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When Sex Is Divorced From Reproduction: The Possibilities And Implications

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Relatively speaking, it wasn’t that long ago in humanity’s history when finding food was a matter of survival. It wasn’t as simple as walking into the nearest grocery store and buying whatever was on sale. Individuals, governments, and societies dedicated a good chunk of their time and energy into securing a stable food source. Those who didn’t were usually the first victims of the next famine.

These days, getting a meal is less about survival and more about logistics. Thanks to major advances in agricultural science, including those of the late Norman Borlaug, we have so much abundant food that overeating is now a bigger problem than famine. Hunger is still a major issue for certain parts of the world, but it’s more a logistical issue than a resource issue.

Once food was divorced from famine and survival, it changed the way society approached it. Most people don’t even think about where they’re going to get their next meal. Their main concern is whether it’ll be a tasty meal.

With this critical need met, we can focus more time and energy on other matters. Even before science gave us abundant food, sex and reproduction was usually our second most pressing focus. It’s the other powerful drive that unites us all as a species. As a result, it’s subject to all sorts of taboos and has been central to multiple revolutions.

There’s no question that technology has impacted sexuality every bit as much as it impacted food production. Even advances unrelated to sex, especially anti-biotics, affected various attitudes and norms. However, even with these advances, sex maintains much of its primary function in that it’s still necessary for reproduction.

With that in mind, what happens when that’s no longer the case?

What happens to sex when it’s completely divorced from reproduction?

This isn’t another speculative thought experiment. This process is already unfolding. I would argue that it started on July 25, 1978 when the first baby was born from in vitro fertilization. Since then, over 8 million babies have been born through this technology. That is not a trivial number when we’re dealing with human lives.

Just take a step back to appreciate the implications of these lives. They were all conceived and birthed without sex. In centuries past, this was grounds for a miracle that could serve as a basis for a major religion. These days, it’s so routine that it never makes the news. Most people don’t think about it. It helps that these people are just as healthy and prosperous as those who were conceived with sex.

In the near future, this could change as well. Late last year, our technology went a step further beyond conceiving babies through in vitro fertilization with the birth of the first genetically edited babies in China. Now, it’s not just normal babies being born through this technology. Thanks to tools like CRISPR, children born without sex could be healthier and stronger than those conceived through sex.

Again, that is not a trivial detail. It’s one thing for technology to simply match a natural process, especially one as critical as human reproduction. Once it starts doing it better than nature, then that’s a huge paradigm shift. It might even be a point of no return. Having babies through sex is still a thing, but it’s no longer the most effective way to have healthy, strong children.

While this has generated plenty of controversy around topics like designer babies, there hasn’t been as much discussion about what this means for sex. If sex is no longer the primary method for reproduction, or the safest for that matter, what happens to our society? What happens to centuries of taboos, attitudes, traditions, and gender roles?

It’s difficult to speculate, but some have tried. In a recent article with the BBC, author Henry T. Greely laid out a general timeline. It doesn’t rely entirely on huge leaps in reproductive technology. It simply follows the trends that began with in vitro fertilization. In the interview, these are just a few thoughts he shared.

In 20 to 40 years, most people all over the world with good health coverage will choose to conceive in a lab. Like most things, there will be a fair amount of visceral negative reaction initially, but as time goes on and kids prove not to have two heads and a tail, the public will come not only to tolerate but to prefer reproducing non-sexually.

From a logistic and public health standpoint, this makes sense. Any healthy and prosperous society would want to promote the birth of healthy children in a manner that preserves the health of the mother. With technology like in vitro and CRISPR, it might very well be preferable because it means fewer diseases, lower health care costs, and fewer burdens on parents.

That doesn’t even begin to factor in the impact of more advanced reproductive technologies. With advances like artificial wombs in development, sex wouldn’t just be divorced from reproduction. Reproduction might not require any intimate connection whatsoever. At that point, sex for reproduction is akin to drinking unpasteurized milk.

Will people still have sex at that point? I believe they will. Unless we radically change our bodies all at once, the hardware for sex will still be present. The drive to do it will still be there as well, although some might opt to turn it off if that were an option. Regardless of any lingering attitudes and taboos, there’s no getting around it. Sex still feels good. It’s still a profoundly intimate act with many health benefits.

How people go about it will likely change. A great many taboos about sex stem from its role in reproduction. Much of the stigma surrounding promiscuity and traditional gender roles have a basis in highlighting the importance of sex in the propagation of our society and species. If are reckless about it, then that can spread disease, destabilize families, and create unhealthy environments for children.

Going back to the parallels with food, the same logic was once used to discourage gluttony. For much of human history, we had to be careful with how we consumed our food. If people consumed too much and were reckless with our eating habits, then they were ill-prepared for the next famine that inevitably came.

While sex and reproduction are still very different from consuming food, the influence of technology had a major impact on collective attitudes. We don’t look at people who overeat the same way we look at people who have lots of sex. Both may still draw scorn, but few will worry for the survival of the future of their community if a handful of people overeat.

At the moment, there are very real concerns surrounding falling birth rates and people having less sex than ever before. In some countries, the low birth rates are seen as an outright crisis that has also fueled ongoing debates surrounding immigration. Crisis or not, this situation is adding more urgency to the development of reproductive technologies. That, along with the decline in sex, could hasten this pending divorce.

Once it’s finalized, what form will sex take? It could simply become an act of intimacy or recreation. Humans might ultimately treat it the same way Bonobo monkeys treat it. It’s just an intimate activity that people do. Reproduction never even enters the conversation. People save that for when they want to design their baby.

It could also gain another purpose entirely. Maybe sex becomes less an act of intimacy and more an elaborate handshake, of sorts. It could be seen as a way of establishing trust or differentiating between casual acquaintances and close friends. In that world, friends with benefits are just friends. The benefits are implied by the friendship.

There’s also the very real possibility that people will just lose interest in sex. If there’s no reason to do it and it has no bearing on the growth of a society, then it just might be an afterthought. People might still do it, but those who do would be like the people who still have their own gardens in the backyard. It’s a quaint echo of our past that most have moved past.

These are possibilities. For now, there are no inevitabilities with respect to how we’ll approach sex once it’s no longer necessary for reproduction. It’ll likely be several decades before reproductive technology gets to a point where it’s preferable to sex, both for individuals and societies at large. Until then, this lengthy divorce is already at the early stages. It’s just a matter of how messy it’ll get in the coming years.

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Filed under biotechnology, CRISPR, futurism, gender issues, human nature, Marriage and Relationships, Second Sexual Revolution, sex in society, sexuality, Sexy Future, technology

Closing The Orgasm Gap With Lingerie

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There are a lot of things that divide men and women these days. There’s the anti-harassment movement, representation in media, and people who get too much of their romantic advice from Hugh Grant movies. I’ve written about a few of these issues and even I admit, there are times when it feels like there’s no way to bridge the divide between genders.

While there is no magic wand we can wave that’ll create perfect gender equality, there are a few small things we can do to alleviate the hostility between men and women. They won’t solve problems like female representation in the tech industry or male pay disparities in the porn industry, but they will help us get along just a little bit easier.

On simple, but critical effort that both genders can do to help the situation involves the orgasm gap. Yes, this is going to be another article about orgasms, but in a serious way. The orgasm gap is a very serious issue, as I’ve highlighted before. How can the genders possibly get along when one side is taking more trips to O-Town than the other?

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The factors behind the orgasm gap are many, including forces such as cultural attitudes, poor understandings of anatomy, and lackluster effort. However, I don’t want to bemoan the extent of problem. Instead, I want to focus on the solutions. That usually gets people more excited about this very serious issue, among other things.

There are, indeed, small things that men and women can do on a personal level to close that orgasm gap. However, where those things fall short, technology and sexy innovations can help fill the void. Sex toys are an obvious possible solution and I’ve even singled a few out for praise.

Unfortunately, not everyone is comfortable using a sex toy or even talking about sex toys, in general. I understand and respect that. Some of these issues are not easy to talk about, to say the least. That’s why those serious about closing the orgasm gap have to get a bit more subtle.

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That’s where companies like Lorals come in, which hope to do for women receiving oral sex what Michael Jordan did for sneakers. Much like the Ta-Ta towels, they hope to take something simple that most people are already comfortable with and use it to facilitate an intimate act that could help close that gap that hinders the shared joy of both genders.

I’m singling Lorals out because their approach is unique, as well as subtle. Rather than use sex toys, which often have to be ordered discretely and sometimes require a quick clearing of one’s browser history, this company is reinventing lingerie in the name of closing the orgasm gap. I’ll give everyone a moment to wipe the tears of joy from their eyes.

This is brilliant on Lorals part because lingerie operates in a rare gray area, in terms of sexual accessories. Yes, it’s sexy, but it’s the kind of sexy you can buy on Amazon or at Walmart without much concern for scrutiny. People may look at you oddly if you walk out of a store with bag of dildos, but if you have a bag of sexy lingerie, they’ll probably smile because they know someone’s having a good night.

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Melanie Cristol, the founder of the company, is using that unique comfort we have with lingerie and tweaking the design so that it doesn’t just look sexy. It makes the act of stimulating a woman’s lady parts, whether by touch or tongue, a lot easier and enjoyable. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer who favors all form of sexy stimulation, I wholly support such an effort.

How it does this is simple, but deceptively cunning. Instead of the traditional fabric used in lingerie, Lorals uses thinner materials like latex to allow for easier stimulation. It’s like a condom, but disguised like lingerie. James Bond himself would be impressed and a little turned on by such cunning.

In an interview with Fast Company, Ms. Cristol offered some insight into the product and the purpose behind it.

The new product she’s invented–called Lorals–is lingerie made from thin latex similar to the material used in condoms.

It is designed to feel luxurious against the skin, but is so thin and stretchy that it allows for oral and finger penetration.

Even if you’re not that impressed by something that emphasizes a woman receiving oral sex, there’s another reason why she and Lorals took this approach. It may seem like just having special lingerie wouldn’t do much to improve our sex lives, but if you know the specifics of the orgasm gap, you’ll understand why she’s attacking it this way.

Ms. Cristol is aware of those specifics more than most. Rather than belabor studies or providing impromptu anatomy lessons on female physiology, I’ll let her explain why lingerie that facilitates oral sex is a key tool in battling the orgasm gap.

One study conducted by the author of the The Sex Diaries found that 81% of women orgasm during oral sex, which is about three times more often than during intercourse. But in a survey Cristol conducted, she discovered that 80% of women turn down oral sex when they wanted to say yes. “Women turn down oral sex for many different reasons,” she says. “They might be concerned that they haven’t showered yet, have just come back from the gym, or are on the tail end of their period. They might be worried about how their sexual partner feels about tastes and scents.”

Men, on the other hand, appear to be less inhibited. They are two times as likely to receive oral sex as women, according to the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality
With Lorals, Cristol wanted to create a product that would help women overcome some of their self-consciousness. Lorals are black and designed to look like any other sexy lingerie, but they are disposable.
The idea would be for a woman to have the undies on hand, and be able to put them on right before the act of oral sex. Of course, this means adding another step to the process of sexual activity, but Cristol believes it should be fairly easy to introduce this new behavior into the process.

After reading that, I hope others will join me in applauding Ms. Cristol’s efforts. She wants to expand the script that men and women use in approaching sex. There is, indeed, an imbalance when it comes to technique and tendencies with sexual activity. There’s an understandable eagerness when it comes to men receiving oral sex, but a frustrating hesitation with women receiving it from men.

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Some of that comes back to our sexual attitudes, which are always evolving. However, rather than simply wait for those attitudes to mature to the point where the joys of oral sex are perfectly equal, this unique brand of lingerie should help accelerate the process.

I don’t doubt that, like the Ta-Ta Towels,  Lorals has a long road ahead of it in order to carve a place for itself within our collective sex lives. Condoms, vibrators, dildos, and traditional lingerie have all had go to through a maturation process before they became an acceptable addition to our sexual arsenal.

With this new brand of lingerie, though, the incentives are definitely there because they can directly contribute to our effort at closing the orgasm gap. If this product gains sufficient popularity, then lovers will be more inclined to equitably share in the range of sex acts that get them to O-Town and back.

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This new brand of lingerie won’t entirely close the orgasm gap, but it does have the potential to make a dent. When it comes to narrowing that gap, every bit counts. There are all sorts of gender-driven conflicts in this world, but if we can at least make it so no gender need worry about who is getting more orgasm than the other, then I believe we’ll all find it easier to get along with one another.

 

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Filed under gender issues, sex in society, sexuality

When Sex Toys Get Smart (And How We Can Learn From Them)

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Ever since our phones and computers got smart enough to talk to us, it seems as though every gadget, appliance, and widget we can possibly overpay for is getting smarter as well. Our cars are almost smart enough to drive themselves. Our ovens are getting smart enough to do most of the cooking for us. There’s even a smart fork that senses how fast you’re eating and tries to get you to slow down.

We can argue endlessly on whether or not so many smart gadgets are more trouble than they’re worth. I’m sure there are a significant number of people, young and old alike, who roll their eyes at the idea of making too many gadgets too smart. We shouldn’t be making Skynet’s job that easy in the first place.

Even those anti-gadget people, though, would have to admit they’re a little bit intrigued by the prospect of smarter sex toys. If nothing else, I’m sure the idea has crossed their perverse minds in some form or another, hopefully in a private setting where they can let their imagination get a little kinky.

Well, they don’t need to rely wholly on their kinky imagination because smart sex toys are already here. It’s true. Thanks to sexy new companies like Loiness, you can buy a colorful, phallic-shaped vibrator that can work with your smartphone to know how to pleasure you.

I’m not talking about a simple timer or different settings either. This thing actually gathers data every time you use it, creates a sexual profile for you, and extrapolates the optimum way to bring you to orgasm. Admit it. Reading over that last sentence got you more than a little excited.

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It’s as exciting as it is arousing, our sex toys learning how to pleasure us in the best way possible. It’s one of the most critical steps we can along the path that will inevitably lead to fully-functional sex robots. Those robots are going to need data on how to pleasure us. These sex toys will help them and give us more orgasms in the process. I can’t think of a better win-win that doesn’t involve melted chocolate.

Before sex robots can come, which I know is a lurid choice of words, we need to get comfortable with the idea of a machine giving us an orgasm. There’s only so much sexual interest we can gain from watching sexy female robots in movies like “Terminator 3” or “Ex Machina.” At some point, the idea has to be more than a novelty for tech-savvy nymphomaniacs. It has to be just another tool for sexual satisfaction.

We’re still not there quite yet, but these smart sex toys will help us and not just when it comes to orgasms. By being smart about how we like to pleasure ourselves, it’ll also help us be smarter on how we go about it. When it comes to having a satisfying sex life, few things are as critical.

You could make the argument, and I have on this blog, that all satisfying sex starts in the brain. Our genitals are close accomplices, but the brain is always the mastermind when it comes to making it the trip to O-Town. That brain, however, has many inherent obstacles and I’m not just talking about the struggle to keep picturing Hugh Jackman naked.

As much progress as we’ve made in our culture, we’re still somewhat uptight when it comes to talking about, or even thinking about, our sex life. When I was in high school, I got a pretty comprehensive education on the mechanics of sex and why certain priests, mullahs, and republicans didn’t want us having a lot of sex. At no point, however, did I ever learn about male and female orgasms. That wasn’t even hinted at.

Just knowing what sex is won’t equip anyone in forging a satisfying sex life. That’s one part of sex education where people just expect teenagers to wing it. That can be dangerous, leading to some people to become laughably misinformed about sex. Then, we’re surprised when we learn about things like the orgasm gap or that around 15 percent of women never experience orgasm during sex.

As an erotica/romance writer and a fan of both genders sharing in the pleasure, I find that situation untenable. It shows just how much we’ve failed to inform each other or ourselves about what gets us all hot and bothered in the best possible way. We’re not going to learn that from a teacher, a religious figure, or even our parents, who would rather clean a toilet with their tongues than talk to their kids about sex.

That’s where these smart sex toys can really show their value. A smart sex toy won’t get awkward or coy when talking about orgasms, discharges, and the various fluids involved with sex. A smart sex toy won’t censor certain parts of the process out of embarrassment. A smart sex toy will actually try to teach you and guide you in your effort to have the best orgasm possible.

In a sense, a smart sex toy is establishing the gold standard by which to gauge a satisfying sexual experience. It effectively does the work you once needed a dedicated, ambitious, overly-patient partner to help you discover. Smart sex toys will do that work for them, making things easier for yourself and your partner. Again, that’s as big a win-win as you’ll get without bacon flavored lube being involved.

It could even help prepare young people for sex more effectively than just giving them diagrams of genitals in health class. Most teenagers aren’t going to talk about how they like to stimulate their genitals in the presence of an adult, especially a parent or teacher. They will talk to a smart sex toy, though. They already talk to their phones these days. Talking to a sex toy wouldn’t be that great a leap.

A smart sex toy won’t judge, laugh, or belittle them. It’ll just gather data for the sole purpose of giving them a better orgasm. Imagine every virgin, male or female, being that equipped on their first time. They know what makes them come. They know how to go about it. How many awkward prom nights could be spared by this technology? In that sense, the work companies like Lioness are doing couldn’t be more vital.

Smart sex toys, if used responsibly, will do wonders for our collective sex lives. If knowledge is power and power is sex, then smart sex toys will make us all more inherently powerful. Given the many health benefits of orgasms, that power is invaluable.

If you’re interested/horny to explore smart sex toys, please consider products like the Lioness, the Lovelife Krush, the VaGenie, and the Afterglow. The future will surely bring us more and better smart sex toys. If something really groundbreaking and sexy comes along, expect me to write about it.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, Sexy Future