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VR Porn: What Are We Afraid Of?

Quashing the fears and myths associated with virtual reality sex.

A woman wearing a VR headset covering her mouth in what looks like shock.

A beautiful, sexy woman crosses the room toward you. She’s nearly naked, and so close you can see the tiny beads of sweat between her breasts. She crawls up the bed toward you, leaving the rest of her clothes behind her. You can smell her skin as she approaches; hear her breath quickening much like your own. You can feel your pulse racing in anticipation of her touch.

The only thing is, none of this is real. But it sure feels like it is. This is virtual reality pornography, or VR porn, where, with the right equipment and software, you can enjoy a pretty realistic and satisfying virtual sex experience.

It’s a brand-new frontier in adult entertainment, and one that many believe will become the new norm. But it brings with it a whole mess of concerns, insecurities and—as with anything that has to do with sex—alarm.

Statistics suggest that 40 million Americans regularly watch Internet pornography. According to data released by Pornhub, we watched more than 4.5 billion hours of if it in 2016. In particular, VR porn is the fastest growing segment.

But while it is clear the VR porn is collecting a growing legion of fans, you often can’t mention the topic in public or hear about it in the media without someone sounding the alarm. And, to be clear, there is plenty of alarm about VR porn, even among those who aren’t against pornography in general.

But what exactly are people so afraid of? And are those fears founded? Let’s have a look.

1. VR porn will replace physical sex

Probably the biggest reservation around the latest sex technologies–VR porn included—is that it’ll replace our need for physical contact with other people. Some people will undoubtedly use VR porn as an escape from interpersonal interaction. But most will just use it the same way they use other pornography—or even video games or smartphones—to entertain themselves, blow off steam, and escape for a few minutes.

“Humans are designed to crave touch and connection… We have had access to Internet pornography for decades now, yet people are still seeking and finding partners to have sex with,” says Dr. Holly Richmond, a certified sex therapist. “I don’t think VR porn is going to change this much.”

Yes, VR porn feels very real, but once you take the goggles off, that fantasy scene is gone. This is not a relationship or a connection. It’s a fantasy played out onscreen—and a fleeting one.

“VR does not provide people with a perfect sexual experience or encounter. Although immersive and realistic, it does not replace the intimacy, anticipation, and feeling of real sex,” says Maurice Op de Beek, CTO at Kiiroo, a company that delivers VR porn—and designs interactive toys to go along with it.

A red heart on appears torn apart.

2. VR porn feels like cheating

Depending on your views on pornography, the idea of your partner staring into the eyes of a sexy performer could feel too, well, intimate. And by all accounts, VR porn does involve more feelings of intimacy than standard adult videos because it’s immersive.

“It’s just so much more intense from a standpoint of feeling connected. It really does feel like you are with the other person, both emotionally and physically,” says Robert Weiss, a licensed clinical social worker and sexual addictions specialist describing his experience with non-pornographic VR.

“Unlike standard porn, VR porn is incredibly immersive and real and interactive, so there is a give and take that can definitely create the feeling of real world intimacy and sexual activity,” he said.

OK. So, maybe VR porn could feel like cheating, depending on how you look at. But it may also feels like sex which, of course, it isn’t. Plus, what qualifies as “cheating” is something people have to define within the context of their own relationships.

“Some people have mentioned that the hyperrealism and fully immersive nature of VR made them feel guilty, especially if they are in a committed relationship,” says Xavi Clos, head of production at BadoinkVR [NSFW], a site that specializes in VR porn.

But VR porn can also provide the fun and novelty many people need, even within the confines of a monogamous relationship.

“Watching virtual reality means no one is touching anyone else, so many couples can experiment with an open type of relationship while being physically monogamous,” says Dr. Tammy Nelson, a sex and relationship therapist and author of The New Monogamy.

Plus, for couples who can communicate openly about pornography use, it can be a great gateway to getting to know your partner’s likes and dislikes—and maybe even try something brand-new together.

3. It will open up ethical issues

Will VR porn open up ethical issues that users will be forced to grapple with? Yes. Yes, it will. But so does virtually every other new technology. There are ethical issues with social media and self-driving cars and automation and the collection of data. With new technology comes new problems but, in most cases, these are outweighed by progress and positive change.

Some of the key concerns around VR porn are that people will create revenge porn, videos depicting sexual assault, or use it to perform acts on virtual versions of their partners that those partners would not consent to in real life. Clearly, these have some ethical implications. But focusing on these negative aspects fails to examine the technology—and its capabilities—in a holistic way.

“There will inevitably be some people who use or see adult VR as way to act abusively or inappropriately, but it is also a way for people to develop better moral practices and empathy,” says Op de Beek.

“A minority will use adult VR as a way to fulfill unrealistic, possibly abusive sexual encounters. But most people use VR to interact with a virtual environment in a positive way.”

In other words, just like all technology, VR porn has plenty of potential for misuse. But it also has potential to promote positive change, both in the adult entertainment industry and in people’s sex lives.

A couple appear on a forest trail looking distant from each other.

4. It will cause feelings of insecurity or inadequacy between partners

The notion that pornography will make people feel inadequate in their relationships is a concern people have about all kinds adult entertainment. VR porn, with its ability to make an idealized fantasy world feel real, makes this concern all the more common.

“[VR porn] might fool a person without a lot of real world experience into thinking relationships are always like the fantasy that VR provides—full of honey and light and hot sexual activity—which just isn’t the truth… there is definitely going to be a downside for some people,” says Weiss.

On the flip side, however, that immersive experience can also have lots of positive benefits.

“The ability to step into a highly immersive sexual experience in a safe and non-invasive way opens the door to a new and effective way to learn, discover, and understand,” says Clos.

Plus, as anyone in an open or polyamorous relationship will tell you, insecurity is often a personal problem, not one created by a partner. As long as your partner still wants hot sex with you, chances are there’s no harm in them engaging in a little hot fantasy sex on the side.

5. It will increase interest in violent, misogynist content

This is an interesting one to think about, especially when you consider how much more real and visceral a violent sexual experience would be in a VR environment. This is why some experts predict that VR porn will actually drive more empathy for performers.

“VR porn has the opportunity to make porn better in a multitude of ways. It can change the business model of adult entertainment, thus enabling entertainers to be paid better and have legitimate, quality healthcare. It will be more educational, and it is a great tool for couples to use together,” Richmond says.

There is some evidence that VR porn is moving into some new and interesting directions here. For example, BadoinkVR [NSFW], one of the leading VR porn purveyors, recently developed a Virtual Sexology offering designed to focus on sexual health and wellness. It offers cutting-edge virtual reality experiences designed for sex education and to help users enhance pleasure and performance—both solo and with partners.

Sex education isn’t a new role for adult performers, but it also isn’t the norm. Expanding these offerings in VR could make this type of pornography a leader in positive sex education as well as adult entertainment. It also puts performers in an undeniably positive role.

Could VR have some dark implications? Sure, but it also has the power to make positive change in the way people use and relate to pornography.

6. VR porn will increase the likelihood of pornography addiction

This is a big one. Because VR porn is so much more immersive and interactive, there’s a big fear out there that it will be more addictive than traditional video pornography.

Will some people use VR porn compulsively? Sure, just as some people will use other adult content, food, TV, shopping, and other things compulsively now. Will VR porn lead to a country full of pornography addicts?

“For sure no,” says Richmond. “Sex addiction is a by-product of people not understanding the full range of human sexuality, as well as a great way for the addiction community to make a lot of money by pathologizing people’s sexual needs.”

Scientifically speaking, there is mixed evidence around the notion of pornography addiction, although there are certainly people with problematic use. However, like any technology, VR porn will likely have negative implications for a few and positive implications for many others.

“VR porn has the potential to be a powerful and legitimate tool to enhance your love life. There is a huge opportunity for VR to play a major role with sex education and sex therapy,” Clos said.

“The ability to step into a highly immersive sexual experience in a safe and non-invasive way opens the door to a new and effective way to learn, discover, and understand.”

The bottom line of VR porn

Here’s the thing: new technologies are scary. But we’ve weathered many new advances before—both within and outside the adult industry; none has proved as catastrophic as doomsayers predicted. Pornography has been around for years, and while there are many studies purporting its ill effects, there are just as many studies showing its potential benefits.

As the immersion and realism of pornography improves, it’s understandable that many will fear the future. But maybe they’re really just putting their focus in the wrong place. Talk to your partner about pornography. Use it as a safe place to explore your fantasies. Have fun. Relax. VR porn may look and feel real, but once you take off the goggles, you’re back in the real world, where things are more complicated. More nuanced. Never black and white.

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Author: Kinkly
 
Bio: Kinkly.com is a sex-positive website with the aim of facilitating education and conversation about sex online. Kinkly’s mission is to provide a safe space for people to discover new and exciting things about sex, love and their bodies. No innuendos, no judgments, just straight-up talk about sex.

 
Image sources: HammerandTusk, Makunin, saskiaclauss

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