I want VR to be successful. I really enjoyed my time with VR, and while I think most consumers aren’t sold on it, after some face-on experiences most people start to see its value. But it’s not just about gaming when it comes to VR – there are so many potential applications that has it lined up to be the future of technology. We’ve seen examples of people experiencing space, or seeing foreign cities, or, of course, porn. There’s a VR sex suit, and there was even an adult VR festival. I think this is great, but I’ve never gone face-on with VR porn. But another woman has, and apparently it’s awful.

First up, let’s look at some facts. Anyone who wants VR to succeed has to embrace porn using it as a platform. Anything porn touches ends up being the future of tech – just look at VHS, DVD, the internet and Blu-Ray. All of these were adopted by purveyors and consumers of pornography, leading to their universal success.

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Second, let’s acknowledge that porn is actually consumed by a wider demographic. While men might be more willing to openly discuss their porn-viewing, the reality is that plenty of men and women enjoy watching porn in whatever flavor they so wish. While the joke goes that all men watch porn, and if your (male) partner says he doesn’t, he’s lying, we actually have stats on how many women watch porn, and surveys say that a third of women watch porn every week with 10% watching it daily. Whether women watch porn alone or with a partner, the reality is that pornography is consumed by female viewers, which makes the VR question even more important.

I’ve already talked about some of my worries about VR and the gender divide in gaming. The physical devices might not fit properly, and the avatars for the player character might not match reality enough to avoid breaking immersion. However, when it comes to VR porn, apparently it’s way worse. YouTuber Alanah Pearce shares her experience in a new (SFW) video:

For those who don’t watch, she describes two main problems. The first is hopefully fixable soon and is bad for both men and women. Apparently, in VR porn experiences, the simulated partner is enormous. Imagine you are normal sized, but your sexual partner meets you at the waist and then becomes a giant, towering over you. Maybe that’s your fetish, but for most people who are seeking realistic VR porn, that sounds pretty terrifying. The second issue is far more worrying.

In the VR experience that she had, there were no input options – she couldn’t interact with the virtual partner. Instead, she lay there and watched as some guy with tons of muscles and tattoos saw her lying there and proceeded to perform all kinds of sexual activities on her without any ability to interact with him. Ms Pearce explains that she took the headset off, at which point the demo guy told her that all women who tried it had the same response – laughter followed by extreme discomfort and terminating the experience.

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What is it that upsets women so much? Are men just happier being passive participants in their sexual congress, enjoying the idea of just lying there while a virtual woman does whatever she does to sexually gratify him? Or is it that women need to experience some form of interaction to know that this is consensual? Does the lack of interaction start to feel like rape to women? And how about different input mechanisms? Looking at some of our previous coverage of VR porn, it seems that some manufacturers are making suits or prosthetics to add to the realism and interactivity.

While I don’t know if this is a once off from one manufacturer, or if all VR porn will be similar, I am a bit worried about a specific element. VR is incredibly immersive and enjoyable – everyone I know who has tried it has raved about the experience. Even people who became nauseous or had to stop due to dizziness have said how great they thought it was. The fact that every single woman terminated their VR porn time because they were so uncomfortable makes me worry. Will women be included in helping to develop future VR porn, or are women being excluded by developers? If they aren’t included in pornographic considerations, who is to say they would be included in other VR considerations? Could excluding women when thinking about VR porn widen the gender gap in one of the most important fields of modern technology?