Pyramus and Thisbe
Take the ancient Greek story of Pyramus and Thisbe, a couple of crazy kids whose parents didn’t want them getting together. They lived in the ancient Greek equivalent of a duplex, so they secretly whispered “tender messages” (e.g. dirty talk) through a crack in the wall adjoining their homes. Though Pyramus and Thisbe both ended up dead, their tale lives on as the oldest recorded instance of phone sex in human history.
For lovers separated by more than a few inches of structurally questionable masonry, dirty letters used to be de rigeur. As technology advanced, long-distance relationships were aided by the real-time interaction provided by Ma Bell, and phone sex was born. And when the World Wide Web made its debut, it took roughly nine and a half minutes for the idea of cybersex to spring, fully formed, from the head of a horny computer science undergraduate.
More recently, the mobile technology revolution has brought sex right into our pockets and purses. Fifty-nine percent of all young adults (ages 20 - 26) have sent suggestive messages via e-mail or text message, and one-third of all young adults have sent or posted explicit photos of themselves. And the Boditalk Escort capitalizes on the trend. Connected to a cell phone, it vibrates whenever a nearby cell phone receives a call or text. No more slipping a phone in your pocket and dialing yourself repeatedly…this one will keep right on buzzing even after you answer the call. Truly, this is phone sex brought to a whole new level.
With the proliferation of digital media, sending naughty notes and pictures has gotten easier, but it’s not a new practice. Go back a decade and you’re seeing dirty notes on lipstick-smeared paper with a few Polaroids folded inside. Some of us even knew a guy who worked at a photo lab who would process our dirty pics, against company policy, for free. Now, however, taking explicit photos or videos of (or for) your lover is easier and more private than ever, provided that you don’t post the result on RedTube for all to see.
Hephastus and Aphrodite
Hephastus was a blacksmith and the Greek god of technology. (You may know his Roman incarnation, Vulcan.) He was so ugly and misshapen at birth that his mother took one look at him and threw him off the side of Mount Olympus. Still, through his technological expertise and some clever trickery, he managed to win as his bride the beautiful goddess of love, Aphrodite. And although the ancient manuscripts don’t mention how he managed to keep her, I’m guessing his mechanical skills played a significant role. What are the odds Hephastus didn’t have a Sybian or two sitting around in the basement?
In modern times, plenty of techies and gearheads are busy crafting their own love machines. From buzzing pleasure devices that work with everyday gadgets, like the OhMiBod, which pulses in time with your iPod, to homebrew fucking machines like those chronicled by Timothy Archibald in his book Sex Machines: Photographs and Interviews, sex and machinery are intimately intertwined. One creative inventor has even designed a touch-based video game system to foster intimacy between couples as they play. The obvious question, of course, is, “does it come with a Rumble Pak?”
Pygmalion and Galatea
Perhaps the ultimate in sexual technology is the idea of having a fully functional, human-partner-replacement toy. If you’ve seen Blade Runner, you probably remember Pris, a genetically-engineered “pleasure model” replicant, a being designed exclusively for sexual congress. Again, the Greeks were way ahead of us. In Ovid’s ancient poem Pygmalion, a lonesome bachelor sculpts a beautiful statue out of ivory and falls in love with her. Aphrodite -- remember her? -- takes pity on the lovestruck artist and brings the statue to life. This tale has been told over and over on stage, in literature, and on the silver screen, but even in real life, sex and technology meet daily in the uncanny valley as modern-day artists and sculptors strive to bring ever-greater realism to our (sadly) still-inanimate sex toys.
Depending on your gender preference, you can purchase realistic sex toys modeled after your favorite porn star or personal fantasy. Want a five-foot-seven inch Asian woman with auburn hair and a 39-inch bust? They’ve got that. And she’ll only cost you seven thousand dollars, give or take a grand. No word on how much it costs for Aphrodite to take pity on you, but I think if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.