The rise of the teledildonics industry, also known as connected sexual pleasure products, creates new fun ways for us to pleasure ourselves and our partners, with inventions such as vibrating Wi-Fi-enabled butt plugs and webcam-connected dildos. But teledildonics, just like everything else in our modern age it seems, are another privacy nightmare ridden with security flaws. Since 2018, there have been a number of reported hacked sex toys, and the most recent case makes me wonder: should we go back to good old non-connected sex toys just to avoid them getting hacked mid-sesh?
Evidently, I’m not the only one. Most recently, a woman had her butt plug hacked and controlled while she was presenting on stage. It later turned out to be a stunt designed to demonstrate to the audience just how susceptible these devices are to getting hacked. This incident sparked a frenzy as people feared it would happen to them. Not only would having your vibrator hacked be very strange, but it would also be done without your consent—just like the data-collection techniques that are used by Facebook, Alexa, and most technologies.
In 2017, a man called Alex Lomas walked around Berlin and had to use only his phone in order to pull up a list of Bluetooth discoverable Lovense Hush butt plugs, ready to be hacked, just to manifest how easy it was. Last year, SEC Consultants looked at sex toys from Vibratissimo and demonstrated how they could be broken into by hackers not only to “remotely pleasure” people, but also to access owners’ account details. Even more worrying, a Wi-Fi-connected dildo’s internal camera was found to be easily accessible.
What can be said about hacking sex toys and consent laws? Because these are quite uncharted territories, we don’t know just yet what to do when someone hacks a sex toy or its data. In some countries, such as the U.S., laws that define what constitutes sexual harassment or assault vary from state to state. In many countries, the law is still vague about the definition of assault and sexual harassment. In the U.K., sexual harassment is defined as: “unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which violates your dignity, makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated, and creates a hostile or offensive environment.” The lack of precision surrounding sexual harassment and assault laws prevents us from taking concrete action in the event of a sex-toy hack. Worse yet, we don’t even know whether our data can be hacked into and stolen in the first place.
While the aim of this article isn’t to inspire anxiety and ignite a global wanking paranoia, it should force you to sit back and ask yourself, “What are the privacy implications of using a Bluetooth-connected sex toy?” Last time we ignored such concerns we ended up with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Trump as the President of the U.S., and a moronic Brexit. Even though hacking sex toys isn’t yet defined as assault or sexual harassment, it may very well be regarded so once lawmakers start tackling the issue. In the meantime, maybe it’s worth dusting off the old non-connected sex toy hidden under your bed and relieve the stress with some alone time, if you know what I mean.
This month sees the launch of Enby, a new, gender-neutral sex toy. Wild Flower, an independent sex shop based in Brooklyn, has designed the toy in-house. Founded by Amy and Nick Boyajian, both of whom identify as non-binary, Enby is their first own-brand toy, named after the common shorthand for non-binary people, NB, pronounced ‘enby’.
As a retailer, Wild Flower is committed to inclusive and sensitive attitudes toward sex. The shop’s website has a blog with sections dedicated to “mindfulness & sex” and “non-monogamous relationships”, for example. On its Instagram, it features a gorgeous range of individuals—people of all ages, genders and sizes—as well as some hilarious memes. Wild Flower’s merchandise reads: “Trust Yourself, Feel Yourself, Touch Yourself, Please Yourself, Hear Yourself, Know Yourself, Fuck Yourself, Love Yourself”.
Much of the sex industry is still surprisingly gendered, often unnecessarily. Identical toys might be packaged and marketed entirely differently in order to appeal to women and men. Online, toys are generally categorised into ‘for him’ and ‘for her’, even though, to be blunt, a dildo is a dildo, regardless of the user’s gender.
Slowly but surely, however, more options are becoming available for trans and non-binary people, designed with diverse bodies and queer pleasure in mind. Amy and Nick consulted various members of the LGBTQ community while developing their toy. One trans friend of theirs complained about how she had thrown away all of her sex toys after her surgery, because they were no longer compatible with her body. Other trans people have explained how they often resort to toys not marketed at their gender identity, which can worsen existing gender dysphoria.
Enby looks somewhat unusual, unlike any other toy on the market, but this just demonstrates its innovation. It is something different and new. It’s available in black and deep purple, colours chosen for being gender-neutral, especially compared to the pinks and reds that dominate the market. The Enby can be humped, used to masturbate, tucked into a harness. “Hump it, stroke it, tuck it, share it”, reads the product page—it’s like a dirty Bop It.
Enby might not be the first toy to claim the title of being gender-neutral. PicoBong launched the Transformer in 2014, offering “millions of sex toys in one” with its product description listing the sex toy’s possibilities, “It’s a rabbit vibe, a clitoral massager, a cock-ring, a G-spot stimulator, a prostate massager, a double-ended vibe, and much more”. However, its success was debatable. One review summarised, “In trying to create a sex toy that can be used by everyone, PicoBong made a sex toy that is useful to no one”.
The Enby, meanwhile, has received stellar reviews so far, with an average of 4.89 stars out of 5 and comments such as “A game changer” and “Super validating”. Enby is available to pre-order and ships from the U.S. at the end of July. I discovered it myself last month at a community market in Manhattan. I now regret not investigating further at the time.
An online review at Allure recommended the Enby to a transgender man, concluding with: “Overall, I’d recommend Enby for anyone, regardless of gender or genitalia. As with any other sex toy, you’ll have to play around with it to determine how it best works for your body, but it’s absolutely worth it once you find that sweet spot”.
Enby represents a new direction for the sex toy industry, one that is more open, diverse and inclusive. Just like in the porn industry, small, independent brands are inevitably leading the way, but with such positive results, hopefully bigger brands will follow suit. After all, everybody—and every body—deserves pleasure.