The Atlantic

Porn’s Uncanny Valley

The San Fernando Valley was once the bedroom community of the adult industry. Now technology hopes to disrupt traditional pornography—and the city it calls home.
Source: Joe Klamar / Getty / MarinaGrigorivna / Shutterstock / Arsh Raziuddin / The Atlantic

“It’s a phantom-limb penis syndrome,” said a tall, British man who goes by the name Adam Sutra. Adam is the CEO of CamasutraVR, a company that makes, among other products, virtual-reality pornography. He was trying to explain to me what it’s like when you’re a man, you’re immersed in virtual reality, and you look down at yourself.

Adam works in a downtown Los Angeles loft that was arranged like any start-up with ambitious goals. High ceilings, concrete floors, and skateboards leaning against a wall upon which hung a poster for the indie rock band Pavement. Outside, there was the clamor of construction in a neighborhood busily gentrifying. Inside, the late-morning sunlight illuminated the room.

On the computer screen before us, a 3-D rendering of a naked man was stomping around a virtual apartment. “I’m now in the body of a black, male performer with a 12-inch penis,” Adam announced. The virtual apartment’s decor was banal: a white coffee table next to a sofa, a bowl of oranges on the kitchen counter, an Oriental rug on the floor. But in the main room, the real porn star Casey Calvert had been digitally scanned and recreated as a digital doppelgänger. She was dancing around a stripper pole, grinding to the ominous chords of Metallica’s

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