You gotta rub me the right way.

Maria Schreiber
May 8, 2016 · 5 min read

My first night with TEDxVienna. Conservative and boring at foreplay, but then they allowed me to rub a clitoris on a tablet screen and play with networked sex toys. Some pros took over the mic, so all was good.

TEDxVienna Salon last Friday at MAK was all about “The Future of Intimacy”, a very promising topic I am thinking about a lot in the last few months. As a media scholar, the basic question I am trying to get my head around is how technologies, our psyche and our social life are entangled. Establishing and maintaining intimate relations (which do not necessarily have to be sexual) are a big part of any kind of interpersonal communication, no matter if mediatised or co-present. It comes up in my own research and was also discussed intensively a few weeks ago at Theorizing the Web (you can watch all #TtW16 talks online btw).

Photo by TEDxVienna: Amy Adele Hasinoff’s talk on sexting

Sometimes it seems it all comes down to two basic human questions: How do we hook up? How do we break up? And of course: Is all of this really good or really bad? But there is so much more to it. While mass media tend to go back and forth between technophilia and cultural pessimism, I can only come up with some boring academic classics: The issue is complex. We should avoid generalisations. More research has to be done.

So I was really curious about what the TEDx speakers had to say about all of this — all talks will be published online in the upcoming weeks!

The evening started off with Wendy Williams on the Globalisation of Love. While it certainly is a fact that through mobility and migration the number of intercultural partnerships has grown, it was, in my view, a bit exaggerated (even if only for rhetoric reasons) to call intercultural couples and their children ‘ambassadors for world peace’. Austria and Europe in general definitely lag behind in their multiculturalism, and “GloLo” seems to be more of a middle/upper class phenomenon, when thinking about who participates in exchange programs, who can afford long-distance relationships, and all these ex-pats and diplomats. We still Marry our Likes when it comes to class, education and income, and this, in the end, might be a bigger challenge for world peace.

Then “trainee psychoanalyst” Himanshu Giri told us that therapy creates a save space and helps you confront your behavioural patterns. #breakingnews #not — His first example of a really baaaad pattern was ‘Tracy, who sleeps around because her boyfriend cheated on her’. Examples of experts like that feed into slut-shaming. When you talk about the future of intimacy at TEDx, choose your examples wisely and don’t frame female promiscuity as pathological pattern.

On to robotics designer Dan Chen who builds robots that pet people. Kinda creepy but could maybe work for some lonesome people? Not sure. More research needed I guess ;)

My first attempt of doing a conference-snapchat-story #beginnermode

The idea of having a dance performance as alternative format dealing with intimacy was definitely great, this specific performance was (verified by my dance expert friend) quite boring but also the stage/space situation was probably not ideal. How about just showing a viral video like this (goosebumps every time!)?

End of foreplay — arousal: very low.

After this first part, I was quite disappointed — If the aim of TEDx is to spark a discussion and raise questions, there definitely was a lack of well-grounded, innovative and provocative information. So we started our tour of exhibitors on the first floor, and yes! Now we’re talking future of intimacy: Virtually entering Cirque du Soleil or some porn with vrei and trying out networked sex toys by teledildonics pioneers kiiroo was definitely an exciting and hands-on (!) experience.

(screenshot Stimulations are transmitted from device to device, see interactive dildo and masturbator above, but all combinations (e.g. also dildo-dildo, one to many etc) are possible — you can also connect them to porn movies. A bit pricey though with 323 Euros for a dildo/masturbator combo.

Our favorite definitely was OMGyes, a beautifully designed website for women and those who love them. OMGyes offers information on different techniques of vaginal/clitoral stimulation, explained and demonstrated by all kinds of awesome women in very explicit videos. You can even test your stimulation skills in an interactive touch-screen tutorial, with a female voice giving you feedback to go more slowly, faster or — just coming. How great is that!

Screenshot — best investment of 29 Euros you ever made! ❤

So it was finally definitely getting hot in there! The next speakers delivered entertaining, well-grounded and dense talks: Media scholar Amy Adele Hasinoff talked about her research on sexting, and how consent is an explicit issue in some articles on sexting, but rarely in articles on sex in general. Yana Tallon-Hicks, sex educator, discussed our inability to talk about pleasure and how this might be caused by mainstream porn and conservative sex-ed — and how cookies could help out here. A very personal, fun talk! Toon Timmermanns, CEO of above-mentioned kiiroo, introduced his innovative sex toys (why is it always the scandinavians coming up with cool ideas about sex? thanks, Erika, btw). So definitely watch out for these three videos, don’t wanna spoil too much. I was a bit lost in Ghislaine Boddington’s talk about bodytechnologies, but maybe just mesmerized by her beautiful voice or plain tired.

A very well-organized event in an amazing location came to an end (I understand that sponsors have to be featured, but does anyone else feel stalked by this omnipresent soy-milk-brand?! they are everywhere…!) — and I am really quite optimistic about the future of intimacy right now, because it seems that technologies are able to empower and amplify what has always been crucial for human connection: empathy and equality.

Maria Schreiber

Written by

PhD, University of Salzburg, Austria. visual/digital/media stuff.

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