Forget what you think you know about the adult industry, because it’s all about to change. Sex workers once called to mind a specific vision – say, a woman twirling around a pole or a fluorescent sign reading “Massage” in a dingy window. But in the the future, it may be a plastic headset and silicone body parts.
That is, at least, if Daron Lundeen has anything to say about it. Camming sites – where users can watch people perform sex acts while they chat with them – have been around as long as there have been webcams. But now Lundeen, president of the site CamSoda, is incorporating virtual reality and teledildonics – wirelessly-synched sex toys that “speak” with one or more users – into their shows. The teledildonic toys from Lovense, for example, the “male” Max ($99) and the “female” Nora ($99), connect over Bluetooth and “speak” with each other from anywhere in the world.
At CamSoda, Lundeen is distributing $150 Kiiroo Pearls, which are vibrating dildos, to some of his models. He’s hoping their customers will invest in a “sleeve,” a Fleshlight-type device that is ribbed on the inside and constricts/contracts like a human vagina. Similar to the Max and Nora from Lovense, when the Pearl and sleeve are wirelessly synched, they respond to haptic feedback nearly in real time. Stroke the Pearl and the sleeve contracts like a vagina; stroke the touch sensor atop the sleeve and the Pearl vibrates. While this dynamic could be cool for long distance couples, it has the potential to be completely disruptive for camming and other screen-based sex work.
“My guys are always like, ‘Oh my gosh, I wish I could with you,'” said Charley Hart, a CamSoda model who has been camming for a year. “And I think that [teledildonics] is such an awesome opportunity that they can get it and they literally feel what it’s like for me to give them a blowjob, for them to have sex with me.”
Presently, camming is somewhat like stripping: models earn tips for their work (via tokens customers purchase online and “tip” throughout the show) and, crucially, there is less physical risk between the client and customer through the boundary of no-touch. With teledildonics’ integration with the adult industry, including Lovense’s foray into VR porn with Virtual Real Porn, that boundary blurs.
With teledildonics, screen-based sex work has the potential to become more like escorting – or perhaps more aptly, more like “the girlfriend experience.” Lundeen says the most successful cam models are “the ones who are your girlfriends” because they don’t just put on a show, they hang out for several hours to chat online and hang out with their fans. Now, with teledildonics and VR, fans can finally have sex with their “girlfriends.”
Hart says her customers often tell her they want to take her on a date. “I’m like, ‘I don’t do that,'” she says. “But [with sex-tech integration] I can be like, ‘I don’t do that but hey, here’s this toy and we can experience it that way! It’s safe for me, it’s safe for you, and we’re still getting to experience something together and it will still be great.’ I’m excited about it in that sense.”
Victoria Ryan, a 22-year-old CamSoda model who has been camming for about a year, is also excited about the possibility to give customers more of what they want while still preserving a physical boundary. “The fact that we can get even closer to giving these guys pleasure and still not have to leave the safety of our home and the safety of our cam is amazing,” she says.
“Somebody like me who is in a relationship, I’m able to do this,” she continued. “Nobody actually touches me, nobody can go near me, I’m safe, I’m at home, I’m comfortable, I can decide to stop whenever I choose. It’s a very big factor to [the appeal of camming].”
While mainstream porn is often derided for portraying sex unrealistically, telesex integration means, hypothetically, customers can learn from porn actresses or models to please their actual IRL girlfriends. Hart, for example, sees the opportunity somewhat like tele-sex surrogacy. “I can use it as a teaching tool,” she says. “I can teach my guys how to properly tease a girl. It’s not about shoving your cock inside as hard as you can right away and coming really fast, it’s about teasing a woman and about building an orgasm.” This could be the bedroom version of teaching a man to fish, so to speak.
Still, a sleeve is not a vagina – it’s a clunky plastic box. The battery life is unknown, Lundeen says, because it is so new. The Max by Lovense is more sleek-looking, but still resembles a large, white thermos. These are all reasons why sex worker and activist Kitty Stryker told Rolling Stone that teledildonics will remain a “fun extra feature” in camming and porn, but is not likely to replace escorting. “People don’t book sex workers just for our genitals,” Stryker explains. “So much of our job often involves physical touch and comfort, as well as emotional intimacy, and that’s difficult to replicate online.”
Even without using the Pearl and sleeve, there are other ways the models can use this new sex tech to sell sex online. CamSoda customers can also download blowjobs – yes, you read that right – onto their sleeve through Blowcast, a new “library of BJs” that lets users download oral handiwork from cam models and amateurs alike. The price to download a blowjob is just $1 – and of course you can vote on the best ones. “If you want to know how your blowjob stacks up against someone else’s blowjob, here’s your chance,” said Lundeen.
How successful it becomes remains to be seen, but for now sextech integration into camming is exciting. “Looking back at all those sci-fi movies, it’s like, ‘Gosh, it’s really happening,'” says CamSoda model Hart. “I just hope with all of these advancements, we open up new avenues for communication and education and acceptance and less shaming in the areas of sex and pleasure and what turns people on.”