Other users spend even more to make the experience as realistic as possible. Elaine, a 25-year-old telemarketer and ERPer from California, uses a $500 haptics vest and a $120 Lovense Nora rabbit vibrator. “Wherever people touch my avatar’s chest, it creates a low-frequency vibration,” explained Elaine, who has a voluptuous, pink-haired VR stand-in, complete with Jessica Rabbit–style bunny ears. “That feels like a slight tingle on your skin. It’s quite pleasant.”
Once ERPers have perfected their setup, they’re ready to join the fun. Most attend events that are organized through Discord servers, and take place in private, invite-only VR worlds meant to protect attendees from detection. Participant favorites include “cuddle puddles” — in which they gather to watch films and snuggle, setting each other’s sex toys off in sessions that can last up to four hours — as well as “lewd game nights,” which are themed.
The lewd game nights “go really deep into roleplay,” said LuSaffi, a 20-year-old nonbinary Texan who coruns a VRChat ERP Discord server. According to LuSaffi — who uses a cat girl–style avatar with long, flowing dark hair to match their IRL locks — a much-loved event is the group’s regular cops and robbers night. “Instead of being caught and brought back to your cell,” they said, “you can opt for a more optimal exchange.” They added that their ERP group had security guards to protect attendees from harassment and recently employed a photographer to document the fun.
At the events, attendees engage in all sorts of adventurous acts, including spit roasts and gangbangs. The main draw, however, is the opportunity to interact with virtual partners in real time. “There’s something about hearing the sounds people make in response to the sensations they experience that is satisfying to me,” Jade said. “That means they’re enjoying themselves, and I’m helping them have that enjoyment.”
Jade added that they particularly like finding partners who use face-tracking, a special setup that allows someone’s avatar to mimic their IRL expressions. “Sometimes when people are making these faces that look like they’re in pure ecstasy,” Jade said, “they’re actually making that face in real life.”
Other users are even more adventurous. “There’s definitely a lot of BDSM going on in the ERP community,” Elaine said. “There are paddles to spank each other with, whips, cages to lock your partner with, collars — you name it.” Other attendees told BuzzFeed News about their exploits in private sex dungeons that feature suspension rigs and even disembodied tentacles designed to work with Bluetooth-enabled sex toys.
“I don’t mind being restrained, or getting shut up with a ball gag,” said Bambi, who often has BDSM sex with his dedicated mistress on VRChat. Although he’s a virgin in the real world, Bambi has enjoyed exploring BDSM in a safe environment. Part of the fun, he said, is being able to experiment without worrying about getting hurt. “Most of the time your arms will get constrained [in VR], so you can put your controllers down, and feel like you can’t move, which is exhilarating and very fun,” he added. “We have safe words and everything.”
Some users go even further than Bambi and produce their own risky, at-home setups to better mimic the physical sensations of BDSM-based play. “Someone made a dildo gun that was strapped around their face, and they made that react when they were strangled in-game,” Plague said. “It stopped them breathing” — as it would thrust in and out of their mouth — “but only for a second.”
Piston-enabled dildo guns can cost more than $1,000 — although it may not be advisable to set one up with “strangulation” in mind, especially without supervision. “The way that they did it [was safe],” Plague assured BuzzFeed News. “It could be unsafe for someone otherwise, but [the creator] actually knew what they were doing.”
Lovense — the manufacturer of Bluetooth-enabled sex toys that VR users seem to favor, and which RealFeel is designed to work with best — was quick to point out that such use cases aren’t encouraged. “Lovense does not have toys in its portfolio that simulate strangulation or produce electrical stimulation or other potentially dangerous features,” Dan Liu, founder of Lovense, told BuzzFeed News over email.
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