on sex in tech & abstraction

I made a Twitter bot. I've made a few before -- and my flatmate, the inimitable George Buckenham, is the guy responsible for Cheap Bots Done Quick! (a tool I cannot recommend enough). This one is an erotica bot. 

It might be because I'm more attuned to queer spaces in games and tech, but maybe also the conversations about sex and sexuality in games has been getting louder. Especially with the release of Christine Love's Ladykiller In A Bind  last year (another recommendation), and its recent move to Steam, I see a lot of women in the industry (and a lot or queer women, particularly) talking about sex. Which is great. We should all be talking about sex, and we should be talking about it as much as possible. The more people talking about embodiment, about sexuality, and queerness in these spaces, the more of it there is. 

I worry, sometimes, that how we talk about sex feels abstracted. This is no surprise, especially in the digital industries. Tech is clinical, it is hardware, it is an unfeeling string of commands and processes or whatever. To come up against this is difficult. "Okay!" We say. "Let's make the computers kiss or something!" "This is the emoji for penis, this peach is an ass, and I don't know, like a taco or something for a vagina?" "I love it when the girls in BioWare games kiss me."

These conversations are good. These conversations are not enough. 

I've long admired the work of Nina Freeman, a game designer from New York and now Portland (working with Fullbright on Tacoma) for her unashamed use of bodies in games. From Cibele to How Do You Do It to her earlier Twine games (which remind me a lot of Porpentine's body of work), the use of soft, squishy, pink, organic bodies having sex frankly, openly, and with othered bodies is crucially important. Robert Yang, Lovable Hat Cult, and Ghislaine Boddington are each adding to the conversation of sex in tech and sex in games with frankness and honesty. Mainstream games are struggling to keep pace with their peers on the fringe (as always, I suppose), and mainstream criticism feels even further behind. 

So I decided to add to the conversation & put my money where my mouth is (as both a critic and an academic). 

sexwithflowers, Flora and Fauna, is an erotic abstraction bot, which uses a set text of erotic and natural imagery to be purposefully sexual, while simultaneously is at the mercy of procedural generation. I took a page out of literary and art history, where sexuality was often obfuscated by floral imagery, endowed with a meaning both secret and universally understood. sexwithflowers is earnest. It does not shy away from words and phrases like, "fuck me," or "my wet cunt," or "shuddering lilacs." At the same time, it has no delusions of seduction, no opinions, no ulterior motives.

It just is what you make of it. Which is pretty hot.