A first-hand quest for the future of sex

Over the past two months, I’ve been intimately involved with a series of machines. On a mission to find the future of sex, I’ve masturbated into a crowdfunded sex sleeve, been transported into a porn star’s anus and quite literally fucked myself.

On Friday, I reached my final destination. I can now say that it is a clumsy, unremarkable future.

It started off simply enough. A friend sent over a series of four virtual-reality porn files and suggested I write something about my experience. I purchased a Gear VR, borrowed a Galaxy S6 and started the rather arduous task of getting those files up and running. The process took nearly two hours and brought back memories of the hours spent waiting for a single beefcake butt to download over dial-up. As with my early experiences with internet porn, hours of anticipation led to a few fleeting moments of release.

Having seen my share of poorly executed VR demos and having worked for a porn studio that, like so many others, valued quantity over quality, I set my expectations low. After downloading the files (each of which ranged from 1.5GB to 2GB); installing software to sideload the videos and eventually sideloading them onto the Galaxy S6; and, finally, registering an Oculus ID so that I could watch them in the official player, I was in.

As a child of the ’80s I was immediately pleased to see Oculus Video’s menu was like stepping inside Xanadu. My excitement ended there.

The four videos were the sort of low-budget European garbage I’d expected; the kind where excessive baby oil and tribal tattoos adorn hairless gym bodies. A quick search for “gay VR porn” turned up the same four videos (and a small handful of others) at VirtualRealGay, the brother company to straight porn VR factory VirtualRealPorn. Unfortunately for the rest of us, immersive porn is still largely a privilege preserved for straight dudes.

I’ve always prided myself on my ability to put personal preferences aside and just bone. So that’s what I did. I strapped on the Gear VR, selected the first of the four videos and explored a generic modern apartment, housing an equally generic muscle stud who stroked himself to completion, all the while uncomfortably staring me in the eye. I’d eventually bring myself to completion watching two unfortunately inked juice heads rub their slippery, bulging bodies against each other. But not before having some of the worst sex of my life.

… It was all I could do to maintain an erection while my face was buried in a wall of smooth, orange back skin.

The offending scene, titled Agency Boy, is shot from the perspective of the top, and the object of his gaze, and presumably the eponymous character, is a thin but well-built young man with a truly unfortunate top knot and one of those methy stares that you can’t unsee. Agency Boy is the antithesis of my type, but what made the experience so miserable was purely technical.

VR is still in an awkward adolescence: The devices, though sophisticated, are either tethered to PCs or dependent on smartphones with limited storage capacity. They’re also quite large and uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time. My screen fogged up more than once and I had to take myself out of the experience entirely in order to perform simple tasks, like finding lube.

While we’re still in the early days of VR hardware, the headsets are hardly the only obstacle. Content producers are still trying to figure out how to shoot 180-degree video, leading to some truly bizarre perspectives. Getting too close can create a warped, fisheye effect, turning an otherwise normal intimate encounter into a fun-house anatomy lesson. Shooting too far away can create a disconnect. In the case of Agency Boy, it was all I could do to maintain an erection while my face was buried in a wall of smooth, orange back skin.

While novel, my first time with VR porn was, as I’d suspected, complicated, cumbersome and ultimately underwhelming. As a gay millennial accustomed to the ease and abundance of free tube-porn, I just couldn’t see VR upending my solo sex life. At least not now.

Lucky for me, it wasn’t long before I received an unsolicited package containing three identical versions of the Autoblow 2. This male masturbator is a crowdfunding success story that promises to simulate the experience of oral sex. It even has a tiny silicone mouth, because, you know, authenticity is important when a giant plastic tube is fellating you.

The Autoblow 2, dubbed “your blowjob robot” on the company’s website, simulates knob slobbing with a typical silicone sleeve, a motor with adjustable speeds and a series of bead-covered springs that roll up and down the penis. Oh, and it plugs into the wall, so no charging necessary! While this may not be the sentient, Stepford-style companion threatening to replace flesh-and-blood lovers, it occurred to me that this might be my chance to get out ahead of the robo-sexual revolution.

I might as well have stuck my dick in a vacuum.

Like my experience with VR porn, the Autoblow 2 was pure novelty. The barrier to entry was much lower — all you really have to do is plug the thing in, turn it on, pump some lube in the mouth hole and go to town — but the end result was just as unfulfilling.

I would again rub one out successfully and without the hours of setup and obstructed vision. But over the past 20-odd years, I’ve learned how to use my hand in ways no man or machine can emulate. The Autoblow 2 was a poor substitute for my hand and a far cry from a real-life blowjob. In addition to tying me to an electrical outlet, the device is ridiculously large, requiring both hands to hold in place, and the sounds of the motor inside, in concert with an unidentifiable high-pitched squeal, betrayed the “robot’s” lack of sophistication. I might as well have stuck my dick in a vacuum.

But I didn’t, because I’m not dumb, and besides, I was on a mission to find the future of sex, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t involve screwing a Roomba. Another thing I won’t be sticking my dick in anytime soon is a penis pedometer, but in researching these mythical devices for another column I came across yet another supposedly revolutionary sex toy: Kiiroo.

And that’s when things really got weird.

This story appeared at Engadget.com on 01/07/2016.