The Promise and Risks of E-stim Sex Toys and the Future of ElectroSex

Electrical play comes with risks—but offers delectable pleasures as well.

The puns practically write themselves: current technology, high voltage fun, amping up sex—it was tough to limit to just using the rather obvious shocking in the title.

Though this beginning is, to be polite, rather frivolous the subject matter is not: the use of electricity for sexual enjoyment offers some real potential, especially when coupled with virtual reality, teledildonics, and other forms of sex tech.

But as with anything involving electricity, there are risks and potential dangers electrical-stimulation (e-stim) players need to be aware of—some of which could result in serious injury or even death.

Bolts from the blue

Humans have long been fascinated with electricity, beginning with myths of deities cracking the skies with lightning to the 21st century, when we’ve managed to—mostly—tame its power.

And, as humans seem to do with anything they discover, it wasn’t long before we tried to bring this power into the bedroom. While Electrical devices designed for improving “health” have been traced back to as early as the 1700s, 100 years later they were being openly advertised for purely sexual pleasure.

Many of these devices, though, were the stuff of nightmares. Poorly designed, crudely manufactured, and inappropriately used, they no doubt resulted in more than a few users receiving anything but pleasure.

Violet wands and e-stim devices

Jump ahead to this century and purposely sexual electrical toys have grown in popularity. On the one side, you have powerful devices like violet wands that use high-voltage and high-frequency electric current to deliver a spectrum of intensities. The Violet Wand can be seen in many BDSM dungeons as well as in the homes of kinksters all over the world.

On the other side are devices that use electrodes. These, while often used for sex play, are also commonly recommended by doctors and physical therapists to generate slow, steady pulses of current to tone or relax muscles such as TENS machines.

Touch without being touched

In the world of sex tech, the most common type is of the electrode variety, earning them the common term of electrical stimulation or e-stim. Designers have done a lot of experimenting with the technology, integrating it into many kinds of sexual devices.

It is also beginning to become popular as a way of adding a kind of haptic sensation to virtual and teledildonic rigs. By simulating genitals or nipples, they can deliver a lot of erotic oomph with a small amount of technology. Users would either attach the electrodes themselves or they could be integrated into wearable tech—or even added to penetrative appliances.

The benefits are pretty much clear: e-stim rigs are mechanically simple, without any moving parts, making them ideal for all kinds of casual sexual play.

Direct stimulation and sex

While the pleasures they generate are at present only on the side of usual electrical stimulations or muscle contractions, tickles, and jolts, there is also the potential that someday they could be refined to accurately generate the sensations of anything programmers want them to.

Using wearable tech again, someday you might be able to slip on a pair of undies that will be able, through neurostimulation, give you a broad spectrum of hyper-realistic erotic sensations mirroring real experiences or even from something that only exists in your imagination.

This could be a huge boon to VR and its close friend AR, removing teledildonics completely from the equation and making it complete immerse and totally portable. More than this, it could also be a huge benefit for those with mobility challenges by giving the ability to experience unique erotic pleasures without pain or discomfort.

It even could be an asset for those who want to experience sex with, or as, a different gender: as the sensations are directly delivered to the body they would be able to be tweaked to become absolutely anything.

There are still major risks

All this speculation is fun, and many of these ideas will no doubt become reality in a few short years, but we are technologically still not quite there. Which leads to the real, and very serious, risks that can come with playing with electricity.

Even though we have come a very long way from those terrifying devices of the 1800s, and many of their present-day kin are completely safe, electricity is still a force to be reckoned with.

The big thing to always remember about electricity is that while it can be delicately and precisely controlled the human body is far from being so exact: each of us has our own distinct levels of sensation and even body conductivity. Hook up an e-stim unit up to one person and you might have a blissful experience, do it with another and they might cry out in pain.

Then you have to couple in the emotional reaction. Go to a sexuality event and watch people try out the e-stim hardware and you’ll see that each and every person has their own like or dislike of the technology.

For some this variation is physical but for many negative emotions are triggered—and it has nothing to do with where the electrodes are placed or how much current is run through them.

An even bigger risk is that while there are many manufacturers who take great care in the quality of their devices, as e-stim tech becomes more and more popular there will be others who will dismiss safety for profit.

With other forms of sex tech, you might get sub-par plastics, cruddy designs, slipshod engineering, or glitchy software. But with e-stim, any one of these brings the potential of serious harm to the user.

Finally, we have to factor in the problem of security and sex tech. We’ve already seen many in the industry calling for stricter Internet-of-Things protocols, warning against the real dangers of personal information being accessed without permission, devices being turned into listening devices, and even the idea that someday sex dolls could be used to physically harm their owners.

If this sloppy concern for security continues, and e-stim technology further evolves, you might have to add the risk of being electrocuted by your own pleasure tech to the list.

It’s even more chilling to realize that in less-well-designed toys the difference between a delicious electrical sensation and a crippling jolt could be as little as a tweaked line of code.

Long way to go, but worth the trip


Going down the middle, electrical play is slowly coming into its own, will do nothing but get more popular as time goes on, and it has a real possibility of being a totally transformative technology when it comes to human sexuality.

But were are still playing with lightning, and until we learn to do handle it with intelligence and respect for its power, there will always be the chance of being shocked.

Image sources: Gabriel Smith, Media News