The Joy of Tech

This article originally ran in the July 2017 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the digital edition. 

In adult content production, virtual reality is the hot topic. In pleasure product design, it’s all about interactivity. These two complementary trends are fueling a new era of adult entertainment as brands expand on ideas from other verticals and incorporate those insights into their own growth strategies. In the July issue of AVN magazine, senior editor Sherri L. Shaulis asks a dozen sexperts about high-tech pleasure toys, haptic technologies, sex machines, and what innovations they envision for the future. 

A dozen professionals were interviewed for this article. Pictured above, top row, from left: Sex Ed A Go-Go host Dirty Lola; sexologist Bethany Stevens (; sexologist and author Dr. Sadie Allison (; sex educator and writer Ken Melvoin-Berg; sex educator Kenna Cook. Bottom row, from left: sex educator Shep Sheppard; queer porn performer Kitty Stryker; clinical sexologist/brand manager/sexual health educator Sunny Rodgers; sexuality educator Ashley Manta; author Jon Pressick (@SexInWords). Not pictured: Jason McCoy, Eldorado Trading account manager; Tom Nardone of


There has been an explosion in more sophisticated toys to enhance sex. What do you think is the next frontier for these types of toys?

Dr. Sadie Allison: Sex education is going mainstream, and sex toys are coming right along with it. … Modern sex toy buyers seek a sophisticated experience similar to shopping for a smart phone or a laptop, and this is why we're seeing more sleek, clean and artistic designs come out on the market. I think sex toy trends will continue to mirror what's popular in mainstream tech, art and fashion. Women aren't afraid to talk about self-pleasure any more, and owning sex toys is part of that empowering experience. They want an attractive product that they can proudly display on their nightstand along with their jewelry and cosmetics. This trend stands for men as well. The same guy who seeks out the latest iPhone and similar life-simplifying technology will want the same level of quality and aesthetics in his sex toys.

Jon Pressick: The expansion of VR is where we are at, and combining it with sex toys is going to be the big focus for a while. Sex robots have a certain cachet, but some significant advances in tech and society will need to happen before folks really buy in there. So, in the meantime, making VR look better, more diverse and then improving the headsets and delivery methods will be what the porn and sex toy worlds come together to work on. And that togetherness is the key. It is happening already, but a seamless delivery through hardware that incorporates a great toy will blow minds and make a fortune.

Jason McCoy: Manufacturers are becoming very intuitive when it comes to tech and play today. It’s like walking into a Toys-R-Us for adults if you are in the right place. VR has had tremendous growth over the past few years with little to no signs on slowing down. The time is now if you want to pioneer with this technology.

Sunny Rodgers: One thing I’ve noticed is that as intimate products become more sophisticated in functionality, the more beautiful they are also becoming. As with the path of almost any high-priced luxury product, the price is linked to the adoption curve of technology and consumer demand. Many manufacturers will work to make the technology more affordable so that more people will have the opportunity to use them. I also think functionality will continue to increase. … While the ergonomics of human pleasure hasn’t changed we are looking more at different sensations, shapes and textures and how those interact with the body. While there will always be the classics (hello, rabbits), more and more technology-focused products will be created with multiple purposes.

Kitty Stryker: I’m very excited for VR porn. The idea that people can become someone totally different for a time is thrilling, especially when it comes to playing with gender. I'm excited to see VR porn working hand in hand with teledildonics to create better visual/physical experiences. I hope they'll develop these things for women, not just men!

Ashley Manta: Voice-controlled technology seems to be the next big thing, with things like Google Home and Amazon Echo growing ever more popular. I suspect there may eventually be voice-controlled toys—where you could say something like “harder” or “faster” and have the toy respond in real time to your commands, rather than having to hit a button on the toy or remote.

Ken Melvoin-Berg: There are a few things that people are working on as far as increasing power supply to make it more convenient for a longer recharge or the source of the energy is easier to apply. USB-powered vibrators are a great example of this. I think an increase in motor placement and motor strength is being utilized for things that vibrate and oscillate. I am really looking forward to the time when they can utilize nano technology and use a group of microbots (tiny robots) to simulate the feeling of real vaginas or penises. Enhancement in materials is another field to explore. Something that is a non-permeable substance and has the feel of human tissue. Silicone toys are close, but not quite there yet.

Bethany Stevens: More hands-free products and more “smart” toys will be available that are easily charged and more in tune with orgasmic paths of all gendered bodies. I can see masturbatory tools increasing in their skill and possibly going down in price. More toys synced with phones or other people will be fantastic. The hands-free trend … is not just a big win for folks who want to be held down or otherwise use their hands in different ways. It will also make these toys more accessible for folks with arthritis and other dexterity barriers. The baby boomers aging into this kind of pain will be a great resource for sex manufacturers and designers, as they will demand more accessible tools.

Kenna Cook: I think the next frontier of sex toys will be toys for trans bodies. Buck Angel released the Buck-Off this year, a trans male masturbation enhancement toy, but I see technology helping to meld sensation and stimulation for trans bodies to feel pleasure in a way that is more innate and less artificial. These toys will help with connecting the mind and bodies of trans men and women to feel more comfortable and get to know themselves more intimately in a way that feels truer to how they want to experience pleasure—meaning that trans men don't want to buy sex toys marketed to cis women.

Tom Nardone: I think the next front is a pullback from things like teledildonics and a push to make easier-to-use toys. I expect the full return of the on/off button. That is what I think the customer would really like. When industry experts cannot figure out how to turn a toy on or off, I think there is a problem. I think that simpler-to-use toys are the future.

Shep Sheppard: I think the real next frontier in these types of toys are dual pleasure toys, meaning an insertable toy for one partner while the other partner has a wearable one. Using an app, one partner can control what both partners feel.

Dirty Lola: They become sentient and try to take over the world! LOL. I think the next step will be improving on what they've started. There are so many new toys out there that do really cool things, but the truth is none of them are perfect. They all have things to improve on. I want to see these companies applying this tech to making toys work for my body types. I'd love to see more being done to accommodate folks with disabilities. There are a lot of niches that need to be filled. Someone needs to fill them with their high-tech toys.


What are the benefits and/or drawbacks of sex with pleasure products using haptic (teledildonic) technology?

Bethany Stevens: I am thrilled about this growing part of the sex toy industry. While I have yet to try the shirts that can hug a person at a distance or a vibrator that can drive a person wild at a distance with lover/s, I am keen on their possibilities for long-distance relationships. Even if not long-distance consistently, these tools can provide something fun for those of us who travel a fair amount and still need to be fucked by those we want.

Shep Sheppard: I have had the benefit of using teledildonic technology with a couple of long-distance play partners. It gives a way to connect not only from a distance but allows for BDSM play to come into play with it as well.

Ken Melvoin-Berg: Haptic technology is really in its infancy and hasn't graduated to its full potential yet. Most of the devices are very similar, where it is connected via the internet to a remotely located partner. Most of them are capable of simple mechanical motions that feel robotic and monotone to the user. The only upside so far is attempted intimacy via long distance.

Jason McCoy: Many will benefit from this technology. If it’s a cam girl who’d like to play with clients, these toys are up her alley. Partners who are separated for long periods of time will truly benefit from these toys. I’d say that this technology is still in the beginning stages and will continue to advance for many years to come. Cons: Many of these toys will require some level of computer technology understanding. This is not an understatement; just know that baby boomers will have a hard time relating to this technology, while millennials and adults comfortable with programming will have no problem using this advanced technology in the bedroom.

Dr. Sadie Allison: Teledildonics is like any new technology: too many bells and whistles can overcomplicate things and distract from the connective experience of partner sex. The tech products on the market for couples right now seem to strike a good balance. They're helpful and user-friendly without taking too much away from emotional sharing with your partner. Haptic devices allow for a highly enhanced version of phone or Skype sex, which keeps couples connected while traveling or in long distance relationships. Teledildonics is a pretty amazing concept. Couples anywhere in the world can control each other's pleasure and have real-time tech-sex using vibrators and masturbators. The ability to connect from afar may even discourage infidelity in monogamous couples who have to travel constantly for business. Instead of heading down to the hotel bar, couples can plan "Skype sex dates" and look forward to the unique kind of sexy fun you can have with a haptic sex toy. These types of products are creating a new kind of intimacy and
excitement for relationships.

Kitty Stryker: The typical answer is that teledildonics are good for couples who have long-distance relationships or a temporary separation for work. I suspect they could be fun for people who struggle with in-person intimacy, whether that be a trust issue, a trauma response or a mental health need. One advantage to teledildonics is that it would be easier to ascertain consent—it's easier to end an interaction when it's not pleasurable for you when all you have to do is unplug.

Sunny Rodgers: I think sexual pleasure is healthy. This is where I would normally list all the benefits of orgasm for all sexes, but coming off of Masturbation May and June Pride I’m sure everyone has already been reminded of them. Haptic (teledildonic) technology is not only advancing in the pleasure product industry, but in mainstream as well. Take Wearablex’s Fan Jersey, where wearers can feel the action of a football game. Or Nadi haptic technology yoga pants, also from Wearablex, that guide you to properly perform yoga stances. And I’m a fan of teledildonics that allow couples all over the globe to interact sexually together. Who hasn’t wished that FaceTime could offer a little more stimulation when you’re away from your partner?

Jon Pressick: The biggest drawback and fear is that haptic tech will pull us away from each other—literally. The loss of human contact is a real concern; however, I do think it is a tad overblown. People will always be interested in touching others. Sure, there will be some who withdraw into the tech and find their sexual satisfaction through pleasure products instead of people. However, I really believe that number will be small. On the other hand, I think there is a tremendous opportunity to include more folks in sexual satisfaction through haptic tech: those on the neurodivergent spectrum. The potential for people who do not want to touch others but might still enjoy some level of interaction with others is strong. Folks who have motor ability challenges or injury can enjoy a much different way of life with haptic tech fun.


As fucking machines gain in popularity, what are the pros and cons of their effect on partner sex?

Shep Sheppard: As a disabled vet, I believe fucking machines are another way to modify sex with partners. The pros for me are that it removes some physical limitations. I have not found any cons in my personal life.

Dr. Sadie Allison: Fucking machines are still somewhat of a specialty product because of their higher price point, larger size and consumer perception based on their association with intense sexual activity. … However, manufacturers are beginning to offer options that are smaller, less expensive and more approachable for everyday couples. … For couples that are interested in trying a fucking machine, but are unsure of whether it will work for them, start with one of the smaller versions first, or try a toy that will provide a similar thrusting experience. What's great about fucking machines is that they provide a truly hands-free sex toy experience! One partner can choose the position and intensity while the other uses both hands for touching and pleasing, or hand over the controls and let your partner take over. Watching your partner enjoy themselves on a fucking machine can be really hot for couples, too.

Kitty Stryker: I think it really depends on the couple! I personally am not a big fan of using fucking machines myself. ... But I enjoy watching a partner use them, if it's something they like! I imagine fucking machines could be helpful for people with disabilities or mobility issues—for example those who may not have good muscle control—so that could be a big pro for some. I also imagine some will say it damages intimacy between partners, but I don't think that needs to be true—using a fucking machine would just mean learning new types of intimacy (like mutual masturbation, voyeurism, etc.).

Ken Melvoin-Berg: This is an interesting question because there are fucking machines designed to be used on both kinds of genitalia. The biggest con from the receiver's perspective is friction. If you are using this with more than one person, use condoms and a good lube to go with it. I highly advise using silicone lube because of its viscosity. …  From the giver's point of view, arm and wrist strength is the largest problem. You often have to hold the device at an awkward angle for a few minutes, so find a good resting point for your arm. Also make sure to keep your back in a comfy position.

Jon Pressick: As a big fan of finding pleasure where you can, the opportunity to leverage any kind of device is a revelation—particularly in partnered situations. There is a big fear that adding more technology to our lives, including more fucking machines, will dehumanize us, take away our vital connection to touch. I fear that NOT adding these devices will dehumanize us more. It is goes back to pleasure. Sophisticated sex toys offer us great feelings, while we are in the same room with our partners or whether we’re across the planet. And I think spreading those feelings will be the greatest benefit. There is some onus on the users to ensure that pleasure then transfers to other instances, such as foreplay and aftercare, but I am less worried about that because I do think it will, inherently, happen.

Sunny Rodgers: When I think of today’s sex machines I think of how many ménage à trois and double penetration fantasies can now be fulfilled for so many people. And that a person with a sex machine can enjoy a great solo sex session instead of a hazardous hook-up.

Jason McCoy: Many pros to state—top of the list is long-lasting sexual experience. … You don’t have to hear “How is that feeling … you good?” “Are you almost there?” “Should I speed up or slow down?” … You can simply control the speed with a controller.  Pleasing yourself will never be the same. Many of the newer machines are built with lightweight material and are very versatile; some even come equipped with a travel bag, iPad/camera holders or suction cup bases to place anywhere. Cons: Price can sometimes be a factor, but for a reliable companion that can pound to your wishes, what would you pay?

Bethany Stevens: In terms of impact on partner relationship, it seems there is always a fear that a toy can replace something pivotal and intimate with partner/s; however, if we can just reframe pleasure as a beautiful thing to witness and to be a part of, much of the shame or discontent can ease away. I routinely use sex toys in my sex life, both with my wife and solo. ... I think of toys, love gloves and lube all as additives to our sex, nothing to feel cons about.


What effect do you think technology will have on pleasure products in the next five years?

Tom Nardone: I think that on the far end of that five years we might see some type of sex robot or more interactive doll. These may be high-priced products for a select few men. In the same stratosphere as RealDoll. Otherwise, I suspect women will continue to masturbate with nice vibrators that are not hooked up to anything and men will predominantly use their hand.

Shep Sheppard: Technology is only limited by our imaginations. The more people use technology with sex, the more open the minds will become in dreaming up new uses. There was a time when phone sex was the most technologically advanced sex. Now there is an array of options.

Dr. Sadie Allison: I think we will see trends all over the board similar to mainstream tech. The barrier to entry is low for the pleasure products industry, and it's fairly easy for outsiders with an engineering or design background to test the market with new products. We've already seen start-up companies fund their manufacturing through websites like Kickstarter. Like any industry, the better products stick around and the ones that don't work or are too tech-heavy to really be functional fade away. Tech products will become more refined as more businesses crop up in the pleasure product space and new companies learn from the past mistakes of others. … One type of technology that is really taking off at a fast pace is virtual reality. Currently, there are only products like this for men, such as masturbators that link up to porn movies and VR goggles, but eventually versions for women will probably pop up. As more ethical and feminist porn becomes more available, more female viewers are taking an interest in it, and they're going to want to join in on the fun.

Kitty Stryker: I genuinely believe that pleasure products are going to move away from heteronormativity as technology gains more influence. People are using tech to explore their sexualities in ways that defy constraint, which is fantastic.

Kenna Cook: Sex tech is the next big thing. Whether that is creating sex toys that are smart devices and USB-compatible for collecting your own "pleasure data," offering custom apps and online social communities for the fetish world, or making a viable online market for sex workers, sex will only get better with technology.

Ken Melvoin-Berg: I think tech is going to be the forefront of the next big discovery in sex toys. You can only replicate so much of what already exists as far as materials, vibrations, mechanical patterns, etc. Research and development is critical to the next wave of sex toys.

Ashley Manta: I think we're only just (in the past five years or so) seeing the tip of the iceberg with sex technology. I suspect we're going to see an even bigger move toward rechargeable or hybrid rechargeable battery technologies. … I could also see a move toward open-source sex toy development, both for apps and the toys themselves, where companies might take a page out of the Tesla or Wordpress or Firefox playbook and encourage savvy users to improve existing technology.

Jon Pressick: The five-year plan is going to be twofold: delivery and penis-focused products. Tech will be advanced to bring VR and connect it to great toys. And the toys that are going to truly dominate R&D are going to be penis-focused ones. I’m surprised this hasn’t happened more, really. I’m not totally up on current stats, but I would hazard the main consumers of sex products are still folks with penises, most often identifying as men. But, this demographic has been served with poor excuses of toys for years and years. Finally, Fleshlight got noticed and others have been coming on board: Kiiroo, Hot Octopuss, Vorze, etc. And they’re just going to get better. And, then there’s prostate pleasure ...

Jason McCoy: In five years I only see technology gaining more traction. I see manufacturers simplifying their technology so Baby Boomers will be able to use with ease. I hope to see more non-gender technology to incorporate all needs. I also see warranties becoming more of a talking point, mainly due to the fact that app upgrades, rechargeable batteries and storing personal information on servers will become the new norm. Lastly, I feel that we are centric in the growth and direction of the industry and with these conversations we are able to better tailor toward the end user.

Sunny Rodgers: Honestly, I believe pleasure products technology is leading toward sex robots, androids, Life Model Decoys (LMDs), or whatever you wish to call them. I think all the technology being introduced now is moving our industry toward creating artificial sex partners that look human. What’s funny is there’s a 1987 movie called Cherry 2000 in which a man has an animatronic wife and the year in the movie is 2017. Do you ever wonder if Rosy the Robot was just the maid in The Jetsons? That is far in the future; for now I think we are going to see current features and products get better and better: stronger vibrations, more ergonomic dildos, more lifelike masturbators. Each year we make improvements and at the same time the cultural acceptance of the category grows.

Bethany Stevens: More sex toys and sex films will entail virtual reality, making connecting at a distance even more interesting. These new toys that suck on clitorises have the potential to get us thinking out of the penetration box, as there is so much more pleasure in the body. I teach my students to think about body blueprints, reviewing all over the body or bodies of partner/s with various types of touch to learn where other pleasure points are then genitals. I may be too optimistic but I want to believe we can move just a bit outside the genital box to find pleasure in ourselves and each other that are just about our genitals. I want sex toys to encourage this play, with education accompanying the toy and more conversations happening in sex toy shops. Surely, people do a wonderful job already but we are still often limited to genital play. I want it all, for everyone!

Dirty Lola: I think we're going to see old toys getting high-tech updates. We're already seeing it but I think it's going to be more widespread. I also think we're going to see a lot of hilariously bad toys being made. Things that should never be made are going to be made. It's going to be like the birth of flight. Weird-ass contraptions that everyone knows won't work except for the person who created them.


If you could create your ideal pleasure product that uses technology, what would it be and what functions would it have?

Ken Melvoin-Berg: I love toys that adjust to an individual’s body, Not everyone is built the same, so something that can be tweaked for the way you are built is always going to be an improvement. I would also love to see some more exploration with internal electric e-stim toys or sonic toys. We are so close to getting something amazing with these fields, but it isn't quite there yet. For me personally I would love something that gives a lower-wave electrical stimulation to my prostate while at the same time getting a toy that simulates fucking or sucking on my cock. No vibration would really be needed. This toy would also have to be easy to use, recharge, clean and maintain. It should also be usable by anyone with a prostate and a penis.

Tom Nardone: My ideal pleasure product will have an on/off button so that I can have control over the start and sudden stop of using it. Perhaps if it had brain sensors it could read an orgasm and slowly turn itself off afterward.

Kitty Stryker: I would love to have a teledildonic device that would flick my clitoris the way my boyfriend's tongue does it—perhaps he'd use an app to program it? That'd be really neat.

Sunny Rodgers: I know it is far-fetched, but I would create a product that would respond to my reactions—no need for buttons, or patterns, or speeds. A thrusting-type vibrator that could gauge my desires and respond with the perfect thrust, speed and intensity all without any buttons involved.

Shep Sheppard: My ideal pleasure product that uses technology would be either a wearable or insertable that is open-ended to use with apps such as Tinder and Grindr. Not only would someone be able to swipe right, but they could connect and control pleasure of random strangers. Then the people have the option to actually meet and take it a step further.

Dr. Sadie Allison: Customization is extremely popular in the tech space, and we've already seen some of these options transfer to pleasure products. I would create two toys, a masturbator and a vibrator, with customizable options that could be changed throughout the purchase experience. Consumers could choose girth or tightness, length, vibrational or stroking modes, color, shape, and haptic connectivity. There are so many products on the market that it can be overwhelming for an inexperienced consumer to decide on the best product for them. Customization allows for a simpler buying experience with a higher chance of buyer satisfaction. Sexual preferences are extremely nuanced, and this makes for the perfect breeding ground for utterly unique creations.

Ashley Manta: My ideal pleasure product would be a rechargeable vibrator that is made of silicone and has a looooong charge life. As much as I love rechargeable toys and I'd never go back to battery-operated toys, I feel like I spend a lot of my time juggling cords and waiting for my toys to recharge. I'd love to see fewer proprietary chargers and more chargers that work for multiple toys even across multiple brands—it would make life so much easier! It's not a huge problem when you only have one or two toys, but when you have 30 (or more!) it can get unwieldy in a hurry. I also want easily accessible buttons with intuitive controls and a travel lock. It would also be nice to have a "stealth mode" where you can decrease the sound of the vibrator—not everyone wants to broadcast what they're doing to the entire household!

Kenna Cook: My ideal pleasure product would be a toy that mimics the touch of fingertips on the skin. Maybe a device that is shaped like a hand, in which the user wears a "smart glove" and can manipulate the movements and pressure of the fingers and the texture of the "skin" for the receiver using the hand-shaped device. I see this greatly helping long-distance relationships and disabled folks have deeper connection and physical intimacy.

Jon Pressick: I don’t know what this thing would possibly look like, but I want a one-handed device that would both stimulate my penis with the power and softness of a Vorze Cyclone while also being connected in some way to a perfectly sized prostate stimulator. And then—THEN—can we throw some kinkly VR porn in there attached to a headset that is both comfortable and include a nice sound-reducing earphone set? If it brings me a beer too, that would be a bonus …

Bethany Stevens: Hands-free with the ability to penetrate and suck on various body parts with multiple speeds. I would love to screw on different sizes so it could work with different gendered bodies and interests. Sucking for some, fucking with various sizes for others.

Jason McCoy: Technology, in my opinion, doesn’t have to be scary. I would start with making something so simple a cave man can use it! I would create a toy that not only tracked your personal pleasure but your health. A USEX Fit Bit with VR capabilities that would help you not only track steps, emails and texts but alert when you need an “O” due to stress or high blood pressure. I would much rather create a toy that would not only increase your sex life but most importantly help create a healthier and sexier you.

Dirty Lola: I'd want a toy that's porn reactive—better yet, VR porn reactive! I want my Magic Wand to react to the porn I'm watching. That's it. That's what I want. LOL.