According to many trend watchers, the metaverse will be a kind of Internet 3.0, in which we live in a kind of virtual world. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, firmly believes in it and has therefore already renamed his company Meta. If you think ‘but how are we going to have sex in the metaverse’, then (first) love your way of thinking and (second) read on.
What is the metaverse?
With almost every new technology, sex and pornography have caused major breakthroughs. It was the case with painting, photography and film, and later with video (remember that corner in the video shop with porn on VHS?), not to mention the Internet. Technological innovation and sex therefore often go hand in hand.
The metaverse is a vision of the future of a virtual world on the internet. It is a combination of virtual reality (which allows you to imagine yourself in another world with VR glasses), gaming, shopping, social media, blockchain and NFT. But it will also go a step further by combining the virtual world and the physical world via augmented reality. Some therefore speak of Internet 3.0.
If you have ever played with Second Life, Minecraft or Roblox, you are already a little familiar with the metaverse. These are all examples of communities where you can socialise in a virtual world with your own avatar. The metaverse is like that, but a step or two further.
The question is whether – as with other technologies – sex can also bring about a breakthrough in the metaverse.
Porn in the metaverse
There are already various platforms where you can watch porn films with VR glasses. But that is only the beginning. Because when you combine VR (or AR) with haptic teledildonics, you create a multisensory experience! And if you have no idea what this sentence means, let me explain it to you.
Various sex toys from brands such as Kiiroo can already be operated by someone else – anywhere in the world. You can connect these toys to each other via the Internet. For example, a woman in New York uses a vibrator that is linked to an artificial vagina of someone in Maastricht. When she pushes the vibrator into herself, he feels it in the artificial vagina and vice versa. By also putting on virtual reality glasses, you see yourself having sex with (the avatar of) that other person.
Basically, this kind of technology will be reflected in the metaverse. It will make porn more interactive. You will imagine yourself to be part of the porn film and, by means of sensors and sex toys, actually feel what you see. This will also allow you to have virtual sex, that is impossible in the physical world. Do you have a fetish for space aliens? Do you dream of sex with a giant human? Do you fantasise about sex with a flying dragon? The metaverse will make it possible.
The video shows a sneak peek of ViRo Playspace. This is an adult app on Steam with cinematic experiences, full sex toy integration and optional VR support. In addition to sex with fantasy characters, it will also be possible to interact with other players. There will be digital private rooms where players can meet as virtual avatars. There, they can talk, move and use each other’s haptic sex toys, so that they really feel the touch. Such a digital space can take any form you want. Do you want sex under a waterfall, on a tropical island, in a 1920s setting, or in a spaceship? Anything is possible.
The sex industry might look very different because of the metaverse, and the metaverse in turn might look very different because of the sex industry.
And relationships? What about those?
Besides relationships as we know them now, the metaverse will also make it possible to have a relationship with someone purely digital. Without ever meeting, seeing or physically touching the other person in real life. Long-distance relationships will take on a whole new meaning.
There are already dating apps that take advantage of this, such as Flirtual. Through this app, you can go on dates with each other in virtual spaces. With your VR glasses on, you can go swimming among sharks, play a game of pool in a bar, or float through space together. Perhaps this makes it more exciting and intimate than a date in the real world.
The beauty of the metaverse is that it brings relationships within reach of people who have difficulty with them. For example because of a disability or illness. Or simply because they are shy and introverted.
But will big tech companies allow sex in the metaverse?
There is already talk of banning nudity on platforms such as Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. A nipple or pants can even get you a ban. In November, Meta’s new CTO Andrew Bosworth announced that they plan to equip the platform with “Disney levels of safety“, implicitly announcing that Horizon Worlds (Facebook’s metaverse platform) will be a sexless universe. Even Google is making it harder and harder to find sex on the internet. Therein lies an interesting paradox. The big providers promote the metaverse as a virtual possibility to start relationships, while on the other hand they do their utmost to keep out one of the most important parts of a relationship (sex and intimacy). Roblox does not even allow avatars to walk hand in hand.
Instead, it seems likely that platforms for virtual sex will emerge alongside these giants.
Is the metaverse really that nice and beautiful?
Of course, there are also concerns. For example, about virtual sexual violence, invasion of privacy, hacking of equipment, etc. Even in Meta’s sexless Horizon World, there was a beta tester who said she had been groped in the virtual world. She had made this public on a Facebook page of the beta testers.
Meta’s internal investigation of the incident found that the beta tester should have used her “Safe Zone”. This is a safety feature in Horizon Worlds. Safe Zone is a protective bubble that users can activate when they feel threatened. Within it, no one can touch them, talk to them or otherwise interact with them until they clear the Safe Zone.
The incident is not isolated. In online gaming too, groping is something that happens. Even during shooters, there are other players who start groping against you. Stanton and Schenker, founders of the game Quivr, already posted an apology for an incident and offered an in-game fix. Avatars can extend their arms in the shape of a V, which pushes attackers away. There are no figures on how often these incidents occur.
The problem is that players in virtual worlds sometimes think that sexual assault does not take place when it comes to contact between avatars. Lawyers are already looking into the question of who is responsible for such behaviour. To what extent is the provider of a platform liable? By offering tools that allow users to protect themselves, the providers implicitly shift the responsibility to themselves. But even with such tools, there is no guarantee that abuse will not occur. And that is why there is no other option than to discipline offenders.