Desire under the microchip

Would you want your clothes to become transparent whenever you are aroused, instead of the usual signals? When innovative tech art enters personal territory it becomes both edgy and a matter of some concern.

Artist Daan Roosegaarde, who runs a social design lab, has diversified into computerised couture. He does not call it that. Rather, it has a name more befitting lingerie – ‘Intimacy’. You may opt for the black or the white version.

According to The DailyBeast:

Each dress has a small microchip embedded inside that contains software programmed to monitor different behaviors—in this case, a heartbeat. The garment functions much like a computer: The input is the heartbeat, the processor is the microchip and the output is the foil material, which can change from white to transparent or black to transparent.

Roosegarde does not treat it as merely a techno marvel:

“It creates a situation of total control that the wearer or the one who observes it has an influence over what fashion looks like…With some people you want to show more and some people you want to show less. We thought it would make complete sense that the dress would be proactive in that: either you have control or you lose control.”

Any woman who has been exposed to a particularly cold windy day or the gust from an airconditioner knows how her nipples react. These signals have little to do with arousal, although bracing weather can indeed be utterly enticing.

I assume the person who chooses to dress in ‘Intimacy’ is aware of the consequences. A beautiful and spontaneous reaction is now about control. What if she is aroused by a fantasy, a passage in a book, a scene in a movie, and not the person she is with? Is it not possible that she would try and control herself and withhold a natural expression even though she might not wish to see it through to what is considered a logical end?

The sensual would now become mechanical. Were the woman’s garment to turn transparent due to her partner, then it would express urgency, a preparedness that might pretty much bypass foreplay. Where would the blushing cheeks, the darkening of eyes, the shortness of breath, the slow running of fingers through hair, the biting of lips, the anticipation figure in this?

There is something automated about the dress, and as it is programmed one is not too far from such an allusion.

Besides, while ostensibly giving women the freedom to let their clothes communicate their desires, it actually plays into the male prerogative of perceiving the signals. It assumes that women might not wish to convey what they want – either through those natural expressions I mentioned or proactively by seduction, where she can gauge male arousal. ‘Intimacy’ makes woman the taker, or rather the taken, as does every stereotype in the book.  It chips in with a microchip to assist her to get rid of being able to transmit sexual intent.

Male arousal is seen as a given and in control of itself and of what it desires. The man will know exactly what to do, when and how. The reality is not quite as simple. Men also have issues and inhibitions.

There are plans to dress men, too. ‘Intimacy 3.0’ is a suit that will become transparent when they lie. Roosegarde uses humour to explain it: “That’s for the banking world.” That one-liner itself reveals that men’s command over their bodies in sexual situations is to be taken for granted.  It is unlikely that they would pick up a suit that would expose their lies. If they would wear it in an intimate setting, isn’t it a bit confusing that they would want to fake arousal or lie about interest in their partner? Reminds me of Pinocchio, whose nose grew longer with every lie. It would kind of stick out.

Unless, there is an altruistic motive to get men to be more truthful, aware that their lies would get exposed. The microchip would then work as conscience-keeper. From the body’s reactions to emotions to matters more intimately moral, it would seem a market can be created for robotising and lobotomising everything that is human.

© Farzana Versey


  1. I can't imagine any woman voluntarily donning these clothes. Exactly what do they have to gain from this? Most of the time they are fending off unwanted advances from those around them and the last thing they would want is some idiot jumping on them because their clothes are broadcasting some hidden desire unless it is Brad Pitt or Hrithik Roshan.

  2. Sai:

    That's the point. It objectifies a woman, that too by using an object.

    It also takes away the ability of women to express themselves naturally, not too different from patriarchal constraints.

    I don't agree with your allusion that a woman might not have problems if a Brad Pitt or Hrithik became aware of her desires and took that as assent. The cult of celebrity has played on this for long.


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