According to a study by Simon Smith, more than 800 items were
registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office as sex
toys between 1840 and 1997. Among them was a condom with a built-in
computer chip that can play music. Progress?
From the depiction of a vulva in a cave painting to the newest
internet porno, technology and sexuality have always been closely
linked. No one can predict what the future will bring, but history
indicates that sex will continue to play an essential role in
The porno effect accompanies every new technological development.
Immediately after producing his famous bible, Gutenberg used his
press to print erotica. Photography was utilized just as quickly. In
1874 the London police discovered 130,000 pornographic photos in the
course of a single house search. The introduction of cinematic
technology also confirmed the close relationship between pornography
and technological innovation: in 1896 a pornographic film was shown
publicly for the first time, two years after the premiere of the
first films of any interest to the general public. Since then, more
pornographic films than nonpornographic films have been produced.
That in 1977 the first video cassettes to appear on the market
featured pornographic content should come as no surprise. The
development of the camcorder and the instamatic camera made it
possible for anyone so inclined to produce porno in privacy at home.
The fact that the first affordable Polaroid model was named "The
Swinger" seems to indicate that the industry was well aware of this
All of these facts could be relegated to the status of curiosities
were it not for the important role that pornography has played in the
development of new technologies. New technologies are quick to appeal
to pornography consumers, and thus these customers represent a
profitable market segment for the suppliers of new products and
services. Without telephone sex, a sector that has been yielding
enormous profits since the 1980s, providers would have had no
incentive to upgrade the communicational infrastructure. And of
course one should not forget the internet, which is notorious for
being flooded with pornography. Porno sites were the first to use
technologies like audio and video streaming. They were also a driving
force behind the spread of high-speed internet connections and made
necessary the development of better data systems. Additionally, porno
sites have promoted the development of new cultural technologies like
(in)formal partnering, outsourcing, upselling and site tracking.
Today a new technology's success with porno consumers is a dependable
indicator of the product's overall market potential. Currently, all
factors show that high-tech developments like virtual reality owe a
great deal of their success to the need for further sexual
stimulation. One could cite the example provided by the
science-fiction concept of a full-body interface designed to produce
sexual stimulation. But it isn't science fiction anymore.
Is it going too far to assume that research in nanotechnology and
genetic engineering will be influenced by our sexual needs. The
surgical modification of sexual organs is no longer something very unusual.
The question is not whether these technologies alter humanity, but
how they do so.