Bryony Cole is the world’s leading authority on sextech. Since launching the top-rated podcast, Future of Sex, Bryony has been on stages across the world, defining the direction of sextech for governments, technology and entertainment companies. Her wide body of research and annual Future of Sex report are considered the lead in industry insights.
Bryony is an international speaker, published writer and producer, who has been featured on shows like Viceland and Technopia, and articles in Wired, TechCrunch, The New York Times, Playboy, Mashable, Motherboard, ABC, Financial Review, Brides, Glamour and many other global mediums.
This week we had the pleasure of chatting with Bryony. Spoiler alert – you're going to want to become Bryony's best friend after reading this – she's one rad chick!
flossy: What was your journey like to Future of Sex and what's your why that continues to motivate you in your work?
Bryony: It all started out with an interest in technology and sexuality but I didn’t know where to start. A podcast seemed like a great excuse to meet people that could share insights on sextech – and it was!
Today, I’m passionate about entrepreneurs exploring how they might add meaning to the sextech industry through their own experience and ideas. Cue: sextech School!
flossy: How would you describe sextech?
Bryony: In the simplest terms, sextech is any technology designed to enhance sexuality.
An easy way to think about it is the word itself as a compound of two terms, sexuality and technology. When we think about it in this way, the 'sex' in sextech refers to any part of sexuality, not just the physical act. This includes education, health, gender identity, relationships, assault reporting, sex crimes, pleasure and really anything that comes under the umbrella term of sexuality.
On the technology side: we often think of the term ‘technology’ as referring to futuristic and cutting edge technologies like Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and robotics. Technology can also refer to some of the simplest technology we know today, from websites and apps to simple games and toys, even products like condoms and lube can fall into sextech.
flossy: Where are we now with the world of sextech? What 2-3 factors propelled you most to where we are today?
Bryony: What we see in culture and influences like mainstream media and social media drives a lot of what we see in sextech. It’s less about how advanced we are with technology and more about how advanced we are with our cultural conversations around sexuality. Recent movements like Me Too and Time's Up have helped embolden people (and the industry) to talk about sexuality from more than a pleasure perspective. Of course, the pandemic has had a huge impact on our conversations and consumerism around sex, from toys to dating to porn. We've seen a lot more headlines around sextech in 2021 than ever before and that’s because of the factors shaping and defining our lives right now that's put intimacy in the spotlight.
flossy: In a world that’s more polarised and disconnected than ever before, how do you see sextech as a tool to deepen our connection to ourselves and one another?
Bryony: Progress in technology always evokes these sorts of polarising hopes and fears in society. And we forget, we often change our minds over a relatively short amount of time.
In the case of sextech, you only need to look back 10 years ago to the introduction of dating apps... How people found it strange to be on them and how acceptable they are now, to realise that technology adoption and our attitudes change a lot faster than we consciously realise.
Technology can be a great tool for connection but it isn’t a substitute for it. Use it as a tool, to find people, to communicate with others, to deepen your own learnings, and to engage in shared experiences, and you’ve found the sweet spot. When it tends to become concerning is when we ‘rip and replace’ intimacy in all its forms and use technology exclusively to meet all our social and intimate needs.
flossy: Can sextech be a bad thing? What do you see or anticipate as the negative impacts both short and long term?
Bryony: Having a sextech-positive outlook, one that is grounded in sexuality and technology positive frameworks, means recognising and exploring the challenges, difficulties and concerns in sextech.
The impact on human life and intimacy could be summed up in four ways:
- Promote harmful norms
- Encourage pathological behaviours
- Deceive or manipulate humans
- Destroy love, sex and intimacy
These possibilities exist but are on us to consider as the future makers and consumers of sextech. Sextech ultimately strives for wellbeing, pleasure and freedom but that requires us to be mindful in how we create and use the products and services. There is no 'rewind' button!
flossy: What is the biggest barrier you see within the sextech/sexual wellness industry?
Bryony: Censorship in all its forms! Technology platforms are the gatekeepers of audience reach, and media often control the narrative, and political institutions stifle innovation and visibility. All of this is owing to the stigma around sex.
flossy: If you could wave your magic wand to have every single person understand one thing about sextech, what would you want to leave them with?
Bryony: This is the most exciting and welcoming industry to get involved in and you should join! It’s early days and we are birthing a revolution.
flossy: What’s your personal pleasure practice?
Bryony: At the moment I’m very into going on long walks. It feels very indulgent to take 2 hours to just go explore without any intentions.
To learn more about Bryony and the amazing work she is doing, check out Future of Sex on Instagram.