The Metaverse is considered the next “big thing” in internet technology.
This immersive virtual world is already being expanded to enhance social connection amongst users. With many brands and companies leveraging off its popularity, we are already seeing virtual spaces being created. The Lovehoney Group for one has made a bold and impressive move into web3 by launching the world’s first metaverse sexual wellness space.
The brand’s first sexual wellness pop-up space in Decentraland has been set-up since July and spans four virtual floors. It offers visitors a full, immersive brand and product experience, educational videos, workshops, a dance floor and an erotic NFT art exhibition and auction. Open until end August, visitors can enter this new immersive world with any computer without any additional equipment like VR goggles.
Virtual Exploration Of Sexual Matters
Lovehoney Group’s metaverse sexual wellness space is not only easily usable and accessible for a broad audience but it also acts as an anonymous place for people to explore sexual wellness products and content around the topic of sexuality.
“In a World where ‘Big Tech’ is silencing sexual wellness brands, with regulations on Instagram and Google becoming more and more tight, it’s exciting for us to launch an experience like this pop-up space,” explains Johanna Rief, Head of Sexual Empowerment at Lovehoney Group.
With consumer wellbeing and protection a high priority at Lovehoney Group, the company has taken the necessary steps to ensure safety for visitors. Betty the Bee, the company’s own security avatar, will greet visitors at the front door with information on how they can report inappropriate behaviour and block anyone who is making them feel uncomfortable.
By clicking on the other person’s avatar, users can easily select the block function, and by pressing the ‘E’ key on their keyboards, they will be moved to a random area of the Lovehoney Group store. All consumers will also be asked their age upon entering the experience to ensure they are over 18 years old.
“The Metaverse allows us to immerse ourselves in digital content rather than feeling like a separate viewer,” elaborates Bryony Cole, Lovehoney Group’s global sextech expert. “People naturally look at entertainment as the only possibility for sextech, but there is also a great potential for sex education, sexual happiness and sexual health support in the Metaverse. Plus, the combined anonymity and intimacy of this platform, allows people to engage with this topic further, where they perhaps don’t feel comfortable in real life, allowing more people to educate.”
To find out more what this metaverse sexual wellness space will bring to visitors, we chat with Cole to uncover the positive avenues people can get in exploring sexual matters and issues in this high tech virtual world.
Can you elaborate on your role in this Metaverse sexual wellness space with the Lovehoney Group and what drew you to it?
As Lovehoney’s sextech expert I was thrilled to be able to join the project in a thought leadership capacity, hosting the launch in the US, UK and Australia in Decentraland and delivering a virtual keynote on the potential of the metaverse for sexuality.
What exactly is sextech, and can you explain it more in layman terms?
Sextech is any technology designed to enhance sexuality. This concept brings together two terms: sexuality and technology. Sexuality, not just sex. The umbrella of sexuality is vast, it incorporates health, education, entertainment, gender identity, crime and violence. In the same way, technology has multiple categories, from Virtual Reality, AI, robotics, apps and gaming. Innovations in technology will keep expanding the categories we can apply sextech to.
In your experience, what are the most common issues people face when it comes to addressing sexual matters within the tech space?
All the challenges that arise in the physical world we can expect to be replicated in virtual worlds. This includes sexual assault and violence. There has already been reported sexual assault in the metaverse at Horizon World, and prior to that in VR games. There is a question as to whether if something happens virtually – is it real? We know from those that have experienced it, that yes, sexual assault can be virtual experience.
What happens to your avatar also impacts your emotional brain and nervous system. Recognising the issues of sex in the tech space is something innovators are quickly coming to recognize and build solutions for. It will take longer for regulators to catch up so there is a larger onus on developers and those creators in the metaverse to mindfully build in features that allow for more protection and security.
Examples include buttons that immediately create a safety aura or shield around you from other avatars, escape keys to remove you from the store, and security avatars in the virtual space like Lovehoney’s Betty the Bee. It will take a few years for legal and governance to catch up, as is the trend in tech cycles, such as social media and the lag to enable legislation against cyberbullying and digital assault like revenge porn. While the rate of innovation in technology is exponential, the regulation and legal frameworks tend to lag.
Is the Metaverse offering a safe space for sexual discussions and sex education as it allows anonymity?
The relative anonymity of the metaverse creates a sense of freedom for people to be able to converse more openly about sex and to explore without stigma.
In your experience are people today more open to discuss sexual wellness issues?
Absolutely. In the past few years, cultural movements around sexual harassment and assault like MeToo and TimesUp have buoyed a conversation about female sexuality and emboldened us to go further. People feel heard and feel like there’s a sense of camaraderie — that there are people out there who understand them. “That they’re not alone.”
Sexual pleasure (and our pain) is coming out of the shadows with celebrities are collaborating with sex toy companies like Lilly Allen for Womanizer, influencers are no longer just models but certified sexologists like Chantelle Otten educating millions online around sexual wellness as well as everyday people are creating open discussions about sex on TikTok… signalling a further shift in our openness to discuss sex.
Has technology fuelled a changed in how people address their wellness issues especially when it comes to sex?
I see sextech as an incredibly powerful way to use technology to not only help us find our voices but change the culture of shame and silence around our bodies. The internet has opened avenues of communication and at its best, the ability for us to see ourselves in others. People of colour, queer and trans people, people with disabilities, and even non-monogamous people are all communities that can benefit from more visibility. Technology like the metaverse offers us a huge opportunity to improve upon this accessibility and representation of diverse members of society in the context of wellness.
The real game changing technology will cast a broader lens on sexual happiness, including understanding health prevention, managing pain and feeling safe. Examples of this include fertility tracking apps, STI health sharing platforms, dilators and innovations for painful sex (something 85% of women will experience in their lifetime) as well as considering wellness from a social dimension such as eco-friendly vibrators and greener, more sustainable products.
Do you foresee the Metaverse being a key area that advocates this change?
Yes, because of its ability to be interactive and yet relatively safe, the metaverse offers an interesting platform for changing the dialogue around sex and wellness. What we must remember is no one technology is going to be the solution. Technology has no ethics. It doesn’t care about your feelings, your values, your pleasure. That’s on us. Technology is a great amplifier for what is going on in society. My hope is the metaverse is a simple way to get people of all ethnicities, orientations and backgrounds to think about this topic.
(Images: Lovehoney Group)