Sci-Fi about ramifications of VR sex
June 28, 2005 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Looking for examples of Sci-Fi about social ramifications of immersive VR, particularly with regards to sex.

A good example would be David Foster Wallace's "Datum Centurio" from Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, but hopefully something a little less footnote-heavy than that. Basically what I'm after is ideas about how human relationships and the structure of society would reconfigure given the existence of cheap, realistic sexual simulacra.
posted by idontlikewords to Writing & Language (20 answers total)

Does Sleeper count?
posted by cosmicbandito at 11:51 AM on June 28, 2005

What about the movie Strange Days?
posted by saladin at 12:05 PM on June 28, 2005

Haven't seen that (Strange Days), I'll have to check it out. Forgot to mention, everyone should feel free to just toss in your own two cents about the likely outcomes of VR Sex. I'm basically just trying to look at as many theories about the subject as possible.
posted by idontlikewords at 12:11 PM on June 28, 2005

The only thing I can really think of is the holodeck on Star Trek, but they rarely go into the ramifications...
posted by Specklet at 12:38 PM on June 28, 2005

There was also the movie Demolition Man.
posted by Blue Buddha at 12:49 PM on June 28, 2005

Yeah, I guess I'm not really sure if there's too much of this kind of stuff out there, but I was really intrigued by the speculation about it in "Datum Centurio" (in which, FWIW, a future dictionary entry for the word "Date" describes the difference between "date (1)" which is basically a hyper-orgasmic VR episode and "date (2)" which goes something like, "the mutual confirmation of social and genetic compatibility." So basically the advent of VR has dissolved the societal connection between these things.)
posted by idontlikewords at 12:52 PM on June 28, 2005

By far the best treatment of this I've ever seen is Frederik Pohl's short story, Day Million.
"Dora lives in Day Million. Ten thousand years from now. Her body fats are polyunsaturated, like Crisco. "
c. 1965, too, but it doesn't feel dated to me.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:58 PM on June 28, 2005

Philip Wylie's The End of the Dream touches on this towards the end, though it's more about ecological catastrophe.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:07 PM on June 28, 2005

IIRC, Huxley's Brave New World dystopia had "the feelies," an immersive vr system.
posted by cgs06 at 1:15 PM on June 28, 2005

Thanks ikkyu2, that's just the kind of thing I was after! And Philip Wylie's stuff sounds interesting too, PinkStainlessTail. Sounds like I'll have to make a trek to Borders after work. =)
posted by idontlikewords at 1:20 PM on June 28, 2005

It's not quite on target, having more to do with relationships than sex, but Karawynn Long's Adjusting the Moon is well worth reading.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:22 PM on June 28, 2005

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney.

Very, very, very good book. No VR, but something similar is implied through the medium of the protagonist's disfunctional consciousness.

All I can find to link are somewhat spoiler-ridden, so... don't read thiis link to carefully.. Though, spoilers won't actually hurt too much, considering that it's extremely difficult to spoil.

Dhalgren analysis.
posted by lyam at 1:50 PM on June 28, 2005

Thanks everyone for your input. I'm in the process of reading "Adjusting the Moon" now, and Dhalgren has been highly recommended before, so I'm going to have to borrow a copy of that. I just thought of another short story that's in line with what I'm thinking of, so I figured I'd post it here for any future readers of this thread, "Big Guy" by James Patrick Kelly (in his collection Think Like a Dinosaur). It's about a guy who works about 23 hours a day as a virtual security guard, strung out on some kind of alertness drugs. In his free time, he spends the credits that he's earned buying access to a VR environment where, bored with simply fulfilling porno fantasies, the patrons tease each other by creating bizarre avatars intended to give clues as to their real appearance. (So "big" guys become *huge* and etc.)
posted by idontlikewords at 2:19 PM on June 28, 2005

He, She and It by Marge Piercy touches on these issues- both VR and cybernetics. The VR parts are related to things called stimmies - simulated sex, and spikes, which seemed to be a more direct nerve connection and more intense experience. There was some good exploration of how these VR simulations (and VR in general) affected sexual relationships and interaction between a pair of ex-lovers, and an outsider to the community that had not grown up with access to VR.
The book was released under another name too in the UK, I think - Body of Glass.

Piercy's other SF novel, Woman on the Edge of Time touches on sex and gender and VR, but it's not a central concept in the novel.
posted by Cyrie at 3:57 PM on June 28, 2005

Dhalgren's one of my favorite books, but the sex it depicts is the antithesis of VR sex. The depictions of sex are as gritty and real as anything I've ever read, without any kind of glamorizing or sugar coating.

Worth reading, though, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Delany's other stuff deals with discorporate sex (Babel-17) and technologically advanced VR gear (Nova, Stars in My Pocket like Grains of Sand), but nothing merging them that I recall. His "Triton" (recently republished as "Trouble on Triton") is an interesting exploration of future issues in gender identity with an unlikable narrator; difficult but rewarding read. I think there may have been pleasure-booth-like things in there; having trouble remembering.

I always think of that scene in Demolition Man with Sly and Sandra when I think of goofy, dystopian depictions of VR sex, by the way. It's not very good, but it's worth a look. And I liked Strange Days a lot, but then again I like everything Kathryn Bigelow does.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:03 PM on June 28, 2005

Check out a graphic novel called 100% (Paul Pope.)
posted by ijoshua at 4:50 PM on June 28, 2005

posted by Thorzdad at 6:16 PM on June 28, 2005

You could check out Closer by Greg Egan.
its not really VR, its more of a post-human/singularity theme.

if that link doesnt work heres the google cache.
posted by Iax at 7:46 PM on June 28, 2005

The best treatment ever of this was Futurama 3ACV15: "I Dated a Robot":

Narrator: Did you notice what went wrong in that scene? Ordinarily Billy would work hard to make money from his paper route then he'd use the money to buy dinner for Mavis, thus earning the slim chance of performing the reproductive act. But in a world where teens can date robots why should he bother? Why should anyone bother? Let's take a look at Billy's planet a year later. [The scene changes and a foam hand rolls across an empty American football field] Where are all the football stars? [The foam hand continues to drift across an empty laboratory.] And where are the biochemists? [The scene changes to a split screen of a pair of human and robots making out on beds.] They are trapped - trapped in a soft, vice-like grip of robot lips. All civilisation was just an effort to impress the opposite sex. And sometimes the same sex. Now, let's skip forward 80 years into the future. Where is Billy?

[The scene changes to a post-apocalyptic world. Billy is an aged man but he is still with his Marilyn Monroebot and still making out with her.]

Billy: Farewell!

[He dies.]
posted by rafter at 12:51 AM on June 29, 2005

Thanks for Closer Iax... Reading all of these has been intriguing, but I'm still hoping to find more stuff written from a sociological perspective. Perhaps I'll post to some sci-fi boards or lists next. And of course I've still got Dhalgren to read. That is a bloody huge book! :)
posted by idontlikewords at 3:23 PM on June 30, 2005

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