In the Epilogue for the FADS book, I predicted “AI will be the disease and the cure.” What have we learned since then?
A new twist on the oldest profession
Before there were endless dating apps, sex robots, and little blue pills, marketing and sex have been linked for centuries. And of course, selling sexual acts has long been referred to as “the world’s oldest profession” for good reason.
Sexual appetites and expectations are being formed and shifted more than ever before by the virtual world. We desire, assume, and demand different things from our sex lives because companies have trained us to desire, assume, and demand whatever they are selling.
Move over Harmony, meet Henry
When we first published the FADS Marketing book, we pointed out that sex robots were no longer a creepy fringe trend. We could see mentions in pop culture, late night TV, streaming services, and on cable programs, normalizing the existence of robots, and other sex tech. It’s a no-brainer really with all the money to be made, and just a few years later, sex tech continues to develop at a high rate as demand rises.
More than half the people surveyed by SexualAlpha in 2022 said they’d be interested in sex with a robot, and almost 30% said robots could actually replace other humans as sexual partners.
During the pandemic, online shopping exploded, and of course, that also meant huge increases in the sales of sex toys. In the UK, sex toy sales grew by 13% during 2020, and 135% in Canada during the first lockdown. (O Canada indeed!)
At the time of the publishing of the book, industry-leader RealDoll was promoting Harmony, their first AI-enabled RealDoll with a learning-enabled head, and non-robotic body. Not long after, they also started promoting Henry, a bot for the ladies.
And while reading the somewhat terrifying fact that “Henry will be totally AI-activated and will feature a fully functioning penis, strong enough to lift a truck” we don’t even think the recent news of a chess robot breaking a child’s finger will stop interested buyers.
Sex tech – more than robots
“Sexual activity is an important driver of all life. It’s not a weird thing that only a few people like to do,” Brian Sloan told Vice. “Human sexual activity is a normal function of human beings.”
In April of 2021, Morning Brew reported OnlyFans, the London-based platform that connected sex workers (and others) directly with their fans grew by 553% as in-person sex work became unsafe. Even as many people have given up all together on pandemic precautions, it still seems as the Guardian put it back in 2020, everyone and their mum is on it and popping up on OnlyFans seems to be a natural path for many “reality TV” stars to continue to garner attention. And with bluetooth-controllable vibrators, you don’t even need to be in the same room to get off with someone. Even Vegas is getting in on the sex tech game, with Vegas hotels offering VR porn, complete with cute little delivery robots.
Anything goes in the “novelty” space – even when it shouldn’t
As Business Leader points out in the piece we linked earlier, there are a number of moral and safety concerns, with very little legislation around these products. As devices become even more mainstream, additional consumer safeguards will be needed.
As product tester Samantha Cole noted when testing the Autoblow for Vice, “Once it was in [finish me] mode, it was impossible to make it stop; I was yelling “PAUSE! STOP! NO” and was ignored.” Yikes.
Not only will consumers want products they can control, the safety of the materials sex toy manufacturers have used is also not well-regulated. As long as the product is classified as a “novelty” product, “the nonexistence of manufacturing regulations allows the manufacturers to develop products without any restrictions” or safety standards. And the chemicals used, as pointed out for almost a decade by Smitten Kitten, progressive sex toy shop in Minneapolis, those chemicals can be dangerous and the materials used to create the toys can break down.
The future of the sexual wellness and intimacy
It’s right there. Sexual wellness and intimacy. We’re not talking about nasty perverts doing dirty things in the dark anymore – we don’t kink shame in 2022. We’re talking about a USD $30 billion industry predicted to grow by at least 8% by 2030. We’re far beyond the bookends of heterosexual sex on one end and sacred innocence on the other.
We’re on our way to the middle path, a healthier path if you ask me, with more acceptance, education, and products that enable shared pleasure no matter where your desires, kinks, or yearnings lead you. And every step of the way, we’ll tell marketers what we want, and they’ll give it to us… good.
They've got their hooks in you.
FADS rise quickly, burn hot and fall out. They say you're fat, you're no fun, you need to relax, and you might even die alone. In fact, FADS bank on the fact that you already believe all of that.
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