This article explores the role of erotic experimentation in the emergence of newly developed media and technology. It argues that, just as pornographic videotape pioneered home entertainment practices in the 1970s and 1980s, so too are contemporary erotic technologies, such as smart vibrators, at the forefront of a turn toward interactive media and technology that engage and stimulate the body. The article traces these convergences of sex and tech through the history of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), an industry showcase of emerging media and technology and a crucial site for the maintenance of cross-sector relations necessary for technological advancement. It concludes by considering the recent rise of “sex tech” alongside histories of the vibrator’s earliest product categorizations in the Victorian era in order to identify the endurance of market frames including health, wellness, and femininity, that legitimize socially taboo technologies.
Videotape and Vibrators: An Industry History of Techno-Sexuality
Li Cornfeld is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan in the Digital Studies Institute. She is currently completing a book manuscript titled The Theater of Invention: Live Performance in the Tech Industry. Previous publications include articles in Women & Performance, Feminist Media Studies, and Communication, Culture & Critique. Cornfeld holds a PhD in communication studies from McGill University, where her research was funded by the American Association of University Women.
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Li Cornfeld; Videotape and Vibrators: An Industry History of Techno-Sexuality. Feminist Media Histories 20 October 2020; 6 (4): 94–120. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2020.6.4.94
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