Sexual Ethics Dilemmas of the Future
Sexual ethics is a fascinating area, because it’s expanding all the time as we become more open to exploring new relationship structures, as well as bringing new sex toys into our bedrooms.
Perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions about sex toys and ethics is: what happens to your sex toys when you split up? When sex toys were very basic, likely neither partner minded if they missed out on taking the cheap butt plug away with them after the break-up.
But now that sex toys are more advanced, impressive and – yes – expensive, deciding who gets custody of them in the event of a split is a question that weighs on many people’s minds. Does it go to the person who originally bought it? If it was bought as a gift, should it be kept by the recipient? Is it OK to use a second-hand sex toy (thoroughly cleaned, and made of body-safe materials, of course) with a new partner?
But while you may think you have the answer – or at least the communication skills required to successfully navigate that conversation – that’s not the only ethical dilemma to ponder when it comes to sex toys.
The future is coming, and with it a moral maze that we’ll all have to venture into sooner or later.
We came up with our top 3 sexual ethics questions of the future – and some ideas on how to deal with the dilemmas thrown up by new pleasure technology.
Data Deletion: How and When Should You Erase Your Ex’s Information?
We’ll start with an easy question: one many of you may have wrestled with already.
If your sex toy collection includes ‘smart’ vibrators – ones which learn your partner’s preferences and adapt to their body and desires – are you obliged to delete that data when you split up?
After all, the massive benefits of these smart vibrators lie primarily in the personalisation aspect: they don’t just vibrate in a way that they hope will please some people: they can be specifically tailored to patterns and strengths of vibration designed to please you.
If you break up with your partner, that knowledge will still – of course – be in your head. It will take time for you to forget exactly how they liked oral sex or what their kinks were. But should you be obliged to delete the data from a vibrator? We think there’s a fairly simple answer to this – one we’ve already learned from other tech that appeared suddenly in the bedroom.
The advent of smartphones meant that suddenly everyone was carrying a camera around in their pocket – inevitably this led to a massive rise in the number of nude pictures taken, sent and stored. And – again inevitably – this led to questions around the deletion of those photos.
We can all agree that sharing the photo is deeply unethical – as well as illegal in many countries. But should you delete the photo shortly after you’ve seen it, to protect your partner’s privacy in the event of a hack? Should you delete it at the end of your relationship? Or are you entitled to keep the photo as a memento of your time together?
The answer, of course, comes down to consent: if someone has sent you – or allowed you to take – a nude photo, then that person has the ultimate say in how long you are allowed to keep it and what you’re allowed to use it for.
The same applies to smart vibrator data: if your partner is happy for your smart vibrator to learn their preferences (so they can have a better time with you in bed) then that’s great! But that data needs to be erased whenever they ask you to erase it. Or indeed not stored at all if they’re not comfortable with it.
That’s one of the reasons why our smart vibrator – Crescendo – will allow you to use it as a ‘dumb’ sex toy if you prefer: you can choose how much personalisation you and your partner want to store, right from the very beginning.
Data and Consent: Disclosing What Your Tech Knows to Lovers
Let’s move away from long-term relationships and into one-night stands. Pleasure tech can be used during casual hookups too! Let’s say you own a device which will collect and remember data on how it’s been used: at what point do you disclose this to your lover?
This might not seem like a particularly important question – if you’re aware of how to change the settings on your smart sex toys so they don’t record the info, that is probably the easiest option. But it’s not just your sex toys that are smart: as your home becomes more and more connected, what should you be disclosing to people who enter your home?
Home assistant Alexa, for instance, listens in to your conversations so she can give you exactly what you need when you ask for it – whether that’s a sexy playlist for your hookup or a Prime Now order of condoms if you’re out of stock.
In a long term relationship, chances are both of you have understood the data implications of a home assistant – you’ll be aware of what is being recorded, and why.
But your brand new hook-up might be unaware that your pre-sex conversation is being eavesdropped on – and potentially even recorded for later use. We should point out here that both Google Home and Alexa say they do not record (or upload) data unless the ‘wake’ word is spoken – but in the future as people become more comfortable with home automation, there may well be devices which are set to listen all the time.
The solution – as with all sexual ethics questions – is likely to come down to consent.
How can you ensure that you have the consent of the person you’re bringing home? You might not want to hand them the whopping 1,908-word Alexa terms and conditions, though you probably should make your lover aware of which parts of your interaction may be being recorded.
In the future, when more people have assistants and automation in their homes, this kind of disclosure may be unnecessary. But for now, telling people up-front seems like the right thing to do. And who knows – it could even spark some interesting conversation in the taxi back to your place…
Sex Robots: Do You Need A User Agreement For A Threesome?
We can probably all agree that the basic technology involved in sex robots at the moment is nothing to be scared of. The simplistic models available on the market in 2017 are little more than sex toys in the shape of people.
However, as technology (and particularly AI) gets more advanced, your sex robot will be acting partly as an information sponge: soaking up details of your personal and sexual encounters in order to provide you with a more tailored experience.
So we’ll leave you with one of the most intriguing sexual ethics questions: what are the ethics of inviting your sex robot to join in a threesome?
If your sex robot is still basic – and ‘uncanny valley’ – enough that a human would recognise it for a machine, this question might not trouble you. Inviting a friend to join a threesome with you and a robot will likely involve detailed negotiation and discussion anyway – if only for curiosity’s sake.
But when sex robots get more advanced, and possibly start behaving as individuals, are you obliged to disclose that your silicone companion isn’t quite as human as they look? Or, when they reach those levels of human realism, are they entitled to the same privacy considerations as human lovers? Do the sex robots themselves get to choose whether they reveal who they are?