New Sex Toy Aims to Emulate the Experience of Having a Penis

"The goal is biomimicry, to mimic the experience of an orgasm through male sexuality."

Nov 19 by Emma Flint
Getty / Futurism
Image by Getty / Futurism

This week, we’re pleased to bring you a different version of Futurism, containing stories from the horizon of hedonism. Welcome to The Science of Pleasure. In collaboration with our friends over at MEL Magazine, this week, we’ll be bringing you stories from both publications about the pleasures of tomorrow, today.

Earlier this year, UK-based dominatrix and model Adreena Angela became a beta tester for an intriguing new sex toy.

The gadget is called a SEN, made by a company called Zveotec. Physically it’s much like a regular strap-on dildo, except that it contains sensors, clitoris and g-spot vibrators, and a small computer that hooks the two together. Algorithms translate input from the SEN’s sensors into proportionate, and hopefully pleasurable, vibrations. In other words, the idea is that you could strap it on, engage in sexual activity with somebody, and actually feel what the SEN’s bionic dick does — a tantalizing attempt at emulating the experience of having a penis for someone who wishes to explore their sexual or gender expression.

“I use strap-ons a lot and whilst I psychologically find it stimulating, even with most insertable strap-ons, I don’t feel much myself,” Angela told Futurism. “Being able to feel response to the toy means that you feel more engaged with your play partner, making the experience more intimate and connected, rather than there being a passive and an active partner.”

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A sex toy that attempts to mimic a biological penis, even if this first attempt isn’t perfect, has the potential to chart fascinating new frontiers in the future of pleasure.

“I’m used to strap-ons being something that’s more for [my partners], and something you almost do ‘to’ them rather than ‘with’ them,” Angela said of the device, which is scheduled to hit the market later this year and is now available for preorder starting at $169. “Most people’s pleasure comes predominantly from seeing their partner’s response, so I know my clients love that I’m more actively involved and am part of the experience too.”

Others remarked on the same intriguing dynamic — the possibility that a high tech sex toy could bring people closer to together.

“In these systems like arousal it’s all about positive feedback,” sex educator Calandra Balfour told Futurism. “When we’re having sex or being intimate with somebody else, there’s this constant unconscious feedback that we’re getting from the things we’re doing with them or to them. So slight moans, squirming in the body, etc are all nonverbal communications that let us know that the person is enjoying it. And so this toy fits quite nicely in that process.”

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It’s worth noting that the cofounder of Zveotec was almost comically secretive about the project, declining to tell us specifically what sensors it contained or even his last name, citing connections in the medical technology industry, and asking to go just by James.

However, James did show us a prototype of the device in action, even providing a brief glimpse inside the SEN, where an array of wires and microchips peeked out from underneath its sleek exterior. As he rubbed the gadget in a videocall, its vibrators reacted with increasing degrees of stimuli, seemingly matching the intensity as a lover might. 

“This is the phenomenon where the brain incorporates a prosthesis as part of the body so long as there is intuitive feedback,” he told us. “It’s hard to describe, but it’s the sense of feeling like you’ve been touched as opposed to feeling when something is touched.” 

The SEN also raises the interesting possibility, for those who are trans or gender nonconforming, of being able to experience sex in new, and perhaps gender affirming, ways. It might even be a rudimentary step in the direction toward a genderfluid future in which, if you were so inclined, you could choose which genitals you wanted on any given day or situation.

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At the same time, of course, gender identity is as unique as each person’s relationship with their body. Something that’s gender affirming for one person could cause dysphoria for another, and the SEN is no exception.

“If we’re looking at the trans and gender affirming aspects of this choice, or having a strap-on, you would think it would be incredibly gender affirming for a trans guy or a trans masculine non binary person,” trans sex blogger Quinn Rhodes told Futurism. “But I think there’s definitely a subset of trans guys who would feel dysphoric by putting something in their vagina, even if it’s to get the sensation that they have a dick.”

“You can tell it’s not a trans person developing this toy, because I think that would have come up,” Rhodes added. 

Although James did confirm that no trans people were consulted or involved in the SEN’s design, he did stress that it wasdesigned with both male and female anatomy in mind.” 

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“The goal is biomimicry, to mimic the experience of an orgasm through male sexuality,” he said. “In that sense, and by pursuing that goal, SEN is perfectly designed for a trans male, as much as it is for a cis woman in bridging the gap between male and female sexual experience.”

However, while a lot of thought has gone into the adaptability of this toy, the language its creators use still deal in binary absolutes, which again seems to reflect that lack of queer input in its creation. 

Of course, the gadget’s potential market is much larger than just people who are trans, although James said the device had made a “bit of a buzz” in some online trans forums. 

And, to be fair, some trans people are indeed excited about the device. Isabell, for instance, told us that she’d already preordered the SEN for use by her partner, a non-binary individual who leans towards transmasculine.

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“Basically this is a way for them to fuck me in a way that is a much better approximation of penis in person sex than what silicon can offer,” said Isabell, who is herself a trans woman. “We’ve toyed around with strapless strapons before and have had, mixed, results. I orgasm really easily, they do not. So just relying on pitifully weak vibrations on their clit while the more intense vibrations are going off inside of me is, pardon the pun, sub-optimal.”

“Being able to more accurately simulate sex as a penis owner for someone who doesn’t have their own home grown penis is kind of a big deal,” she continued. “The transmasc men that I’ve been with have had a constant annoyance of never feeling like they have a cis penis. This [the SEN] is a step in that direction. As well as it being able to genuinely answer the question of ‘if I had a dick and fucked someone, would it be a good time?’”

Obviously, the SEN hasn’t shipped yet. Hardware development is notoriously challenging, and it’s perfectly possible that it’ll be underwhelming, just one more failed adult product in a crowded market. And its creators’ secrecy about their identities and the device’s technical details feels strange, almost as though they’re equating sex with shame, or promising too much.

But at the same time, the concept behind it is unquestionably intriguing. It raises canny questions about the future of gender and pleasure — not to mention the potential, in an era of ubiquitous connectivity, for technology to serve as an intermediary between people that enriches the relationship rather than driving it apart.

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And, just maybe, it’ll be the next big thing: either a commercial success, an indie hit, or an influential concept that paves the way for more mind-bending experiments in the future of humans, machines, and everything in between.

More on sex: Unsettling Sex Robot Looks Almost Exactly Like a Real Person


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