LivAbility Magazine

Edition 20 | Spring 2020

An illustration shows two hands. On human hand extending from the bottom left of the page. The hand is pointing with the index finger towards another hand that extends from the top right of the page. The hand coming from the top right of the page looks like a robotic hands.
Illustration by Estefania Cavazos

Learn more about the research behind teledildonics

By Tony Jackson

Technology is making the modern world more accessible with every new innovation. Voice-controlled lights and thermostats, and GPS-enabled canes are some of the tools helping people with disabilities live richer lives. There are even devices to make the more intimate parts of life more accessible, too.

Sex is one of the basic foundations of the human experience.

Without it, none of us would be here. Everyone at some point in time has thought about it, some of us more than others. Many people even get to experience it.

For many years, outlets had been few and far between. The oldest and most popular is hiring a sex worker. However, there is still a lot of outdated stigma and shame that comes with employing sex workers. Understandably, there are many people who begrudgingly don their chastity belts, rather than deal with the potential backlash. With the proliferation and ubiquity of the internet, pornography is widely available and easy to find. There is a catch, however; the lack of sharing that experience with another person.

So how could you potentially remove that barrier? In the early 1990s, a few creative (and maybe very horny) inventors worked to answer that question.

Teledildonics sprung from the idea of shooting data over the Internet and providing haptic, real-time feedback through adult toys to give internet sex a more personal touch. Just like many things that people try for the first time, early devices were awkward and didn’t quite work as intended. After years of trial and error, there are now several companies around the world creating innovative devices.

Based in Amsterdam, Kiiroo is a leader that has been working to improve access to sex since 2013. Eleanor Hancock is a former academic at the University of Liverpool and a current researcher at Kiiroo. She answered some questions via Skype about the growth and future of teledildonics research.

Eleanor Hancock (EH): As a researcher, I don’t think it’s happened enough. I think a lot of people in society as a whole, not just people in the disabled community aren’t aware of this sort of technology. We could be doing a lot more. We need more disabled people to come into the design scope and to try the products, so we can actually design with them in mind.

LivAbility Magazine (LM): Have you personally come across anybody with a disability who has used teledildonics?

EH: I have. I know that some disabled people have used Kiiroo’s products and really enjoyed them. But I would say that we’re still a long way off, in my opinion, of really reaching out to the disabled community.

LM: [Sex] is very much, even in 2020, a very taboo topic to broach. There are very few societies where people can openly have informed, meaningful conversations about it. It’s a very intimate thing. How do we get the word out and educate people that this [technology] exists and is something that could be potentially very beneficial for a lot of people?

EH: Well, from a research perspective, I think there needs to actually be some proper academic research done in this area. I’m really, really interested in doing something like that, whether it be interviewing somebody that tried one of our devices, or lead a focus group. I’m hoping that by doing those things, I’ll be able to involve the disabled community more and that will get the word out. And I think as well, perhaps we should start reaching out to more people like you guys.

For people with disabilities, teledildonics can potentially shed many physical and societal barriers. With them, people can experience sex in the privacy of their own homes through their internet-connected devices, such as a cell phone, tablet, or computer. These devices are already modified to make them accessible to their owner. This means that people could experience sex more independently; with the swipe of a finger, puff of a Sip ‘n’ Puff tube, or the click of a mouse.

Although teledildonics will never replace sex with another person, they certainly can help close the gap for many people who may otherwise never have a sexual experience. People can enjoy sex in a private and safe setting without the shame and stigma associated with hiring a sex worker. Perhaps society will fully embrace people with disabilities at some point in the future, and teledildonics won’t be needed in that capacity. Until then, technology and innovation will ensure that people don’t have to wait for acceptance.

In a future edition of LivAbility, we will look further into teledildonics technology, get thoughts from people in the disability community and take a peek into the future.

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Tony Jackson

Tony Jackson

Tony Jackson is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He started playing power soccer in 2009 and has no plans to stop anytime soon. In addition to being an athlete, he puts his journalism skills to use as a broadcaster of power soccer tournaments around the world. He currently works at the Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center, and also coaches and plays for Ability360 FC.

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