The Future of Sex is Buried in the Sock Drawer

The future of sex is here, or at least it could be, technically speaking.

The future of sex is here, or at least it could be, technically speaking. In an age when autonomous cars are trolling about Nevada Highways, bipedal robots are hobbling around research institutions, and octocopters take to the skies, it seems absurd that reliable teledildonics and other forms of robotic (or tech-enabled long distance) sex don’t exist. Sure, we’ve seen examples like Real Touch and surprisingly advanced tech for a very niche Japanese maid game, but the kind of objects that don’t live ashamedly in drawers and dungeons, but proudly in a prototypical home don’t quite exist. This is not a technological problem, but a social one. We’re not ready yet. America is not ready yet.

You would think that a country like ours, one so proudly monogamous, so invested in being faithful, one that fervently promotes family units, would also be invested in the idea of using technology to help maintain those values. But in spite of it all, sex toys can’t quite seem to shake their XXX truck stop image. For many, these toys remain blushed secrets, quarantined to the back of the nightstand. For others, the connection to pornography is so deep that owning any device would be unimaginable. 

That’s not to say things aren’t changing. Certainly in the 90s the Rabbit shook up norms, and more recently, ultra-designed toys from outfits like Jimmyjane have changed conceptions. In some circles, these have become luxury objects, but this is not a ubiquitous norm. 

Perhaps what has to change first is the conception regarding what is human and what is robotic. 

This will most likely evolve as wearable technology moves to ingestibles, along with new forms of prosthetics, and even future-forward methods of conception. Perhaps, when we’re unsure about whether or not we’re human or robotic, then we’ll be more comfortable with the idea of a sexual present that’s also technological. This may seem out there, but as medicine advances in step with tech, such philosophical questions will arise much faster we anticipate.

Ultimately though, what may be holding things back is the simple nature of the bedroom. That is, even in our age of sharing and selfies and a quick ascent towards lifelogging, the bedroom (and bathroom) remain surprisingly insulated from the rest of the world. We catch snippets of other’s experiences in passing conversation or maybe a fleeting Snapchat, but the majority of our understanding of sex is either mediated or remarkably private. Sex and bedroom norms are developed through one-on-one moments, a chain of them, and even the occasional ménage à trois. Sex is markedly individual, not communal. In other words, the way we share sexual cultural data looks a lot more linear than the way we might share food culture or fashion norms.

This means that where innovation and evolution in the sex world is concerned, there’s a notable lag when compared to mainstream tech. There will still be pornographic advancement and adoption of new ideas for pleasure and shock, but when it comes to the future living in the bedrooms of modest, middle-of-the-road Americans, we’ve still got a long way to go.

Nate Graham is a Cultural Strategist at sparks & honey, a next generation agency that helps brands synchronize with culture. Follow us on Twitter at @sparksandhoney to stay up to date on the latest high energy trends.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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The 'People Map of the United States' zooms in on America's obsession with celebrity

Image: The Pudding
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  • Replace city names with those of their most famous residents
  • And you get a peculiar map of America's obsession with celebrity
  • If you seek fame, become an actor, musician or athlete rather than a politician, entrepreneur or scientist

Chicagoland is Obamaland

Image: The Pudding

Chicagoland's celebrity constellation: dominated by Barack, but with plenty of room for the Belushis, Brandos and Capones of this world.

Seen from among the satellites, this map of the United States is populated by a remarkably diverse bunch of athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs and other persons of repute (and disrepute).

The multitalented Dwayne Johnson, boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dominate the West Coast. Right down the middle, we find actors Chris Pratt and Jason Momoa, singer Elvis Presley and basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. The East Coast crew include wrestler John Cena, whistle-blower Edward Snowden, mass murderer Ted Bundy… and Dwayne Johnson, again.

The Rock pops up in both Hayward, CA and Southwest Ranches, FL, but he's not the only one to appear twice on the map. Wild West legend Wyatt Earp makes an appearance in both Deadwood, SD and Dodge City, KS.

How is that? This 'People's Map of the United States' replaces the names of cities with those of "their most Wikipedia'ed resident: people born in, lived in, or connected to a place."

‘Cincinnati, Birthplace of Charles Manson'

Image: The Pudding

Keys to the city, or lock 'em up and throw away the key? A city's most famous sons and daughters of a city aren't always the most favoured ones.

That definition allows people to appear in more than one locality. Dwayne Johnson was born in Hayward, has one of his houses in Southwest Ranches, and is famous enough to be the 'most Wikipedia'ed resident' for both localities.

Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, IL, but his reputation is closely associated with both Deadwood and Dodge City – although he's most famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which took place in Tombstone, AZ. And yes, if you zoom in on that town in southern Arizona, there's Mr Earp again.

The data for this map was collected via the Wikipedia API (application programming interface) from the English-language Wikipedia for the period from July 2015 to May 2019.

The thousands of 'Notable People' sections in Wikipedia entries for cities and other places in the U.S. were scrubbed for the person with the most pageviews. No distinction was made between places of birth, residence or death. As the developers note, "people can 'be from' multiple places".

Pageviews are an impartial indicator of interest – it doesn't matter whether your claim to fame is horrific or honorific. As a result, this map provides a non-judgmental overview of America's obsession with celebrity.

Royals and (other) mortals

Image: The Pudding

There's also a UK version of the People Map – filled with last names like Neeson, Sheeran, Darwin and Churchill – and a few first names of monarchs.

Celebrity, it is often argued, is our age's version of the Greek pantheon, populated by dozens of major gods and thousands of minor ones, each an example of behaviours to emulate or avoid. This constellation of stars, famous and infamous, is more than a map of names. It's a window into America's soul.

But don't let that put you off. Zooming in on the map is entertaining enough: celebrities floating around in the ether are suddenly tied down to a pedestrian level, and to real geography. And it's fun to see the famous and the infamous rub shoulders, as it were.

Barack Obama owns Chicago, but the suburbs to the west of the city are dotted with a panoply of personalities, ranging from the criminal (Al Capone, Cicero) and the musical (John Prine, Maywood) to figures literary (Jonathan Franzen, Western Springs) and painterly (Ivan Albright, Warrenville), actorial (Harrison Ford, Park Ridge) and political (Eugene V. Debs, Elmhurst).

Freaks and angels

Image: Dorothy

The People Map of the U.S. was inspired by the U.S.A. Song Map, substituting song titles for place names.

It would be interesting to compare 'the most Wikipedia'ed' sons and daughters of America's cities with the ones advertised at the city limits. When you're entering Aberdeen, WA, a sign invites you to 'come as you are', in homage to its most famous son, Kurt Cobain. It's a safe bet that Indian Hill, OH will make sure you know Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, was one of theirs. But it's highly unlikely that Cincinnati, a bit further south, will make any noise about Charles Manson, local boy done bad.

Inevitably, the map also reveals some bitterly ironic neighbours, such as Ishi, the last of the Yahi tribe, captured near Oroville, CA. He died in 1916 as "the last wild Indian in North America". The most 'pageviewed' resident of nearby Colusa, CA is Byron de la Beckwith, Jr., the white supremacist convicted for the murder of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers.

As a sampling of America's interests, this map teaches that those aiming for fame would do better to become actors, musicians or athletes rather than politicians, entrepreneurs or scientists. But also that celebrity is not limited to the big city lights of LA or New York. Even in deepest Dakota or flattest Kansas, the footlights of fame will find you. Whether that's good or bad? The pageviews don't judge...

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