Threesomes and intrigue and kink, oh my!

As some of you may know, Gentle Readers, among all the other things I do, I write porn. Well, erotica, I guess. I’ve never been entirely clear on the distinction. Sex stuff. I write sex stuff. Novels about people having kinky sex.

Long novels about people having kinky sex.

These novels are published under a pseudonym, and I’ve just released a new one. It’s called Nineteen Weeks.

The premise of Nineteen Weeks is straightforward: Amy, a suburban housewife married to a successful man, discovers that her husband is having an affair. But after she catches him red-handed with his mistress, she decides to deal with his infidelity in an unusual way; since her husband and his mistress had been sleeping with each other behind her back for nineteen weeks, she demands that they give her back that time, and pledge themselves to her to do anything she asks for nineteen weeks.

I deliberately tried, in this book, to take every one of the tropes of a conventional romance and flip them all on their heads. The powerful man takes control of the shy and inexperienced woman? Nope. The torrid affair ends with them settling down? Not quite. The–well, you’ll have to read it and see.

Plus it might be the only porn novel that quotes Ovid.

Anyway, check it out! You can find it here. If you despise the romance genre and you like kinky sex, this book might be exactly what scratches your itch.

Now through the end of September, you can get it for $2.00 off using the coupon code XQ68N. And patrons who support me on Patreon get a coupon code to download it free!

Update #2 on the sex toy you can feel

A while ago, I had an idea on how to create a strapon that you can actually feel, as though it were part of your body. The idea went crazy, a lot of people expressed overwhelming support, so my partner Eve and I started a company and commissioned an engineering firm to do a design proposal.

In the meantime, I’ve also been working on the idea independently of the engineering firm, so last week I put on my Mad Scientist hat1 and built a simple proof of concept.

Then I went to my friend Emily and said “hey, I have this prototype of a computerized strapon with sensors and a wearable computer and stuff, do you want to help me test it?”

“Sure!” she said, because my friends rock. (I love my life.)

So two days ago, I showed up at her house bearing the crude prototype. “Okay,” I said when we were safely in her bedroom, “this bit goes here, and that bit goes up in front like so…”

There were some design flaws in the first version–the wires leading from the computer to the electrode weren’t quiiiiiite long enough, so she ended up doing this one-legged dance trying to put it on. When it was all powered up and running (which looked quite odd–the sensors mounted to the big purple dildo all have little red lights that come on to show the sensor is working, so the overall effect looked a bit like a prop from a 70s science fiction porn flick), we spent some time adjusting the signal generator and making sure everything was working, and then got to it. I touched the sensors and had her describe what she felt. At one point, as I knelt in front of her stroking her cock, it suddenly struck me exactly what I was doing. “Man,” I said, looking up at her, “this is really obscene.”

“But Franklin,” I hear you ask, “how did it work?

Emily wrote a really good writeup from her perspective on her blog, appropriately titled “Brains, Bunnies and Boners.” Here’s an excerpt:

I stood sporting a sizable electrode-covered, purple erection as this man knelt before me stroking the blinking phallus. Looking dreamily into space, I concentrated on this new sensation and how to communicate it. He asked questions that had nothing to do with arousal and everything to do with programming or nerve density. It crossed my mind briefly that this was a strange situation. Covered in wires, half naked in front of a man I’m not intimately connected to, waxing poetically about the sensation of him passively stimulating my g-spot. Meanwhile he educates me on the corresponding connections between penis and vagina, sensitivity wise. […]

I see him touching the wirey and weird strap on, the sensation of that cock hitting my pubic bone becoming enough to fully trick my mind. The arousal of the plug flitting electrical currents over my internal nerves quickly translates into a thought of, “wow if he keeps doing that I’m going to get a hard on during science and that will be embarrassing.” Except logically I know I already have a hard on. A big purple one that he brought along for me to borrow. My brain has already made the adjustment in the five minutes we’ve been testing this to believing in the new genitals.

So the answer is it works really, really well. Far better than I expected, given how primitive the prototype was. Within minutes, it seemed her brain had internalized the dildo as part of her body; she said that touching the dildo felt like touching her. Which was amazing. I’d expected just to validate that the device could be made to work; I didn’t expect it to work that well.

Eve and I are actively pursuing making this device a reality. We’re currently enrolled in a venture accelerator program in Vancouver and we’re doing market research to validate the market for this device. Interested in being interviewed as part of that market research! Hit me up in email! franklin (at) franklinveaux (dot) com.

1 By which I mean my Mad Engineering hat. Well, technically, my Mad Engineering Magnifiers for Precision Soldering.

Want to keep up with developments? Here’s a handy list of blog posts about it:
First post
Update 1
Update 2
Update 3

#WLAMF no. 28: The Erotic Heritage Museum

Should you ever find yourself in Las Vegas, I suggest… Well, to be honest, I suggest you don’t find yourself in Las Vegas. It’s a sad, desperate place, filled with people trying much too hard to convince themselves that this thing they’re having is indeed fun, and not some other thing, like not-fun (which, I must say, is more often the case). And they don’t much cotton to guys wearing bunny ears there.

But if you do find yourself in Las Vegas, one of the places on the very shortlist of places I suggest you check out is Harry Mahoney’s Erotic Heritage Museum. It’s quite a bizarre place, part museum, part Vegas festival, part…well, I don’t really know what.

It’s not terribly impressive from the outside, to be sure. It’s in an obscure corner of an industrial park, and from the outside, it looks like this:

We went there, Eve and I, not quite sure what to expect. We certainly didn’t expect the Erotic Heritage Museum wedding chapel, the first thing a visitor encounters when walking through the door. It’s billed as the only wedding chapel in Vegas where you can have your ceremony and also consummate the union, and given how uptight Las Vegas is with its Puritan morality, I believe it. It’s a bit Caligula meets Penthouse Letters, though to be fair the movie Caligula was also a bit Caligula meets Penthouse Letters, so I imagine that makes it about two-thirds Caligula and one-third Penthouse Letters.

I want to do…things in this place. With, and to, lots of people.

Also on the main floor is this…err, sculpture. Artwork. Thing. It’s carved from a solid block of limestone, and weighs something like two thousand pounds and change. It too makes me want to do…things.

Moving downstairs, one finds a large museum space filled with everything from antique vibrators (natch) to a collection, billed as the world’s largest such collection, of antique, ancient, and prehistoric dildos.

Including this rather fetching fellow, a proto-Hello Kitty design in carved stone.

There are a lot of carved stone dildos on display. Stone has, apparently, been a rather popular medium for sex toys for quite a long time.

Eve and I have discussed, for reals, teaming with a museum like this one and creating a line of high-quality replicas of various ancient stone dildos, each of which would come with a little insert that described the particular example of the art, along with historical information, information about where it came from, and so on. What do you think? Do you think there’d be a market for this sort of thing?

The exhibits also include props from the Star Wars porn parody (because of course there was a Star Wars porn parody) and, more inexplicably, this sculpture of a cock and balls, made of $4,000 worth of pennies.

If you find yourself in Vegas for whatever reason, and you’re unwilling to gnaw your own arm off to escape (possibly because you are the Kwisatz Haderach), definitely check it out. It’s a fascinating place.

I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 22: Accidental and Unintended

I had, many years ago, a friend who tended to cheat on her partners.

When I say she tended to cheat on her partners, what I mean is that she cheated on every boyfriend she’d ever had up to the point I lost touch with her, without exception. I asked her about it one rainy evening, and she said she didn’t set out to cheat; when it happened, it was accidental.

That’s an idea I’ve heard echoed countless times in countless conversations when I talk to people who’ve been unfaithful. “It was an accident. I didn’t mean to do it.”

There’s a certain element of self-serving justification in there somewhere. It’s likely related to the fact that folks in openly nonmonogamous relationships are at lower risk of sexually transmitted infection than folks in nominally “monogamous” relationships who cheat. If something is an accident, we’re not responsible for it. If we remember to bring condoms, or talk about sexual history, or do any of those other things, we’re obviously planning for it, and therefore it isn’t an accident. If it’s not an accident, we are responsible for it.

It’s a thin justification, to be sure, but it’s remarkably resilient. And part of that, I think, is we don’t acknowledge the difference between accidental and unintentional.

If I make a choice to do something (and as long as we’re talking about consensual sex, if I’m in bed with someone, it was a choice), then the thing I’m doing wasn’t an accident even if I didn’t intend to do it when I got up in the morning. That’s a distinction that matters. I might not have intended, at first, to cheat on a partner, in the sense I might not have woke up and said to myself “you know, I think I’ll betray the confidence of my lover this afternoon! Maybe I can pencil that in before I go to the gym”…but it was still no accident.

I realize that people will attempt to rationalize their choices however they can, and conflating “accidental” with “unintended” is a way to do that. Yet, maybe, just maybe, if we stopped seeing “it was an accident!” as a validation, if we as a society didn’t accept the notion that cheating is less wrong if it is less planned, things might change. I’m not naive enough to believe people might stop cheating, but maybe they might at least be a bit more safe about it.

I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 19: Kinky sex

A while back, I was participating in a conversation about sex, and the subject of kink came up. A guy was saying his girlfriend had approached him with the idea of some sort of non-specific kink, and he was reluctant to engage in it for fear that “nice guys” don’t do that sort of thing with their partners. What, he wondered, would it be like if the sexes were reversed? A guy who asked his girlfriend for kinky sex was clearly not a nice guy; nice guys would never do such a thing! So why should it be okay for a woman to ask her boyfriend for kink? Didn’t it show a double standard–women can do something bad but guys aren’t allowed to? Someone else said that he shouldn’t be a nice guy, because women don’t want nice guys–nice guys, he explained, are emasculated, and women actually want strong, alpha guys, guys who will control them.

And listening to it, I felt despair.

I’ve always been suspicious of framing things in terms of “nice guy” vs. “bad boy;” I think, to be blunt, it’s childish and stupid. Modern social expectations do not “emasculate” men, being a “soft male,” or “losing your center.” That’s a load of rubbish. Modern social expectations are about treating women as human beings rather than need-fulfillment machines. That’s it. You don’t have to be “emasculated” or any of that other silly stuff to do that. You simply have to look at women as full human beings, deserving the same levels of respect and consideration you’d give any other person.

At the end of the day, it’s about consent, not disempowerment. It’s messed up to see relationships in terms of who’s empowered and who’s disempowered; in a good relationship, it’s possible for two (or more!) people to all be empowered.

Likewise, being a “nice guy” or treating women with “respect” does not mean holding doors open, always being soft and gentle, or always having sex in candlelight on a bed strewn with roses. REAL respect, as I’ve said many thousands of times, means talking to women about what THEY want, and then treating them the way they want to be treated.

Are you seeing the Matrix yet?

The “nice guy” who refuses to try anything kinky because he thinks it’s disrespectful isn’t really a nice guy. He’s not listening to his partner, because he knows what’s best for her.

And the “bad guy” who talks to his lover about what she wants, talks about what he wants, and then works with his lover to explore their mutual fantasies together? He isn’t really a bad guy…even if those fantasies involve kinky sex.

It seems to me the world might be a happier place if we all stop trying to figure out the rules about how to treat women “properly,” and instead just talk to women like human beings and treat each individual the way she wants to be treated. A lot of men say they just don’t understand women. A lot of women say they don’t understand men. I respectfully submit that perhaps, if we listen to each other, that might change.

I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015:

#WLAMF no. 10: Sex toy review: Tenga 3D

It came to pass a while ago that I had some Amazon store credit built up, and I told Eve about it. She went looking through the less respectable corners of the Amazon virtual storefront, whereupon she came across the Tenga 3D Sleeve Spiral for Male Masturbation and said “hey, you should totally get this!”

Now, I’m generally fairly adventurous–I backed a crowdfunding campaign for a blowjob robot, after all–yet I’ve never used anything like this before. So I said hey, sure, why not? And some time later, through the magic of electronic commerce, there it was in the mail.

I brought it with me the next time I visited her, where it sat in the sex toy case (because of course there’s a sex toy case) unused.

This is what it looks like in its case, all futuristic and funky and spirally and stuff.

Shortly after the book More Than Two was finished, Eve and I found ourselves in the Deep South, talking polyamory to folks in North Carolina. We stayed at a remote cabin deep in the woods, because remote cabins deep in the woods have figured prominently in our story together almost since the beginning, where it came to pass that we were making out and getting ready to get jiggy with it.

And then, out of the blue, she starts wrapping rope around me.

Now, normally I’m more the tie-er than the tie-ee, if you will, so this came as a surprise to both of us. But before long I was lashed down helpless, and she was digging through the sex toy case, and she found the Tenga. “Hmm,” she said, “I wonder how this works?”

So what you see when you look at it in its case is actually the inside. You turn it inside-out to use it, which makes it look rather less futuristic and funky and spirally and stuff.

The funky spiral bit is actually the bit that goes against your bits, if you catch my drift.

So she squirted some lube in it and crawled over to me, a gleam in her eye and high-tech, advanced-materials-science silicone in her hand. I, of course, didn’t do anything, being tied quite securely to the bed with a very limited range of things I could do. Other than scream, that is, which apparently I did a lot of. Or so I’m told. I’m not really sure; that’s not what I was paying attention to.

So the whole point of a male masturbator is, as near as I can tell, to put something twixt you and your hand (or your partner’s hand) for the purpose of either better simulating the feeling of a human vagina or changing up the sensation, depending on the deign objective of the object in question. The Tenga toys generally seem to dispense with trying to simulate actual intercourse in favor of creating a host of new and pleasant but distinctly non-human-vagina-like sensations, and this they do splendidly well.

Bottom line: This thing feels really good. It’s very soft but also interestingly textured, it conducts heat well, and it does precisely what it says on the tin.

I don’t actually remember making quite as much noise as Eve says I made, because I was too busy having a mind-blowing orgasm to pay attention to trifles like my own vocalizations. I have no reason to doubt her reports, however. She thought the whole thing was great fun. I thought the state of the art in human pleasure took, thanks to the careful application of materials science to the problem of inducing orgasm, yet another step forward. God bless science.

I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015:

Some thoughts on consent

With the state of California passing a new law defining an Affirmative Consent standard for public colleges and universities (and the wonderful commentary about it on the Yes Means Yes blog), the recent firing of radio personality Jian Ghomeshi over his sex life (which he claims is targeting him for participation in BDSM, though several women are alleging that he abused them non-consensually under the guise of BDSM), everyone all over the Internet is talking about consent these days.

And as seems to happen when everyone all over the Internet talks about something, a lot of folks are getting it wrong.

I’d like to think consent is something we all understand. And, in most situations, we do. A lot of folks are flapping their mouth-parts about how we can never really truly get consent for sexual activities because men and women are just so different and don’t understand each other, but seriously, that’s a load of bullshit. Bullshit with extra spicy smell-o-riffic chunks.

If you take sex out of the equation, we all understand consent pretty well. If you invite someone out to dinner and he says “well, you know, I’d love to, but I kinda have this other thing going on that day,” we know he’s said “no,” even though he hasn’t used the word “no.” If we ask someone whether we can use her bike or not and she says “listen, I really don’t know that I feel comfortable with that arrangement,” we know she hasn’t consented. And if she says “The combination on the bike lock is 5678, I need it back before class on Tuesday,” we know that she has, even though she didn’t say the word “yes.”

We get this. It’s part of the most basic, rudimentary socialization.

But for some reason, when it comes to sex, otherwise grown, mature adults start thrashing around, as if they lack the social graces of a reasonably well-socialized 6-year-old.

Some of this might be down to living in a culture that just plain doesn’t teach us about what consent is. I wish I would have understood this stuff better myself, back when I was still sorting out all this interpersonal-relationship stuff.

But a big part of the reason, I suspect, lies in the way we think about sexual consent. We get what consent is outside the world of sex, but when it comes to sex, we act like the purpose of consent is to follow a checklist of procedures designed to let us do what we want without getting in trouble. Otherwise intelligent, reasonable adults, for example, have asked if California’s new law means students on California campuses will need to get written permission to shag. (The short answer is ‘no,’ but folks who so profoundly don’t understand what consent is that the question seems reasonable to them, might want to think about doing just that.) Someone on my Twitter timeline asked ‘what if two people have sex but neither one of them gave affirmative consent–who’s at fault there?’ (The answer is if neither of them gave affirmative consent, then no sex act took place. For a sex act to take place, someone had to initiate the contact of the slippery bits, and that initiation is an act of consent.1) People–again, otherwise intelligent people who appear at least savvy enough to work a computer–have said things like ‘if nobody said no, that’s consent, right?’ (No. We’re conditioned strongly not to say ‘no,’ as in the “well, you know, I’d love to, but I kinda have this other thing going on that day” example above.)

Consent is not a checklist you go through in order to be cleared to do what you want, the way a fighter pilot goes through his checklist before being catapulted off the deck of an aircraft carrier (“Afterburners, check! Flaps, check! Condom, check! Let’s fuck!”). The purpose of consent isn’t to tell you what you can get away with; the purpose of consent is to make sure you and your partners are both on the same page and both enjoying what’s going on.

Consent isn’t something you get once, at the start of the proceedings. It’s ongoing. This is important, because it means the idea of getting written consent up-front to hanky-panky is entirely missing the point. Consent exists in the moment, and it can always be revoked as soon as someone no longer likes what’s happening. Even if I sign a form in triplicate, duly notarized, saying I want to shag you, if we get down to business and I change my mind, I have the right to say ‘stop.’

It’s not hard to get consent, really it isn’t. It simply means paying attention to your partner, checking in. It doesn’t have to ‘spoil the mood’ or ‘interrupt the flow’ or any of those other things the masses of people who don’t understand consent are apt to complain about. Consent doesn’t even have to be verbal. If you go in to kiss someone and she leans back, that’s not consent. If she meets you halfway, it is. We know this. Most of us are really good, in non-sexual contexts, of figuring out the difference between a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ even without hearing those specific words. We just forget, when it comes to sex.

Seriously, this shouldn’t be that hard. The key elements of consent are:

  • Is the other person into what you want to do? Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal cues. If you don’t know, ask. Don’t focus on what you want the answer to be; focus on what the answer is.
  • Is the other person still into it while you’re doing it? Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal cues. If you don’t know, ask.
  • Is the other person having fun? Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal cues. If you don’t know, ask.

There’s a point in here: consent isn’t something you get so you can have fun, consent is about making sure everyone is having fun. If you don’t care whether your partner is having fun, well, then, perhaps one explanation is you’re a terrible person and you oughtn’t be interacting with anyone in any capacity until you learn that other people are actually real. Oh, and by the way, consent is valid only if it’s informed; if you’re withholding information, lying, misleading, or manipulating other folks to get check marks in those ticky-boxes, you’re not really getting consent at all. I shouldn’t have to say this. It pains me that I feel I do.

Now, bad sex happens. It’s a fact of life. Bad sex doesn’t (necessarily) mean consent was violated.2

But it pays–it really, really does–to remember that consent is ongoing. If the person you’re with suddenly goes all withdrawn and unresponsive, and that’s not part of the particular fetish you’re exploring, perhaps it’s a good idea to check in, you know?

There’s a depressing part of all these discussions about consent, and that is the widespread cultural narrative that allegations of coercion, assault, or abuse are likely to be vindictive women making up stories to entrap and punish blameless men.3 It’s so entrenched that it’s hard to see any woman reporting sexual abuse who’s not immediately attacked all over the Internetverse for it…which would seem to fly in the face of all logic and reason. (Because any woman who talks openly about sexual assault is likely to be attacked vigorously and aggressively, it’s difficult to imagine the motivation of someone to invent such a tale. What’s her goal…to see how many people will call her a liar on YouTube?) And while we’re on the subject, “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t mean “everyone who reports being sexually assaulted is a liar until proven otherwise.” This shouldn’t need to be said, but there it is. (And just for the record: If you’re one of those folks whose first reaction to learning about allegations of sexual abuse is “she’s making it up,” shame on you.)

This seamy dark side to the consent conversation comes, I think, from the notion of consent as a list of ticky-boxes you check off before you get down ‘n’ dirty. If you went through the pre-flight checklist and ticked off all the things on the list, you should be golden, right? So what’s she doing making all this fuss afterward? She consented, right?

This is also something we get when it comes to issues of consent outside the bedroom. If a roommate offers to let us borrow the bike all week, then on Wednesday says “sorry, mate, but my car’s in the shop, I need the bike after all,” we know that she has the right to do this. I can’t help but think if we were to apply exactly the same standards to sexual consent that we apply to consent to borrow a roommate’s bicycle, a whole lot of people would be a whole lot happier. Yes, your roommate might fabricate a story about how you stole her bike…but really, what are the odds? I mean, seriously? And someone reporting bike theft isn’t even subject to the same explosive blowback as someone reporting sexual assault!

Now, I will admit I’ve made some assumptions in all this. I’m assuming that you’re genuinely good-intentioned and you value the idea of consent. There is a group who benefits from making consent seem muddier and more difficult than it is; the same group also benefits from reflexive thoughts of “She’s making it up!” whenever a report of abuse surfaces. I’ll give you three guesses who’s in that group.4

It’s possible to participate in all kinds of sexual activities with all sorts of partners under a wide range of different circumstances and not ever end up being accused of assault. It’s not even that difficult, really. All it takes, at the end of the day, is remembering that there’s more than one person involved, and checking in with the other folks to see how they’re doing. You don’t need to get it in writing. You don’t need to involve lawyers and witnesses. You just need to pay attention. If you’re shagging someone you’ve never shagged before and you aren’t sure how to read their signals and body language, use your words! I promise it’s not hard.5

Far from spoiling the mood, it can even be hot. “You like that, hmm? You like when I touch you there? You want more? Tell me you like it.”

Seriously. Give it a try some time. Keep in mind, it’s not about getting someone else to let you do what you want. It’s about two (or more!) of you doing things you all like to do.

Oh, and if someone comes to you with a story about being sexually assaulted? Here’s a strategy: In absence of clear and compelling evidence to the contrary, believe them.

1 Absent some other form of coercion, anyway. It isn’t consent if someone gives you head to get you to stop beating her. Lookin’ at you here, Mr. Ghomeshi.

2 Though one of the things that separates people who are good at sex from people who are bad at sex, I think, is the former sorts of people pay attention to their partners as a matter of course.

3 It’s a narrative that hurts men too, by the way. Imagine the blowback if you’re a guy who’s reporting being sexually assaulted…and yes, it does happen.

4 And if you need all three, you might be a terrible person.

5 If you can’t use your words about sex, maybe you might benefit from addressing that problem before the next time you have sex, ‘kay?

Sex tech: Update on the dildo you can feel

A few months back, I wrote a blog post about a brain hack that might create a dildo the wearer can actually feel. The idea came to me in the shower. I’d been thinking about the brain’s plasticity, and about how it might be possible to trick the brain into internalizing a somatosensory perception that a strap-on dildo is a real part of the body, by using sensors along the dildo connected to tiny electrical stimulation pads worn inside the vagina.

It’s an interesting idea, I think. So I blogged about it. I didn’t expect the response I got.

I’ve received a bunch of emails about it, and had a bunch of people tell me “OMG this is the most amazing thing ever! Make it happen!”

So I have, between work on getting the book More Than Two out the door and preparing for the book tour, been chugging away at this idea. Here’s an update:

1. I’ve filed for a patent on the idea. I’ve received confirmation that the application has been accepted and the process is started.

2. I’ve talked to an electronics prototyping firm about developing a prototype. Based on feedback from the prototyping firm, I’ve modified the initial design extensively. The first version I’d thought about was based on the same principle as the Feeldoe; the redesign uses a separate dildo and harness, with an external computer to receive signals from the sensors in the dildo and transmit them to the vaginal insert. The new design looks, and works, something like this. (Apologies for the horrible animated GIF; art isn’t really my specialty.)

3. The prototyping firm has outlined a multi-step process to develop a workable, manufacturable device. The process would go something like:

Phase 1: Research and proof of concept. This would include researching designs for the sensors on the dildo and the electrodes on the vaginal insert. It would also include a crude proof-of-concept device that would essentially be nothing more than the vaginal insert connected to a computer programmed to simulate the rest of the device.

The intent at this stage is to see if the idea is even workable. What kind of electrodes could be used? Would the produce the right kind of stimulation? How densely arranged could they be? How small could they be? Would the brain actually be able to interpret sensations produced by the electrodes in a way that would trick the wearer into thinking the dildo was a part of the body? If so, how long would that somatosensory rewiring take?

Phase 2: Assuming the initial research showed the idea to be viable, the next step would be to figure out a sensor design, fabricate a microcontroller to connect the sensors to the electrodes, and experiment with sensor design and fabrication. Would a single sensor provide adequate range of tactile feedback, or would it be necessary to multiplex several sensors (some designed to respond to light touch, others to a heavier touch) together in order to provide a good dynamic range? What mechanical properties would the sensors need to have? How would they be built? (We talked about several potential designs, including piezoelectric, resistive polymer, and fluid-filled devices.) How would the sensors be placed along the dildo?

Phase 3: Once a working prototype is developed, the next step is detail design and engineering. This is essentially the process of taking a working prototype and producing a manufacturable product from it. This includes everything from engineering drawings for fabrication to choosing materials to developing the final version of the software.

So. That’s where the project is right now.

The up side? I think this thing could actually work. The down side? It’s going to be expensive.

My partner Eve and I have already started investigating ways to make it happen. If we incorporate in Canada, we may be eligible for Canadian financial incentives designed to spur tech research and development.

The fabricating company seems to think the first phase would most likely cost somewhere around $5,000-10,000. Depending on what’s learned during that phase, the development of a fully functional prototype might run anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000, a lot of which hinges on design of the sensors, which will likely be the most challenging bit of engineering. They didn’t even want to speculate about the cost of going from working prototype to manufacturable product; too many unknowns.

We’re discussing the possibility of doing crowdfunding to get from phase 2 to 3, and possibly from phase 1 to 2. It’s not likely that crowdfunding is appropriate for the first phase, because we won’t have anything tangible to offer backers. Indeed, it’s possible that we might spend the initial money and discover the idea isn’t workable.

It might be possible to just put the first phase on a credit card or something, though it’d hurt. Neither of us is really in a position to afford it, especially given the money we’ve spent establishing the publishing house and supporting the book.

Ideally, I’d like to find people who think this idea is worth investigating who can afford to invest in the first phase. If you know anybody who might be interested in this project, let me know!

Also, one of the people at the prototyping company suggested the name “Hapdick.” I’m still not sure how I feel about that, but I do have to admit it’s clever.

Want to keep up with developments? Here’s a handy list of blog posts about it:
First post
Update 1
Update 2
Update 3
Update 4

Robot sex machines? Yes please!

Of all the deadly sins, my favorite by far is Lust. In fact, I’m actually a bit rubbish at all the other ones, so great is my fondness for Lust. I am also a huge fan of mixing sex and tech. So when I saw a crowdfunding campaign for a “robotic blowjob machine,” as you can probably imagine, I had to get on board with it. Women generally seem to benefit the most from the intersection of sex and technology, so the notion of a sex robot for men had more than passing appeal to me.

The campaign was a success, and I recently received in the mail one “Autoblow 2,” the robotic sex machine whose marketing campaign advertises “unlimited blowjobs on demand.” (Seriously.)

It’s an interesting-looking piece of kit:

Not quite as stylish, perhaps, as the new wave of vibrators from companies like Lelo and JimmyJane, but hey, I’ll take it.

This thing has two parts: the base, which contains a motor that moves a pair of spring bands covered with little rollers up and down, and a sleeve that inserts into the base. The sleeves come in several sizes, and are made of this really bizarre soft silicone material that flops about and feels kinda squishy. (Materials science is an avenue of human endeavor that has, until now, rarely been applied to the pursuit of the ultimate orgasm, more’s the pity. For hundreds of years, leather, stone, wood, and ivory represented the state of the art for Things To Make You Come, so I’m pleased to see improvements in this area.)

Still, when the time came to put my willie in this thing, I will admit I was a little apprehensive. I looked dubiously at it for a bit, until my sweetie zaiah said “oh, give me that” and took it away from me. She squirted some lube into the “insert willie here” end and stuck it over my junk.

No robotic blowjob machine would be complete without a speed control, and sure enough, there’s a little knob on the bottom that makes it go. She turned it on and it whirred to life, stroking mechanically away.

Now, I’ve had some amazing blowjobs from some exceptionally talented partners, so honesty compels me to admit this gadget does not really feel like a blowjob. It’s a fair approximation, I suppose, considering the formidable engineering challenge that a real blowjob simulator would face, but it isn’t quite up to a true blowjob experience. A double-blind face-off between this thing and genuine oral sex would, I suspect, be rather lopsided.

However, even if it doesn’t quite capture the true essence of the oral arts, this robotic sex machine does feel good. Really, really good. I was surprised, in fact. I cranked it up to maximum speed and, yeah, it did exactly what it says on the tin.

I am normally multiply orgasmic; it’s not uncommon for me to get off half a dozen times or more during sex. But this thing…well, when this thing got me off, it was intense and it got me off for good. I was done when I finally stopped screaming.

At which point I discovered a design flaw. The little control knob on the bottom? It’s little. As in, really difficult to find in a hurry when you’re gasping and panting and your body’s still shaking. I tried to yank it off my junk, but my partner grabbed me by the wrist. “No,” she said, and held it there until I found the control.

Which, naturally, brought up a really interesting idea, because I’m a kinky motherfucker and there’s no innocent pleasure I can’t find a way to corrupt with wicked thoughts.

A lot of women quite like the notion of forced orgasms, and it’s pretty easy to do, really–there are entire Web sites dedicated to the high art of the forced orgasm, but when you get down to brass tacks all it really takes is a bit of rope and a Hitachi magic wand. It’s more difficult to find ways to do the same thing to a person with an outie rather than an innie…

…at least until now.

This thing feels good on its own, no question about it, but a bit of rope, perhaps a blindfold, a gag if you don’t want to wake the neighbors, and this gadget can be so much more. Tie your guy down, set this thing going, and wait. You probably won’t have to wait to long. If my brief experience is any indication, the results should be pretty…um, dramatic.

You can find this robot blowjob machine here. (Full disclosure: I liked it enough I signed up as an affiliate.) Get one for yourself or that guy in your life you want to tie down and make scream give the gift of pleasure! You’ll be making the world a happier place and encouraging new high-tech sex toys for men, both of which I think are laudable goals.

Sex Tech: Adopting the Brain’s Plasticity

Some while ago, I read an article about a gizmo made of a black and white video camera attached to a grid of electrodes. The idea is that you wear the electrodes on your tongue. Images from the video camera are converted into patterns of electric signals on the electrode, so you “see”–with your tongue–what the camera sees.

Early users of the prototype gizmo would wear a blindfold and then try to navigate around just by the electrical impulses on their tongues. What’s most interesting is not only were they able to do this, but they reported that, after a while, their memories were not of sensations on their tongues, but of seeing a fuzzy, black and white image.

The brain is wonderfully plastic, able to interpret new kinds of sensory input in amazing ways. It can rewire itself to accommodate the new input; in fact, the tongue-electrode thing is being commercialized as a device for the blind.

As I do, when i first heard about this, I naturally thought “how can this be used for sex?” And I think it has fantastic potential.

Imagine, if you will, a wearable dildo, rather like the Feeldoe, that’s designed to have one end inserted in the vagina. Only imagine that we take the same kind of electrodes used in the tongue-camera device, and send signals to the electrodes not from a video camera, but from small touch sensitive sensors mounted just below the skin of the dildo.

These sensors would be mapped onto the electrodes so that when something touches the sensor, you’d feel a corresponding signal from the corresponding electrode.

I’m not an artist, but I made a couple of crude animations to illustrate the idea:

What would happen?

I believe that after a period of adjustment, this dildo would be incorporated into the brain’s somatosensory perception. The brain would, in essence, modify its model of the body to accommodate the dildo–it would, rather quickly I suspect, cease to be perceived as a thing and become perceived as a part of the body. Stimulation of the dildo would begin to feel like stimulation of yourself.

And isn’t that an interesting idea.

The neural density in the walls of the vagina isn’t as great as the neural density of the tongue. I don’t think that’s a problem, though; the neural density of the shaft of the penis isn’t as great, either.

One potentially interesting twist on this notion is to map the most sensitive part of the penis, the underside just below the glans, onto the most sensitive part of the body–the clitoris. The sensors of the shaft would map onto electrodes in the bulb worn inside the vagina, except this part, which would map onto the clitoris–mapping the sensitivity of a natural penis.

Another potentially interesting thing to do is to make the sensors on the dildo pressure sensitive, with firmer touches creating stronger impulses from the electrodes.

Now, there’s a lot of experimentation between this idea and a real device. I don’t know the neural density in the walls of the vagina, but it would impose a limit on how many electrodes could be placed on the dildo. Would there be sufficient density to be able to create a fine tactile sense? I think the answer is probably “yes,” but I’m not sure.

I’m also not sure how much processing would be required. I’m guessing not much; certainly much less than is required with the vision sense. The tongue-vision thing is trying to do something far more complicated; it’s trying to register sufficient information to allow you to navigate a three-dimensional world. A circle seen by the camera might be a lollipop right in front of your face or a billboard far away; because the tongue has no way to represent stereo imagery, there’s no way to tell. So the processor has to allow the operator to be able to zoom in and out, to give the user a sense of how far away things might be. It has to be able to adjust to different lighting conditions.

The dildo, by way of contrast, merely has to respond to physical touch, which maps much more easily onto the array of electrodes. It’s pretty straightforward; if something’s not touching a particular sensor, its electrode isn’t producing a signal. The amount of processing might be low enough to allow the processor to be housed inside the dildo, making the device compact, and not requiring it to be tethered to any electronics.

I think this thing could be hella fun. It would allow people born with vaginas to have a remarkably good impression of what it’s like to be born with a penis.

In a world where I had infinite free time, I’d put together a crowdfunding campaign to try to build a working prototype. Even without infinite time, I’m considering doing this. Thoughts? Opinions?

Want to keep up with developments? Here’s a handy list of blog posts about it:
First post
Update 1
Update 2
Update 3