Monday, March 19, 2012

Frontiers of Sex: Skyping With a Rubber Glove

The Republican Party has its hands full this year, figuring out how best to regulate our personal freedoms in matters of private conduct. The fight to end abortion is going slowly, though the procedure is now nearly impossible to obtain, if not quite illegal, in several states. They have started a near revolution among estrogen-crazed women demanding that contraceptives be paid for by their employers' insurance plans. "Personhood" bills in several states are creating numberless new Americans with each legislative vote. But just when the Party of Small Government should be enjoying its accomplishments in regulating the nation's sexual conduct according to the highest standards of the Papal Curia, technology throws a fast curve ball.

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, an electronics company named RealTouch unveiled an interactive, Internet-linked sexual device, a "synthetic orifice that lives in a plastic tube and connects to a computer. Based on data from an Internet connection, the unit warms up, lubes up, pulses and grips any item stuck into it. On the other end of a connection, a 'performer' — who could be a paid 'cam girl," or [even] a military wife — hand-operates a sensor-covered rod to run the motors in the RealTouch." The company considers this device the latest in "teledildonics," the science of remote-controlled sex. If, of course, that's the "item" one chooses to stick into it. 

Teledildonics, then, is like skyping while wearing rubber gloves. Here's the nice lady, Kristen, who performed the dildo demo (on proffered fingers) at the Las Vegas event:

"I'm really a model."

While the core market for the RealTouch unit has thus far been men who use it to enhance their Internet porn experience, the manufacturer sees the toy as having real social benefits for the spouses of deployed soldiers - the home-bound wife can keep the rod and spoil the overseas spouse, or (in the case of a woman deployed abroad) the distant husband gets the slave unit while the wife keeps the master (rod) unit. In either case, the beneficiary of the device seems to be the male, which means that in strict terms it's not a dildo, though the dildo's counterpart has never been given a proper name (presumably because so many different sorts of things have historically served the same purpose).

Here is a CAD drawing of an engineer's concept for one possible configuration of a teledildonic device:

Apart from the clear social benefits of the RealTouch unit, the thornier issues are ones governing social and political policy vis-a-vis the device. Most obviously, how can the Party of Small Government insure that the device is a) issued only to legally married couples, and b) cannot fall into the hands of same-sex couples, married or unmarried? And, of course, the concomitant question, whether a person who uses the device to polish their nails is using it in a way that is "natural."

Aside from all of that are the more ticklish questions raised by the need to clean the device after use. The obvious method would be to rinse it under a stream of clear tap water and forget about it until the next use. But as simple as this solution may sound, in the current legal climate it is effectually flushing down the drain the lives of uncounted tiny Americans who will have never had the opportunity to sing "God Bless America," or be issued a concealed carry permit.

Whose freedoms do we really want to preserve as a nation - a gang of libertines who probably shoplift their contraceptive supplies anyway? or a potential nation of zygotes who are in effect patriots in waiting? Just look at that little face.

"I'm a zygote, and I vote."

Update (September 23, 2012): See also Kissenger

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