Let’s admit it: having sex in these times of pandemic is not the same fun anymore. The uncertainty about the future, the financial burdens, and being together ALL THE TIME does quite the opposite of creating raging libido levels. If things couldn’t get any worse, several health experts have now started to suggest people keep a level of social distance even in bed.
The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control is recommending masturbating, virtual sex or at the very least reducing the number of sex partners to a minimum to reduce the chances of being exposed to Covid-19. New York City Health encourages you to exercise caution during sex, suggesting that the couple masturbate together at a safe distance and using face covers. They go further, telling people they can keep it kinky with creative sexual positions that “allow sexual contact while preventing close face to face contact.”
Whatever happened to loving kisses during the act? At this rate, it might soon be more fun to have sex with the iPad. Or even better, to have sex with your partner, using the iPad! If you’re wondering whether someone has already created an app for that, the answer (obviously) is yes. The SATISFYER CONNECT app is just that and, sad to say, is so relevant for these times.
We can use technology to mend our relationships with ourselves
Well, it is not as bad as it sounds. In fact, it can actually help a couple (or an individual) discover and understand better their bodies. The app is built to get people out of their heads and create something that they are excited to share with their partners.
I spoke with Megwyn White, Director of Education at Satisfyer, and Certified Clinical Sexologist, about the app and about sex in times of Covid. She told me that we are already in such a data driven culture, and the new environment of working from home has only exacerbated that. This does not mean that the more data you have, the more embodied you are, though.
She adds that we consume so much technology that we have become disconnected from being in touch with our bodies and downregulating our own experiences. Yet, she says, we can use technology to also mend that deficit in our relationships with our stress- and trauma-tormented bodies.
I can see Megwyn’s point. I think of how the SATISFYER CONNECT could have helped all those couples who were separated by the virus, unable to see each other for months on end. Longing for the touch and warmth of the loved one, or even just their voice.
The voice is like an internal touch
If you’ve read my thought piece on falling in love with a voice, which I wrote after watching “Her”, you’ll know my mini infatuation with the power of voice and sound and how it is able to sway our emotions. I am YouTube’s number one viewer of The Voice; I just think that there is that “something” that some voices have to pull you in. I was convinced that in “Her”, post-production sound engineering did some magic on Samantha’s voice to have that alluring pull and hold.
And for some reason, after flicking through her LinkedIn profile before the interview, I thought that Megwyn would have some insight on it. We said our “hi”s on the call, and I immediately asked Megwyn what she thought about the role of voice and sound in sextech. I just could not wait to get the question out there.
She says that a lot of new research is popping up in the somatic world, where the importance of voice and its connection to sexuality is talked about; how there is a direct relation between the voice and the sexual centre of our bodies. Megwyn adds that the “magic” I was trying to find concrete information about is known as prosody.
A published research paper by Annett Schirmer in 2010, said that spoken language evolved as a means for influencing the attitudes and behaviours of communication partners. Unlike nonverbal messages, it comprises a set of arbitrary symbols whose combination allows for an infinite number of potentially complex and abstract messages. It also uses the voice as a vehicle. Emotion induced bodily changes affect the function of the voice, thereby modulating the rate, intensity, and spectral quality of vocalisations. These modulations, are also referred to as prosody, and they add emotional significance to a verbal message thereby increasing its persuasive power.
Prosody in a voice can be extremely arousing, the caveat is that the emotions have to be authentic. Ah, mystery solved. Samantha, master of prosody.
In Megwyn’s own words, we can see the innovation of voice as a feeling of expression that inhibits the body; we think that the voice is coming out from the mouth, but it’s actually coming from our body – the instrument. When we are in that sexually embodied state, the voice actually vibrates inside.
“When we think of sexuality as rooted in expression, and when we express ourselves sexually, it is a domain in which we can fully expand. When we feel suppression, we tend to hold our voices, and that disconnects us from feeling that relationship to sexuality. Touch is not the only factor in our ability to experience joy in sexuality and orgasm. The voice is like an internal touch,” says Megwyn.
In one of her webinars for Kinkly (a must-watch), Megwyn says that when we explore our sexuality, we get to explore this mysterious realm of our body, which is another world. The more we learn about our body, the more we are empowered to express it in a healthy and loving way. There is still so much though, that Megwyn says she has to learn, such as a shocking idea that nerves run on sound, and not electricity. Megwyn has witnessed powerful orgasmic explosions just using sonic work to unlock the body.
They did with the app too, to some extent. The user can sync their SATISFYER CONNECT app to their Spotify account, pick their favourite songs, and the connected vibrator will draw information from the intonations in that piece of music to create a synchronised vibration pattern. Talk about getting in the vibe.
The ambient sound feature that turns ambient sounds into vibration patterns using the microphone on the user’s mobile phone is also a “super fun” (my words) idea. The main focus of development at the company lately, however, has been to ensure a seamless experience between users by employing fifth generation Bluetooth to ensure no loss in connectivity.
The vibe can so easily be killed by a frozen screen. “Ooooh yes, that feels so goo… oh, can you hear me?” No go.
You have to meet the user where they are
One of the more popular features, Megwyn tells me, herself a little surprised, is the ability for the user to share their customised vibration pattern to the app’s cloud for other users to download and experience. She tells me that there is a kind of reciprocity that is formed between users, sharing and downloading patterns from each other. Perhaps a kind of validation, I think to myself: I would like to know that I provided a good time for the person that I am having sex with. Wouldn’t you?
But talking about these features has distracted me of what is perhaps the most useful of them in today’s world: the teledildonic. The remote play function allows for two users, anywhere in the world, to connect via the app, and have one control vibrations for the other. The in-app video function also enables partners to experience a real time feedback loop that delivers more authentic connection.
There are definitely plans on the horizon for Satisfyer to look into adding possibility of biofeedback on to their apps and integrating their ambient sound function into wearables. However, as Megwyn says, “you have to meet the user where they are”. I suppose the world might not yet be ready for pounding Tiesto vibes, live at a festival in their nether regions just yet.
Satisfyer lets people see that tech can bridge realms
Despite how timely it is now, the app has been in development for two years, and Megwyn has been with the company for three and a half. She tells me that she sees the app as a channel for people to have an introspective connection with themselves.
In her own practice, Megwyn works with what she terms haptic body, using the body as a vehicle for expression and a house for the complexity of emotions. The concept is drawn from haptic technology, where physical sensations like vibrations and other tactile inputs let electronic devices give the user feedback. She tells me, this touch screen transference gives a feedback loop to the user that tells them, touch the phone and enter a whole other world.
Our skin is our largest organ, whose neuroplasticity potential has been largely ignored. Our skin sends signals to our brains, much like our eyes have receptors that transduce light to what we process as vision, via receptors. If haptic body and haptic tech are combined, there is no end to the possibilities that technology can achieve in sextech.
Nothing will replace human touch
“Sextech, in its higher form, a way for us to reconnect with ourselves. As women, we can learn to cultivate our voice, tap into our deep feminine energy from our pelvic centre,” Megwyn says. She stresses that our idea of sex has been really limited to the idea of penis-in-vagina penetration, but sexuality really is about being present in the experience.
As we end the interview, I ask her for her final thoughts on technology in sex. She tells me that she thinks even though the technology is advanced, to the point where even immersive virtual reality sex is possible, nothing will, and can replace human touch.
Just with a mask and 1.5 metres distance apart, please.