Today on the podcast we are joined by Dr. Holly Richmond, Somatic Psychologist, Certified Sex Therapist (CST), and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT).
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Dr. Richmond is one of North America’s leading sex therapists, serving women, men, couples, and gender diverse individuals for relationship and sexuality issues. She has been featured and quoted everywhere including Cosmo, CNN, Newsweek, Marie Claire, The New York Times, and more.
In the Sex Tech industry, Dr. Richmond is also a sought after consultant and is seen as a pioneer in bridging the gap between sexual health education and adult entertainment.
Her work through the Next-Sex platform is an exploration of the context of emerging technology and sexuality and how to positively address both.
Today, Dr. Richmond is on the show to discuss sex tech and how it can help and sometimes hinder your sex life. She also shares the benefits of Teledildonics to improve your sexual experience and the advantages of using sex dolls and sex bots in the practice of psychotherapy.
- Dr. Richmond’s background and how she got involved in sex tech.
- What is sex tech, and the role it plays in Dr. Richmond’s work as a somatic psychologist.
- The positive roles sex tech can play in someone’s sex life.
- How virtual reality can help to encourage people to experience healthy eroticism.
- Defining Teledildonics; Connected sex toys.
- Why deepfakes can either be really great, or really dangerous.
- The difference between a sex doll and a sex bot; are they a good influence?
- The role of sex dolls and sex bots in psychotherapy.
Resources, extended show notes and Holly’s contact details can be accessed by clicking here.
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Sean Jameson: Today on the show, I am talking to Dr. Holly Richmond, she is a Somatic Psychologist, Certified Sex Therapist (CST), and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT). Dr. Richmond is one of North America’s leading sex therapists, serving women, men, couples and gender diverse individuals for relationship and sexuality issues.
She’s been featured and quoted everywhere from Cosmo to CNN to news week, to Marie Claire, to the New York Times, practically every well-known publication you can think of. Dr. Richmond is also a sought after consultant in the sex tech industry and is seen as a pioneer in bridging the gap between sexual health education and adult entertainment. Her work through the Next-Sex platform is an exploration of the context of emerging technology and sexuality and how to positively influence both sexual and technological development. Today, Holly is on the show to discuss sex tech and how it can help and sometimes hinder your sex life.
Holly, thanks so much for coming on the show.
Dr Holly Richmond: Thank you so much Sean. I’m so happy to be here.
Sean Jameson: Great. I’d love to start off with your background and how you got involved in helping people and how you got involved in sex tech.
Dr Holly Richmond: Absolutely and I’ll keep it pretty brief. So I was a journalist for 15 years and ended up teaching creative writing and some basic journalism skills at a girl’s detention facility in Southern California. While I was working with them, you can imagine the stories I was hearing but a lot of them were about sexual abuse, sexual assault, gang rape, all of these things that had been really normalized in their daily lives and I was shocked and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I want them to know this is not normal.”
Long story short, that propelled me to go back and get my Masters in Clinical Psychology and my PhD in Somatic Psychology. I did my internship at a rape crisis center because of that, because of the earlier work and really, it was pretty aware to me early on that I was taught very well how to treat trauma, sexual trauma, but I wasn’t taught how to treat sexual health. So these people that were recovering from these traumas, I wanted to be able to help them move into their own healthy sexuality and healthy sexual relationships. So that’s why I then decided to go and pair the sex therapy certification.
Sean Jameson: Awesome. So what is sex tech? To people who haven’t kind of heard of this term before, what is sex tech?
Dr Holly Richmond: Super simple, it’s just the combination of anything to do with sexuality and technology. So if we go way back, you can you know, almost say, like the earliest condoms were sex tech. So anything that’s created and blends sex and technology. Most of the time today, when we’re talking about it, we would talk about vibrators, we would talk about pornography, anything that is motorized and moves. But again, you know, pharmaceuticals are even an aspect of sex tech and as we’re moving into the future, immersive sex tech, which you and I are going to get to.
Sean Jameson: Okay, what role then would you say this sex tech plays in your work as a somatic psychologist?
Dr Holly Richmond: It’s huge. I rarely meet a client who isn’t using some form of sex and technology, whether that’s a vibrator or in most cases online adult entertainment and sometimes that’s a super positive and sometimes it’s a negative. Whether they have compulsivity issues with dealing and masturbating or if they’re really using it as a healthy tool in the relationship to stimulate desire.
Sean Jameson: Okay, so something like using excessive use of maybe porn might be a bad thing.
Dr Holly Richmond: Yes.
Sean Jameson: Could that also maybe be excessive use of sex toys, could that be a bad thing?
Dr Holly Richmond: Sure, sure. If someone is avoiding life to stay home and masturbate, of course it’s a bad thing. If they’re, you know, missing work, if they’re not going out with friends, if they’re isolating. The other things I look for is are they causing themselves pain? Is it getting to be painful, sore, anything that’s uncomfortable and then another huge piece is, are they feeling bad about it? Which, that’s usually the one that leads them to call me. So they have this sense of shame about how much they’re masturbating.
For some people, let’s say, masturbating 10 times a day is super problematic and they feel horrible about it. For other people, it’s going to be just fine. So again, through my sex positive view, all sex is good sex as long as it’s consensual and pleasurable. I don’t get to make the choice about how much is too much. Every client does.
Sean Jameson: I think that’s fair enough. So what kind of examples would you have for you know, positive role, sex toys, maybe even lube I guess? Well we know the kind of positive roles lube can play in someone’s sex life. But say, specifically with sex toys or maybe even something like virtual reality. Is there kid of positive roles those things can, you know, sex tech can play in someone’s sex life?
Dr Holly Richmond: Absolutely. In the last several years, for sure, and in the last two years, when we’re looking at immersive technologies, these sex and technology tools have had an incredibly positive influence on women in particular I believe.
Let’s talk about toys; the toys are just getting better and better. They don’t all look like these huge fallaces, they’re feeling better, the materials are healthier, those from Dame Products, Unbound, the toys on Ella Paradis. All of these products, a lot of them are now curated for women because they’re being created by women so women know what women want. As far as virtual reality, the front runners here are Naughty America.
Sean Jameson: Would you mind if we back up a little bit? For those who aren’t quite sure what virtual reality is, could you give an example of it?
Dr Holly Richmond: Absolutely. So I bet most people have seen virtual reality goggles. There’s these fairly big goggles that fit over your head, and within that, you typically pop in your phone. If they’re a mobile head mounted device, you would pop your phone in, pull up a virtual reality film, you would have to have a special app for this or go to a website that has VR like BaDoink or Naught America, open a film and – Okay, it’s shot in 360 degrees, you feel like you’re in a room, you feel like you’re in the porn scene. You can literally look around you and you are embodying the body of somebody that is in that scene as well. It’s called point of view, you could be a man, a woman, really, anything, you can be a unicorn, it depends on what the scene is. Virtual reality is a virtual environment that you are placed in, once you put these goggles on your head.
Sean Jameson: Okay. So how can that help people to encourage them to experience healthy eroticism?
Dr Holly Richmond: Yeah, so this has been so interesting to me. I’m not a super techy person and when I first discovered virtual reality, probably about two and a half years ago now, I was incredibly excited and it took me several weeks to go, “Why is this so exciting to me?” What I figured out is this is our first step into somatic technology.
So instead of just watching films, we are experiencing them. I’m always talking to my clients about getting out of their head and into their body and trying to help them feel more than they’re thinking. Virtual reality is almost a direct line to feeling and not thinking, experiencing instead of watching. It’s this embodied technology where we can become anything. Kind of transcends our own biology to be whatever we want.
Sean Jameson: It’s crazy, I’ve actually used this last on Saturday. I just played this game where I was a mouse. It sounds totally ridiculous, it was a puzzle game. But what’s really wild about it is, you really feel totally immersed. Even though I was sitting down and you know, I was still very much in the room, when I took the headset off after 15 minutes it was crazy, I felt like I was never in the room at all, I was actually inside this game. So I can understand to a degree what you mean.
What other aspects of sex tech do you think people should explore? I’ve heard the word Teledildonics turned around a lot. It’s a funny word, but what is it exactly?
Dr Holly Richmond: Yeah, so Teledildonics are typically Bluetooth connected sex toys. Let’s say that you’re in Berlin and your partner is in Brooklyn and you guys rarely get to see each other but you still want to have sex and Skype sex has gotten kind of old.
Sean Jameson: He might be worried the government is watching.
Dr Holly Richmond: I know. So you can go to several companies are making these now but for men, it’s typically a masturbatory sleeve. I’m trying to paint a visual picture here. Picture like a fairly large canister and within that, it’s like a Fleshlight, and Fleshlight is actually partners with Kiiroo to make these devices. Within that canister is a Fleshlight that is automated.
Sean Jameson: Okay, like a sort of rubber vagina? Much more lifelike than just a piece of rubber?
Dr Holly Richmond: Correct. So it’s shaped like a vagina, it has a clitoris and lips, a vulva, everything. So you would use, back to your question about lube, absolutely, you have to use lube with that. A person with a penis is using that type of sleeve device, a person with a vagina, wherever she is, is using a vibrator. These two toys talk to each other.
They’re exchanging information. So, if the sleeve is going faster, the vibrate will go faster. If she changes her pattern, she go a little bit slower, something more sensual, his pattern will change on his sleeve as well.
Sean Jameson: Wow, cool.
Dr Holly Richmond: Yeah, and another really cool thing with Teledildonics if you don’t have a partner but you still want to feel like you’re having sex with someone, these toys can be synced with content. So check this out, you’ve got your VR glasses on, you’re immersed in a porn scene, you have your sleeve masturbatory device and your sleeve is synced with what’s happening with the action on screen.
So let’s say a girl is sitting on your lap and she’s going faster, you will feel that go faster, if she slows down, your sleeve will slow down. It’s amazing.
Sean Jameson: That’s crazy, that’s incredible. Where can – you know, someone might be interested listening, where can someone kind of find out more about that kind of experience?
Dr Holly Richmond: Yeah, absolutely. Again, there’s a lot of manufacturers. One of my favorite is Kiiroo and they team with Fleshlight. But there’s also some really cool products Ellaparadis.com. But if you Google around, Teledildonics, you will certainly come up with some sites and figure out what’s best for you.
Sean Jameson: Sure, and I’ll put those two companies in the show notes for anyone listening.
Dr Holly Richmond: Wonderful. Then the other thing I wanted to mention at Teledildonics, it’s a little bit different but there’s this super cool company called lioness. Sean, check this out too. Liz at Lioness has created this vibrator for women which measures pleasure. So you will literally get data, you will get feedback about your orgasm. You can see the patterns, picture like waves, you know, like an EKG wave.
You can masturbate say on Tuesday, you decide to masturbate at 9 AM. Thursday, you masturbate at midnight on Thursday, your orgasm was whatever percent stronger than it was on Tuesday, you can ask yourself, “Okay, what did I do different? Was I just feeling more rested, was I more relaxed, had I had a glass of wine, had I not had a glass of wine? Was I in a really good place with my partner, or were we fighting?” All of these things, you can continually build your eroticism and your pleasure practice.
Sean Jameson: That is crazy, that sounds like a FitBit or an Apple watch for your vagina.
Dr Holly Richmond: It is, it’s exactly that. Our lovely toys does the FitBit for your dick essentially, same thing but for a penis. It’s called Lovely Toys.
Sean Jameson: That is so crazy. Definitely check that out. Okay, deepfakes, what are your thoughts on them? I’m so sorry, let’s back up a little bit. What are deepfakes, for people who have never heard.
Dr Holly Richmond: Yeah, a lot of people might be familiar with these just on in general media. On Reddit there’s a lot of deepfake information. So you are going to take, for some reason people love to use Nicholas Cage. So take Nicholas Cage’s face and body and put it in every other film that he hasn’t been in, in all of these scenes or it was done with President Obama too. So someone will super impose his face in a film scene or a little news clip and it will look real but it’s fake.
Sean Jameson: So it’s sort of like –
Dr Holly Richmond: It’s like President Obama talking or Nicholas Cage talking.
Sean Jameson: So it is like previously you could Photoshop a picture of someone to make it look like they’re sitting on the beach but this is photos shopping an entire video of a person and putting them on the beach walking around as if they are actually there and they have never been to that beach, is that accurate?
Dr Holly Richmond: That’s accurate, but also talking. So it literally takes a face scan, a 3D face scan and mouth movements, eye movements, all facial movements and superimposes those as well, does that make sense?
Sean Jameson: Yeah. What is the moral implications of that?
Dr Holly Richmond: It is huge. It’s huge. Reddit actually took some of their feeds down. So let us talk a little bit about our specialty, our area, why these could be great or why this could be real and why this could be really dangerous. So we can go to the really dangerous first. If you take a photo of your ex-girlfriend and put her in a porn scene that she never consented to and that is circulated around the internet, hugely problematic, illegal. I am not sure if any of these cases have come up and been tried yet. But ethically morally and I am quite certain legally just not right correct? And could be incredibly hurtful for a lot of people.
I will say, the technology isn’t perfect and you could almost always if you are watching long enough tell that it is a deepfake and it is not real. So thank god there’s that. But on the positive side, so Naughty America is now offering this customized service where a viewer can pick their porn scene with their favorite porn star, send a picture of himself or herself to Naughty America and within 72 hours they will turn that clip around and send it back to you with you in it.
Sean Jameson: So you can get your own personalized porn movie, almost.
Dr Holly Richmond: Yes and I think that is fantastic. I mean anything that encourages healthy masturbation and fantasy is definitely a plus on my end. But I was thinking, so what if a man did this and his partner found it and thought it was real? I mean there is a fight waiting to happen, right? Like, “Oh my god when did you had sex with this porn star?” And he’s like, “But wait, it’s not me!”
Sean Jameson: And the lighting was amazing. This isn’t homemade.
Dr Holly Richmond: Right. So again, I think we are just really tipping our toe, dipping our toe into these immersive technologies. We don’t know all of the implications yet. Of course I am on the side of sex positivity and that they can really teach us a lot, help us to know ourselves better, help us to know our partners better but there are some stumbling blocks that we need to be careful.
Sean Jameson: Yeah, absolutely. Technology can be neutral in and of itself. It’s just how to be used can be positive and it can be negative.
Dr Holly Richmond: Absolutely, I say that all the time. Technology is essentially inert until we push a button, right? Technology is not doing anything until we do to it.
Sean Jameson: So speaking of that, what do you think of sex dolls and even sex bots? Are they good? Are they bad? Are they creepy, or are they the answer to loneliness?
Dr Holly Richmond: Right, I think I am definitely on the side of good here. I don’t find them creepy. Of course I have talked to plenty of people who do find that they are creepy and I tell them, “Don’t get one. You know, save your 5,000 or your $15,000 and don’t get one.”
Sean Jameson: Well let’s back up just one more time, sorry to do this again. So what exactly is a sex doll and how is it different to a sex bot?
Dr Holly Richmond: Yeah, so when we say sex doll today we are not talking about blow up dolls. We are talking about synthetic dolls. Their skin feels real, their hair feels real, they are almost life size. Generally in more of the four foot range rather than the five foot range just because they get so heavy and they are customizable. So you can choose your hair color, choose your eye color, choose the size of the lips, chose the skin tone.
And of course, when we’re talking about sex dolls, choose the size of the breast, the nipples, the waist, the butt, what type of vulva you like, what kind of pubic hair design you want all of these things.
Sean Jameson: Wow.
Dr Holly Richmond: Yeah, so sex dolls don’t move. They don’t do anything but they have orifices for people to have sex with. But a lot of people just consider them companions as well. So they buy these dolls to have in their homes. They talk to them and they really become important pieces of their lives. Again this isn’t for everybody, but for certain segments of the population it is hugely helpful.
Sean Jameson: And that’s healthy?
Dr Holly Richmond: I think it is. I mean, I feel like it would be more unhealthy for someone to be lonely and depressed.
Sean Jameson: Yeah, that is a fair point.
Dr Holly Richmond: So how sex bots are different; so picture that same exact thing but a sex bot has AI. So he or she and I want to make sure everyone knows that there are male dolls and sex bots as well. It can be programmed to say your name to tell jokes to anticipate your wants and your needs based on AI, artificial intelligence.
Sean Jameson: Okay, well how do you feel is this a sentient being then?
Dr Holly Richmond: It’s not. No, it’s absolutely not and I was just going to say some more notes for you; Real Dolls are really the crème de la crème of making this AI sex bots. So they make Harmony and Henry both of whom have AI but they also have a huge range of dolls too. Another company called Synthetic Surrogates, which more and more therapists are starting to use, are the dolls but can also be used for therapeutic purposes.
So let’s talk about that for a minute how I think these can be applicable. So as a therapist, as a psychotherapist I am not allowed to touch. I do talk therapy. I use the body as much as possible with guided imagery, breath work, all of the sense like focus exercises, all of these things but at the end of the day I can’t touch. So in the past I have to turn to surrogate partner therapists or psychological body workers when my client has needed touch that I can’t give.
So that can be cost prohibitive. So now they’re not only paying me but I am asking them to go see another person once a week to get touch therapy and also it can be such a stretch and such a challenge for someone to even walk into my office but then me asking them to go tell another person about their issues, it’s just too much. So I really see sex dolls and sex bots stepping into these roles, by no means replacing these wonderful people that I work with but as another option.
Sean Jameson: Okay but I think that sounds fair enough. It’s like you said about everything we’ve talked about today, if it is used in a healthy way where it’s consensual. It’s not painful, it is pleasurable then what’s the problem? What’s the issue, you know?
Dr Holly Richmond: Right, exactly and having a doll for an adult virgin to have sex with a doll for the first time can dramatically reduce anxiety, create competency, create mastery. So the goal is to get them to move out into the real world and have these connections and these relationships if that is what they want.
Sean Jameson: Yeah that is pretty understandable. So Holly this has been fantastic. It has been very eye opening to learn about all the ways technology sex tech can impact someone’s sex life, can improve someone’s sex life, potentially. Potentially damage it. But what I am wondering is, if people want to get in touch with you if they want to find out more about maybe working with you or discuss further what we just lifted the lid on today, what is the best way for people to reach you?
Dr Holly Richmond: Absolutely, so let me give you my email address. :et me start with my website because you will find ways to connect with me through my website. So it is drhollyrichmond.com and the email is the same [email protected], Dr. Holly Richmond in Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, what else LinkedIn, it is all Dr. Holly Richmond. It is hard not to find me. Please do, I love talking about this topic and sexual health in general.
Sean Jameson: Awesome Holly, thank you so much.
Dr Holly Richmond: Thank you, take care Sean.