Should We Ban Porn In the Metaverse?

Should We Ban Porn In the Metaverse

Bored of the same-old porn? The metaverse might have something exciting to offer you.

If you can play games, work together and hang out at concerts as virtual avatars in the metaverse, then sex doesn’t seem too far off the mark, right? According to a game development theory called “Time to Penis” (TTP), every platform or game has a certain time period before users find out how to create a penis on it. 

This should tell you that the internet loves porn, and it’s even evident in the fact that nearly 25% of all searches are porn-related. So, if people wanted porn everywhere else on the internet, they would want it on the metaverse as well. 

However, Meta, Facebook’s mother company, doesn’t seem to be open to this idea. The tech conglomerate has plans of being extremely hostile to everything related to sex on their platform, establishing what they call “Disney levels of safety”. This stance might be a response towards reports of groping and harassment that happened on Meta’s Horizon Worlds. Meta is also taking “preventive” measures by creating “Safe Zone” (a protective bubble that users can activate to stop others from touching or talking to your character) and “Personal Boundary” (an on-by-default feature preventing avatars from approaching others within a set distance). The VR game QuiVR added a similar feature like the  “Safe Zone” after a female player reported sexual harassment in 2016.

Wait…What is the metaverse?

At this point, almost all of us know what the metaverse is. For those who don’t, here’s a quick rundown. The metaverse is an augmented reality (AR) and VR-based successor to the internet. In a nutshell, the metaverse refers to the use of virtual avatars for interactions, be it for work (like the Nth Floor) or enjoyment (like for virtual concerts). Even before Facebook popularized the term, metaverses were already up and running in video games, like Second Life, Minecraft and Roblox. 

Porn is very adaptable to changes

The adult entertainment industry has always been a pioneer in adopting new technology. Be it the videocassette recorder (VCR), Blu-ray disks or virtual reality (VR), they quickly adapt to changing times. In fact, in 2013, the porn production company, Mikandi, shot an entire “point-of-view” pornographic film with the wearable smart glasses, Google Glass (even before the tech was released to the public!). Last year, we saw the arrival of not-safe-for-work (NSFW) content creators on the NFT scene, with American rapper Azealia Banks selling an audio sex tape for US$17,240.

Innovation has always been part and parcel of the porn industry. Hence, it is only natural that they would also be quick to jump headfirst into the metaverse craze.

The porn industry always finds a way, no matter what.

The first metaverse ever, Second Life, has a reputation for hosting sex clubs and providing players with the option to customize everything from the avatar’s genitalia to how they are posed or displayed.

Moreover, VR, one of the key aspects of the metaverse, has already been integrated into the porn industry. One of the most popular and cheap VR headsets on the market is Meta’s Quest. Even though Meta’s averse (see what I did there?) to any sexual content, the software behind most VR headsets is open source, and thus, developers can still bypass it and make sex games.

As a result of this, there are a lot of sex games within the VR space. For instance, there are sex games on The Sandbox metaverse like Virt-a-Mate (a customizable sex simulator) and Captain Hardcore (a sci-fi customizable sex simulator). Holodexxx is another popular VR porn game that consists of photorealistic sexual experiences within a virtual porn star strip club.

Besides games, people can also access sexual experiences through VR. For instance, the adult exploration platform, ViRo Playspace, allows users to interact with cam girls using virtual teledildonics (Bluetooth-enabled sex toys). Although the uptick has been slow, porn will be a part of the metaverse. It will consist of strip clubs, simulated dating experiences, role play and more.

Is a blanket-ban on sexual content effective?

Perhaps one of the reasons why Meta would make the decision to ban porn would be because there is a fear that VR or even the metaverse could encourage violent sexual activity, child pornography or even racist themes. This fear is not unwarranted, particularly when you consider that one of the biggest names in the porn industry, Pornhub, has been accused of knowingly hosting child sexual abuse material on its website. Who knows what a warm welcome to sexual content in the metaverse could lead to?

However, experts within the adult-content industry believe that, if effectively used, the metaverse could provide them with opportunities to democratize sexual experiences (which have otherwise been heavily stigmatized). It could also serve an educational purpose promoting sexual health and wellness since it offers increased intimacy and anonymity. 

It is not to say that the metaverse should embrace sexual content to the full extent, though. While it is true that the metaverse offers you endless possibilities on what you can do, content with problematic themes should still be actively shut down. Gaming platforms, like Steam and Itch, have policies to prevent sexual content that encourages violence, racism, rape and underage sex from being sold. This goes to show that there are ways of dealing with such themes without actively banning all pornographic content.

Ultimately, what developers of the metaverse need to consider is that since it is meant to replicate reality and even extend beyond what real life has to offer, it will have to satisfy the user’s need for sexual content to a certain extent as well. Doing so not only benefits users, who gain a safe space for self-expression, but it also helps the platform gain new opportunities for growth.

Header image courtesy of Pexels.

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