In 1984, the film Revenge of the Nerds offhandedly gave a premonition to SexTech.In one of the closing scenes, Lewis Skolnick, one of the titular nerds, beds a cheerleader,
who is passionately surprised at how well Lewis performs. To this, he replies, “All jocks ever think about is sports, all we ever think about is sex.” What was, and still is, some solid comedy writing rings true in 2015. Robotics, telepresence, haptic feedback devices, all things invented by tech nerds, are now an intrinsic part of sex.
SexTech has been embedded in silver and small screen media since at least 1927, the year Brigitte Helm starred as a sultry robot in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. However, the implications of SexTech, at least in mainstream film and TV, still seem to be a loss of humanity, the dangers of sex and technology, and other things anthropologically apocalyptic. Sex is already scary, and fiction often shows SexTech as a descent into cyborg madness.
This doesn’t have to be the case, though. Current iterations of SexTech, including virtual reality interfaces, teledildonics, and even dating apps, can make sex more manageable, more intimate, and simply, physically better. So let’s focus on films that Lewis Skolnick, that legendary techie, would approve of.
Woody Allen has probably played more with sex than any other Hollywood director. Sleeper, the comedic dystopia following a man waking 200 years after accidentally being put in cryostasis, imagines a future filled with technologically induced orgasm. The most notable invention in the film is the Orgasmatron, an elevatorlike tube for single or duo usage that gives orgasms to the otherwise frigid populace. Like some examples of SexTech now, it’s a machine that gives sex back to people who’ve lost it, whether because of health complications or totalitarian overlords.
Artificial intelligence was feeling overplayed until Spike Jonze stuck Scarlett Johansson inside a computer. In Her, a lonely dude falls head over motherboard for an operating system, and we get introduced to not only the most passionate phone sex ever conceived but also organic
surrogacy for partners lacking a body. Sentient operating systems comprise the SexTech here, and even though the film ends on a melancholic note, the finale does remind us that tech can
remind us what human connection feels like, and there are infinite pathways to physical and mental intimacy. SexTech is a reflection of what we truly desire.
Channel 4 and AMC's series about self-aware utility synthetic versions of humans doesn’t really have the best story or performances, but it shows the likely future of sex dolls. In the show, the synths are passionless robots, but have an adult mode programmed in that makes them the
perfect lover. They are effectively sex dolls that respond realistically, muddling the distinction between android and human. If this is indeed the future, then imagine the sexual skill sets you could acquire before experimenting with other humans. Of course, the machine/human taboo
would need to be lifted, so let’s hope for activist AI.
Demolition Man (1993)
In this Sylvester Stallone dystopian epic, sex between humans is now conducted via VR headsets, the exchange of fluids a taboo and dangerous activity from the old world. Like in most films of its kind, preVR
love shines through, but Sandra Bullock’s explanation of why sticky sex
is dangerous isn’t all untrue. VR sex is the future of safe sex, so long as it’s not the only way folks get down. A strictly regulated, false utopia is not exactly what we’re going for. SexTech like in Demolition Man, smartly coupled with safe sex ed, would be a science fiction future we could
Even though this Pixar film is intended for kids, its statements on sex and love are tremendous. Almost a thousand years after covering the earth in garbage, humans are holed up in fully automated pleasure starliners, where robots do all the work. A familiar science fiction trope, with
the twist that the robots are the ones to fall in love, the humans playing as ensemble instead. There’s no overt SexTech, but the fact that robots fall in love is an elegant reminder that SexTech is not just about physical fulfillment, but about getting past limitations or programming to
discover new forms of passion and connection. Proof that although we’re quickly becoming cyborgs, we can still harness the ghost in the machine that is love.
Obviously, there are so many more films that depict SexTech in all kinds of ways. Ex Machina, this year’s sleeper hit about what happens when you put two males in a secluded mountain house with a gorgeous(ly designed) true AI, really digs into the question of consciousness. And there are flicks like The Lawnmower Man in 1992, that thrust their protagonists into virtual sex scapes. If you look, SexTech is everywhere, so it should be the job of sex and sex toy positive people to flip the story on its head. Show the positive side of films often taken as frightening science fiction nightmares. Let’s all be like Lewis Skolnick, and use knowledge of tech (and technique) to change the ways we talk about, practice, and reinvent sex.