Cyborg Sex Manifesto: Considering Haraway and Robo-Handjobs

The Huffington Post introduces the Oculus Rift Sex Simulator with the Second Law of Robotics. This law decrees that robots must obey the orders given to it by human beings. And finally, robotics has caught up with the order for handjobs.

Tenga, an adult toy company in Japan recently teamed up with the Oculus VR, (the company behind the Oculus Rift – the immersive virtual reality headset,) to produce a virtual sex simulator (!) The “VR Tenga” was recently unveiled in Tokyo and is already grabbing quite a bit of attention. The device attaches a haptic grib-based control called the Novint Falcon to the the industrial robotic masturbator. The user inserts the penis into the industrial chamber and the Novint Falcon is synced to visual stimuli that plays in the Oculus. (I recommend watching the YouTube video for some sweet visuals).

This particular device reminded me quite a bit of Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto and whether or not this handjob machine was faithful to the feminist hybridization of the cyborg. Like the chimera, a user can form an intimate relationship between themselves and the machine. When the device is on, a hedonistic pleasure-seeking cyborg emerges as a true mythic creature of social reality and imagination. Both animal and machine, this particular entity is not concerned with the organic and earthly concerns of reproductive sex. Despite how “heterosexual” the animal who plugs in considers himself, the result is a queer and mediated sexual experience with an immensely natural consequence (hopefully the orgasm!)

Cyborgs are complicated. Haraway argues that these cyborgs contain contradictory, partial, and strategic identities with no essential unity (197). Many of the consumers of this kind of product are likely diverse but when ‘plugged in’ they share partial similarities. The Sex Simulator acts as an extension of sight and fantasy. The users believe they have control and choice, when it comes to their experience, but they are only selecting from pre-established game elements. They are not creators but users. It is the intra-action between human and machine that is special. Despite that there will never be an essential desire or experience, there is a search for affinity. A safer sex that enacts an experience and creating potential to engender illicit fantasies and taboos at no one’s expense.

Unlike reproductive sexual entities, the cyborg realizes Haraway’s Informatics of Domination. From all work to all play, this gaming device is indicative of a cultural shift in sexuality. It is clear that the movement away from the industrial society to the information system calls for new politics. Sexuality studies has considered dildos, vibrators, s & m, and other nonorganic materializations of desire (google looners and furries for a consideration of freaks at the margins).

In the meantime, I would love to see Tenga release a sex simulator for vaginas! Perhaps there was the assumption that men would be more likely to orgasm from a robot – but the cyborg is post gender. Ask women all over who own vibrators and they’ll tell you a robot might not know what its doing but that ignorance is bliss.

Haraway, Donna “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the 1980s” in Linda Nicholson (ed.) Feminism/Postmodernism. pp.190-233. New York and London: Routledge,1990

The Oculus Rift Sex Simulator


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