The 'reality' of virtual reality pornography

May 18, 2017
Credit: Newcastle University

Experts at Newcastle University, UK, are investigating how virtual reality is changing the experience of pornography.

Through headsets such as the Facebook owned Oculus Rift and Playstation VR, the technology allows the user to become an active part of these 'new' sexual experiences.

Presenting their research at the CHI 2017 conference, the Newcastle team say the growing popularity of VR technologies that put users into experiences where previously they were an onlooker, could mean the extreme, degrading or even abusive imagery in becoming all the more 'real'.

Now the team, based in Open Lab, part of Newcastle University's School of Computing Science, are calling on the digital community to take responsibility for this emerging technology and to help inform the development of this "very prominent, but not often talked about, 'human-computer' interaction".

Dr Madeline Balaam, co-author of the research, explains:

"As a society we are always looking for new and novel experiences but the porn industry brings with it an added risk because of its sexist stance and exploitation of women.

"We are already obsessed with body image and the digital industry is no different, creating the perfect virtual woman from Lara Croft to sex-robots. VR porn has the potential to escalate this.

"Our research highlighted not only a drive for perfection, but also a crossover between and fantasy. Some of our findings highlighted the potential for creating 3D models of real life people, raising questions over what consent means in VR experiences. If a user created a VR version of their real life girlfriend, for example, would they do things to her that they knew she would refuse in the real world?"

"In the past, pornography has been driven by the industry but if the future of pornography is virtual reality then perhaps it's time for us to take greater responsibility for how we allow this to develop."

Research lead and PhD student Matthew Wood, adds:

"Pornography has played a key role in the development of new and emerging technologies - from the stereoscope in the 1800s through home video and now virtual reality.

"But what VR offers for the first time is the opportunity to move from being simply an observer to being a participant and this changes the experience massively.

"One of our findings suggested VR pornography could be something more like cheating on a partner because of the increasing 'reality' of the VR experience.

"We found that for most people the potential of a VR porn experience opened the doors to an apparently 'perfect' sexual experience - a scenario which in the real world no-one could live up to. For others it meant pushing the boundaries, often with highly explicit and violent imagery, and we know from current research into pornography that exposure to this content has the potential to become addictive and more extreme over time."

The future of pornography

Prior to the 19th century, pornography was limited to books and art and it was only in the late 1800s that pornographic content became available through new technologies such as the stereoscope.

However, it was the postcard which introduced pornography to the masses and quickly became a site of controversy.

The push to has largely been associated with more explicit and perverse sexual content and particularly with increased levels of violence. Typically, it is women who continue to be the object of desire.

Virtual reality is only just starting to emerge, with the launch of several headsets by the likes of Facebook, Playstation and Google at the end of 2016. Designed to improve the gaming experience, but also other interactions with digital content, Wood says "VR pornography is just around the corner."

Following forty five participants through their first virtual reality porn experience as fictional character 'Jack', the Newcastle team asked each volunteer to complete Jack's story.

"We grouped the stories into two," says Wood. "The first group was what we called the 'perfect' scenario - some were lavish and fantastical, others were quite close to reality, but all of them were the perfect sexual experience, described by our participants as 'better than the real thing'.

"The second was the 'precarious' experience, and these stories often went beyond what would be acceptable in real life with sometimes violent imagery, featuring men performing degrading sexual acts on women or forcing themselves upon them."

Revenge porn and social media

Exposure to sexually explicit material is happening at an increasingly younger age through content on the internet. This includes peer to peer sharing through platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram and revenge porn is a growing phenomenon where sexually explicit content of others are shared online without consent.

Together with the availability of 3D imaging tools and the rise in DIY porn, the team say it is not unforeseeable for scenarios such as the ones described in this research could become a reality, and models based on real people are used in VR pornographic settings could become the future form of .

"Pornography has been with us forever and is not going to go away," says Balaam. "But maybe gives us the opportunity to influence pornography and introduce some new rules. Imagine a scenario, for example where a male participant is made to assume the female role in the virtual game."

Wood adds: "The future for VR pornography could be more positive, if designed in a certain way.

"In our research we also saw suggestions that VR could deliver more embodied sensory experiences, with more emphasis on subtlety and the relational aspects of sexual ."

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17 comments

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rderkis
1 / 5 (1) May 18, 2017
I find this funny. I play Call Of Duty- Infinite Warfare
They promote this to our kids, everyone has a calling card and then players choose a picture for on it that is designed by COD.
One is a marijuana leaf plus there are plenty of vary scarcely clad women.
They actively promote this stuff.
rderkis
1 / 5 (3) May 18, 2017
On top of that the actively promote tea bagging. That is when after you kill a opponent, you have sex with the body. They actually sell a tea bag you can dangle in front of your opponents at the end of the game. The sad thing is a lot of the younger players don't even realize it is gay sex for violent purposes.
rderkis
1 / 5 (2) May 18, 2017
I guess it would be called gay rape for violence's sake.
EmceeSquared
5 / 5 (2) May 18, 2017
I find it slightly interesting that you took this article, a (dubious) assertion that VR porn will be dangerous and some UK academics should take control of it to protect women, to a personal non sequitur about your gaming hobby, kids, marijuana imagery and barely clothed women, then mostly about necrophilia and finally gay rape.

The VR porn article is about none of those, but it popped your cork all the way to gay rape.

rderkis:
I guess

rderkis
2 / 5 (4) May 19, 2017
[qIThe VR porn article is about none of those, but it popped your cork all the way to gay rape.

To be truly honest I don't give a hoot about what you think. I could even care less that your involved in gay rape. :-)
Whydening Gyre
May 19, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (2) May 19, 2017
On top of that the actively promote tea bagging. That is when after you kill a opponent, you have sex with the body. They actually sell a tea bag you can dangle in front of your opponents at the end of the game. The sad thing is a lot of the younger players don't even realize it is gay sex for violent purposes.


Killing an opponent is OK, violent gay sex is not? Your hypocrisy is palpable.

Maybe we should stop comparing virtual and real activities as if they are in any way comparable. They are not.
rderkis
2 / 5 (4) May 19, 2017
Killing an opponent is OK, violent gay sex is not?

What a stupid question to ask! :-)
Sex is between two or more consenting adults.

EmceeSquared
3 / 5 (2) May 19, 2017
You're the one involved in gay rape, at least in your self reported fantasy life.

You're a typical Republican: a crude pathological liar projecting your uncontrollable malfunctions onto anyone pointing them out.

rderkis:
To be truly

TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) May 19, 2017
"If a user created a VR version of their real life girlfriend, for example, would they do things to her that they knew she would refuse in the real world?"

-Who are the brain police?
https://youtu.be/DuABc9ZNtrA

-Desperados who are watching their professions disappear before their eyes. That's who.

Anywho, whatever it takes to reduce the birthrate.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) May 19, 2017
The researcher in the above article for instance...

Dr Madeline balaam, philo.
DPhil Informatics (2008), University of Sussex
BSc (first class) Artificial Intelligence with German (2004), University of Sussex

Philos- inventing vital things that no one can understand and no other profession ever uses.
EmceeSquared
not rated yet May 19, 2017
Balaam is a twit, asserting that porn increases sexual misbehavior rather than reducing it by giving it a harmless outlet, or some other consequences, without peer reviewed science verification. And is even more of a twit by asserting:
"pornography has been driven by the industry but if the future of pornography is virtual reality then perhaps it's time for us to take greater responsibility for how we allow this to develop"

As if academics like her and her team have any power over allowing the porn industry's development.

But a "DPhil" is in USA a "PhD": they're not "philosophers", they're advanced academics, often actually creating new and useful knowledge for practical application. It's the nature of their research product, that makes them either valuable contributors or simply twits. And indeed even actual philosophy PhDs sometimes contribute useful insights into reality - high level value. Though it's a refuge for twits.

TheGhostofOtto1923:
The researcher
rderkis
1 / 5 (2) May 19, 2017
Who are the brain police?

TheGhostofOtto1923, how can you be good at trolling you are so stupid!
Try slowly sounding out what I wrote TheGhostofOtto1923!
I was endorsing such behavior as fun, stupid!
And if you want to troll TheGhostofOtto1923, don't let me get you so mad you lose what little ability you have to think.
rderkis
1 / 5 (3) May 19, 2017
You're a typical Republican

I am a democrat and it's things like you, redneck, that make me ashamed of it.
rderkis
May 19, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
EmceeSquared
1 / 5 (1) May 19, 2017
OK,you're a Democrat, but still typically Republican (as is the case with too many Democrats). I am not a Democrat. Your shame is earned, but misplaced.

rderkis: [qI am a democrat
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) May 19, 2017
indeed even actual philosophy PhDs sometimes contribute useful insights into reality - high level value
Yeah I cited one in another thread who disproved the myth about disproving a negative.

Of course the myth was originally created by philos.

But philos can shine when they're doing non-philo stuff. For instance the antireligionists christopher Hitchens PBUH, Bart ehrman, Dan Dennett, and San Harris.

Glad they found work.

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