Spanish arts collective BeAnotherLab has taken the first step toward creating an immersive experience of sexual intercourse as a different gender than your own. And their notion seems totally possible, especially when you take into account the fact that every new technology we develop is pretty quickly turned toward sex. This experiment involves The Machine To Be Another, which uses Oculus Rift (virtual reality technology) to allow individuals to experience what it’s like to be in the body of another person. BeAnotherLab has used the Machine for a whole bunch of different experiments, but people are really talking about the one where a woman and man experience what it feels like to be in the body of the other gender.
But while the idea of feeling sex as a man sounds awesome to me, I’m actually more interested in how the Machine can be used to make us better lovers by helping us be more empathetic.
Think about it. The best partners are those who truly aim to understand what the person they're with is experiencing. Tuning in to someone else’s body, paying attention to their heartbeat, their breath, their perspiration; that is what makes a fantastic lover. If we can actually experience the feeling of having a penis or a vagina or breasts or a hairy chest, that has to translate into how we interact with a partner’s body.
Actually, technology like this could help us become better humans. The implications for helping eradicate racism, sexism, and transphobia are huge here. This low-budget, open source technology makes a deeper understanding of someone else’s existence completely possible and accessible.
When people take technologies that have the potential to pull us further apart and instead create new ways for us to connect, my inner geek joins hands with my outer feminist and does a happy dance.
The only thing that makes me sad here is that this is happening in Spain, which is currently outside of my “casual visit budget.” Rather than sulk about it, though, I’m putting out a challenge. BeAnotherLab has promised that they will post all of the documents and source code they used to create The Machine To Be Another. When they do, I think all you tech geeks, activists, queer theorists, and artists need to join up to create a sister collaborative right here in San Francisco.
Let’s use the technology and spread the empathy. You up for it?