Warning: This story contains descriptions of racy onscreen sex — and seductive aliens.
In Woody Allen’s 1973 comic caper “Sleeper,” 22nd-century citizens hop into a machine called the Orgasmatron for instant sexual gratification. Sounds pretty fantastical if your idea of high-tech sex is Netflix and chill, but as we slip into wearables that measure pelvic thrusts and have sex with increasingly lifelike robots, it seems the steamiest moments in sci-fi movies and TV shows might be coming sooner than you think.
As part of our CNET special report Turned On exploring the intersection of technology and sex, we take a romp with onscreen science fiction to see what’s already made its way into our beds and what still awaits our touch.
Now let’s lie back and think of the future.
Sex in sci-fi: The future of love, seen on screen
The future is now, or at least coming soon. We look at the TV shows and films delving into the complicated nature of love and sex in the world of tomorrow.
by Richard Trenholm 1:29 Close Drag Autoplay: ON Autoplay: OFF
Sci-fi often looks to tech to provide an alternative to all that icky, sticky physical fumbling. The 1968 sexploitation classic “Barbarella” sees lovers of the far future taking “exaltation-transference pills” and pressing together their palms instead of their mucky bits. And in 1993’s “Demolition Man,” defrosted man-out-of-time Sylvester Stallone looks forward to a night of passion with Sandra Bullock — until she places brain-scanning helmets on their heads and kicks off a colorful sensory overload that proves too much for the Italian stallion.
Jane Fonda slips out of her spacesuit in “Barbarella.”
At the climax of “Barbarella,” a villainous scientist puts Jane Fonda‘s titular bed-hopping space adventurer into an orgasm-inducing device called the Excessive Machine. You probably don’t have to worry about a deadly climax if a bad guy takes control of your favorite vibrator, but you do have to worry about today’s smart sex toys being vulnerable to hacks.
Not all onscreen sci-fi gadgets provide happy endings. One of the most chilling, desolate moments in British TV series “Black Mirror” comes in “The Entire History of You.” A couple’s fractious bickering leads to an energetic bout of passionate lovemaking — until we realize they’re dispassionately reliving an earlier, better time in their relationship thanks to their tiny, memory-replaying camera implants.
Many sci-fi stories warn that replacing real love and sex with undemanding technology could lead to an austere, dysfunctional society — and real-life academics have expressed similar concerns. In the 2013 movie “Her,” Joaquin Phoenix plays a man in an idealized relationship with an AI. That scenario doesn’t seem so far off considering we can already hang out with customizable sex chatbots.
Joaquin Phoenix gets close, very close, to his computer in “Her.”
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Sci-fi also shows us the ultimate sex toy: fully functional robots. Increasingly lifelike RealDolls with programmable personalities are just months away, though it may be awhile before they’re bed-hopping with the masses. In the sci-fi future, however, people are having it away with androids left, right and center.
Daryl Hannah as a doll-like “basic pleasure model” in “Blade Runner.”
“Star Trek: The Next Generation” sees Data getting his robotic rocks off more often than some of his fleshy human shipmates. In the polluted future of “Blade Runner,” meanwhile, lifelike androids known