Experts warn of future of revenge pornSave
By Sarah Knapton at Daily Telegraph
The growth of virtual reality pornography could allow spurned exes to create sex avatars of former lovers and carry out depraved and violent acts with them, experts have warned.
Researchers at Newcastle University have been studying the rise of VR porn, which will allow users to step into the heart of the action using headsets such as Oculus Rift, or Playstation VR.
But they warned that the headsets allowed people to experience extreme, degrading or even abusive imagery in an alarmingly 'real' way, and could challenge laws of consent.
The team said that the together with the availability of 3D imaging tools and the rise in DIY porn, models based on real people could become the future form of revenge porn.
They have called on manufactures to set guidelines on what can be viewed through their technology.
Research lead and PhD student Matthew Wood, said: "Revenge porn is already illegal but there are many get arounds, and once digital content is out there, there is very little you can do.
"At this early stage we're looking to raise awareness that this could be a possibility for the future."
Virtual reality is only just starting to emerge, with the launch of several headsets by the likes of Facebook, Playstation and Google at the end of 2016.
To find out what the future of virtual reality pornography might be, the researchers asked 45 participants to create their perfect 3D fantasy as well as a second scenario in which volunteers were invited to delve deeper into taboo areas.
They found that the stories often went beyond what would be acceptable in real life with sometimes violent imagery, featuring men performing degrading sexual acts on women or forcing themselves upon them.
Wood added: "We found that for most people the potential of a VR porn experience opened the doors to an apparently 'perfect' sexual experience - a scenario which in the real world no-one could live up to.
"For others it meant pushing the boundaries, often with highly explicit and violent imagery, and we know from current research into pornography that exposure to this content has the potential to become addictive and more extreme over time."
The team also warned that the rise of 3D porn could damage relationships and increase sexism and the exploitation of women.
"One of our findings suggested VR pornography could be something more like cheating on a partner because of the increasing 'reality' of the VR experience," added Mr Wood.
Dr Madeline Balaam, co-author of the research, said: "As a society we are always looking for new and novel experiences but the porn industry brings with it an added risk because of its sexist stance and exploitation of women.
"We are already obsessed with body image and the digital industry is no different, creating the perfect virtual woman from Lara Croft to sex-robots. VR porn has the potential to escalate this.
"Our research highlighted not only a drive for perfection, but also a crossover between reality and fantasy. Some of our findings highlighted the potential for creating 3D models of real life people, raising questions over what consent means in VR experiences.
"If a user created a VR version of their real life girlfriend, for example, would they do things to her that they knew she would refuse in the real world?"
- Originally published in Daily Telegraph