8th Annual International Conference of the Centre for Phenomenology in South Africa

The in-person conference at the Crawford’s Beach Lodge in Chintsa, South Africa. On Technology and Sexuality, from 2-3 September 2022.

Organised by Abraham Olivier, Andrea Hurst, Siseko Kumalo, Rafael Winkler

Confirmed Keynote Speakers: Talia Bettcher (California State University), Lynne Hall (University of Sunderland), zethu Matebeni (University of Fort Hare), M. John Lamola (University of Johannesburg)


Sexuality has become, if it has not always been, one of humanity’s preeminent concerns, especially once the belief emerges that it holds the key to personal identity. Consider Foucault’s critique of the Christian confessional: ‘tell me your desires, and I will tell you who you are’. What complicates matters is the place of technology in the contemporary world; the way it mediates both self/self and self/other interactions. Sherry Turkle puts it well when she remarks in Alone together that “technology proposes itself as the architect of our intimacies”.

At the mundane level, technology increasingly mediates sexuality, as sophisticated sex technology (sextech) becomes compact, affordable and available for private home use by content creators and consumers alike. As a result, the multi-billion-dollar sex industry drives innovation in audio-visual and digital technologies, as well as haptics and robotics; corporeal and online selves become blurred in digital avatars; and many turn to customised digital spaces and sex toys to explore onanistic and personal fantasies.

But has not sexuality more fundamentally and from the start been structured by a certain artifice, a language, code or ritual, a symbolism rich with fantasies of life and death, of natality and mortality, of sublime chaos and rebirth? Archaeology and anthropology reveal deep-seated cultural mediation of sexuality through technology. Painting and sculpture regularly mediate ritualistic and orgiastic acknowledgement of the sexual cycle, and its basic relation to life and death, mimicking the movement of the whole, from its descent into chaos (the loss of individuality or of the ego, the feeling of oneness, etc.) to the rebirth of order.

Has technology, understood broadly as the use of tools and symbols, perhaps always been necessary to bring about this state of transcendence or transgression of the mundane and of the ego? Does contemporary sexuality retain this aim, or is the aim typically pleasure for the ego; the kind of pleasure that reinforces ego-integrity or unity rather than ego-loss? How is sexuality understood if technology – above all the audio-visual technology promoted by the porn industry – is designed to support onanistic fantasies? Is the porn industry transgressive of social norms and taboos? What of the sex industry’s primary focus on stimulation of body parts for pleasure, rather than genital union between whole persons for natural or social reproduction? Does sextech pervert the sexual relation? What about the marketing of electronic sex toys, designed not simply to procure the consumer ‘guaranteed pleasure’ but also provide, to the consumer and the company, feedback on arousal and orgasm? Does the sex industry, in league with modern scientific discourses and aided by sextech, strip sexuality of its transgressive significance? Has the modern technological (scientific and pornographic) representation of sexuality irrevocably changed our experience of sexuality? Does it reinforce or does it call into question the belief that the truth about ourselves lies within our sexual desire and fantasy?

The aim of the conference is to respond to some of these questions and to the imbrication of sexuality and technology and the way this affects how we think about ourselves as sexual beings. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

· Sextech and pornography
· Porn addiction
· Sex with robots
· Onanism and intimacy
· Sexual identity
· Sexuality and psychoanalytic theory
· Sexual expectation(s) and porn consumption
· Sextech and consent
· Sextech, objectification and/or perversion
· Sextech and racism
· Sextech and freedom

Second CFP: Submission

Please send a 300-word abstract for blind review to [email protected] or [email protected] and [email protected]. The full paper should be no more than 3500-4000 words for a 30 min. presentation. Proposals for panel discussion are also welcome.

The extended deadline for submission of abstracts is the 15th of July 2022. Notification of acceptance will be sent by the 30th of July 2022.


A live in-person event is realistically expected, but in case of unpredictable and extreme public health circumstances it will be moved online or to hybrid format.

Conference fees

The fee for the full two-day conference (including teas and lunches) for participants is R875 (including VAT). It is free of charge for all participating graduate and PhD students.


Contact Crawfords Beach Lodge: [email protected]. Also, consult Crawford’s for provision of transport from the airport to the conference venue.

For more information about the conference, please visit the website of the Centre for Phenomenology in South Africa: https://saphenomenology.wordpress.com. Alternatively, please contact Abraham Olivier ([email protected] or [email protected]), Andrea Hurst ([email protected]), Siseko Kumalo ([email protected]).