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SECOND SEX WAR Exhibition Explores Gender Identity in VR Pornography

Artist uses Oculus Rift to offer new perspective on feminism.

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The SECOND SEX WAR exhibition by Sidsel Meineche Hansen uses an Oculus Rift and three-dimensional (3D) animations to explore how gender is reproduced in virtual reality (VR) sex videos.

Hansen is well known for her exhibitions and seminars that review the body and its industrial complex. Her latest exhibition, commissioned by Gasworks, London, uses common sexual representations of the female form to highlight the polarity of gender in adult content currently available for virtual reality.

Rob Sharp from Artsy described the exhibit:

“Looking down while wearing an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, the viewer sees a computer-generated torso gyrating erotically around an abstract shape. Pulsating music blasts in the background as the camera angle automatically shifts to view a sexualized avatar’s unmistakably female face.”

The first sex war

SECOND SEX WAR refers to the feminist sex wars of the 1970s and 80s when the nature of explicit content was under debate. While a large slice of feminists believed women’s bodies were being exploited by the patriarchy, others considered female nudity an empowering aspect of free speech. Hansen’s latest work adds a fresh perspective. She subscribes to neither view presented in the sex wars, and instead, offers an alternative.

There’s a good reason why she’s chosen the Oculus Rift as a medium for her work. In an interview with Ryan Ormonde from The Fader, Hansen said she was curious about the effect of digital image distribution. She said she wondered if it had “changed our relationship with our bodies or our sexualities.”

Although the Oculus Rift only became available to the public this March, VR adult material has been in our thoughts for a long time. According to Buzzfeed, virtual sex was being adapted to the Oculus Rift by a group of Japanese developers back in 2013.

Adult content’s contribution to technology

Having had a long-time interest in the relationship between the human body and consumerism, Hansen is well aware of the contributions adult entertainment has made to the tech industry. Distributors of adult content were among the first to send files over the internet and to process payments online. Now, the industry is at the forefront, pushing for advancements in VR.

Cunningly, Hansen has chosen to critique the argument from within. Through a combination of her own work and contracted skilled labour, SECOND SEX WAR displays animations of a 3D female form not dissimilar from those found in adult material now available for the Oculus Rift.

In fact, several of Hansen’s animations feature a woman made from computer-generated imagery (CGI) named EVA 3.0. Created by Nikola Dichev and sold on the digital marketplace Turbosquid, the character is one of many CGI avatars geared towards adult entertainment. She comes with a user manual describing her vaginal maneuverability, and can be interacted with via an avatar.

Unfair censorship and gender binaries

[Note: Some readers may find certain descriptions below NSFW]

One piece displayed called “No Right Way 2 Cum” was made as a response to the 2004 amendment to the United Kingdom’s Communications Act. The amendment meant that adult content provided on the Internet was to be censored to the same guidelines as DVDs. Anything considered dangerous was left out. Included among the high-risk acts was female ejaculation.

Hansen, although a non-subscriber to polarizing or absolute ideals, identifies most with pro-sex feminism, she told The Fader. The influence is apparent in this display which shows 3D animations of EVA masturbating on a looped sequence. Near the end of the loop, ejaculate hits the camera and forms the phrase “No Right Way 2 Cum.”

The artist says the piece was made to disrupt the classic adult scene where a man ejaculates on a woman. Until now, viewers of adult content have been safe in the sidelines of the bystander. But Hansen and her 3D animations change that. In “No Right Way 2 Cum,” viewers are placed in the perspective of the avatar to experience an act that has been labelled taboo.

DICKGIRL 3D (X) again uses EVA’s perspective to display the female form–this time with a penis–engaging in sexual activities. The reciprocator is with what Ryan Ormonde calls an “amorphous and somewhat grotesque biological mass.” In this act, the avatar appropriates “genitalia props” and readymade “pose sets” commonly used to create 3D adult content.

Hansen’s work may be considered confronting. But her viewpoint on both her art and her society is very humble. These artworks may not be intended to intimidate, but to free the minds of viewers from an absolute perspective, and lead them to one that is open and accepting. There is no right or wrong way to be sexual.

SECOND SEX WAR is on display at Gasworks, London until May 29.

Image source: myvirtuallady

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