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Fuck to the future

Expert Bryony Cole talks to Hannah Story about what ‘sextech’ is and where she sees the $30 billion industry going in the future.


websites and digital platforms; products like

around intimacy is. What we’re really talking

teledildonics, aka remote-controlled sex toys;

about when we talk about sex and sexuality

and the simple technology used in medicine

is things like empathy and communication

to treat painful sex.

and all the things that make us human and

That spectrum explains why the industry

also make sex and relationships really great.

is worth $30 billion, growing at 30% per year,

“I think everyone’s experienced that

according to The Guardian. It encapsulates

moment where they’re like, ‘Wow, I’m flicking

so much of our everyday use of technology

through people’s faces while I’m on the toilet,

to enhance our relationships, including those

and they are as disposable as what’s going

dating apps that almost every young, single

down the toilet.’

person seems to be using in 2019.

“And that’s a shocking moment for peo-

“Tinder would be considered sextech,”

ple that have come from [the] pre-dating

Cole confirms, adding again that any technol-

app era. But today, for kids, that’s very nor-

ogy used in relation to sexuality, relationships

mal behaviour, and so that’s sort of where I

and dating falls under the umbrella. “I think

like to drill down and think, ‘Well, how can we

we can safely say pretty much everyone uses

reintroduce the education around relation-

some form of sextech in some part of their

ships and intimacy to that population who

intimate lives today. Even things like Face-

have only known Instagram likes and follows

hen we hear the word ‘sextech’, we might think of

Time and Skype are kind of the original long-

and swipes?”

something outlandish and far removed from us

distance relationship sextech.”

But as well as encompassing digital plat-

like sex robots in Japan. In actuality, its definition

But how do we avoid the pitfalls of dat-

forms for dating and relationships, and sex

is so much broader, and so much more intertwined with our

ing apps, where it feels like everybody is

robots, the sextech industry can help vulner-

daily lives.

replaceable, one of potentially thousands of

able people.

Bryony Cole, who speaks in Sydney at New Horizons: The

potential partners?

“Sextech is for everybody,” Cole affirms.

Future Of Sex as part of Vivid Ideas in May, is described as the

Cole doesn’t think that the way we use

“The most interesting examples are prob-

world’s leading authority on sextech, advising governments,

the technology is the fault of the apps them-

ably either everyday use or the things we

tech titans and entertainment companies about future trends

selves. Instead she points to the importance

don’t typically think about when we think

in the industry. Her podcast Future Of Sex, exploring the way

of education around intimacy.

about sextech. And that’s populations that

our online and offline selves both perceive and shape what

“It’s probably [happening] because we’re

probably aren’t using robots but technology

‘sex’ is and our attitudes to it, has been downloaded over

really lazy, and we’ve evolved to this sort of

[that] can help them — like the disabled pop-

250,000 times.

idea that humans can be on a menu and we

ulation or the ageing population or minority

can select them and then once things get too

groups that need access to sex education.

hard we can deselect them or go, ‘Oh, ok, let’s

Although the robots are fun to talk about, let’s

relook at the menu because that one was too

be honest.”

Cole tells us that sextech is simply “any technology designed to enhance sexuality”. That means that it refers not just to the technology used in relation to sex and relationships — like vibrators or apps

hard, and I don’t want to fight.’

An example of the way sextech help

like Tinder — but also to those related to sexuality, “like gen-

“I think a lot of this has to do with, at the

disadvantaged people comes in the way it’s

der identity, crime and violence reporting, human trafficking,

moment, the lack of awareness and erotic

being used to help women report sexual

sex education, sexual health and any sort of medical-related

intelligence really, or education around inti-

assault on university campuses. The crux of it,

aspects of sexuality”.

macy — that’s what’s lacking here. The sex

for Cole, is figuring out “how do we improve

And those technologies in particular span from emerging

definitely isn’t lacking, and the abundance

the way we report sex crimes or sexual harass-

technology like augmented and virtual reality, and AI; apps,

of people aren’t lacking, but the education

ment and how we do we encourage women to speak up”. “There’s interesting applications that are being used at the moment or are in development around using Bitcoin and using secure platforms where there’s no identity released when you report an assault.” An application that already exists is Callisto, originally used for the reporting of oncampus sexual assaults to identify repeat offenders, which Cole says was designed with survivors in mind. “[It] will only match you once there’s a certain number of assaults reported and you

“I think we can safely say pretty much everyone uses some form of sextech in some part of their intimate lives today.”

can choose whether to reveal your identity or not. [It will] match you to other people that have reported a similar incident with a similar person. And that [tech is] now moving into the workplace.” For Cole, the future of sextech has little to do with technology per se, but instead relates to the way we as a culture think about sex — and the ways that technology can help us to push towards a “more open and shamefree future”. She sees that things are slowly changing in terms of cultural attitudes to sex. “We’re moving towards this more open, shame-free, less judgmental future. Now whether technology can take us there? I believe it can [and] I believe it can also help us with our base level problems like sex education and understanding our health and our bodies and sexual wellness.”

New Horizons: The Future Of Sex is on 25 May at MCA.

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The Music (Sydney) May 2019 Issue