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:
Analyzing Technology's Impact on Erotica: Investigating Sexuality in Modern Technologies, Webcams, Adult Content Creators, and Understanding How Pornography Drives Technological Utilization
Technology has been a part of our lives for decades, centuries, even millennia, and it has had an undeniable impact on how we interact with each other. In relatively recent years, from the invention of the telephone to the rise of social media, technology has changed how we communicate and connect with one another. And often, technology has also been sexualized in ways that have allowed us to further explore our sexuality and sexual fantasy. From webcams to OnlyFans, we take a look at how technology is being used to explore intimacy and sexuality.
Webcams have been around since the early 1990s, but they didn’t become popular until the mid-2000s when broadband internet became widely available. Webcams allow people to engage in real-time video chat with one another from anywhere in the world. This technology has enabled people to explore their sexuality through virtual sex acts such as mutual masturbation or even cybersex. It also allows people who are physically separated from each other due to distance or disability to still be able to share intimate moments together. Another way that technology is being used for sexual exploration currently is through subscription services such as OnlyFans.
These types of platforms allow content creators (usually models or performers) to upload content that can only be accessed by paying subscribers on a monthly basis. Content creators can upload anything from photos and videos of themselves engaging in sexual activities, all the way up to live streams where they can interact directly with their fans and even perform private shows for them if requested.
These platforms also provide an opportunity for content creators who may not otherwise have access to working in more traditional forms of adult entertainment (such as strip clubs or porn sets) a chance at making money while exploring their own sexuality on their own terms without having any gatekeepers telling them what they can or cannot do with their bodies.
Finally, there are also apps like Tinder which allow users to find potential partners based on location and interests while also allowing users some level of anonymity if desired (as long as they don’t reveal too much personal information).
These types of apps provide an opportunity for people who may not feel comfortable going out into public spaces looking for potential partners (or those who simply don’t have time) a chance at finding someone special without having any pressure put upon them by society’s expectations about dating norms or gender roles within relationships.
Overall, it is clear that technology has had an undeniable impact on our ability to explore intimacy and sexuality in new ways that were never before possible before each new invention – from webcams enabling us to enact or witness virtual sex acts across long distances all the way up until subscription services like OnlyFans allowing performers more control over how they monetize their bodies without having any gatekeepers telling them what they can do with it – these technologies are changing how we view intimacy and sexuality today more than ever before!
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's a sex therapist, and together we're going to be discussing what safe sex looks like in a digital age.
And this is part two. In our part one, we got to the digital age. We're exploring 10,000 years of history here.
And so Stefani, you want to give us a recap? What did you teach us or share with us in episode one?
I mean, I covered about 10,000 years. We're down to like the last 50 or so now, so that's a lot. But you know, we touched on the Adonis of Zschernitz, which anthropologists and archaeologists describe as the very first sort of representation of a pornographic scene.
I talked about Pompeii and the frescoes in Pompeii and Herculaneum, about how erotic art and depictions of, you know, what we would consider today to be some pretty deviant, maybe?
Certainly not vanilla. Sexual practices and encounters were mainstream and were not hidden away and secreted, but were, you know, like the living room art of 80 AD. We talked about Hindu temples and erotic depictions of art around the world.
I wanted to make sure that, you know, those tuning in understood that we weren't talking about sort of like a Western European phenomenon, but that really the depiction of intimacy and erotica and frankly flat out porn has been a universal norm around the world for most of time, including, you know, my favorite, the dirty marginalia in illuminated manuscripts.
And when the printing press came in, the guides to, you know, finding the just right courtesan for your needs. My favorite, favorite point, obviously, sexiest technology of all time, the public mailbox. I love talking about the scandal, the sexual pop culture fever that went through Britain when the first public mailbox was revealed.
And then, you know, you and I talked about every hacker's favorite technology, the telegraph, the telephone. We had gotten into sort of the early stages of film. I think you and I kind of left off at the stag film era, the guys at the Elks and the Moose Lodge getting together to watch those 16 millimeter burlesque films and sometimes, you know, significantly more risque than burlesque films.
And so this week, I think we are just about to touch on sort of the late 60s, early 70s when motion pictures go from being film strips that the guys watched at the club to being theaters, to being movie theaters where erotic films were really highlighted and mainstreamed for a brief point in time.
Yeah, and I believe you mentioned Jackie Onassis or Kennedy had actually attended one of those shows and you learned that in your research.
Yeah, Deep Throat and The Devil and Miss Jones were both X-rated films that were shown in mainstream movie theaters. It was considered very sophisticated and a sign of, you know, how liberally minded you were that you were comfortable watching these sort of dirty films.
And yeah, Jackie Onassis was right there checking out the TNA in probably not Times Square specifically, but in New York in the early 70s.
So this brings us into, you know, the truly digital age, right?
So now we've got computers starting to make their way into the homes. We've got people doing work with digital imaging. We've got video games starting to make their way into the homes, starting with Space War, which was not a home game at all, but moving quickly to Pong and on to more general purpose computers.
And I recall one of the things that you made as a very clear point in your explanation of these past few innovations was that any time a technological innovation becomes real, any time it gets created or instantiated very quickly, it becomes sexualized very quickly. It becomes integrated with our erotic maps.
What did you see when you started looking at, you know, the early stages? We're not even to the internet yet. We're talking about the 70s and into the 80s. What did you see in that space?
So I think, you know, I want to be really clear before we move too quickly past the film era that the 70s really were called the golden age of porn. It was a time when erotic art and dirty movies were mainstream. And it really kind of landed in that sweet spot between the sexual revolution and the onset of the AIDS crisis.
And I think that's really, really important because we've been talking about sort of the ebb and flow of public consumption of erotica versus private consumption of erotica and how technology has helped that kind of go back and forth as new forms of technology emerge that both bring people closer and also allow a greater degree of privacy that they didn't have before.
Like that's the difference between the mailbox and the Nickelodeon. And it's important to understand that the AIDS crisis really is a huge player in what brought erotica back out of the public sphere and took it back into the home. That the theaters of the 70s, you know, the grand porno houses of the day, which seems like an odd thing to say, but I don't really think they were big deals.
When AIDS emerged on the scene, that public health crisis was used to drive the moral health crisis. And in 1984, there was a famous court case in California, the People versus Owen Bathhouse closure. And it was the public health authorities in California.
I want to say San Francisco specifically, but I don't know if it was municipal or state, but public health authorities in California pointed at the adult theaters as a possible source of AIDS.
People are going there, they're watching erotica. Clearly they're also engaging in nefarious behavior. We have this terrible disease that's ravaging our community. One of the ways that we can prevent that is by shutting down the theaters. So we have this moment where not only are we having technology, the VCR, cable TV, that facilitates that private viewing again, a flow in that direction.
We also have that morality component and that external sort of public policy component of viewing sexual content is morally dangerous and that moral danger carries over into a health danger. And I think that's an important pattern because we're seeing that again right now with internet pornography being characterized as addictive. There's a whole campaign called Fight the New Drug that's centered around online porn.
And so I think as we talk about this transition from the adult theaters to the adult behind the curtain section of the home video store, we're aware that that's a pattern that has played out time and time again and one that is happening again now.
So with that said, with the closure of the adult theaters coinciding with the rise of VCRs and all of the technologists listening are probably familiar with the great VHS versus Betamax wars of the early 80s, late 70s. And frankly, it was porn that determined the victor in that battle. It was the adult industries adoption of VHS versus beta that really drove what became household technology.
So in the 80s, most of the porno theaters are starting to close down. If nothing else, they have certainly lost their sophistication and the sort of like chic persona that they had in the 70s. Now there's this place that dirty people go to do dirty things and it's not where good upstanding citizens want to be seen.
But that's okay because behind the beaded curtain at your family video store, not the chain, just the neighborhood store, you can now get porn on VHS. And we see this sort of return away from public consumption to home consumption, along with an expansion of sort of the quality of the professionalism of adult films that started in the 70s.
Like in the 40s and 50s, the Moose Lodge stag films were not great production qualities. They were often mass produced. You would have a performer or two in somebody's living room with several video cameras and several still cameras, and they were generating tons of content that would be packaged in different ways all at the same time. By the 80s, you have like dedicated adult studios creating effectively, you know, like blockbuster porn.
You have Debbie Does Dalish. You have Nothing to Hide. You have some classic sort of plot driven long form pornographic films that people are able to quietly and privately rent and watch in their own homes. And that was a revolutionary development kind of on par with the development of photography because again, it allowed a cost effective, portable, erotic material to be developed for an audience that was experiencing a need for that.
It was a good moment from a consumer driven perspective. So I want to jump back to something you said, because the one principle that I got out of this about innovation is how quickly an innovation gets eroticized. But the other principle, you're drawing a parallel to what happened with the bathhouses. Would you tell me again what that principle is, just so I really make sure that that's clear in my head.
So something happens, there's a health crisis and it's used to create a moral crisis.
What does that flow look like?
What should we be looking for when we're, you know, as defenders of cybersecurity or as people who are voting?
What should we be watching for?
So very rarely will moral police, and obviously in America we don't have an actual morality police the way they do in Iran, but we do have huge, incredibly well funded nonprofits who view themselves as sort of the moral policemen of our culture. Very rarely will cultural moral police make a moral argument.
Because if they say, I believe that that is morally bad, it's really, really easy for somebody else to say, well, I respect that you believe that and you shouldn't do it. But I believe it's morally okay, so I'm going to continue on. And a morality based argument is not an effective public policy tool. So what they do instead is they lean on public health.
In the early 80s, it was adult theaters are contributing to the AIDS crisis. If we want to protect people from AIDS, we need to shut down the adult theaters. In the Victorian era, it was romantic novels are generating hysteria in women. It's causing them to be poor housewives and to develop mental illness. It's causing men to engage in masturbation, which we know is terrible.
So what we need to do to protect their health is to remove erotic content from the public eye. The framing is not, I think that's dirty and sinful. It's, I think that's dirty and contagious. And that public health framework is used to stifle erotic content creation and frankly, erotic expression between partners. Not everything that is erotic is public facing, but these arguments are used the same way.
So right now in my world, there's a huge debate about whether or not online porn is addictive. We're not using the language of the AIDS crisis anymore, but we're still very much using public health to control moral decisions.
And now it's being framed up and there's legislation being passed around this theory, which is not grounded in the literature, to protect young people and to protect young adults from the health risks of porn. Because you can't win a moral argument because not necessarily the morals are relative, but that your morals might vary from somebody else's.
So when opposition to erotic content or erotic expression is framed as a public health issue, it's addictive, it's contributing to AIDS, it's contributing to hysteria, it's contributing to mental illness. It creates this illusion of objectivity and this illusion of science that then lets people control erotic expression.
Yeah, no, I really appreciate you pulling out that principle because I want to keep an eye on that. As someone who cares about health, when someone's like, hey, your health is at risk or there's a population that's suffering, I'm very open to those arguments. So knowing some of the ways that this gets framed is so important.
Before we get back to computers, and I so want to get to computers, I can't wait to get to the computers.
Before we get to the computers, is there anything else of this point in time that you want to like surface or explore?
Yeah, so I want to just because our audience might be interested in it. As we move from VCRs into computers, I want to offer a shout out to two specific plot driven films of the 90s and early 2000s that kind of serve as great examples of the ways in which porn and erotica not only drive the utilization of technology, but also reflect sort of tech culture and the future of technology.
In 1995, there was a feature length porn called Latex directed by Michael Min, and they were the first adult film to use CGI in the production of the porn. So much like VHS versus beta, we have an example of this very, very, very, very early technology. CGI in the mid 90s was not great. If anybody's seen the movie Polar Express, they know the uncanny valley hellscape that was that delightful Christmas movie.
So thinking about that same technology being used in an adult film is really kind of remarkable. And then by 2007, we have another film called Upload, which has an entire cyberpunk plot that's featuring like a hacker uploading a virus to the internet. It's very sort of info sec and cutting edge for its time. It's got some of my favorite character names of all times. There's a character, it's Tesla. There's Alana Turing.
And my personal favorite, the vastly underrated dominatrix slash nuclear doesn't girl number three. And I think that dual role really screams the cyberpunk nature of upload. And so I mean, they're quirky films. I don't know how many people have ever truly sat and watched a feature length adult movie for the plot.
But those are great examples of how the adult industry both drives the use of new technologies and also makes those technologies accessible and sexy for the mass consumer.
Upload, such a good word to end on. I haven't seen it, but I am all about the uploads and the downloads. And that does remind me, you know, when we're uploading content or downloading content in the early days, in the very early days, we're dial up. But even before that, we had to get so many things off of disks.
We had to get so many things off of other content, you know, tapes originally to load things.
So what in the early ages was happening with content?
And were we seeing this, you know, reiteration of this echo that you point out where, hey, new technology comes in and it's eroticized?
So the short answer is yes. And sometimes not necessarily that the technology itself is being eroticized, but that the erotic is being used to further technology. And I think one of the best examples of that was when we started being able to upload digital images and pictures to the Internet, when we started figuring out how to transmit those things.
There needed to be a way to test that to make sure that, you know, the image compression was good, that the quality was good. And the standard test image that was used for the sort of process of building digital images online and transmitting digital images online was the Playboy centerfold from 1973. Nina Soderbergh was the standard test image for digital image processing.
And even today, as we move into the like algorithms and AI, it's still one of the most widely used test images for compression algorithms. And as somebody who has zero problem with the human body, that doesn't faze me.
What I do as a feminist and as a clinician want to acknowledge is the fact that using the female form in that way, in a mostly primarily still male driven industry, as more and more of your world is talking about inclusion and creating an industry that feels comfortable for female technologists to come into.
I just want to acknowledge that, you know, that becomes a problematic choice when there are not just men in the room.
Not because women are necessarily offended by porn, but because when a woman's body is being used as a test image, what message does that send about the role and value of women in the room or in the industry?
So I think it's fascinating to sort of as a tech fun fact to say that a Playboy centerfold is still, you know, 30, 40 years later being used.
But I also think it's really important that we ask the questions around what does that mean in 2022?
What does that mean for a thriving, diverse, inclusive space that we're still using a Playboy centerfold as opposed to, I don't know, Chippendales?
Maybe something that's not a person at all. Like there, I think there are times to acknowledge that just because erotic content is valuable and comfortable for people doesn't necessarily mean that it needs to exist in all spaces at all times.
Sure, sure. I think that's absolutely true. I think that's such a strong point.
And we saw some of that conflicted relationship, maybe contrasting relationship, maybe with some of the early video games, right?
There was one programmer who was posing on the cover of some of the video games I recall you tell me about.
Yeah, Roberta Williams was one of the most dynamic, high profile, prolific computer programmers in the late 70s and early 80s. And the very first sort of desktop computing video game was quite aptly named Soft Porn Adventure and Roberta Williams was naked in a hot tub on the cover.
So that's another example of, you know, balancing that idea of being comfortable with sexuality and erotic expression, while also asking questions about what does that mean for women in technology and how men view women in technology. I have never met Roberta Williams.
I would be fascinated to have a conversation with her about that cover and to find out more about what led to it, how she felt about it then, how she feels about it now. I'm not making any moral statement about it. I think she has every right to do whatever she wants to do.
I'm just curious about the way that these choices impact the path that women have and the reception they receive when they come into these spaces. It would be fascinating to get Roberta Williams on the show. That's a good idea. For those of you listening who remember like the 1980s, King's Quest, you may remember the King's Quest game and she was heavily involved with that.
I mean, that was her baby. That was, she was the king designer for King's Quest, the lead designer for King's Quest. And I'm sure most people have not heard of Soft Porn Adventure. It came out in 81. There's a solid chance some of the people listening to this weren't born yet in 1981, which makes me feel incredibly old, but it's a true statement.
However, almost everybody knows the name Leisure Suit Larry. And Leisure Suit Larry is what evolved out of Soft Porn Adventure. Soft Porn Adventure is the video game egg from which Leisure Suit Larry hatched. So if you are familiar with that game or with the memes and tropes of the game, you kind of have an idea of what Soft Porn Adventure was.
And again, it's a great example of how the minute we have a new technology, culturally as a species, we immediately want to know how can we deliver sexual content through this technology. We had the first home computer in 1977.
By 1981, we had the first porn adventure. And 10 years from the first home computer, we have Leisure Suit Larry.
So really, truly, if you give a human a tool, they will make it dirty.
And what do they do with the Internet?
We're coming up on the open Internet at this timeline. I think the Internet is a perfect example of that, because much like the mailbox, what the Internet did was it allowed people to communicate directly, privately without mediators or fear of being observed.
You know, in 1807, people were terrified that if you put a mailbox on the corner, your son will send something dirty to my daughter or I might be able to communicate my desires to my same sex lover. By the 80s and 90s, you have, you know, BBS services, you have prodigy, you're going into the age of AOL.
But those early BBS services really were as paradigm shifting as those public mailboxes because it let people find one another and communicate with one another in ways that they didn't necessarily have the privacy and access to do before. So BBS services, you know, were hosted on private networks.
And some of the first community groups, some of the first people to utilize BBS services were erotic minorities, right?
They were LGBT people, they were swingers, they were kinksters. They were the people that had always had to rely on personal ads and in the classified section or mail services in the back of dirty magazines. And now all of a sudden they don't need a third party mediator.
They can, on their home computer, create a BBS that will let other people find them and let them have community and validation and affirmation and yeah, sometimes some flirty, sexy fun privately.
I think that the BBS service public mailbox connection is one of my favorite things about this because I love the ways in which it's not just about finding, you know, spank bank material, right?
It's about finding people. It's about finding community. It's about feeling less alone in who you are or what you want. And maybe that comes with a veneer of TNA. Beneath that, it's about affirmation and validation and inclusion and acceptance and love. And I find that really poignant and beautiful. I like that a lot.
Leaning into that mailbox metaphor, a lot of my early exposure over the internet wasn't of course web browsing because I came later.
It certainly was BBSs, but also was Usenet, right?
Because you could set up your mail service to download from Usenet and participate in this group.
And I'm sure Usenet was nice and clean, as I recall, maybe?
Probably not. I'm sure you stayed in the, you know, the shallow end of the pool in the safe area, the G-rated areas. Oh. I guarantee you it was not smut free. Well there was a study that I remember you sharing about Usenet in that era as well.
There was something like 98% of all computer users on those services were male and that many of the remaining users were women to be paid on the service?
Yes. It wasn't just that they were primarily male. It was that the women that were there were mostly paid to be there to drive the views of the male.
And that, you know, is a pattern we see replicated 30 years later with Ashley Madison, right?
One of the funniest things about that breach was not realizing how many men were looking for fares.
It was realizing how many of these men were making perhaps morally problematic choices and really being taken advantage of for that, right?
They weren't finding what they wanted on the site. They were being teased and led on by paid users, by bots, in order to drive the financial subscription end of that.
And that I think is fascinating because it's only really in the last maybe 20, 30 years that we're starting to see not only female POV erotic content, female point of view and perspective, but also an internet space that is more representative of gender dynamics in real life, right?
When you go on Facebook, it is not 90 plus percent men and 10 percent bots and employees. And so it's fascinating for me to see where we go as a culture in the next hundred years. Now that we're moving away from the space of sort of heteronormative cis male perspective on all things erotic. Women were not invited to the Elks Club for stag night.
Women went to the adult theaters in the 70s, but they typically wouldn't go alone. They would go with a male companion. So it's only been in the last few years as social media has expanded and as technology has broadened once again and become more ubiquitous that we're starting to move away from erotic content and erotic community or even just community as being primarily driven by male users and male desire.
And we're starting to see a response and the question of what do female users want?
What do non-binary users desire?
How can we create an online space that is sexy and affirming of all people, not just the historical straight white guy norm?
And as that shift happens, one of the things that I'll be watching for us is how that redefines what's erotic, right?
Because a lot of this conversation we have is new technology comes out, content gets produced, that content not only is informed by the current erotic maps, but also shapes the future generations erotic maps. So there's this very fascinating feedback cycle going back and forth.
Stepping away from that for just a minute, back to your Betamax versus VHS, there is another parallel to that that you found in this age, right?
The comparison of AOL to Prodigy.
So Prodigy was my introduction to the internet and I drove up my parents' phone bills, paying by the hour to not even really interact live with people, right?
Prodigy was a BDS and I was on there in seventh, eighth grade. And part of why my religious parents were comfortable with me being on Prodigy was because Prodigy defined itself as being a family-friendly community.
And what's interesting about that is that as soon as that became their marketing, as soon as their defining feature was family-friendly content, much like Tumblr more recently, that pretty much signaled the end of Prodigy, right?
The internet has been so driven by the quest for erotic content, the creation of intentional communities where erotic minorities can find themselves and have that space that I've already rapsidized about, that when Prodigy makes a decision from, as you know, I've already discussed, a sort of morality-driven perspective of family-friendly, especially in the early 90s. Family-friendly did not mean LGBT family-friendly.
There was not a space on Prodigy for two men co-parenting a child to find other same-sex families. That was not family-friendly. There was not a place for single kinksters to find partners to date or partners to play with or people to marry because that was not family-friendly. And the minute Prodigy brought in this sort of values-focused framework, people stopped using them. And rather quickly, AOL arose as an alternative.
Interestingly, you know, the porn filter came right alongside AOL, which is fascinating to me. The chat rooms debuted in 1995, and that's when my research was finding sort of the first articles about internet porn filters. They're on the way. They're coming soon.
You know, the internet is like this vast library and you can't control what your children are going to see, but that's okay. The filters are coming.
And it was interesting to me that, you know, that flip from Prodigy trying to decide what was right and best for your family versus AOL saying we're going to have content and space for all kinds of people and maybe the adult content will be a little bit harder to find. You've got to know like which back doors to go through, but we're going to allow it.
And then we're going to have you as the family, as the household, as the parents, you're going to own the responsibility of deciding what gets filtered and what doesn't. That I think was a really fundamental shift, both in the everyday use of technology and internet and also how we've evolved the social media era.
It is unusual now, although we're starting to see this backlash, to have the assumption that online websites or content creators or content hosts should be responsible for the content on the site, right?
I will let you talk about the legal pieces of that. I know there's the law that protects website hosts from being held responsible for the content somebody puts on their website. And that paradigm shift compared to Prodigy saying no, no, we're going to decide what's okay and what's not, I think is really what's allowed the internet to flourish the way that it has.
Not to say that there wasn't problematic content on AOL. My best friend from high school and I used to go into the adult chat rooms after school and we would create usernames that were very intentionally overtly, we are minors. We would put like 16 female right in the username and people were all over it. And people sent us porn and people sent us illegal porn.
People sent us things that should not be created, period. And we would report those things. But AOL created a space and a mechanism for people to have that flexibility to connect.
And AOL put the onus on the user to decide what content they wanted to be exposed to and created a way to report content they didn't want to be exposed to without necessarily stepping into that morality police role that Prodigy tried to play. Now the act you're talking about, I think, is the Communication Decency Act which came out in 1996. So it's right around that time, right around when all this is happening.
There's, Communication Decency Act comes out and there is Section 230 of it which says that no provider or user of computer services should be treated like a publisher or a speaker. In other words, you can't be liable for what someone puts on your site. Now one of the things I find fascinating about that is there's been this back and forth, really since IT came out, about what is yours and what is mine.
What is the nexus of control or locus of control that I have versus what you have?
And originally it was corporate owned computers everywhere. And then there was a backlash against that and people started doing VBSs and suddenly to your point, I could have something in my house that's completely mine that I own the hardware, the software, the rights for, I own everything for and I don't have to worry about necessarily privacy because it's not a shared service.
There's not a corporation that's economically incentivized to use any data that's collected. It was mine. And then of course AOL, Prodigy, the broader set of websites, social media comes in and we've seen the shift away from that. Now 230 is still very important in terms of protecting a large website against what anyone might be using it for.
But it's no longer our content, right?
I mean, it's our content but it's no longer something that we own and there's a lot of gray areas in terms of privacy. I wonder if you might speak to that sort of back and forth and what you saw when looking at webcams and streaming because in a very similar way, we went from passive consumers of a computer service to having a VBS to where we are today.
We went from passive consumers of a VHS tape that either we purchased or we found in our parents' collection to producing our own content to where we are today.
So where did that transition play out and what did you learn when you were looking at early webcam and streaming?
Once again, we have an example of as soon as a technology is developed, a technology is sexualized, webcams and streaming kind of grew right alongside the internet as a whole. The first webcam or really live stream was 1993 at Cambridge University, their infamous coffee cam, which really just directed a black and white webcam at their coffee pot.
That way people could see before they walked down the hall whether the pot was full or empty. Within a year of that, the first commercial webcam came out. So it went very quickly from being sort of that novelty techie tool that so many hackers and technologists love, this clever thing that they've created for themselves into mass market.
And within two years of that, we had people doing 24-7 live streams of their whole lives.
Genicam, some people might remember if you're a GenXer like me. And that sort of immediate ubiquitous technology exists. I am going to put myself, my life, my intimate moments, whether that is, you know, making out with your boyfriend or crying after a breakup on the internet, that is a powerful thing. We had YouTube not terribly long after that.
It took about 10 years from Genicam to YouTube, but then it only took two years from YouTube to Pornhub.
So again, the minute we have the capacity to eroticize something or to leverage a technology to access intimate connection with others, that's what humanity goes for. And I love that difference.
So it took 10 years from live streaming to here's a place where you can upload videos, but only two from here's a place you can upload videos to here's a place you can upload videos of yourself having sex or of other people having sex. That to me is really just representative of everything we've been talking about.
And then it only took like another nine, 10 years from there to get to OnlyFans where we combined those two. And we have now you can pay to see live streams of people having sex or of doing sexy or sexual things for your viewing pleasure.
So the pattern that we've seen throughout time of technology develops for a mundane purpose, checking the coffee pot without taking time to go for a walk, immediately gets eroticized, immediately gets commodified and immediately gets used to create and enhance and facilitate one-on-one connections between people. With both the good and the bad that that brings, because I'm immediately thinking about challenges around YouTube, challenges around Pornhub, challenges around OnlyFans.
So yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
Where do you think we're headed for the future?
I think that we are reaching a place both in terms of, you know, the timeline of what already exists and the timeline of what people are actively searching to create that will allow greater somatic expression of these things, more sensory sort of body centric interactions with technology.
And for a lot of people, this idea of, and I'm going to say transhumanism, and somebody listening to us will tell me that I'm using the term wrong, and that's fine, I know I am, but it's I think the most apt term in the moment.
The sort of transhumanist idea of transcending the need for another human partner at all, right?
Like as we see more AI developing, I'm already seeing apps for AI girlfriends, we already are seeing stories of people choosing to form romantic bonds with holograms as opposed to human partners.
So I do think, and as a clinician, I'm not really sure how I feel about this yet, that we are seeing technology go to a place that both increases our somatic connection to what's on the screen, but also allows us to separate what we're feeling, what we're experiencing, what we're seeing from the need for another person at all.
And that to me is fascinating and a little scary, because, you know, as a sex therapist, as a relationships therapist, I'm all about the importance of intimacy and connection. And I'm very curious and a little leery of what it means for a future when we start to form romantic and erotic bonds with incorporeal beings or incorporeal engines.
And that surprises me too, because so much of what we talked about has been the connection side, right?
And the like the early, the earliest information I have in cyber sex wasn't necessarily about, let me, you know, simulate something. It was let me help you connect to your partner. Yes. And now it seems to be, let me help you feel a sense of connection. But I think we've reached an age technologically where that connection does not necessarily require another human involved to feel a sense of connection.
And you know, for myself, I haven't decided yet if that's the next great evolutionary leap or if that's going to be what leads to our destruction as a species. I don't know that the research is there to answer that question yet.
But I definitely think that we are standing on the precipice of a really fascinating moment for humanity, where technology is not only mediating our connection to others, it's on the cusp of replacing our connection to others.
Well, on that note, that open question, are we headed for the end or are we headed for something new?
And with the recognition that we've got, at least in this conversation, 10,000 years of history, showing that every time something comes up, the answer is always somewhere in between. I want to thank you, Stefani, for walking us through this two parter. It's been a great conversation.
Is there any last final thoughts you want to leave us with before we wrap up?
I know that the creation, the consumption of erotic content is a very fraught, potentially loaded topic for a lot of people. There are concerns about ethical porn consumption, there are concerns about coercion or or criminal activities involved in the creation of porn. And I just want to acknowledge that the conversation that we've had is not an analysis of those issues necessarily.
There are lots of angles and concerns and back, tangential alleys that we can go down on this topic. And I'm sure that we will in future episodes. What we're talking about today and last time is really just the human drive to create the erotic. And what that means for us as a tech building species and as a connection seeking species.
The criminal justice questions, the psychological questions, a lot of those can be left for future episodes or other conversations. But I think it's really important that we are able to kind of set those aside temporarily in order to just look at the phenomenon of how sex, sexuality and technology drive and influence one another.
Because I don't think we can have those other conversations unless we are first able to recognize how inextricably bound up these two topics are in one another. From you know the manipulation of clay in 7200 BCE to the manipulation of like bites and bits on OnlyFans today, humans are always going to do what humans have always done.
And I think it's important that we be able to recognize that without putting a value statement on it so that we can then have those more critical or analytical conversations. Thank you so much. And thank you for tuning in to Securing Sexuality, your source with information you need to protect yourself and your relationships. From the bedroom to the cloud, we're here to help you navigate safe sex in a digital age.
Be sure to check out our website, securingsexuality.com for links to more information about everything we've talked about today. And also of course for information about next year's Securing Sexuality Conference here in Detroit. And join us again for more conversations about being a technology building species, being a connection seeking species, being a species that is at the intersection of sexuality and technology. Have a great week.