Is the Future of Sex in Tech?
It’s not all about robots, remote sex toys and onlyfans. It’s also about psycho-emotional wellness, inclusion and most importantly – breaking taboos. Get familiar with an industry driven by, and catering to, women.
Sex-Tech. What does it mean to you?
If your imagination stops at the freakishly humanoid sex-robots currently on the market for thousands of dollars (they even get delivered with 18 different personality traits! That’s probably more than I have!), there’s no shame in that. The sex-tech industry has long been catering to stereotypical heterosexual male desires, but things are changing fast, and for the better.
Sx Tech is a global community designed to unite the blooming sex-tech industry under one rooftop. Covering everything from sex-toys, virtual reality experiences, artificial and emotional intelligence (known as AI and EI), ethical porn and sexual wellness apps, to more traditional techy stuff such as blockchain, decentralisation and encryption of (very sensitive) personal data – Sx Tech is the platform where this specific niche of the tech industry meets to bring the most innovative products to the table and match-make them with businesses and investors.
The 27th of November, Sx Tech is organising a free virtual summit (full program here) with talks and immersive experiences about – you guessed it – sex, technology and the juicy intersection of the two.
And you know what makes it even better?
75% of the speakers at the event are women.
This part of the STEM industry has recently seen a wave of women defining what sexual wellness and pleasure means to us. We met up with Ola Miedzynska, CEO and founder of Sx Tech, to talk about the sex-tech revolution.
Can you tell us about how women are taking over sex-tech industry and how that is reflected in your event?
Well, for decades, the sex-tech industry was dominated by a very white CIS heteronormative male perception of sexuality. This resulted in the fact that 10 years ago, you’d never be able to imagine that you could order beautiful, distinguishably designed toys catering to our anatomy. All you could do back then was maybe, if you were lucky, go to a cheesy sex shop with the offer of five straight dildos that just reflected some guy’s fantasy of how to have sex, but had nothing to do with our anatomy.
And then the female founders, CEO’s and product designers took over and the industry started to change. But other things were also changing: can you imagine that we’ve studied human anatomy since ANCIENT times, and only the last 20 years or so we have valuable sources of knowledge about the clitoris and female pleasure. So that’s also why this development is only taking place now!
So, during our virtual event, it is extremely important for us to highlight that the sex-tech industry is lead by women these days. The agenda is not accidentally 75% women. First of all we are here, and there’s a lot of us. These days, if you look at who’s behind the most innovative start-ups for human intimacy and sexual health, it’s often women! Second of all, it is our mission to support their businesses, because we know how hard it is as female founders in tech to raise the funding. It’s sad, but if you look at the statistics, you would maybe just give up. You’d be like “Ok, I basically have no chance until I have a male co-founder.”And that is highly discriminatory and sadly reflects the wider trends in the tech world. Thankfully, our industry is trying to break this ice by putting women at the front and say “Hey, we can do this. We don’t need male co-founders to get a first round of 5 million euros for our start-ups.”
Now that we are in this transition, do you feel like the taboos around sexuality are getting less? Are investors getting braver?
I always try to think from the investors’ side and ask myself why you should NOT invest in me – cause they will be asking themselves that question. The first thing that comes to mind is the censorship. Actually, Sx Tech is pronounced “Ess Ex Tech” and not “Sex Tech”. We can’t put an “e” in the middle, because we would immediately get caught in the censorship algorithms… So the name itself actually kind of represents how our industry is always blacklisted. This censorship also means that it’s difficult to market products that include certain words like “sex” in the description on social media channels, as well as position these products on Google, This is actually one of the biggest issue for most of the adult, sex, sexual health and wellness companies these days.
I think a solution to this would be if we would become a more regular and accepted part of the tech world. If they would stop treating us as like “this is not tech, it is porn”, but would acknowledge that our hub tech systems, inscriptions and data protections are the same as theirs and we would become part of the mainstream, this would help us a lot.
So from the investor side, yes, there are still lots of taboos and stigma, but we have a great example to follow from the femme-tech industry. Ten years ago, this was also super taboo – like, who wanted to invest in menstruation apps back then? And then the femme-tech and wellness industry came and just crushed it completely and managed to raise a lot of money. These wellness apps managed to change the investors’ understanding about how humans take care of their psycho-emotional and physical health. We trace and track what we eat, how many hours we sleep, our heartbeats and so on and obviously, we also want to take care of our sexual wellness and health! So I see it as the continuation of the wellness trend here, to let it include sexual wellness as well.
So how do you see the ideal future development for the sex tech industry?
First of all: no gender. When we speak about sexuality, it discriminates nobody. What started with the body positivity movement has now also opened a space that is accessible for LGBTQ+ people, for minorities, for people who for decades were not able to be loud. And now they have a place and time to raise their voices about what sexual health and wellness means to them.
Secondly, I’ve started to see a lot of situations where a product is getting very commercialised and normalised in the public sphere. Of course e-commerce solved a lot of the stigma problem, but I hope and believe that in the next five years, if I go to a normal electronic store, I’ll be able to pick up a very good, tasty dildo from that shop. Commercialisation and normalisation of our products will definitely help break taboos and stigmas.
And of course: elementary sexual education. If this sucks, and it sucks so badly everywhere, then we might as well step back ten years, since the next generation will also grow up without proper sex-ed. If governments don’t see it as a priority to educate children about their sexual identity, gender identity, sexual awareness and pleasure for its own sake, but just strictly keep it to reproductive health, then we have another generation that gets educated from YouPorn – and that’s a problem.
Any speakers we should pay particular interest to the 27th?
We decided to divide this event into two experiences. The first part is over seven hours of talks, with an amazing mixture of speakers on topics ranging from ethical porn to sex-ed communities and sexual health. A very interesting topic we’ll be covering is the sharing of intimate data. For example we have speakers from iPlaySafe app, one of the first STI kits for domestic use. We are also going to talk about brands and their approach to body positivity and how to design effective marketing campaigns, as well as bring the CBD sexual wellness market to the table, to refer to how sex, technology and CBD’s are married together. There will be a lot of Q&A’s with the live speakers so there’s also a great chance to ask them questions!
The second experience is the immersive room which will be full of very cool attractions that we’ve prepared. The audience will be able to play with interactive sex-toys of different types in combination with one of our special guests, Kokeshi EI. Kokeshi is an audio-erotica doll experience, where you can book a date and really have an amazing time with her. She’s going to be connected to the immersive room so we can also test the toys with her. We are also going to try out some apps and have workshops of how healing and growing is related to sex-toys. In this part we will refer a lot to Covid-19, because we’ve ended up in a second wave, and there’s so much sexual frustration in the air! Break ups dramas, couples who can’t see each other anymore, you can’t even go for hook up dates – and this is all really bad! So we’ve really prepared this room as something to help you survive the lock-down. We have a great workshop for couples, for interactive role play, and we even have a vulva bingo. We really wanted to create something entertaining and fun at the side of the talks. We really hope that the lock down will not be too painful for the audience so we are also closing it with a massive massive give away, with lots of beautiful toys and interactive experiences to gift to the audience. I hope that there’s going to be something nice to close it all off.
Kajsa Rosenblad is a Swedish/Dutch journalist based in Copenhagen.
She self-identifies as a “professional opinion machine, French pop music connoisseur and numbers nerd.” Read more of her work by visiting her portfolio here.