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History and Theory Behind Teledildonics


The term teledildonics is usually used when referring to the use of computer-mediated software and hardware to facilitate remote sex between two (or more) people. An easier way of thinking about it is using a sex toy where someone else is controlling the toy, and they aren’t in the room. Teledildonics could be considered an extension of cybersex that brings in a tactile interaction between two people.

The word was first coined in the 1980s by Internet philosopher and pioneer Ted Nelson. The first lengthy discussion of teledildonics can be found in Howard Rheingold’s 1991 book Virtual Reality, where he devotes a chapter to the subject of teledildonics and sex in virtual reality.

Teledildonic Theory vs. Practice

Even though the earliest mentions of teledildonics were related to practical applications, most of what has been written about teledildonics has been theoretical or fictional. Early talk of teledildonics focused on its role in virtual reality sex. The idea was that you could put on a suit and some cool-looking headgear and “experience” yourself having sex with anyone in the world you wanted (most often it was pointed out that you could have sex with famous people).

As the 1980s construction of virtual reality has fallen away, designers and programmers have turned their attention to more concrete needs and how technology might address them, most teledildonic ideas are proposed as a way for people in long distance relationships to have sex remotely. Even though people have been discussing teledildonics for over fifteen years, no one has designed and produced a product that has caught the attention of the general public. It’s hard to know whether that’s because the current products are either too difficult to make or use, too expensive to buy, or if the current line of thinking regarding teledildonics is off the mark. Most of the current devices that are available mimic the use of sex toys between couples in real life, or try to mimic actual sex. Perhaps teledildonic developers should be looking for a fundamentally different model for remote control sex.

Currently Available Teledildonics

Teledildonic products that are currently available fall into a few different categories. There are places on line where you can go to learn to make your own teledildonics. These are inexpensive but require time and at least a little technical know how (or the patience to learn). These products work, but usually don’t look sexy and shiny and fresh out of the box. There are a few services where you can buy sex toys and pay a fee to use a website/software to control the toys online. These products can be expensive, the sex toys themselves are often of poor quality, and the functionality/user experience leaves much to be desired.

Finally, there are very expensive products that can be custom ordered but costs thousands of dollars. My reviews below may seem overly critical, but they aren’t meant to discourage you from trying these services. I would say that the main drawback to all of these products is their limited focus on what sex is. By ignoring the broader emotional and physical context of sex, and only focusing on the genitals, most of these products will come up short in the end.

SeXBox and Other Open Source Projects.
On this site you’ll find instructions on how to make your own teledildonics and a community of people who will help you make them. The creator of this site has also launched the OpenDildonics Wiki. Both sites are great places to start any search for information on teledildonics, and if you’re someone who wants to explore your own ideas, the Wiki offers a collaborative place to do that.

The Sinulator
One of the first inexpensive and commercially available versions of teledildonics, this site will sell you the toys and the interface to allow remote control use of sex toys via the Internet. Unfortunately, the interface itself is unsatisfying, the sex toys are of poor quality, and users have to be willing to tolerate a certain amount of pornifying of their teledildonic experience -- none of which means it still can’t be a lot of fun.

High Joy Toys
This service bills itself as a dating/social networking site. You need to pay for a membership which gives you access to the site and a user interface that allows you to control sex toys over the Internet. The sex toys are manufactured by a major sex toy manufacturer, Doc Johnson, and are available through the website and in some retail sex shops. The user interface is less “jokey” than the Sinulator, but no less clinical. Drawbacks include overpriced toys (of medium quality) and the expense of maintaining a membership on their “dating” site which may not have anyone you’d want to date on it.

Neither the JeJoue nor the SaSi can be remote controlled in real time via the Internet, but they can still be considered teledildonics as they allow for you to email instructions (they call them “grooves”) to the vibrator and tell it what to do. One partner can go on the site and construct a series of moves for the vibrator to make. They can then send this to the partner with the vibrator, who can download the information to their vibe. The SaSi is the soon to be released second generation and promises a vibrator that can remember what you like. While real time control would be nice, both products are of excellent quality, neither requires anything beyond the initial purchase, and they are more widely available at high-end sex shops.

The Thrillhammer
By far the most sophisticated teledildonic device commercially available, the Thrillhammer also offers the most involved, and expensive remote experience. A chair that is fitted with webcams and comes with a device that simulates penetration and vibration and can be controlled remotely. These products are only available through custom orders and cost in the thousands of dollars. One of the early models is on permanent display at the Museum of Sex in New York.

Real Touch
As of June 2009 this newest and most promising teledildonic product is only available for pre-sale, but it represents the most significant development in easy to use, relatively affordable teledildonics to date. The first generation Real Touch is meant to be used with visual pornography. The toy fits over the penis and as you watch porn what you see on the monitor is mirrored in how Real Touch touches you. The toy has two soft rubber belts, a heating element, four vibrating areas plus the ability to self-lubricate. It's backed by a large company that seems to be in it for the long term which means better quality, more interest in consumer feedback, and hopefully successive generations of toys that are even more immersive than the first.

What’s Next?

The good news is that as mainstream technology companies and designers turn their attention to the emotional and intimate aspects of human interactions, it’s likely that we’ll see better-designed, better-made, and eventually more affordable devices that will allow us to add to our experience of remote sex. These products may not market themselves as sex toys, but by not narrowing their focus to a particular genital act, they’ll actually go much farther in expanding our sexual experiences through technology.

Learn more about teledildonics:

  1. About.com
  2. People & Relationships
  3. Sexuality
  4. Sexual Culture
  5. Sex and Technology
  6. History and Theory of Teledildonics

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