​VR Needs to Be Pleasurable for Women Before VR Porn Can Be

Look at any tech expo roundup and it’s clear that VR isn’t going away. From gaming to pornvirtual offices to activism, developers and researchers are finding new ways to develop and innovate in virtual reality. But among all this hype and innovation, there’s one thing we’re not talking about: women.

Photo credit: iStock Photo

Photo credit: iStock Photo

Studies have found that women experience VR differently to men, and not just because the headsets are often bulky and too big for women’s heads.

The different responses women can have to VR could affect their enjoyment of the technology—which is perhaps important nowhere more than in VR porn. Feminist porn director Erika Lust says that directors should refuse to work with technology that isn’t “pleasurable for women.”

“If the VR experience wasn’t pleasurable to women I just wouldn’t work with it,” she told me.

One major example of gender differences in VR is that women are far more susceptible to VR-induced nausea.

Tom Stoffregen has been studying motion sickness for over 25 years, with research spanning traditional seasickness, Air Force flight simulators, and VR devices like the Oculus Rift. His research has always suggested that women are more likely to experience motion sickness—in the case of seasickness, for example—but that this gender divide becomes even more obvious in VR.

In one 2015 study, Stoffregen found that for every one man that gets sick using the Rift, four women did.

"There are so many women wanting to watch VR that there should absolutely be a smart solution for issues around motion sickness and nausea"

The study measured body movement, with participants playing a Rift game for 15 minutes and researchers recording the time it took for someone to feel nauseous. Of the 35 percent of subjects who felt unwell within ten minutes, 70 percent were women. It’s a major design flaw, says Stoffregen.

“Engineers, the people who design VR systems, tend to think about motion sickness in terms of the technology—resolution, frame rate, things like that—and in terms of the sensory systems that the technology was designed to stimulate, usually the eyes,” he told me. “That’s the origin of the impetus to focus on things like visual field size. But there’s no science behind it.”

Instead, Stoffregen believes that “susceptibility is related to the degree to which people can stabilise their own bodies.” In other words, on the whole, men are able to stabilise their bodies better than women because they have higher centres of gravity, larger feet, and are heavier. This, Stoffregen says, is why men are also less susceptible to more traditional forms of motion sickness like seasickness.

“It’s not surprising that men and women respond differently in a postural sense to unfamiliar motion situations,” he said. “A person using VR must control and stabilize their own body. The more compelling the VR, the more likely it is that the person will try to stabilize the body relative to the virtual world. But that is a mistake; the body is not in the virtual world, and we need to stabilize it relative to the physical world, gravity etc.”

Read the full Motherboard article: http://goo.gl/pWePAM