Last week, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the international trade show for consumer tech and innovation made headlines not only for the futuristic gadgets it showcased but for possibly facing allegations of gender-bias after it had banned a female sex toy from exhibiting in the show, even though the toy in question had won an ‘honouree’ award for its breakthrough design and innovation.
The smoothly curved grey Osé “is the only product designed for hands-free blended orgasms.” Describes the female-led company Lora Dicarlo, founded by Lora Haddock in 2017 with the mission of launching new physiologically appropriate women’s health and wellness products. In the product description, Lora Dicarlo boasts the intricate engineering work behind the toy, which uses what it refers to as advanced micro-robotics that “mimics all of the sensations of a human mouth, tongue, and fingers, for an experience that feels just like a real partner.”
A month after the announcement of Osé’s award in the Robotics and Drone category it was withdrawn by the CES’ organiser, the Consumer Technology Associates (CTA), claiming that it was selected by mistake, adding that the device was ‘immoral’, ‘obscene’ and simply does not fit within the specific category or, in fact, in any other categories of the trade show. In response, Haddock published an open letter on Lora Dicarlo’s website where she writes that “Two robotic vacuum cleaners, one robotic skateboard, four children’s toys, one shopping companion robot – looks like all of women’s interests are covered, right?”
Now it’s crucial to note that what the CTA regards as immoral and obscene isn’t at all sex-oriented tech, but female-oriented sex tech. Just last year, CES made headlines when it showcased Abyss Creations’ debut of its second RealDoll AI-sex doll called Harmony. Equipped with a shimmering blonde wig, soft pale skin, makeup and of course, a revealing cleavage of her perfectly perky breasts, Harmony is but a modular robotic head that can be fitted on a variety of robotic bodies, all customisable to the male consumers’ desire.
Two years ago, in CES 2016, VR porn company BaDoink teamed up with Kiiroo, who is “one of the leading pioneers in teledildonics” according to a press release, to create an immersive porn experience where users can ‘feel’ what they see. The experience, in fact, took up an entire room in the show and reportedly had been visited more than 1,000 times in its first day of opening. On show, as expected, was the usual male-oriented porn. Finally, in this year’s CES, the show had arranged for an unofficial shuttle bus to take people from the conference site to a legal brothel for a sex-video experience controlled by an Amazon Echo speaker.
Needless to say, the Osé was in no way out of place for its sexually-oriented technology. No. The Osé was simply out of place for the gender it caters to. On the one hand, we are witnessing a rise in sex-oriented technology and particularly a growth in fem-sex tech that tries to empower women through both sex education and pleasure. Yet on the other hand, when a tech fair such as CES fails to include and support products like Osé, it feels like that even in the forward-looking world of tech (or at least what is considered as such), there are still frictions that led to huge steps back in the quest for equality and female empowerment. We should only hope that it was the decision of a rather frustrated man sitting in the CTA boardroom which led to this otherwise unacceptable exclusion.
You’ve probably sexted before, possibly with your partner or with your most recent match. It can be a fun, stress-free experience for some, but for others who’ve never done it before, it can also be intimidating and beginners can miss out on the opportunity of becoming a master of dirty talk. That’s where Slutbot comes in.
Launched by the creators of Juicebox, a sex and relationship coaching app, Slutbot is a free service developed by sex educators and erotic fiction writers—sexting pros basically. At the moment, texting Slutbot is only free in the U.S. and Canada, while the rest of the world can sext with it for the cost of your standard messaging rates. If you feel like trying it, you can text ‘slutbot’ to (+1) 415-650-0395.
Slutbot starts by asking your age, gender, and the gender of the person you’d like to practise sexting with. The chatbot offers different types of pairings like female user to male bot, female user to female bot, male user to female bot and so on. After picking a pairing that suits your needs, you’ll have to choose between two types of sexting: one softer, called ‘slow & gentle’, and another called ‘hot & sexy’, which, much like its title, is more forward.
When I decided to try it, Slutbot was considerate enough to choose a safe word, in case things got too hot too soon—the bot picked ‘pineapple’ for some reason. The conversation started quite slowly, with sentences like, “I’ve been thinking about you today. Last night was really hot”, nothing too crazy considering I picked the ‘hot & sexy’ option. Slutbot quickly killed the mood by using texting abbreviations like ‘O.M.G.’ and the ‘100’ emoji three times in a row, making me wonder if I was texting a bot or a 15-year-old. The experience as a whole wasn’t that bad, and for a sexting beginner, the upsides that could come from a few conversations with Slutbot are clear, if you can ignore the over-the-top use of emojis and the absence of any sense of humour.
Talking to the New York Times, Founder and CEO of Juicebox Brianna Rader said, “People think sex and dating is supposed to be easy and innate, but it’s not. It’s absolutely a life skill just like all other life skills, but unfortunately we’re never formally taught these things.” A study conducted by McAfee in the U.S. showed that 49 percent of all smartphone users sext and of those, 70 percent are between 18 and 24 years old, so it only makes sense that someone came up with a sexting ‘starter pack’ to help onboard this new generation of sexters. Although Slutbot is exactly what it says on the tin—a slutty bot—it should be seen as a first step towards opening up new horizons for your sex life (that is, if you feel like you need a little push).
Slutbot tackles important issues, like consent and communicating desires, by always ending a text asking users if they’re enjoying this conversation or want to try something new. By practising your sexting skills with Slutbot without dreading the possibility of being ghosted, you could eventually feel confident enough to try it out with someone real. Ghosting is a problem that goes hand-in-hand with technology, especially texting—not only with sexting. That’s where another app called Mei comes in, your best chance at texting perfectly, thus avoiding any chance of being ghosted. Once you’ve downloaded Mei, the app includes an AI assistant that gives you real-time comments on your texting skills as you chat with friends, family, and partners.
Let’s say you’ve been talking with your new crush for a few days, but you feel like the conversation is not going as smoothly anymore. In your text conversation, Mei will pop up at the top left corner to comment on your way of texting, advising you on which tone you should try out and why. The app’s website says, “We hope to be a new messaging option that users can be excited about”. Although the concept sounds great on paper (we all ask someone close for texting advice from time to time) the idea that people could one day rely on extra help to text from AI should be a forewarning of how our society is beginning to lean perhaps too heavily on technology (especially when it comes to social interactions).
By now we all know that technological innovations have both positive and negative impacts on our social interactions. So next time you feel like sexting for the first time, or you don’t want to receive an unsolicited dick pic, you’ll know Slutbot is always here for you. Same goes with texting your mum after having a bad argument with her, Mei will be there to help you formulate that perfect text. Let’s just try to avoid being dependent on these apps—preferably without throwing away our phones.