There are two fields in which I'm anxious to see technology improve: medicine and hard-core pornography. And since I'm not sick yet, I'm pretty focused on the porn thing. Luckily I am not alone in my stunted vision of utopia. The desire for newer, better smut has long been a major impetus behind technological progress: VCRS, DVDS, Web development and I believe X-ray glasses were all spurred by prurient desires.
The holy grail of pornography, though, has always been a machine that delivers a virtual experience so real that it is indistinguishable from sex, other than the fact that it isn't at all disappointing. Though prototypes have appeared in films (the Pleasure Organ in Barbarella, the Orgasmatron in Sleeper, the fembots in Austin Powers), reality has remained painfully elusive. In his 1991 book Virtual Reality, Howard Rheingold devoted an entire chapter to "teledildonics," his not-so-clever name for devices that allow people to have sex without being in the same area code. Rheingold imagines putting on a "diaphanous bodysuit, something like a body stocking but with the kind of intimate snugness of a condom" and having a virtual-reality sexperience over the Net. "You run your hand over your partner's clavicle and, 6,000 miles away, an array of effectors are triggered, in just the right sequence, at just the right frequency, to convey the touch exactly the way you wish it to be conveyed."
Other than his fetish for Chinese clavicle, Rheingold is able to provide little that's useful in the way of information or specs. And in the nine years since he published his personal fantasies, there has been surprisingly little progress. Vivid, the world's largest producer of adult entertainment, promised to deliver an interactive bodysuit last September but missed its deadline. Sure, it had a $200,000 black neoprene suit with 36 electrodes stuck to the chest, crotch and other special places, but the suit didn't look very appetizing. Nor did it do anything. Vivid says it's waiting for fcc approval (interaction with pacemakers seems to be a concern), but the real reason it is lying low on the sex suit is that Vivid is a proud company, and it's not going to continue trumpeting a technology that is at best a long way from happening.
But there are less proud pornographers. SafeSexPlus.com sells teledildonic devices that, it turns out, look a lot like dildonic devices. The company promised that if I used these gizmos in conjunction with their iFriends.net website, I could have a sexual experience over the Net. I got SafeSexPlus to send me the equipment and figured I'd use it with my girlfriend--until I realized that was the dumbest idea I'd ever had. Thinking more clearly, I decided this might be my one chance to get a porn star to have sex with me.
Wicked Pictures, a major adult-entertainment company, set me up on a cyberdate with one of its actresses, Alexa Rae, star of Porn-o-matic 2000 and Say Aaah. I had never seen Alexa's work, but I was assured she was a complete professional. SafeSexPlus.com sent both of us toys, and we made an e-date.