We had a blast this year at the third annual BodyHacking Convention, popularly known as BDYHAX, as one of the sponsors of their SexTech Friday event. BDYHAX is a weekend-long “celebration of human enhancement, transhumanism, and biohacking” held every year in Austin, TX. This year they set aside their entire Friday program to focus on the developments in and the philosophical and ethical implications of sex technology. We were so excited about this event occurring in our own hometown that we just had to get in on the fun; here’s the lowdown on what transpired.
Setting the Stage Socially
The evening began with a period of meeting and intermingling between participants and speakers. One of the wonderful things about this event is how thin to nonexistent the line is between presenters and attendees. Many of the people invited to speak or share their work were also genuinely and excitedly interested to both hear other talks and to meet people interested in their work.
Among others, we got to meet and chat with award-winning Latinx sex educator and therapist Aida Manduley and help Houston sound and installation artist Matt Fries tune his gyroscopic noise sculpture. SexTech Friday was emceed by Mal Harrison from the Center for Erotic Intelligence, a global interdisciplinary collective of professional experts focused on researching and educating on the complex subject of human eroticism.
The Future is Now
The first speaker was Rich Lee, famous in biohacking circles for implanting headphones into his ears, who is now on a quest to perfect a male implantable vibrator: the LoveTron 9000. He talked not only about his own invention, but also completed a round-up of already available and in-progress sex tech projects, from the increasing personalization and humanization of AI sex robots to using available spine stimulation technology to be able to coordinate and program orgasms, whether solo, partnered, grouped, or across the web.
He posited a future of massively multiplayer online orgies, where sexual and gender preferences, and even visual stimuli, take a backseat to direct pleasurable sensation. He also made a point to stress that, while fun, futuristic sex tech is not going to magically make a bad lover great, but that it could help build on and enhance foundational skills, not to mention possibly be able to provide orgasmic release to people currently physically unable to experience it. Simply put, “all the sex in the world isn’t going to replace real intimacy.”
Smart is the New Sexy
Next, Ms. Harrison moderated a panel on the legacy, evolution, and effect of Donna Haraway’s work, entitled “Sex, Gender, and Cyborgs”. Also participating in the panel were Hilary Malatino, a Penn State professor and researcher interested in queer theory, feminist bioethics, and trans and intersex studies; and Arabelle Sicardi, a fashion and beauty writer known for her distinctive style, her intersectional writing, and for focusing a critical eye towards beauty.
During the discussion, Professor Malatino spoke at great length about the history of medicalization of trans and intersex individuals and how that both started the cyborgization process earlier with those groups and also could cause greater reluctance within them to pursue bodyhacking and biohacking.
Sicardi offered insight into how those histories also intersected with the experiences and feelings of queer, indigenous, and immigrant individuals, as well as people of color, while offering sharp and quick critiques of capitalism and its complicity in the oppression of the aforementioned groups. Harrison moderated with a light hand, keeping the conversation going with an occasional question or perspective from her background in sex therapy.
Until Next Time…
This delightful evening of sensual intellect was punctuated by technical and bodyhacking performances by Matt Fries, magician and stunt coordinator Anastasia Synn, and local DJ Tempr. We had so much fun, learned so much, and we hope BDYHAX continues this as their Friday night programming in the future. Follow us on Twitter or Instagram for live updates from events like this in the future. We’ll close with a delicious quote from Mal Harrison. “Our human eroticism is like climate…this ever evolving, living, breathing part of us.”
Sadie Slutshine is an inveterate nerd with a passion for reading, writing, learning, and sharing about sex and sexuality. When not nose deep in a book (or lengthy article) or clacking away on her keyboard, she can be found creating and consuming art, getting into long discussions with friends, gardening, cooking, hiking, or enjoying a good fuck.