Securing Sexuality is the podcast and conference promoting sex positive, science based, and secure interpersonal relationships. We give people tips for safer sex in a digital age. We help sextech innovators and toy designers produce safer products. And we educate mental health and medical professionals on these topics so they can better advise their clients. Securing Sexuality provides sex therapists with continuing education (CEs) for AASECT, SSTAR, and SASH around cyber sexuality and social media, and more.
Links from this week’s episode:
Examining the History of Technology-Enabled Sexual Expression; Understanding the Impact of Technology on Sexuality
The intersection of technology and sexual expression has been a topic of discussion for centuries. From the invention of the printing press to the development of virtual reality, technology has had a profound impact on how we express our sexuality.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the history of technology and sexual expression, as well as explore what the future may hold.
The Printing Press: A Revolutionary Technology for Sexual Expression
The invention of the printing press in 1440 revolutionized communication and allowed for unprecedented access to information about sex. This new technology enabled people to share their thoughts and experiences with others in ways that were previously impossible.
The printing press also made it possible to produce books, pamphlets, and other materials that could be used to educate people about sex. This new form of communication allowed for more open dialogue about sexuality and helped break down taboos surrounding it.
The Rise of Pornography: Technology Empowers Sexual Expression
With advances in photography came an increase in pornographic material being produced and distributed around the world.
The availability of pornography was further enhanced by technological developments such as film cameras, VHS tapes, DVDs, streaming video services, and more recently virtual reality (VR). These technologies have enabled people to access pornography from almost anywhere in the world with just a few clicks or taps on their device screens.
Technology Enhances Sexual Pleasure: From Sex Toys to VR Experiences
Technology has also had an impact on how we experience pleasure during sex.
Sex toys such as vibrators have been around since ancient times but modern versions are much more advanced than their predecessors thanks to technological advancements like Bluetooth connectivity and rechargeable batteries.
Similarly, VR experiences can now be used to simulate different types of sexual encounters without ever leaving your home or having physical contact with another person – something that was not possible before these technologies were developed.
The Future: How Will Technology Continue To Shape Our Sexual Expression?
As technology continues to evolve at an ever-increasing rate so too will its impact on our sexual expression continue to grow exponentially over time.
We can expect advances such as artificial intelligence (AI) powered sex robots that are capable of providing realistic physical sensations during intercourse or even AI-driven virtual partners who can provide companionship without any physical contact whatsoever – all thanks to technological advancements like machine learning algorithms that enable them “learn” from interactions with humans over time!
Additionally, augmented reality (AR) could be used in conjunction with existing technologies like VR headsets or even smartphone apps allowing users to create immersive 3D environments where they can explore different types of sexual activities without ever leaving their homes!
In conclusion, it is clear that technology has had a profound effect on how we express our sexuality throughout history – from enabling us access information about sex through books printed by early presses all way up until today where we use advanced devices like VR headsets or AI-powered robots simulate physical intimacy without any actual contact between people!
As technology continues to develop at an ever-increasing rate so too will its influence over our sexual expression become increasingly apparent – making it exciting yet uncertain what lies ahead for us all!
Hello and welcome to Securing Sexuality, the podcast where we discuss the intersection of intimacy and information security.
I'm Wolf Goerlich.
He's a hacker and I'm Stefani Goerlich.
She is a sex therapist and together we're going to discuss what safe sex looks like in a digital age.
And today we're talking about just how long that digital age is, right?
Because we're coming off a fantastic presentation you gave just a few days back, right Stefani?
I spoke at Circle City Con, one of your hacker events in Indianapolis, about the history of cyber sex, 10,000 years of digital desire.
10,000 years. Now you know, just me being me, I thought cyber security and cyber sex would be like 30 years, maybe, maybe 60 if we go back to MIT and the early passwords and everything.
But why 10,000 years?
Because technology is a very expansive term, right?
Technology speaks to whatever the technology of the day is. So we tend to think today of technology being computers and Wi-Fi and AI and algorithms, but technology has existed in one form or another in every age, including perhaps what we would consider caveman times, or at least very, very, very early times when we look at things like the manipulation of clay.
You know, the ability to develop tools and techniques to turn a raw material into another structure, another portrayal or image, that is a form of technology. So I started my talk with the earliest known, earliest found depiction of pornography, which happened to have been created in 7200 BCE. 7200 BCE. So they're carving stone, they're playing with clay. That is cutting edge back then. They're like, hey, look at what we did.
There's probably some VCs who are like, oh, I will invest in your clay company. And along comes this statue. You say it's some of the earliest pornography that's been found.
What is this statue?
Well, it has a borderline unpronounceable name.
Thank you, Germans. You're welcome. Known as the Adonis of Zschernitz Z-S-C-H-ernitz. And when they originally found it, it was a little clay pelvis with some pretty prominent genitalia.
And so, you know, the researchers said there are a couple ways of looking at this. The first is that maybe this is depicting some sort of ritual dance. The other is that maybe this depicts a sexual act. A woman bent over with the man behind her. And they really couldn't tell just looking at the male figure itself. But then conveniently, a little ways away, they found the female counterpart.
And indeed, it was a depiction of sex. So the discoverer said, you know, it's most likely that this is the oldest representation ever of a pornographic scene. That's fantastic.
You know, when I think about like old, old school scenes like that, honestly, I hadn't thought about clay. I do think about like cave drawings.
I think like Pompeii, right?
Pompeii comes to mind and all the things that were found there.
What did you discover in terms of art?
Not just the sculpture art, but when painting and frescoes were high tech?
Yeah. So Pompeii is a great example. Pompeii is one that comes to mind for a lot of history buffs because Pompeii was famous when it was discovered for its erotic murals, its erotic frescoes. There is some fabulous graffiti that was discovered in Pompeii, including sort of, you know, the usual Herculaneum doesn't know how tiny his dick is compared to mine sort of stuff. The Yo Mama jokes of ancient Greece and Rome.
Pompeii was using erotic art, not just the way that we would think of it today, you know, as something to be hidden away, something to be enjoyed in secrecy. The erotic frescoes of Pompeii were a part of everyday life.
They were the paintings hanging over your ancient living room couch, right?
Like, they were incredibly explicit. They depicted group sex, all kinds of individual sex, solo sex. They had depictions of things that we would consider very problematic, such as, you know, like scenes of bestiality.
And they were just a part of the everyday culture of Pompeii to the point that when a Victorian archaeologist discovered the ruins of Pompeii, they actually tried to keep much of it secret because they didn't think that it was safe or appropriate for the Victorian mindset to be exposed to. So they originally installed their findings in sort of private rooms, VIP only entrance rooms within the British museums.
Right away we've got paywalls being invented here.
So I'm sure we're going to get to the Victorian age, but is there anything else in these early times that struck you when you're doing this research?
And I know you've got a ton of material and anyone who's listening to this, I'd encourage you to click the link, we'll share the talk once it becomes public.
But is there anything else that struck you when you're doing this research about early days, right?
We're not even to what today we would consider technology. I think the thing that really stood out to me was how universal and how ubiquitous it was.
That in every culture around the world, they were leveraging whatever technologies they had at the time, whether that was manipulation of clay or pen and ink drawings in Japan or stone carvings in India, they were around the world, regardless of time or place, creating erotic images.
That to me is fascinating because it's so easy for us, thinking of those sort of Victorian forebears of ours, to other this process and to say that this is something that primitive people do in unenlightened times and that part of being a mature society and a mature adult is being able to regulate and restrain ourselves from being curious about sex or sexuality when really public facing erotica has been the norm for as long as humans have been creating and depicting each other in art.
That's not saying that I think that, you know, penthouse murals should be on Times Square.
I mean, there's a place today for privacy and restraint in terms of when and where people view things. But there's a lot of shame and a lot of embarrassment around folks' interest in scenes of sexuality, interest in the erotic. And I think that understanding that every culture in every time has created erotic art is a really lovely way of normalizing the experiences of people today. I like that a lot.
I also like the fact that it seems that there's a relationship and I don't know which comes first and maybe as we go through, you'll be able to tell me.
But there seems to be a relationship intrinsic with technology, right?
I like to say that we're running 20,000 years of wetware on top of 20 years of quote unquote high tech. And what that means is that, you know, over 20,000 years, the human species does what the human species does, regardless of the technology, regardless of innovation. I'm intrigued by this relationship you found between these technologies.
And I don't know, when we think about things like the information revolution, it oftentimes gets compared to the printing press, say.
So what other relationships did you find between things like the printing press and erotica?
I mean, first and foremost, the minute we develop a technology, the next step is to eroticize it. That is true with illuminated manuscripts, with the printing press, with every form of technology since primitive man picked up a stick and started using that to shape clay. My personal favorite example of this happened in 1809.
And there was a device that was invented that was seen as a way to improve infrastructure within Britain that was going to dramatically increase the speed and pace of business. And it caused an absolute scandal amongst the general population. And that's what has become my favorite piece of technology, the mailbox. The mailbox. Because up until the development of public mailboxes, communication between two people was mediated or chaperoned in some way.
If you were traveling and wanted to send me a love note, you would need to write that down, hand that to somebody else and ask them to carry that to me. And the mailbox anonymized that process. And there was a huge scandal in the early 1800s about the idea that the mailbox would allow particularly young people to communicate with one another without chaperones for the first time in human history.
If we think about the example I gave in my talk was Romeo and Juliet, right?
A huge plot point there was the delivery of messages back and forth by the nurse and by the priest. A lot of that story happened because of ill-advised chaperones. That was the horror piece of Romeo and Juliet for adult audiences at the time.
And the mailbox just kind of took that concept and expanded it to the point where if we allow unregulated communication amongst the youngsters, it will be the death of society and so many social problems and so many romantic tragedies will occur because we now have these metal things sitting on the street corner.
And the blowback to the mailbox and the way it was immediately assumed to be something that would facilitate erotic and romantic communication was fascinating to me. I have to ask the question now.
So the mailbox comes out, right?
I think it said 1809. Yes.
So the mailbox comes out and has it been?
I mean, in our age it was, but back then?
You know, the creation of erotic material was a little bit slower back then than it is now. They didn't have digital cameras. But indeed the mailbox was used. There was an artist named Sarah Goodridge who in 1828 created what we consider to be the very first sext. And it was an oil painting of her bare breasts that she then mailed to Daniel Webster, the dictionary dude.
I mean, obviously he did more than that, but it's really fun if you consider this. She just had this phenomenal crush on the dictionary guy. And that painting, which I mean, it took some time. It's not like the first sext went out in 1809 and a half. We needed time to create oil paintings around these things.
But indeed, pretty much immediately as a technology emerges, it is sexualized and used to facilitate erotic connections between people like Sarah Goodridge and Daniel Webster. And shout out to the geeks, the people who write dictionaries. Fantastic. All right. So painting takes a while. And if there's more about painting you want to say, please, you know, slow me down.
But that automatically has been thinking about other images like the development of photography, which was also in that century, very slowly, but also in that century.
So what happens in the space of photography?
Our photography buffs will be quick to point out that 1828 overlaps with the development of photography a little bit. And they're going to push back that perhaps Sarah Goodridge did not create the first sext. And maybe there is an unknown photograph out there that we are unaware of. And possibly. But photography took a little while longer as a commercial endeavor, as a mass-producible art form to deliver than did painting, of course.
So photography really took about another 10 to 20 years after Sarah Goodridge sent her rather spectacular brush to Daniel Webster. I will include a link to that painting in our show notes. And what came was obviously first daguerreotypes, which were labor intensive and required sitting still for a very long time and were not easily reproducible. But quickly by sort of the later half of the 1800s, we had mass-producible photography.
And this is where one of the really fun symbiotic things about sex and tech for me emerges. Because early photography studios, like any new technology, were not commonplace, required incredibly expensive, cutting edge new machinery. There was a lot involved in deciding you wanted to be a photographer. And one of the ways that commercial photography studios subsidized themselves in the beginning was by mass-producing erotic and pornographic postcards.
So the people consuming erotic art in the 1800s could almost be seen as like the VCs of the photography industry. Because without this market for and audience for these French, they called them postcards, commercial photography would not have had the funding it needed to really develop both as a technology and as an art form.
I find that fascinating that Yen and Yang here, we're going to monetize this part of this safely, nicely, French. It's very French.
All right, so we've got photography going on, we've got imagery going on, we've got this slow roll and this almost like repetition, this rhyming and history of new technology comes out and it gets sexualized. I can't help but ask about some of hackers' favorite technologies, which are the telephone and of course it's precursor to the telegraph. These are the technologies that spawn the internet as they would say.
So the telegraph is fascinating to me because often as somebody who specializes in working with BDSM and kink practitioners, often some of the pushback that I get is that these are new deviances, these are weird, creepy sort of creations of the modern era.
And in a different time, a purer time, such deviances did not exist, which is belied in fact by the telegraph because telegraph operators used to play matchmaker between people, they used to facilitate and intervene in romance scams, in catfishing. And as the telephone came in, how long after the... Well let me ask this because I know that you are a fan of phone tech.
When was the first telephone released?
When did the telephone happen?
1876 I think. You are correct.
And when was the first phone sex operator?
Well, I mean given what you've been saying, 1896, 20 years later?
No, actually it was also 1876. The very first telephone operator was also the very first phone sex operator. She actually ended up making millions and she would be, this delightful lady, Betsy Craddock, would probably be considered the first fetish performer in terms of phone sex as well because people would call in and she would describe how it felt to take off her hat and let her hair down.
Or she would talk about taking off her boots, her ankle boots after a long day of work and the sensation of that.
And so a lot of what she was doing at the time would be considered fetish play today, right?
We're talking about foot fetishes, we're talking about hair fetishes. And it wasn't as directly explicit as we think of with the 900 numbers of our adolescence, but it was incredibly erotic. She made a fortune talking about these things and really is one of the earliest examples we have of a fetish performer. Huh. And I'm sure Quentin Tarantino loved her. I am waiting for the Quentin Tarantino biopic of Betsy Craddock.
I would pay good money to watch that film. You mentioned film and biopics and that makes me think about movies, but I don't want to jump too far because that's like another 50 years in the future.
Are we ready to jump 50 years or is there more about this that you want to explain or explore?
The only thing I want to say beyond the delightful Betsy Craddock is that the use of telegraph and telephone to facilitate romance and to effectively sext was an incredibly common practice to the point where there is a romance novel that came out in the Victorian era that features telegraph operators and uses Morse code in the body of the novel to have their intimate conversations, what we might consider their sexting or their flirting today.
And that is in the public domain. So if anybody wants to check that out, I will put the link to that novel as well in the show notes. And it's got the greatest name. I could see this being used as a short story in the back of Wired magazine because it was called Wired Love, a romance of dots and dashes. Dots and dashes. So hot right now. So hot right now.
All right. So we've got telephones. We've got telegraphs. As technology continues to progress forward, we're getting into my favorite century, for those of you who know me. I'm a big fan of everything 20th century for some unknown reason.
But the movies start coming out, right?
So we've got the moving pictures. So tell me a bit about what happens with this media. So I think movies are perhaps where people are most familiar with the intersection of sex and technology. Any hacker worth their salt can give me at least 30 seconds on how adult films influence to the VHS versus beta sort of competition in the 70s and 80s. And that is a really like prime example.
But it's far from the only example because pretty much as soon as we had film, again, we had erotic content. And what I found most fascinating was that early, what we would call pornos, often featured emerging technology of the day. So in 1915, we have a silent porn called A Free Ride that became incredibly popular, less for the erotic content than because the plot point featured a car.
And the Model T was like cutting edge technology at that time. So the ability to kind of model how technology can be used as an element of seduction or as a way to sort of present a image as somebody that is desirable or capable of attracting a partner was a really interesting theme that emerged pretty much immediately.
And then we also had the fact that technology around motion pictures was influenced by people's desire frankly to see TNA.
Like everybody knows Steamboat Willie with Disney, but two years after Steamboat Willie, the very first animated porn came out. And it is hilarious. And it is not at all erotic, but it is certainly dirty. It is called Ever Ready Hard On in Buried Treasure. You're welcome for that pun. I can't claim you have created it. Obviously it came out before I was born, but I saw you face palm even today.
So yes, Ever Ready Hard On in Buried Treasure. And those two examples are really key for me in kind of emphasizing that technology and sexual expression are interwoven and interconnected and that every technological innovation will be immediately sexualized.
And by the same token, a desire for connection and sexual expression has also spurred and motivated and driven technological innovation because we want to have a better experience, a more realistic experience, a closer experience, a clearer in the realm of movies and films and film, clearer, perhaps 3D experience. You can't separate the two out.
The need for human connection drives technological innovation and every technological innovation will immediately be eroticized in order to help foster or simulate connection. I love that. That just sounds so beautiful.
I mean, ordinarily, I'm thinking about technology from my lens, right?
What can it enable?
What are some of the unforeseen consequences?
How can we get people to support it and adopt it?
As a matter of fact, after we're done with this, I'm doing a roundtable with chief information security officers talking about the adoption side of tech. So oftentimes I'm thinking about that. I'm not necessarily thinking about the personal side, which is one of the reasons why I love having these conversations with you.
As we roll into the mid 20th century, and being that we've got a lot to cover here, we'll probably end, I don't know, at the birth of the internet, I would imagine. We'll pick that up for part two of this conversation.
But as we roll towards that, what are some additional milestones?
Because this is a big journey between, I'm not saying the name, you already said it, the 1930 cartoon. There's a big journey between that, some of the films of our youth when we got to the VCRs and we got to theaters. I recall too, there's something very intriguing you're telling me about what happens when films go into theaters and then into people's homes.
So could you talk to us a little bit about that journey, right?
Because now content's out there and people want to see it, and this isn't Pompeii, so you can't just hang it on your wall. And this isn't modern time, so we don't necessarily have streaming services.
What does that journey look like for these films?
I think what you're asking me about is about the nature of the connection piece that I'm talking about. And we see that most explicitly in the way that film technology evolved. But I actually want to step back a little bit and say that we first start to notice a sort of public-private tension with photography.
Because I talked about the French postcards and how the mass production of those allowed people to fund this emerging technology. But what I didn't mention was that photography was actually so expensive at first that people said it was easier and more affordable to just go and hire a sex worker to do with you whatever you were hoping to see a photograph of than it was to actually purchase the photograph. Wow.
So I think that's an important sort of baseline when we talk about film, because we're talking about the public consumption of erotic material versus the private consumption of erotic material. And it wasn't until photographs became much cheaper and more affordable that people were able to actually sort of privately enjoy and share those. And we see the same thing with movies and with film.
Because originally, one of the easiest ways to access this new film technology was through Nickelodeons, which were effectively, they would look almost like a vending machine, but with a brass sort of face mask. And you would put your nickel in, hence the Nickelodeon, and you would lean down and you would look through the face mask and inside a film clip would be playing.
And you would be able to see this film clip because you paid the nickel and often they were burlesque, they were vaudeville, they were straight up porn. And these were very commonly found in bars, on boardwalks, in Atlantic City, in Coney Island. The purchase of your viewing time was a public act.
And people might not be able to see what you're watching, but they absolutely knew you were watching something because they knew what that Nickelodeon was selling. And so when film emerges, just like the expensive days of photography, there's still this public component. There's this aspect of, I might be watching it by myself, but I'm watching it in a public place and people know what I'm doing.
From there, we have the development of 16 millimeter and eight millimeter film strips, and they became longer. You could have a feature film or something longer than a Nickelodeon clip. They became more affordable, just like when the French postcards lowered the cost of photography. But they still required equipment and machinery, screens and projectors that not everybody would have.
So much like going to the cabarets in Paris or visiting a brothel with your friend from college, the viewing of erotic material became a communal act again. In the 40s and 50s into the 60s, it was incredibly common for men to get together for stag film nights and to watch porn together. Stag films were sold in the back of men's magazines, mainstream men's magazines.
And it might be something you get together with the Elks Club or the Knights of Pythias, which is my favorite old school social organization. And that would be a way that guys would get together and spend their time. So it was much more public facing in that respect. It was very, very gendered.
Obviously, we're talking about organizations that were not open to women as members. And certainly, you're not going to tell the wives what you guys are up to at a given night. But the viewing of erotic movies was a communal viewing experience. As we move from film strips into movies and into movie theaters in the 60s and particularly in the 70s, we have the Golden Age of porn.
We have the deep throat film, The Devil and Miss Jones, Behind the Green Door. Porn-o-chic was the term. And it really was considered very cutting edge and very modern to be comfortable watching porn in public spaces, to go to the theater and see Behind the Green Door.
One of the documentaries I reviewed when I was working on this talk actually said that Jackie Kennedy, or at that time Jackie Oh made headlines because she went to see Deep Throat in the theater in New York City.
And it wasn't her sneaking into the back door, right?
This was like the cool edgy thing to do at the time. And so we had this moment where, much like Pompeii, the erotic became somewhat normalized, the erotic went somewhat mainstream when it was considered a mark of one's sort of sophistication to be comfortable in indulging with the erotic. And then everything started to fall apart again.
And we very, very quickly retreated back into the world of private at home viewing and stigma. And the story of how that happened and how we are unfolding from that point, I think might be where we start off with our next episode. That sounds fantastic. So I really appreciate you sharing this. It was such a good talk. It was such a well attended, well engaged audience.
It was a fantastic bit of material. And I love these beats you pulled out around history and the development of innovation.
Next week, dear listener, next week we will be having on a guest. So we'll have a guest interview. And then the week after, if you're listening to these in order, we will be back for part two. And if you're not listening to these in order, go back to the beginning and catch up. There's plenty of time. We'll be here.
So with that, Stefani, any final word, if you were to encapsulate this in a sentence or a key takeaway, what would that sound like?
For now, what I would want to say is that no matter what you're into and no matter what you do or who you do it with, as long as everybody is over the age of 18 and consenting, you are in good company. You have a strong historical foundation for whatever erotic entertainment floats your boat.
And that what you are enjoying, what you are sharing, what you are bonding over is just the latest link in a long chain going back to the Adonis Von Zschernitz and the first depictions of physical connection between people. Thank you so much, Steph. And thank you all for tuning in to Securing Sexuality, your source for the information you need to protect yourself and your relationships.
From the bedroom to the cloud, we are here to help you navigate safe sex in a digital age. Be sure to check out our website, Securing Sexuality, for the links that we discussed in the show, for more information about the topics I've talked about today, and of course, the information about our 2023 conference.
And join us again for more fascinating conversations about the intersection of sexuality and technology, including part two, right?
We ended with film. We're about to enter the digital age. So please join us again and have a great week. Thank you.