July 19, 2022

Will the Metaverse Be Adult-Friendly?

Ever since talk of a Meta-owned virtual universe came about, social media users and adult entertainment fans alike have been wondering just how overtly sexual such a space may be. The notoriously anti-porn company formerly known as Facebook may not seem like it would be all that welcoming of strictly adult interactions in its commercially-geared online virtual space, but stranger things have happened.

With some online users calling the Metaverse little more than a marketing ploy by Meta to attempt to remain relevant after numerous claims and charges against its pervasive data collection and borderline monopolistic business practices, offering an adults-only arena in which to play could help Meta reach a wider audience. With so many branded metaverses already online and with more popping up all the time, though, is Meta’s really necessary? And if it’s going to arrive and dominate online human interactions for the foreseeable future, can we at least get laid there like we already can via VR porn?

We’re Already There 

With the arrival in 2003 of Second Life, an immediately popular and zeitgeist-defining virtual Sims-like space in which users could (and still can) create avatars and craft a life, career, and even family for them, virtual worlds became a commonly understood concept. As the popularity of Second Life appeared to wane, it still retained a huge number of active users intent on making their virtual selves thrive. Adult-oriented communities and virtual spaces were welcome in Second Life from the outset, created and maintained by the users themselves. This allowed for virtual strip clubs, brothels, and live adult entertainment of all kinds to finally flourish in a virtual space. In fact, according to its creator Philip Rosedale’s interview with Wired (Jan. 27, 2022), Second Life not only remains enormously popular but boasts an internal economy that trumps that of YouTube or Facebook. 

There are risks to such allowance of adult use, however. Discriminatory organizations have employed Second Life as a meeting and recruiting ground, contravening the terms of use while going undetected for far too long, and earned the platform criticism for not being aggressive enough in stamping out such content. With critics of more recently developed metaverses also cautioning about the potential exploitation of users both above and below the age of consent, there’s every reason to expect Meta, for its part, will aggressively disallow any content (like pornography) that could either intentionally or unintentionally be accessed by anyone other than fully consenting, law-abiding adult humans. 

Second Life still counts more than 900,000 active users and is a virtual economy bringing in more than $US60 million in real-world money every year; and has inspired the creation of numerous other online spaces in which users are allowed ample freedom in how they conduct their private, public, and professional virtual selves. VRChat, launched in early 2014, pushed the concept of adult usage of a meta-space even further, offering full-body tracking support that has enabled, for example, dancers to perform and give classes on the platform. The obvious potential for more explicit VRChat use hardly needs to be described. In fact, it’s not potential at all but an existing reality.

Make Mine Meta 

Seeking dominance of virtual meeting spaces, Meta Platforms not only named its own metaverse project after itself but rebranded its entire empire under the already-overused word “Meta.” Having recently announced it would attempt to combat physical and sexual harassment and assault in its Metaverse by implementing what Ars Technica has called “a four-foot exclusion zone” around each avatar, Meta also hampers the likelihood that consenting adults will be slapping each other on the back (and ass) as they stroll around looking for someone to get off with virtually. Virtual porn already provides mind-blowing sexual entertainment and involves only consenting adults, each performer acting with agency and meeting legal requirements for the heavily regulated adult industry. Is meta-sex even appealing with such a vibrant VR sex industry already thrilling millions around the world? 

Meta undoubtedly has the widest reach of any VR-based metaverse. Although challengers have appeared and aim to threaten its dominance, can the likes of HTC’s Viverse and Microsoft’s forthcoming meta-utilization of its recently acquired Activision Blizzard assets pose a genuine challenge to a company that has to date sold over 12 million units of its most successful VR headset?

What Lies in Store 

When, where, and how an adult-friendly metaverse does arrive, just what will it offer to users eager to engage in erotic and explicit acts in a social VR environment? As long as haptic technology keeps progressing as it has been, expect a very real form of physical contact to be available and give even virtual dates a tangible opportunity for sexual gratification. Not only that, but those eager for what essentially amounts to anonymous sex should be able to indulge without fear for their safety or unintended repercussions. Instead of risking your privacy or even your physical safety by finding a random person on the Internet and then quickly meeting them in person, you could simply hook up in a VR space instead and let your bodies get to know one another. Add in a high degree of fantasy play – ever wanted to be an elven lord plowing a legion of pointy-eared hotties? Have at it! Or how about a star athlete getting the VIP treatment from a throng of post-game groupies? Crossing gender boundaries will also be easy for those that wish to find out what it’s like to be in a wildly different gender state.

Some curious and potentially contentious areas of the eventual metaverse will challenge our notions of personal freedom and collective safety. The same can be said, of course, for almost any new technological development from the automobile to the World Wide Web. The metaverse, however, has the potential to be used by people the world over without those in their immediate presence being aware of it. Developments like the forthcoming augmented reality contact lens from Mojo Lens could mean discrete participation in the metaverse – complete with all the recording, analysis, and datafication involved. 

The precise future of metaverses, both Meta-branded and otherwise, is, of course, not solid, not yet. As with all futures, it remains to be written. However it pans out, there are bound to be some amazing opportunities for sexual experimentation, play, community building, and entertainment that far surpasses what is currently available. Some precautions should be held, of course, but with an ethical approach, an awesome adult playground awaits.

About the author 

Kyrie Mattos

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