwarf, she’s still wanting my body pressed against her, still pulling my head against her chest and still crying out my name when she reaches that apex of orgasm. Hell, I want to say it’s even flattering. It’s like telling me, “you’re what I’m thinking about when spasming from a super awesome yogurt squirting vibrating dildo induced orgasm.”

What more can a guy ask for?

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 1, published June 11, 2010.