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    Adult films actress August Ames stars in Badoink VR's sex education video. Image: BadoinkVR

    Short Circuit

    Sex Education Is the Next Stage in the Evolution of VR Porn

    Written by Lux Alptraum

    As virtual reality has gone from fantasy tech to actual, viable media format, there’s been a lot of talk about how VR has the potential to completely transform, and wildly improve, the experience of watching porn. But one company is hoping that VR’s effect on sex can extend beyond fantasy and into reality with immersive, educational videos that offer viewers tips and coaching to improve their sex lives. Say hello to Virtual Sexology, a brand new form of XXX “edutainment” brought to you by porn platform BadoinkVR—all you need to enjoy it is a smartphone, Google Cardboard, and the ability to convince yourself that some headless white dude’s body belongs to you.

    According to Todd Glider, CEO of BadoinkVR, the inspiration for Virtual Sexology came from a mainstream VR startup that specializes in simulated exposure therapy for people suffering from a fear of heights. If making the leap from acrophobia therapy to VR sex education sounds a little weird, well, so is Virtual Sexology.

    During our conversation, Glider made clear that he thinks of the video as therapy, not education, (“Sex therapy, to me, is a one on one kind of thing, where sex education [has] a classroom sort of feeling”), though the on site copy doesn’t really make that clear. Virtual Sexology promises to “make you a better, more attentive lover,” with “valuable techniques to increase stamina [and] refine lovemaking skills”—none of which prepared me for a video that begins with a cleavage-baring August Ames seductively talking me through breath exercises and the importance of kegels (oh, and also Kiiroo teledildonics products, which, what do you know, are compatible with Badoink’s VR videos).

    Watching Virtual Sexology, I was struck by one of the inherent problems of learning to be a better lover through a VR video. Despite the immersion, virtual reality is still, fundamentally, a passive medium, particularly when it comes in the form of POV porn. Users lie back and enjoy the show, maybe looking around a bit while they’re at it (but don’t look around too much – Badoink VR videos are just 180 degrees, so look too far in one direction and you’ll fall into the abyss). And that’s not really the best way to learn hands on sex skills like proper fingering technique (or tongue on ones like eating a girl out).

    And that may be why Virtual Sexology doesn’t even go that route. The forty minute long video isn’t really concerned with teaching men how to understand and pleasure women’s bodies; it’s much more about helping men (or, potentially, women, though according to Glider, ladies only make up 20 percent of Badoink’s user base) understand the workings of their dicks, learning how to maintain erections and control ejaculation through breathing and relaxation. All of which is important, useful stuff to be sure. But it conflates being a “good lover” with having a hard dick, a limited definition if ever there was one. Ames’s arousal is pretty much a given: as the video transitions to fucking around the halfway point, she moans that she’s so turned on, which seems odd when you consider that, up until this point, the video’s entirely been about her male partner’s pleasure (I mean, props to everyone who gets turned on by giving alone, but let’s not pretend that’s universal or typical).

    Which brings me back to the therapy versus education divide. If you see this video as one intended to help men fight anxieties about sexual performance and erectile dysfunction through a simulated sexual experience—the same way other VR therapy videos help acrophobics battle their fears through simulated exposure to heights—then it makes a lot more sense. Dr. Hernando Chaves, the sex therapist brought on to help produce this video, notes in his professional bio that he’s got experience helping clients with “erection difficulties, early/premature ejaculation, performance anxiety, inhibited/delayed ejaculation,” and assorted other sexual problems; the video seems tailor made to help men who are battling those first four items.

    When I chatted with Chaves, he agreed that the project is limited in scope. Because Badoink’s format is built around a passive male/active female conceit, addressing concepts like communication, or anything relying on two equally active participants, is a little bit of a challenge. “So we went the route of working with the male sexual psyche... trying to incorporate techniques that might improve [viewer’s] sexual self esteem or sexual self confidence to help them become better lovers so that they can embrace… topics like communication or improved sexual pleasure [in the future].”

    It’s a noble goal, but it’s hampered by the fact that Badoink isn’t advertising Virtual Sexology as something specifically for men with anxiety or confidence issues. It’s marketing it as a video that’s valuable for everyone. And that’s where it runs into problems. Because promoting the idea that good sex is about getting a hard dick and letting your partner cater to your every need – well, that’s the very message that traditional, entertainment-focused porn is supposedly ruining sex with.

    As Chaves notes, pornography has a much wider reach than most sex educators or sex therapists ever get access to—and as a result, projects like Virtual Sexology have the potential to have a seriously positive impact on the messages people receive about sex and pleasure. Hopefully, future installments will move beyond confidence building techniques and into lessons that combat some of the fallacies (or at least fantasies) perpetuated by a good deal of porn, reminding users that good sex is as much about connecting with your partner as it is about connecting with your dick.