Sex in the Metaverse
Film, television and literature have tried their best to imagine, depict, describe and allude to virtual or "Metaversal" sex over the years. Notable mentions include 1992’s Lawnmower Man, 1993’s Demolition Man, 1999’s The Matrix, and 2018’s Ready Player One.
Lawnmower Man includes a virtual reality (VR) sex scene where the main protagonist, the eponymous lawnmower man himself played by Jeff Fahey, lures his new girlfriend into the virtual world to engage in “cybersex”. The scene culminates in the conjoining of the couple’s avatars into a virtual dragonfly and the metamorphosis of Jeff Fahey’s avatar into a virtual sexual deviant.
Demolition Man includes an awkward sex scene involving by main protagonist John Spartan (played by Sylvester Stallone) and Lenina Huxley (played by Sandra Bullock). Dressed in robes and headpieces (presumably some form of Brain-Computer Interface), the pair sit facing one another. While nothing sexual appears to be happening, when Stallone’s character closes his eyes, he sees strobing lights, hears noises, and catches a few fleeting glimpses of a nude body. This is “vir-sex”, and the set-up is that, as a man trapped in suspended animation since 1996, Spartan would prefer to do it the “old-fashioned way”, only to be informed that, in 2032, the exchange of bodily fluids has been outlawed.
1999’s The Matrix and 2018’s Ready Player One are both much more subtle. In The Matrix, the main protagonist Neo enters a training program and gets distracted by a simulation of an arresting woman in a red dress. Later on, the creator of the woman in the red dress, Mouse, propositions Neo: “So, what did you think of her?” he says. ”The woman in the red dress. I designed her. She, um... Well, she doesn't talk very much, but-but if you'd like to meet her, I can arrange for a much more personalized milieu.” Mouse’s unspoken offer being to arrange for Neo to engage in virtual sex with the woman in the red dress. When accused by his crewmates of being a “digital pimp”, Mouse responds by saying: “Pay no attention to these hypocrites, Neo. To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human.” In Ready Player One are key protagonists Wade Watts and Samantha Cooke go on a date at a zero-gravity dance club. During the dance, Samantha suggestively enquires whether or not Wade has “come prepared” asking what kind of “haptics” he’s wearing. Wade’s sheepish response? A “X1 haptic bootsuit with the microfibre crotch inlay” (emphasis on “crotch inlay”). While we don’t get to see how the date ends, it’s quickly cut short as the two are ambushed by the film’s bad guys, the film does provide a glimpse into the writers' thoughts on sex in the Metaverse, notably the use of haptics, technology that can create an experience of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user.
The promise of the Metaverse includes immersion in a hyper-realistic, immersive, virtual world, that allows users to fulfil their wildest fantasies. Amongst other things, the Metaverse could, established correctly, provide a safe environment for people with insecurities about their looks, to confidently engage in sexual encounters. It could enhance the lives of those suffering from sexual dysfunction, provide a safe space for people to explore their sexuality, and support people in long-distance relationships to maintain physical connection.
In Demolition Man’s sex scene, director Marco Brambilla appears to be arguing that VR or Metaverse technology, despite being intended to enhance communication, actually erodes our ability to connect. Here at themetabite.com, we remain optimistic that this won’t be the case.
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