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Episode 4: (In) Fidelity in The Time of Technology

“As with every other technology, somehow we find a way to adapt it to use for sex.”  In this episode, Ari Tuckman talks about the ways in which technology is changing modern-day relationships, particularly in regards to the ways in which we understand fidelity vs. infidelity. Ari is a renowned psychologist and sex therapist, the author of three books, and has given over 300 talks worldwide.

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Sasza
Ladies and gentlemen and everyone on the spectrum, we are here today with Ari Tuckman to talk about fidelity, infidelity, the changing landscape of sex technology and how that really might change the way we see and experience both of those things and relationships in general. And well, can you tell us more about it? So, I guess I’d like to just start with the definition of infidelity and fidelity how people see it, how they might see it differently if there really is any one definition or if it’s all kind of just this really subjective concept?

Ari
Right, so this is a really interesting and nuanced topic like there is so many different kind of levels to it so you know, fidelity basically means that you’re staying within the understood and expected bounds of the relationship in terms of… so that you know obviously mostly you get supply the kind of sexual matters in terms of what is allowed sexually or romantically. But you know, there’s also other matters like I don’t know financially you know like are you spending more money and your partner doesn’t know about it for example, that might be seen as kind of a financial infidelity. But, you know when it comes to sexual and romantic infidelity, assuming that a couple is monogamous you know, some people aren’t but even non-monogamous, consensually non-monogamous people they have downs of fidelity as well in terms of what is and is not acceptable but assuming you know we’re talking about a standard monogamous relationship. Probably, everybody can agree having intercourse with somebody else: nope not acceptable. Okay, but what if we sort of dial back a little bit, what about stuff like I don’t know, you know giving a hug to someone when you’re leaving a party and instead of giving you know, quick peck on the cheek what if low and behold the quick Peck winds up on the lips. Oops, was that an accident? Wait a second, who kissed who? They kissed you, does that matter? Or it is you kiss them, does that matter? How long did it last? What happened afterwards? How did you respond? Did you tell me about it? You know, or did Bob have to tell me about it afterwards. Right, so this is where it gets much more nuanced about what is and isn’t acceptable but now we need like another kind of good example of this, which might be a little bit less kind of overtly sexual, is kind of the idea of who you’re friends with on Facebook. And specifically, let’s talk about friending ex’s on Facebook, like it is that okay? Like do we do that or do we not do that? How do you feel about it? How do I feel about it? Does it matter? What ex it is? What if you’re like 35 and it’s an ex from high school and you haven’t talked to them in 15 years, like and you’ve dated them for like a month in ninth grade. Do we care? I don’t know, what if it’s someone that you lived with for 10 years and you know let’s be honest, they broke up with you and you still have feelings so seriously like we can all tell, is that okay? What about like I don’t know, you found out bad you know an ex’s parent is in the hospital and you had a pretty good relationship with that parent and you know like, is it okay under those circumstances? Or what if you’re talking your ex about problems that you and I are having or you’re talking about our sex life. Is that okay? I don’t know, right. So, this is the stuff that every individual and together every couple has to figure out, where are our lines? And the problem is we all as individuals have certain kind of preconceived notions about what counts as fidelity, and we come into this relationship with all these ideas in our head and not enough of them spoken out in the air between us. So, it’s really easy to find yourself in a situation where it’s sort of like: “Wait, that’s not okay? I didn’t… I’ve always talked to my ex, I’m friends with all my exes, how is that a problem? Really, we can’t do that now?” And you know so, often what happens is couples don’t have these conversations until there’s a problem and by a problem what I mean, is somebody feels like somebody crossed the line and somebody else feels like they didn’t. And now, we’re in an argument and somebody’s hurt and somebody’s defensive and it’s just not a good scene.

Sasza
I think what’s interesting is the part about disclosure, and that it’s one thing if you’re talking to somebody else but you told me: “Oh, the you know I was at the ASIC conference, I met this really great person, we’ve been chatting about a project we’re working on together” And I know that I have that the context for the person, I know their name, I know how you met versus if I just you know somebody stumbles across those emails or those texts. Especially not having the story behind it, it’s harder to understand but it’s also like whether why didn’t you tell me, if it’s nothing? Why didn’t you tell me about it? So, I think the disclosure and going back as I had mentioned you previously, somebody once told me that infidelity has to do with like hiding a version of yourself or disclosing information to somebody else but not to your partner. So you know, whether you’re going to your friends and talking about the problems in your relationship but I’m not telling my partner about those problems, or I’m talking to the attractive person in the coffee shop every day that I purposefully go back because I wonder if they’re still there, and they know about what problems are going on in my relationship of my partner doesn’t know, right. So a bit about that.

Ari
Yeah, I mean I think… you know, a lot of this has to do I think with intent like what is your intent? And yeah, this is where it gets really kind of squishy and subjective: “No, I think you were… you keep going to the coffee shop cuz that really hot barista’s always there” like: “No, I just really love their coffee”. Sure, it’s you know…

Sasza
She makes really great coffee.

Ari
Right, such good you know way better than the other 9 coffee shops I walk past to get to that one. And it’s just weirdly coincidental that every time I go, it happens to be her chef.

Sasza
Yeah.

Ari
I don’t know, like the universe must you know just smile upon great coffee. What can I say honey, right. So, what’s your intent? And of course, what can happen is that it starts out with one intent you know: “We’ve been working, talking a lot about this project we work together and you know, we’re texting because like these freaking… these customers making me crazy. Like oh, they’re changing again and I got a text, sorry I got a text Jenn and let her know that you know we got to change it” And now, we’re not just talking about these goddamn customer that’s making us crazy, we’re also talking about like other things, we’re talking about stuff that’s definitely not about work, is that cheating? I don’t know, maybe you know what’s your intent? Where do you want it to go? But it’s also one of those things that it’s possible to add to realities, where it’s like look let’s say I’m the person talking to my co-worker too much, I might have no intent of actually doing anything but you as my girlfriend might look and say you know what, I don’t know maybe you don’t but I gotta say like this makes it really uncomfortable you know like I know I saw Jenn at the company picnic, she’s really hot and also let’s just make it worse, she’s also kind of your type and let’s also make it worse, I feel less attractive than she is. So let’s add in and you know your insecurities into it and now we have a hell of a conversation and not necessarily a productive one, definitely not an easy one but hopefully, it’s one of those things were both of us can kind of hang and like: “Well, okay. So, let’s talk about it like not just you feel uncomfortable, why do you feel uncomfortable and let me try to understand and empathize and let me explain to you why it’s important that I still have this relationship with Jenn and it isn’t a threat to us”. And you know where other stuff like you know, all the other things that people do not necessarily with nefarious intent but you know but we both have to decide like what is okay, what’s not okay within the bounds of our relationship.

Sasza
Um-hum, I think going back to what you said about understanding. It has to do with what your understanding is with what your partner’s understanding is? and are those different? Are they the same? They’re probably not have they been explicitly stated out loud. Have they been compromised? Has there come? Have you come to an agreement? Where there’s a middle point? Or did you compromise with your partner’s definition? Or both on yours? So, I think that really that is such an interesting way that it kind of can transform one thing where for maybe a certain couple. In general, one thing has nothing to do with infidelity isn’t even on the radar and then the other one can like completely destroy the relationship. So, I’m wondering if you would have any advice for people listening in terms of how you know you can bring that up or create preventive measures in the relationship to kind of bring up the topic, or at least make sure you’re on the same page or at least reading the same book.

Ari
Right, I think it’s just…it’s to have the conversation, preferably beforehand. What do we do if this happens? How you do feel about that? Now obviously, there’s a million scenarios so you can’t cover them all but you know to the extent, that it seems like something that might be relevant so like if you just got together with someone you might turn out like hey what do you think about porn? Do you ever look at porn? Like are we okay with more like how do I feel about? Do I look at porn? How do I feel about it? Or how do we feel about talking about exes? How do we feel about having friends of the opposite sex who presuming we’re heterosexual or you know otherwise whatever like potentially, romantically or sexually interesting friends, is that okay to just sort of have the conversation? Now you know if it’s a thing where something I’m doing makes you uncomfortable. It’s not, that doesn’t automatically mean I must stop doing that thing, right. On the other hand, I don’t… I also don’t have the right to say basically like: “Suck it up and deal with it, ain’t nothing here”, right. I mean as soon as we both have the right to do that and then probably the other person has the right and perhaps the good judgment to say: “This is not the relationship I want, bye-bye”, right. So you know, so it becomes a matter of having some really honest discussions and not just this makes me uncomfortable but why does it make me uncomfortable? 

Sasza
Where does it come from?

Ari
Right.

Sasza
Your past experiences and the circumstances around the current situation but also your previous.

Ari
Yeah, and that how you know like a really good conversation and did not you know the danger here is kind of false agreements then either you get so emotional that I basically cave and say like: “Okay, I’ll never look at porn again” but I know for 20 minutes later, I know I’m like that… that’s never like: “No way, I will never keep that” you know. So, by being too emotional or too demanding you forced me to cave and agree to something I shouldn’t have or you’re being quite reasonable, but I’m sort of conflict avoidant or I just don’t want to give this up and I’m worried, I’m gonna have to with this really if this conversation goes where it needs to. So you know, we make an agreement that you in all reasonableness assumed to be a mutual agreement and then I know at the time, I’m not going to maintain this. So like you know, I’m setting up cheating or I to sort of optimistically say like: “Oh yeah. No, I’ll never look at porn again” It’s not like “I’ll never eat delicious chocolate cookies again, I’m on a diet forever after, I’m eating healthy”.

Sasza
Right.

Ari
So, just sort of to not agree to something you know, you can maintain. But I think then, that’s a different kind of a problem because then, there’s a deception. It’s not just that I’m looking at porn or I’m talking to my ex or whatever but it’s not I’m deceiving you about it because now, I know before it was an innocent mistake, is neither of us knew.

Sasza
Right.

Ari
Now, we know and then to act against a known is I think it sort of it makes one crime into two so to speak.

Sasza
Um-hum, very different than you know not having discussed it, maybe coming from different places, different experiences. And as you mentioned before, I think it’s really interesting also how the definition of infidelity and your reactions to certain things change so much throughout the relationship, when I first met versus dating for I don’t know a couple months versus a year versus decades, totally in an evolving process but I think it’s funny I once heard actually a therapist tell me that in the first few months of a relationship, everybody resorts back to middle school. She said: “You know, I’m 75 and I definitely did too like I just started dating somebody and I literally went back to being 13” in terms of neediness or just it’s building up security, and as you build up security and trust with that person then you can like adjust and adapt right now at higher stakes but like different circumstances.

Ari
Yeah. Well, the thing is in the beginning you don’t know like you seem lovely. Let’s say we’ve been dating for 3 weeks, you seem lovely.

Sasza
Right.

Ari
Otherwise, you would have not kind of a second date with you, right. So, you seem lovely but I don’t know maybe you’re not, like I don’t know what to expect here, you know. So, we all need to be and of course the problem is in the beginning, we’re all on our best behavior so there’s lots of politeness but not enough honesty, right. You know where it’s like: “You mind if I smoke? No, that’s okay” And then later like: “Oh my god, I will burn your eyes out with the cigarette if you keep smoking”.

Sasza
I feel like I’m that person but I would actually say it immediately, but I’ve always thought it’s so interesting that we have to know somebody well enough to be able to you know, say: “You don’t want to… can’t hang out or you’re busy or you would rather do something else or just stop doing something, or to kind of…”.

Ari
Yeah.

Sasza
It’s so interesting.

Ari
Well, and it’s hard.

Sasza
Stop showing.

Ari
You know, in the beginning when we first started dating you know like we might both have grand hopes but we’re not super invested, so like if all of a sudden we break up or one of us gets run over by a car or something, right. It’s kind of like: “Oh, that sucks” but like you know like for a night you’re kind of broken up about it and then you move on, but once you’ve been dating a while or you’ve been dating a long time where you’re living together or you’re married. Now all of a sudden, it matters a lot more “I’m much more invested in you and in this relationship and what you think really matters to me”.

Sasza
We can also create together that you now have that you don’t have.

Ari
Exactly, now you got something to lose so it creates this dilemma that’s inherent in all relationships, which is the more important you become to me, the less I want to disappoint you and risk losing you. And yet, I don’t want to lose myself either because if I sell out my sense of integrity and I let you continue to do something that makes me really uncomfortable. That could be you seem to be awfully flirty with a neighbor, or I don’t know about all this money you’re spending that makes me kind of uncomfortable, or I don’t want to have sex tonight but I can’t say no to you or a million other things that happen in a relationship, you know. So, we’re caught in this dilemma of I don’t want to you know upset you but I also don’t want to sell myself out and that’s the sort of balance, and you know it’s a matter of being able to sort of add a sense of integrity, to sort of respect our own needs and values and boundaries but also to respect our partner’s needs and values and boundaries, even if they’re different you know. So like this thing of like not talking to… I don’t know like a particular friend and I have that makes you uncomfortable, I might say: “You know what? There’s nothing here, I’m not like… I’m not gonna do this” Like “I’m gonna keep this friendship, you need to find a way to deal with it” I mean I’d say that in a nice way because like: “I think you’re being kind of nuts here, this is just your insecurities, this is not about the relation, you need to find a way to be okay with this” Or I might say: “You know what I think she’s insane, there’s nothing here but fine like I will be a good boyfriend and I will distance myself from that other friend at least for now and maybe when we’re more settled, it’ll be different”. Or I’m actually kind of say: “Well crap, she’s right you know what? That friend is kind of flirty with me more than with anybody else” and if I really want to be honest and this is the real crap, like: “Damn it, I’m kind of flirty with her too” like if I was really honest like: “Yeah, I kind of got a bit of a thing for her. So like okay, that’s kind of trouble coming and I wasn’t seeing it, so good for you that you spoke up and told me and didn’t just sort of swallow it” you know. So, that’s the balance. You don’t want to be insane, paranoid, insecure boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife whatever you know where everything. You know, why did the person at Starbucks give you extra cream in your coffee? Are you having an affair with her? But you also don’t want to be kind of blind and people can be that too, you know where it’s like clearly there’s stuff going on and the person isn’t willing to see it because if they see if they got to do something with it. So, it all gets brought into this question of you know, what’s fidelity?

Sasza
In terms of you know, we’re talking about kind of present-day and infidelity versus fidelity but how much does this landscape change? I mean in some ways, I feel like we’ve come a long way but in some ways, it’s still a grey zone and the problem is that as we’re evolving and we’ve come so long, so has technology.

Ari
Yeah.

Sasza
So has the entire scope of the issue.

Ari
Absolutely.

Sasza
It’s like a different issue than it was even just you know 5, 10 let alone 20, 50 years ago.

Ari
That’s the thing technology has, on the one hand made everything much more gray in nuance and has also created opportunities that didn’t exist before. So like the gray part of it so like you know back when I was a kid, when I was young adult you know it’s like Playboy magazines, so like you had a Playboy or a Penthouse or a Hustler or you didn’t, you know. Like super easy, right. And I guess it was like this Sports Illustrated you know, swimsuit edition and there was like Victoria’s Secret Catalog. So, there’s some gray in there.

Sasza
Yeah, it literally was like clothing catalogs.

Ari
Right.

Sasza
Paper.

Ari
Right, in like those you know like even Hustler magazine looks like the Sears Roebuck you know, Circa 1900 like lingerie section compared to what we have now available. So, you know stuff like I don’t know I mean I’m not a social media guy but you know all the little chickies on Instagram like: “Oh, no honey I’m just on Instagram because you know Dunkin Donuts posts coupons on there or my friends put cat videos”, “Oh, look at that I’m following a bunch of 19 year olds who show up mostly naked. Whoa… Whoops, how did that happen? Right. So like, it gets you know so many more opportunities, so like well the batch is an Instagram thing like it’s not overtly porn, it’s just not like Pornhub but it you know like probably you wouldn’t want grandma scrolling through your feed either. So, what is it? Right, you know like is it okay? Is it not okay? Or there’s some people that you can follow and they’re okay but others that you can’t, what if it’s you know… So what if it’s someone that you actually know in your life who posts kind of provocative things versus some random person that you don’t even know where they live, just some celebrity or just some rando on social… you know, does that matter? The fact that you actually know them, talk to them, is that relevant? You know, for some people it is but you know there’s also the whole issue of none you know, this sort of joke they like I don’t know like back in the day before Facebook, this is how you checked up on exes, you call a friend and you say: “Hey, yeah have you talked to Jill? Like do you know anything about Jill? Like what’s she up to? Oh, she’s dating, she’s single, what’s going on? Okay, cool. Hey by the way, um… if you see my wife Heather don’t tell her I was asking about Jill”, right? That’s how you found out. Now, bam! Facebook, Google, whatever like you can know way more about Jill or whoever, in an instant. Then, you could by asking your idiot friends you probably weren’t paying attention anyway, right. So, like so much more is possible and the pornography that’s available is so much more intense than looking at you know some dog-eared Playboy magazine. So you know, like it crosses potentially for some people across the lines much more, there might be some people we’re looking at you know printed porn is okay but looking at videos is it? Or what about like webcaming? Where you’re like interacting with somebody in real life like there is somebody actually right at this moment doing that stuff that you’re watching is that different than watching something that got recorded? Even this morning but prerecorded and uploaded somewhere like is that different? I don’t know, maybe or maybe it isn’t you know. So, again like the grays, the nuances that didn’t exist before technology and even like Skype and FaceTime which is mostly you know a boring business meetings and like I don’t know calling home but like what are people doing on there? You know, not just boring business meetings. So things are possible that were not possible before, as with every other technology somehow we find a way to adapt it to use for sex, right? So like our cell phones, sure like we call people and we look up on Google Maps and we also send people pictures of our junk you know like… So, I don’t think Steve Jobs was thinking this would be an awesome way to send naked pictures to people but sure as hell.

Sasza
Maybe, but.

Ari
Maybe he was and that would have been a good business idea if he was but sure as hell, 3 people later some was like: “Oh, dude you know what I could do with this? Right. So, stuff is being developed for other things so like virtual reality headsets let’s say which are being used for gaming, for just watching videos, for just like: “Holy crap, that’s really cool, I can’t believe that works”, right. So it’s also then being used shockingly SURPRISE, SURPRISE by people who make porn, so instead of like standard 2d porn and shows up on your screen and there it is. Now with the virtual reality headset, you can watch 3d porn and you know ultra-high definition and not just sort of 3d but also you know 180 degree or 360 degree views, meaning that you put on the goggles and just like your phone has a motion sensor that knows what direction it’s pointing as you look around, as you move your head back and forth, your view of the room or the apps, actions happening, changes. So, it becomes a situation where you feel much more like you’re in the scene, now it’s one thing if it’s shot as standard porn is or as a lot of TV and movies are from like kind of like the fourth wall angle.

Sasza
Right.

Ari
All of like here we are like some outside observer looking in on this scene but what’s also being done is what’s called POV or point of view porn, now there’s also POV videos of like non-porn stuff out there as well but basically it’s shot from the perspective of mostly of course the male actor. So basically, what happens is you put on the goggles you press play on the video and you look down and you see basically you know like your chest and abs and everything below.

Sasza
All 8 of your abs.

Ari
All 8, much better ass and possibly a bigger dick.

Sasza
[Laughs]

Ari
But like right there. And there are people doing things to that penis in the scene so you know and when you look down you see that.

Sasza
You’ll think you have a bigger penis.

Ari
Right, and then you look up so let’s say it’s a woman riding the male actor, you look down and you can see her on top and then you look up and you can see her boobs and you look up more and you see her eyes. So, you are right there in the scene, now the guy isn’t doing anything so this is really kind of I think hysterical like twists of fortune. Then, you know…

Sasza
He’s not moving, which is like the worst thing about porn.

Ari
Right.

Sasza
They have… that people should not ever learn from it.

Ari
Right, so it’s this awesome twist of irony that as much as people who complain that porn objectifies women, this porn actor guy is totally an object, you don’t even see his face and the thing about it, is he can’t move because it screws up like the camera.

Sasza
You would get motion sex.

Ari
Right, so he is basically like 3/4 of a sex doll, like not even an entire because you don’t even need anything above his nipples, right? Because that does it, so like you just cut that part off and throw it away and you just keep the lower 3/4. So, it’s like the male actor has been completely depersonalized, which is just this amazingly funny to me like reversal of fortune of what’s happening.

Sasza
I wonder if they get paid less.

Ari
I wonder, they might.

Sasza
That’s interesting.

Ari
So, it creates a situation where I mean if you think about it, looking at porn in a print magazine.

Sasza
Right.

Ari
Looking at pictures online that you can scroll through a million, looking at videos, 2d videos online, immersive 3d videos that will you know what you see changes based on how you move your head and if you’re looking up and down or left or right. So, talk about being even more immersed in the scene, compared to you know slipping through pages in a magazine but granted this is still a solo experience you know there’s one person there, but does it feel like it’s more than a solo experience? Like does that reach a point where you let’s say as the girlfriend or wife or husband or boyfriend whatever, how do you feel about your partner using this stuff?

Sasza
Um, yeah. But yeah, is there some way in which this technology could be used for relationship in some way? Or it’s more just…

Ari
Yes, I mean it absolutely can and you know so this is more this sort of augmented reality as its called, where you know you would put sensors on various kinds and then you know when I’m looking at the video, I can see you show up in the video, you know or I show up in the video. The technology is getting incredibly cheap, it’s showing up in homes for other non-sexual uses. So, the hardware is there, it’s just like you know when you got a DVD player or a VHS or a Betamax or something to watch family movies, low and behold you can also play porn on that. “Oh my god, I did… Honey, I didn’t know you could also get porn on DVDs, I only got the DVD players to the kids who watch Disney movies”, right? So you know, which of course then it becomes a thing of like: “Well, do you buy it for the kids to watch Disney movies or was there a little bit of an unspoken hope? And do I know about your DVDs? I do not know about your…” you know so it all like it all… I don’t know, it all comes back around.

Sasza
Yeah, you know and then besides the virtual reality, some of the products that are out there whether or not they incorporate with the virtual reality but then they also have this other fields of crazy high tech.

Ari
Right, so you know on the one so you’ve got like if you start with the simplest of the high tech so to speak when it comes to sex toys, so you’ve got more and more sex toys are now sort of app controlled you know like so much else in our life. So we set up like fiddling with little buttons on the side while you’re using it, you can control settings on the uninhabited interface because you know it’s kind of like especially if there’s like 9 vibration patterns, you’re like 1, 2, 3…

Sasza
Right

Ari
Wait, was it 4, 5? God damn it, I’ve passed it.

Sasza
Yeah, as you’re saying it’s hard to reach.

A: Right, and you know so you can do it on your phone, which is great unless you know it’s… My joke here is… you know if in the middle of a session you get you know a friend video chatting.

Sasza
Yeah, and put it on airplane mode.

Ari
Yeah, because otherwise you may wind up with a friend’s with some unexpectedly extra benefits.

Sasza
Right.

Ari
So, you know but most of the time this is used by the person using it or their partner in the same room, so you’re 3 feet away or right there but whatever. But the thing about it is you can be halfway around the world but you can use that app if your app is synchronized with their device, which is a relatively easy thing. You can control somebody else’s sex toy from a million miles away, I mean I don’t remember my wife and I ever having that conversation: “Hey honey, um… are we allowed to give other people orgasms a 1000 miles away?” Somehow that didn’t come up when we got married.

Sasza
Right, because it didn’t even exist.

Ari
It didn’t exist, so…

Sasza
And they probably don’t need… She probably doesn’t even know about it yet.

Ari
Right. So, you know… So, it’s this thing of like you know ostensibly, this is for long distance relationships and if that’s the case, my feeling is dude go for it have a great time but at the same time let’s be honest, how big is a long-distance relationship market? Like is that really enough to sustain these kind of technological you know investments.

Sasza
Yeah, right I love to think it’s for that but then…

Ari
Right.

Sasza
It’s not.

Ari
So, but you know there’s that but the thing about it is, there’s… it’s not just sort of amateur to amateur where you know you find someone who you know, you want to control your sex or vice versa but it’s also you know like professional webcam performers will allow you know viewers to not just view, but you know like give them control of their sex or they’re using in this live webcam show, is that cheating? I don’t know, honey I never touched her and you didn’t and yet, I don’t know some people might.

Sasza
Right.

Ari
Feel like that’s crossing a line, right. So, but then there’s…

Sasza
Right, you were participating in her physical sexual experience.

Ari
Yeah, you are not an uninvolved observer at that point, so he gets again like nuance upon nuance. Um… to make it even more complicated here so the next level that… These are kind of one directional, you have the app, you control the toy, done. But there’s also bi-directional so there’s toys made I mean the main company that does it, is this… um they’re based in Amsterdam, they’re called Kiroo (K.I.R.O.O) I don’t know, maybe it means something in Dutch but they have sex toys that are interactive with each other. So, they have a male version and a female version or more accurately, they have the female versions basically kind of like just looks like some generic vibrator and then the male version kind of looks like a flashlight, in the sense that it’s this kind of rather large device and the guy slips it over his penis and then it has stuff inside it that creates certain sensations and suppose it’s supposed to mimic what penetration feels like, what intercourse feels like. So whatever gets done and let’s say in this case, if someone is using the vibrator, the female version with a hand, with a mouth and their vagina and their anus, whatever… Whatever is done, their sensors pick that up and will transmit those sensations to the guy’s device. So, if you touch the tip of the vibrator, the guy will feel it on the tip of his penis, if you slide halfway down, he feels it half way, you go all the way down, he feels it all the way, you go slow, it’s slow, you go fast, it’s fast.

Sasza
Yeah.

Ari
Whatever is happening in one is happening to the other. So, on the one hand long-distance relationships again not sure what that market is but also you can find a random people and have some fun together, amateur to amateur but you can also synchronize these devices so you know a web camera can have one device that then sends to a 100 or a 1000 devices that viewers are watching, are using. So, what that person is doing with their device is being instantaneously transmitted to the other people, is this an unobserved, uninvolved observer at this point? A lot less so, right?

Sasza
Right.

Ari
Now, you’re not in the same room but you are sharing that sexual experience in a much more physical way, you’re not just seeing and hearing, you are literally feeling in live time in you know live action what is happening on the other end of the world.

Sasza
Right. So, I think I just like to close with the importance of as we talked in the beginning you know, understanding whether it’s yours, whether it’s mutual, whether it’s discussed. And from there, respect… respecting you know if there are differences, choosing if you want to respect your definition more versus the other person’s and just the importance of trust because trusting that you know that person will respect your understanding, trusting that that person won’t purposefully you know go beyond it or hurt you and just trusting that they have both of your best judgment in mind someday.

Ari
Yeah, I mean I think it’s about communication, it’s about talking about it, it’s about making the implicit much more explicit whether it’s relatively small things. And then it’s you know technology brings us more and more stuff whether is overly sexual like these high-tech sex toys were not necessarily intended to be sexual but quickly becomes that way. So, it’s having honest discussions about it and it’s a matter of being honest not only with the other person but sometimes it begins to being honest with ourselves you know, do I know that my partner won’t be okay with this? Am I talking myself out of it? You know my when talking myself out of not doing it? So I’m talking about allowing myself to find a way to be okay with doing it, or conversely or am I talking myself out of seeing signs that I can really see? Like I can definitely see there’s stuff here that makes me uncomfortable. So, it’s just in the broader sense, it’s just part of building a relationship, it’s about building trust, it’s about asserting yourself when you need to, it’s about managing your emotions and responding well when something upsets you so you can actually have a real conversation and not be written off as a crazy person, but also coming across as a crazy person is a great dodge for the other person did not actually address the thing that you’re feeling crazy about. So, it’s about having some really honest and sometimes difficult conversation so this new sex you know, this new tech that continues to develop isn’t new in that sense. It’s the same conversations people are having 50 years ago and a 100 years ago, it’s just a little bit different in terms of the context, of what they’re talking about.

Sasza
Yeah, like the subject matter in a way is changing but the conversation itself and the importance of, it definitely in the heart it stay the same.

Ari
I think the only thing that’s changing is that we have more to talk about.

Sasza
Yeah.

Ari
Technology’s giving us things to talk about that we didn’t have to talk about before but the themes, the way that we talk about it, it’s still the same.

Sasza
Thanks so much everybody this is Ari Tuckman, thanks again.

Ari
Thank you.

Our guest on today’s episode is Ari Tuckman, a renowned psychologist and sex therapist. He has authored three books and has a gift for simplifying complicated topics into digestible language. With Ari, we discuss how technology has changed the relationship landscape, especially how we
understand fidelity and infidelity, and how we are redefining these concepts.

Bonus: Ari hosts the popular podcast “More Attention, Less Deficit” for adults with ADHD. Check it out here!

The Nuance of Fidelity

Fidelity means, basically, that you are staying within the understood and expected balance of the relationship

Most people equate fidelity with sexual monogamy: what is allowed sexually or romantically? However, it can also be applied to other areas of a partnership. For example, financial infidelity could relate to whether one is being truthful to their partner about their spending.

What is Acceptable to You?

This is what every individual needs to know for themselves so that they can figure out their boundaries in any given partnership. Some questions to ask yourself are: What are your boundaries? Where are your lines?

Problems arise when unspoken expectations are not met. It’s really easy to find yourself in a situation where you and your partner don’t agree. As Ari states, “Often what happens is that couples don’t have these conversations until there is a problem. By problem, I mean, somebody feels that somebody crossed the line, and somebody else feels like they didn’t.”

For example: Is friending exes on social media platforms acceptable? How does that make you feel? How does that makes me feel? What is your INTENT?

Starting the Conversation

Ideally, partners would have the conversation about fidelity at the very beginning of a budding relationship. To have these discussions, both partners have to be honest about what makes them uncomfortable and why. However, these conversations can be difficult to have in the
beginning and therefore many false agreements can be assumed which can lead to deception later on in the relationship.

Relationship Investment

In the beginning of a relationship people can have high hopes for what is to come, but low investment. However, once a relationship has become well established, everything matters much more because of how highly invested the partners are in their relationship. This can lead to a big dilemma: “the more important you become to me, the less I want to disappoint you and risk losing you, and yet I don’t want to lose myself either, because if I sell out my sense of integrity, and let you continue to do something that makes me feel really uncomfortable”.

Technology and the Changing Landscape

Today, because of technology, things are possible that were not possible before. Because of this, there are new issues that arise. For instance:

  • Technology creates more opportunities, which requires more nuance and grey area within the bounds of fidelity in a relationship.
  • There is more availability – from checking-up on an ex to pornography – that intensity is increased, making “crossing the line” much easier.
  • The need for more conversations about technology involvement in a relationship.

So as with every other technology somehow we find a way to adapt it to use for sex.

New Possibilities

  • Virtual Reality for Porn: Ultra HD on 360 degrees, this immersive 3D experience creates a different situation that changes and adapts to the point of view. This, like flipping the pages of a magazine, is still a solo experience, however it feels like it is more than a “solo experience”… How does your partner feels about knowing you are using virtual reality?
  • Professional webcam performers: You can participate on their sexual experience as an observer or as active person.
  • Interactive sex toys: KIIROO, for example, are sex toys that are interactive with your partner.

Trust and Understanding:

It’s about communication, about making the implicit much more explicit.

Having honest, and sometimes difficult, discussions about fidelity not only with your partner, but with yourself. Technology has given us more things to talk about, therefore creating a greater need for these honest discussions.

About the Expert

Ari Tuckman - profile

Ari Tuckman

Ari Tuckman, PsyD, CST is a psychologist and certified sex therapist in private practice in West Chester, PA, specializing in diagnosing and treating people with ADHD, as well as couples and sex therapy. He is a former board member and current conference committee co-chair for CHADD, the national ADHD advocacy organization. He is the author of More Attention, Less Deficit, and Understand Your Brain, Get More Done.

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