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Virtual reality porn was so clearly designed for men

Stefanie Iris Weiss is the author of Eco-Sex: Go Green Between the Sheets and Make Your Love Life Sustainable and 8 other books. She keeps her carbon footprint small in New York City, where she writes about sexuality, sustainability, su...

Virtual reality porn will be amazing... once it caters to women too

There’s been quite an intense buzz about virtual reality porn recently; so much so that you’d think it’s the next big thing. If what I saw from behind my makeshift VR viewer is any indication, the industry has much work to do before it transforms our porn-watching habits — especially if they want to impress women.

Mind you, my experiment involved a pair of cardboard VR goggles into which I inserted my phone — not the state-of-the-art Oculus Rift glasses that one would ideally use for any VR experience. But since an Oculus Rift viewer runs from $1,500 to $2,200 at Best Buy, only the most serious gamer and/or porn connoisseur would likely spring for it.

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The first issue: Downloads seem to take forever, and there is no streaming option (at least from Gamelink, the company whose wares I sampled). Porn-watching is the kind of thing you do on the spur of the moment. It kind of kills the mood when you have to wait two hours to even get started. (But, once you’ve downloaded the video and the free viewing app, it seems like you can re-watch it any time.)

For all the technical annoyances and the bulky headset, which certainly detracted from the overall sexiness of the experience, my biggest pet peeve about the current state of VR porn is that I could not find a single title that seemed remotely geared toward a female viewer. Frankly, this is not so far off from PornHub, which skews toward misogynist titles. But at least feminist porn purveyors are changing that game, as I wrote about a few weeks ago.

The video I downloaded for the VR viewer that Gamelink sent me, Pinned Up and Poked Hard, featured two actresses who walked into a “room” that the video attempts to evoke. In other words, when you’re wearing a VR viewer, you’re supposed to feel like you’re in the same space as the performers. But since the video was of a man being seduced by two women who were alternatively servicing him and his penis, it really didn’t do much for me. Now, if they wanted to make content aimed toward playing with gender perspectives, that would be one thing — and it would be a cool thing! But that’s not what’s happening in this case. It’s just for dudes.

I can see why a straight man would enjoy this. After all, it’s entirely designed for the male gaze. The actresses stare into the camera lens as if staring into the viewer’s eyes, aiming for a kind of intimacy that can’t be achieved through watching a video. For men who dig cam girls, this probably feels like a logical extension — it’s a performance just for them, on demand. The male porn performers are not visible at all because the viewer is the protagonist of the video. You can, however, hear the actor breathing and grunting.

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I tried to imagine what this might look like for me as a straight woman, and it was challenging to come up with a scenario. Men prancing around naked in front of us, performing for us, making us into the subject, not object of a sexual scenario — that’s all new territory for women. Maybe VR porn purveyors can figure it out, but I can’t imagine how they’ll simulate kissing or caressing of breasts or even various sex positions. I can see how they’d show cunnilingus from a VR perspective, with the camera’s angle somewhere near the actresses’ upper torso. (Get on that, porn people.)

VR porn, as it exists now, simulates intimacy for male viewers, but it can’t simulate sensuality, at least not yet.

There is some immediate promise in the virtual porn world, however, even if it’s going to take a while for us ladies to get our due. Virtual sexology makes porn stars into teachers. Using a VR viewer like the cardboard Google goggles or a high-end viewer, a man can learn how to be a better lover.

For example, BadDoink VR developed an eight-part series based on Master and Johnson’s sex therapy techniques (yes, the very same M & J featured on Showtime’s Masters of Sex). For men with erectile dysfunction and other sexual imbalances, this might be a game-changer. Those too embarrassed to seek help in the real world can get hands-on virtual help. Viewers can even employ something called “tele-dildonics” which includes a virtually operated Fleshlight to simulate sex. We already have the benefit of a "virtual vagina," something I wrote about last winter for this column. All hail anything that helps men to satisfy us and close the orgasm gap. If it takes more advanced tech, I say bring on the tech.

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So while there’s a looong way to go before VR porn will replace regular porn, its early experimental phase is certainly interesting. And if your boyfriend wants to drop 1,500 bucks on an Oculus Rift even though he’s not much of a gamer — well, now you know why he’s suddenly so into it.

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