Naughty America VR pornography at CES: A first person report

[Though scholars too rarely study it, presence and sexuality is a fascinating topic – the story below is from Digital Trends, where it includes a 3:56 minute video. More reactions to the CES demonstration are detailed in coverage in PCWorld and Mashable (which features a 3:22 minute video); a thoughtful different analysis can be found in Slate. –Matthew]

Naughty America VR screenshot

[Image: Source: Slate]

I tried VR porn in a CES hotel suite, and I’ll never be the same

By Will Fulton — January 12, 2016

Porn has always been a trailblazer. Throughout the last few decades, the pornography industry has been an aggressive early adopter of emerging media technology, accelerating the general adoption of formats like VHS, DVD, and streaming video. Look back as far as ancient cave paintings and you can find sex; it’s one of the first things we do with any new medium. It should come as no surprise then that here at the dawn of feasible, widespread virtual reality, leading porn producer Naughty America is ready with VR porn for the masses. I tried virtual pornography last week in a hotel room cocktail party at CES.

POV (point of view) is already a major keyword in online porn, but VR takes the genre to a whole new level. You find yourself in a room, unable to move. You can look around freely for 180-degrees in front of you, the room just ending in a hard black plane around the periphery of your vision. Looking down, you see your toned, virtual body, sitting or lying back passively as sex happens all up on you.

Strip club rules apply, so it’s look, but don’t touch (however much it really does feel like you could). The filming process necessitates passivity, so your avatar never exerts itself more than a bit of light humping. You can focus on whatever you fancy, whether it’s down at the naughty bits, lovingly up into your virtual partner’s eyes, over into the corner of the room, trying to identify the books on the shelf.

It’s difficult to communicate in writing just how jarring the experience was. More than just being up close and personal with a POV video, VR porn is a different beast all its own. Even having experienced a lot of virtual reality over the previous few days, my imagination could not prepare me; porn calls upon very animal parts of the brain, so to encounter it in such a personal way is visceral. The sense of scale was perhaps the most striking part. Unless you watch on a very large screen, people in porn videos are almost always quite small, relatively speaking. It’s startling to encounter them at true, human scale — sweaty, doubly-artificial breasts bobbing inches from your face.

All of the content is heterosexual, mainstream porn, in line with the site’s predominant user-base, with the promise of greater diversity and more genre representation as the VR market grows.

I watched compilation demo reels from both the male and female perspective. For me, the female perspective video was perhaps the most interesting, because it offered me a kind of out-of-body experience I have never had before. Inhabiting a female form, mounted by a musclebound stud is far afield from my typical sexual experience. In addition to opening up whole new avenues of kink, the ability to viscerally inhabit bodies unlike our own has compelling implications for how VR experiences could be used to cultivate empathy.

My demonstration was on a Samsung Gear VR, but the videos are compatible with virtually any headset on the market now, from the humble Google Cardboard up to a fancy Oculus Rift. As for how they are filmed, “a combination of off-the-shelf and custom parts” is as specific as Naughty America CIO Ian Paul told me. As a starting point, it’s very convincing, and it will only improve. When asked about the possibility of same-sex content, Paul mentioned 360-degree views as something coming down the pipe that would help enable it, allowing for full immersion in a virtual bacchanal.

While gaming has driven the initial advances in VR technology, porn’s popularity and obvious synergy with the medium will likely make it an important factor for many people getting on board. Porn is already a $3.3 billion annual industry, ravenously expanding to fill all channels available. Paul certainly sees VR as a sea change for the industry: “The entire history of porn has been trying by whatever means available to arrive at this type of experience, and now it’s here. This is a huge leap forward.”

Not just a distant concept, this glorious future of immersive smut is available now — six months ago, in fact. It launched in July, and new content rolls out at a rate of roughly one video per week. VR videos can be accessed as part of the standard monthly site membership. According to Paul there are two other, smaller companies currently working on porn VR, but they have neither Naughty America’s stable of star power or market penetration.

Whether it’s the starting fluid of an enormous and profitable VR media industry or the final, crushing blow to the already-plummeting birthrates of many industrialized nations, the future of pornography is here, available now in a private VR fantasia near you.


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