In. Out. Repeat. At root, this is how sex works and has since it was first attempted hundreds of millions of years ago. Even the wackier stuff you’ve engaged in or fapped to—group sex, foot worship, double penetration—was pioneered by our human ancestors, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of years ago. Think those kind of activities are raunchy now? They didn’t even have soap back then. There’s every reason to believe that plugging the same old things into the same old holes will continue in much the same way ad infinitum. But humans have a track record of screwing around with stuff, and screwing is no exception. Below are some predictions for how you, me and everyone we know might be getting it on—or not—over the next decade or three.
In any event, many experts predict that reversible male contraception will be available within a decade. So that leaves sexually transmitted diseases, the big one being HIV/AIDS. This month sees the release of Cured: How the Berlin Patients Defeated HIV and Forever Changed Medical Science. Nathalia Holt’s book reveals the imminent promise of a cure for HIV after two cases of an experimental treatment resulting in a “functional cure” for a disease that has claimed the lives of 35 million people and currently infects a similar number. Looking slightly further ahead, futurist Raymond Kurzweil says that by the 2030s we’ll be pouring millions of nanobots into our bodies to “augment our immune system,” wiping out all diseases, including the ones that compel us to employ prophylactics. Then again, he also said that by 2009 “the majority of text [will be] created using continuous speech recognition.” So why I am I pecking away like a barbarian in 2014, Ray? Better rubber up for the foreseeable. Here’s are more of Ray’s thoughts on the future of sex:
2. Sex will lose its appeal.
I’ve never been to Japan, but I imagine it as a place in which our future–including our sexual future–is being beta tested for a sort of ongoing soft launch. Any day now, we’ll be getting our very own love hotels and vending machines conscientiously stocked with the underwear of Harajuku girls. A much less exciting trend is coming down the pike, however: A marked indifference to the very idea of sex.
A survey conducted in 2013 by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16 to 24 were either not interested in, or despised, sexual contact. More than 25% of men polled found sex similarly unappealing, and despite their smaller numbers, it’s they who wear the scarlet letters soushoku danshi. Literally, the term means “grass-eating boys.”Japan’s growing number of “herbivores” are more into taking walks, being frugal, hanging out with friends, reading comic books and playing video games than dating and mating, a big change from the previous generation of Japanese men for whom drinking, conspicuous consumerism and groping tits and ass was de rigueur. For a country with negative population growth, the flaccidity of Nippon’s young men has become a worry. Experts have posited that Japan’s stagnant economy, combined with greater sexual equality in the workplace, is what’s been driving men to reject their fathers’ conception of who men are and how they behave. Don’t think it could happen here? A wealth of research indicates that Western men are showing disinterest in sex, citing a similar story: Their role as main breadwinner is changing. A study from the Better Sleep Council found that 40% of men polled would prefer a good night’s sleep to sex, while UK researchers found that the average number of times that men had sex per month has dropped from 6.2 to 4.9 in a decade.
3. You will be able to upgrade your penis.
Why aren’t rich, old guys getting new dicks? I hadn’t thought about that particular question until I heard it posed in a Louis C.K. bit. The reigning king of comedy dreams of a future in which he would pay top dollar to obtain the member of a recently deceased “22-year old, Puerto Rican track star” and have it placed next to his existing one. Think a Frankenschlong sounds fanciful? A human penile transplant was actually performed in Guangzhou, China back in 2006, the recipient having lost his penis in an accident. Though the surgery was a surgical success, the donated organ was removed after 15 days because the man and his wife had a “severe psychological problem” with the new addition.
But as Chinese surgeons were reluctantly removing one human penis, scientists in Winston-Salem were putting fully functional, lab-grown members on rabbits that then proceeded to live up to their horny reputation. The replacement penises were grown from the rabbits’ own cells and grown on a penis-shaped matrix (pictured at right).
While researcher Dr. Anthony Atala’s goal is to eventually treat infants and adults with birth defects, penis trauma or penile cancer, men who dream of having a larger member—myself included—could be forgiven for contemplating tawdrier possibilities. Just imagine: You donate some cells and decide on a size and shape. You could go bespoke or have something off the rack. Perhaps there will be celebrity templates on offer, and you could get yourself a Chaplin, Neeson or McGregor. Then, you visit your disembodied member as it grows like an English cucumber in a greenhouse until that fateful day when it’s attached.
The future seems bright indeed.
4. Long-distance relationships will get easier, sleazier.
Here’s a fun word to say: Teledildonics. The writer and IT visionary Ted Nelson invented the term in the mid-1970s, imagining a world in which couples would get suited up like Robocop to have remote congress. That idea was about 30 years ahead of its time, but circa 2004 all manner of remotely operated sex devices began appearing. One of the first was the “Sinulator,” a device that enabled people to connect a range of sex toys to their computers, then hand over the controls to someone else in the next room or on the other side of the globe.
Sadly, the Sinulator was one of the first—but definitely not one of the last—teledildonics systems to experience a meteoric rise and Lady Gaga-esque fall. The latest is Real Touch, a line of devices remotely controlled by live models or synced to videos that accompany their robotic ministrations. You simply ease your penis into a wireless masturbation sleeve that’s wirelessly controlled by a mini-tower that your plug into the USB port of your computer. It squeezes and teases your member either in concert with what a remote model is doing with the joystick—think of it as your dick’s very own avatar—or with what’s happening in a pre-recorded clip starring some of your favorite adult stars. In the case of Real Touch, the glitch is due to something particularly unsexy: a technological licensing issue.
Still, some people still have faith that technology will soon enable a reasonable approximation of sex. Jordan Holberg, director of technology at the advertising firm TBWAChiatDay, says that better genital haptic feedback (or tactile stimulation) will be the great leap forward in teledildonics. “Membranes are getting closer to controlled deformation at submillimeter accuracy,” says Holberg. “Some are already thin enough to be wearable: Membranes that are sewn into cloth, codpieces or gloves.” In the future, then, remote sex may entail getting dressed up in a green-man suit. In the problematic world of teledildonics, that’s what progress looks like.
5. Friends will be electric
Although teledildonics are still in their awkward infancy, it’s probably safe to say that they’ll get better. Soon, they’ll be so good that the experience of having remote, teledildonic sex will handily approximate all five senses and be mechanistically on par with having sex with having your partner(s) in the same room. But we’d be foolish to think innovation will end there. At a certain point, teledilonic sex won’t require Player 2 to enter the game to be good. So then what happens? Then, say experts, we start fucking robots.
In 2012, Ian Yeoman and Michelle Mars, a management professor and a sexologist at Victoria University, published a paper called “Robots, Men And Sex Tourism,” which speculated about what prostitution would look like in the year 2050. The researchers posit that 34 years from now, men will fork over 10,000 euros for an all-access pass to prostitutes fresh off the assembly line. The authors say that there are three main advantages for mechanizing the world’s oldest profession. First, eliminating the risk of sexually transmitted diseases by making nymphoids out of “bacteria-resistant fibre that would be flushed of human fluids, therefore guaranteeing no STIs are transferred between consumers.” Second, say the authors, is that the partners of sex tourists would be more forgiving of their husband’s infidelity if the person they were screwing had an “off” switch. The third—and possibly only—compelling argument for a brothel run by automatons is that it would stop sex trafficking.
6. You’ll share the sex you have with the world.
Cindy Gallop is a successful 54-year-old advertising consultant who, for the past few years, has been investing much of her energy creating makelovenotporn.tv, a website that invites regular people to upload videos of themselves having sex. The idea came about when Gallop noticed that the younger men she was sleeping with were imitating the pounding and name-calling in porn movies. Her big idea is to encourage normal folks to take back power from a few guys in Simi Valley who’ve been disseminating sex tropes around the globe—and make money in the process. On her site, you use your camera phone to become a “makelovenotpornstar,” allowing people to rent your uploaded real-sex clip for $5. Gallop’s company will split the income with you 50/50. “Though we’re a for-profit business, we’re trying to change the conversation about sex,” she says. “People post Facebook pictures about say, a romantic trip to Paris, the Champs-Elysées, the Eiffel Tower—and then the sharing stops. I see a future where people post video if the amazing vacation sex they had in Paris too.”
Some academics envision a similar version of Gallop’s idea. “Future changes in sexual practice will reflect the continued disappearance of privacy, and the end of most distinctions that separate our private and personal lives,” says clinical psychologist David Ley, Ph.D. “ Youth today are documenting their lives on YouTube. The coming decades will see these youth entering a world where they have little privacy, desire little, and have much less shame about things that have been kept as dirty secrets by their forefathers.”