Sex-tracking Wearables and the Quantified Self
A new generation of smart sex toys wants to measure your sexual fitness.
By Tom Woodley
We know a lot about sex thanks to statistics. On average, an adult in the US has sex about once to twice a week. The average number of sexual partners is 6.4 for men and 7 for women in North America and Europe The most sexually satisfied country in the world is Switzerland.
But what about our own personal sex stats? What’s your average skin temperature or thrust speed during the act? How many different positions do you usually use? And how might these factors relate to your sexual satisfaction and that of your partner? A new generation of sex toys hopes to help you find out.
Quantification and the self
The idea that quantification can help us improve our lives isn’t new. These days, wearable devices like FitBit or Apple Watch count the steps you take, the calories you burn, record your heart rate, and monitor your sleep. You can even track your brain activity using an inexpensive EEG (electroencephalogram).
In fact, the idea that self-improvement is a numbers game has become a movement in its own right, sometimes called the Quantified Self. It’s especially popular with biohackers, who use quantification to devise do-it-yourself methods that improve mental and physical performance, and with lifeloggers documenting their lives using wearable tech.
But the quantification of everyday life now also includes sex. In recent years, several companies have announced the development of “smart” sex toys capable of tracking sexual data. In particular, they pose the question: how fit is your bit?
In 2014, British online adult store Bondara revealed SexFit, a sexual fitness tracker worn around the penis. According to Bondara, SexFit would, once released, connect to smartphones via Bluetooth to record performance data such as calories burnt and thrusts per minute. It would also set a recommended pace using vibrations and lights. Users could then “share and compare” this informational on social media.
So far, there’s been neither hide nor hair of SexFit on the market. But in 2015 Polish entrepreneur Jakub Konik announced a similar device, Lovely, which began to ship early this year. A silicone ring worn at the base of the penis, Lovely vibrates and records data, including speed and duration, but also provides personalized tips and recommendations for new techniques and positions through a mobile app.
Konik’s rationale for the Lovely would be at home within the Quantified Self movement: “There are more than 120 variables associated with sexual satisfaction,” he told interviewer Pavel Curda at EU-Startups. The sheer number of variables at can make sexual satisfaction a challenge, one that Lovely is designed to help couples meet: “At Lovely we believe that when people have more and better sex they will live better lives.”
The latest of these “smart toys” is the i.Con Smart Condom, currently in development by British Condoms. Billed as “The World’s First Smart Condom,” the device is actually a ring, like Lovely, but with an adjustable band. While it doesn’t vibrate, it does connect to smartphones and measures calories burnt, number of thrusts as well as thrust speed, skin temperature, and girth. It also tracks the number of positions and the duration and frequency of sessions.
The toy’s creators claim it will also feature an STI indicator, using an antibodies filter that sends alerts to users’ smartphones. This would be truly revolutionary tech. Although one might wonder if alerts would arrive a little late, and how users would react if receiving the alert mid-session.
Should we quantify sex?
The introduction of these devices has met with diverse reactions. Lovely’s Indiegogo campaign raised just over $40,000, only 43% of its $95,000 goal; but others have questioned whether we need a “penis pedometer” when so much in our lives is already reduced to numbers. In the media, sex trackers have been called “junk technology” and even “dangerous”.
The information obtained through quantification is meant to increase sexual skill and satisfaction. But how relevant is the data that such devices measure? Is there a correlation between average thrust speed and sexual satisfaction? What about skin temperature and fitness? Can a sex tracker measure physical intimacy? Lovely claims to measure a user’s “g-force” during sex; but is more g-force better? Worse? Is there even an answer to this question?
The i.Con will allow users to share summaries of their performances on social media. But many recent studies have shown a negative correlation between social media use and life satisfaction. In light of these studies, it isn’t clear that sharing sex data will translate into increased satisfaction in the bedroom.
On the other hand, of course, reviewing the data together could be just a bit of light-hearted fun for some couples. And who minds seeing that they’ve lost a few calories doing something enjoyable? Both the Lovely and i.Con also perform functions beyond quantification: Lovely is supposedly able to track sex positions to make suggestions that spice up couples’ sex lives. If the i.Con really can detect STIs, it could actually be the “game-changer” developers claim it to be.
Is sex a numbers game? Can statistical feedback help us improve our sex lives? Let us know what you think.