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Tracey Cox says virtual reality porn will be the norm by 2026

I can usually predict the next sex trend by the emails and messages I get – and right now my inboxes are screaming ‘virtual reality porn’!

‘I’ve just discovered my partner with a VR headset on, touching himself,’ one woman writes, ‘Now I know why he’s not interested in sex with me anymore.’

The VR porn industry – computer generated simulation of three-dimensional sexual interactions – is big business.

The global value of the VR adult content market is expected to rise from more than $700US this year to $19bn by 2026.

Pornhub averages half a million views per day of the 3,000 free VR videos it offers. On Christmas Day that can shoot up to 900,000. (Turkey and party hats are clearly either exceedingly boring…or arousing.)

Like most new things with technology, VR seems sci-fi right now, but it will quickly become the norm for many people.

Currently, VR porn is aimed mostly at straight men – which is probably why I’m getting lots of messages from concerned straight women.

Having just been to an art exhibition (the Van Gogh Immersive experience) which included watching a VR video of the painter’s experience of Provence, I can see why.

It was one of the most extraordinarily sensory experiences of my life – and that was without an orgasm thrown in.

So just how threatened should we be by VR porn? Is it as popular as it’s made out to be – and what if you find out YOUR partner is watching it?

Should you feel threatened if you partner is into VR porn, and does it count as cheating? (stock image)

How easy is it to access?

For years, VR porn was expensive, scarce and a bit hit and miss. Then the porn industry pumped a lot of time and money into making it more reliable and accessible.

It still requires effort and investment in terms of both money and time, though. You can access it on your smart phone but it’s not easy (most providers aren’t porn friendly) and not very good.

Anyone who’s serious about VR, invests in a wireless, standalone device – the most popular sells for around £300. (Remember, porn isn’t the only thing you can use it for: gamers love it, and you can have ‘front row experiences’ with friends.)

Most are simple plug in and play devices: turn it on, head to a porn site and start watching.

Pornhub has thousands of free VR clips to explore. Or, for top notch video quality and longer videos, you can subscribe to a VR specialty studio for anything from $10 to $50 a month.

What’s so good about it?

Normal porn provides arousing images for us to watch. VR is an experience: the viewer feels like they’re there, in the room, participating in what’s going on.

Virtual reality uses many camera lenses to record the same scene from hundreds of angles. When they’re put together, you get a 180 or 240 degree view of what’s been filmed.

Tracey Cox says that VR porn is going to grow in popularity because it provides the realistic  'experience' that the online variety can't match up to

Tracey Cox says that VR porn is going to grow in popularity because it provides the realistic  ‘experience’ that the online variety can’t match up to 

In ‘normal’ porn, bodies aren’t life size – VR bodies are. The size and proximal distance is big part of what’s so exciting to viewers.

‘I’ve worshipped a certain porn star for years,’ one man confessed to me. ‘This was like getting to meet – and interact sexually with her – in real life. I couldn’t believe how realistic it was. It’s provided the best orgasms of my life.’

There’s also added ‘extras’

VR porn isn’t all pre-recorded: you can watch live cam shows and interact with the girls. DreamCam is one company which broadcasts videos of adult stars who talk and interact with the audience. Clients can also tip and influence what they do.

‘It’s like you’re actually having sex with other people but without the fear of getting caught or being seen at a lap dancing club – which my wife forbids’, one man told me.

Another company has created a small canister that attaches to VR headsets and releases a sweet, musty scent during the action. There are also sex toys for men that can be synced to the video, allowing them to physically feel what they’re watching the person on screen do.

I am pro porn if it’s ethical and used in moderation and in the right way. But VR takes it to an entirely different level, raising all sorts of new issues and dilemmas.

For starters…

Is it cheating if your partner is having sex with a virtual person?

I don’t consider passively watching 2D porn cheating: watching a video of people doing sexy things doesn’t equate to being unfaithful in real life.

But the minute there’s interaction, it changes things.

Paying a cam girl to do things specifically for you – without your partner’s permission – definitely tips it into dangerous territory for most people.

VR porn takes things to an even more threatening level.

‘The experience is so realistic, it feels like I’m actually having a relationship with her in real life,’ one regular VR user told me. ‘I’m single at the moment so it’s fine. But I wouldn’t do it if I was involved with someone. It’s totally different than just watching a video.’

Cheating isn’t the only issue if your partner is a VR fan

If it’s that good, how does real life sex compare?

Does VR porn stop people enjoying real life sex?

The answer to that question is that it can lead to discontentment.

Porn already makes it hard for real life sex to compete: there’s so much variety, catering for every whim, ‘twice a week and only in the missionary position’ style sex feels even blander than it already is.

VR porn delivers all this and more in a multi-sensory format that’s fantastically immersive.

CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR PARTNER’S PORN HABITS? 

Here’s some tips for people worried their partner might be developing a dysfunctional porn habit.

Are you over-reacting? Studies show 95 per cent of men watch porn. If you’ve noticed the odd search of porn when you (accidentally, of course) click on the history button, don’t give it another thought.

Are you still having sex? Porn sex is lazy sex. Most men have a few favourite sites and a particular type of porn they know will push all the right buttons. If you’re still having enjoyable, regular sex, his solo sessions with porn are nothing to worry about. It’s when he’d rather watch porn and masturbate than have real life sex with you when alarms should ring.

So why would he opt for porn over sex with me? It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s ready when he is. Zero effort required. Porn isn’t affected by periods, fat days, moods or arguments. It’s predictable – people aren’t. If he has any erection issues and is embarrassed about them, he might opt for porn rather than have what he sees as an excruciating conversation. Ditto if he premature ejaculates.

How much time is he spending watching it? Most studies indicate that men watch around 70 minutes of per week with each session lasting about five to fifteen minutes. If your partner’s clocking up way more than that, you might well have a problem.

A good sex therapist or therapist who specialises in addiction can help solve the problem and there are many dedicated porn addiction clinics world-wide as well. 

The user isn’t just an observer, they’re a participant. The scenes can be so lifelike, you get lost in them and mistake them for reality.

This type of activity produces a pleasure-inducing dopamine release that makes users keep coming back for more.

In short: it threatens to be far more addictive than ‘normal’ porn.

VR porn is both effortless and highly satisfying. Faced with the choice of solving a sex problem with a real life partner – something that requires effort, motivation and good communication – or putting on a headset to get your kicks, there are no prizes for guessing what many men will opt for.

It’s new, exciting and can make real life connections feel second rate. ‘To be honest, I struggle to get an erection with my partner if I’ve been watching it too much,’ another man told me. ‘Sex feels dull and colourless.’

What about the ethical issues?

Clients with cash can customise avatars to look exactly how they desire. That might be an avatar that looks like an ex they never quite got over. Or someone they can’t have but fantasise about. Someone who is sexually off limits: a boss, your best friend’s partner. Some men ask for avatars of their girlfriend or wife because they can then make them do something they won’t do in real life.

If that’s all sounding decidedly creepy and distasteful, that’s because it is! Revenge porn could be even more devastating for its victims.

It’s not all bad news though.

VR porn could have lots of pluses

Lots of couples already enjoy watching VR porn together for an enhanced erotic experience. It’s also a great way to explore a new kink before trying it for real (or to satisfy one that your partner doesn’t enjoy, without going outside the relationship).

Always wanted to go to a sex party or experience a threesome? Here’s your chance to give it a whirl, without the emotional risk to your relationship.

I struggled to find women who use VR porn on a regular basic but the few I did speak to, did it with a partner and loved the experience.

Some sex therapists and educators are hoping the new technology will help people solve common sex problems.

‘How-to’ videos could demonstrate sexual techniques; there could be ‘classes’ teaching women how to masturbate.

Preliminary research found VR porn results in much greater arousal compared to the traditional 2D view, so it could be useful for people with low libidos.

In the future we will be able to have VR sex with our partners.

This will give a much-needed sexual boost to lovers in long distance relationships and make lockdowns and quarantines a whole lot more bearable. Even if you are together physically, it means you can still have sex even if one person doesn’t feel well or simply doesn’t feel like it.

In moderation and especially for people who find it difficult to have sex in real life or can’t find someone to have sex with, VR porn is a great way for them to experiment and feel less alone.

Some experts believe it makes sex so satisfying, men who find it hard to connect with women in real life, might give up completely and happily settle for VR porn as a substitute for real life experiences.

Whichever way you look at it, VR porn – like all porn – is here to stay. It’s up to us, as individuals, to navigate our way through the ups and downs and learn to live with it.

Visit traceycox.com for Tracey’s two products ranges, her podcast, sex advice and her books.

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