It's 5pm on a Wednesday afternoon and I'm watching a man play Pong with his perineum.
Thankfully the exchange is over Skype and as the little white ball is thrust back and forth across the smartphone screen that's enlarged on my Mac, Jon Thomas, my fellow Skyper, remarks that this isn't something you see everyday. "Hopefully, it will be soon."
Thomas is the lead dev of kGoal Boost. It's a San Francisco based startup dedicated to the creation of Kegel muscle exercisers and their accompanying smartphone trackers, which work together to guide you through five-minute workouts and chart your progress over time.
The original kGoal was designed for women but after creating the female version, Thomas and his team realised that much of the same technology can be applied to the male anatomy. So they set out to make a kegel exerciser for men too.
The kGoal Boost (below) is a $99 seat-shaped pressure pad that connects to your iPhone and Android and is due for release in 2017. It's designed to sense pelvic muscle contractions while you sit on it. Yes, you can leave your clothes on. A decision taken, Thomas explained, because unlike Kegel vaginal insertibles, he soon realised "sticking something up your butt was a non-starter for most guys."
What the hell is a Kegel muscle?
It's the muscle you squeeze to make your erection bounce. This year's party trick sorted, then.
Charlie Glickman PhD, a sex & relationship coach, told Wareable that the PC muscle (pubococcygeus) is part of the pelvic floor and supports the organs of the pelvis. "In women, it's the muscle that causes the vagina to squeeze during orgasm, and in men, it's one of the muscles that squeezes to cause ejaculation by pumping semen out of the penis," he said.
He also informed me that "it's the muscle that you can squeeze to make your erection bounce". That's this year's Christmas party trick sorted, then. Mum's going to be so proud.
I know what you're thinking. Why do I need to exercise the pelvic floor? Well, research has linked pelvic floor exercise in men to erectile function, bladder control, and positive prostatectomy recovery.
As Glickman explained, it's often called the Kegel muscle after Dr. Arnold Kegel (hence the capital 'K') a urologist who promoted PC muscle exercises to help women who suffered from urinary incontinence.
Eat my shorts
The kGoal Boost isn't the only connected self product currently in development for this niche exercise market. VylyV, are smart shorts that also train your pelvic floor, promising to rewire your libido, harden and raise the angle of an erection, and even unlock "the secret to multiple orgasms." After raising $68,000 on Indiegogo in October, the smart garment is now in pre-production.
Sensors in the $249 shorts detect contractions of the muscles and visualise them in the app plus they are washable thanks to textile circuits and a detachable Bluetooth module. The in-app orgasm training includes stamina, explosiveness and control modes.
Founder Michael Whales developed the idea after test-running 20 penis enlargement devices and the startup unashamedly advertises the shorts as the key to "peak sexual performance."
"People who are involved in sedentary lifestyles, or avid cyclists should use VylyV," Whales tells us. "Also, they are a perfect choice for those who want to take their sexual performance to the next level."
In fairness though, there's a bit more glamour to sustaining an erection than there is to combating incontinence. And such claims are not without their medical merits. Kegel muscles have a sex-positive reputation for a reason.
"A strong and toned PC muscle has several benefits. First, it can make your erections firmer and longer lasting because the PC muscle helps support blood flow to the penis," Glickman said. "Also, the more toned the muscle is, the stronger your ejaculation will be if the PC muscle can squeeze more times—and more strongly—your orgasm will be that much longer and more intense."
Getting healthy AF
kGoal and VylyV are certainly de-stigmatising Kegel exercises for men. The one-time undetectable muscle is trackable at long last. But is the sex-tech market ready for male-aimed sexual enhancement wearables?
On the female side of things, Kegel exercisers and trackers are old news. The Elvie, an egg-shaped device inserted into the vagina that issues 5-minute workouts, is on the market already and sold in the likes of John Lewis.
"I think it's partly because we first heard about Kegels in the context of women's urinary incontinence that [Kegel exercises for men] has been less of a concern," Glickman says. "Also, since men don't generally talk about these issues with each other it took the era of the Internet to make it possible. Lastly, the fact that wearables are tech toys might make them more appealing to men—a lot of guys like their gadgets."
This is something both kGoal and VylyV have tapped into with the latter offering the Pong style game as a workout and the smart shorts providing motivation through a mix of music and games.
Thomas says that for all the technological advances "such as communication and power density," that allow products like kGoal Boost to be made efficiently and compactly, it's the shift of social norms that have "reduced the taboo around discussing and seeking to improve sexual health issues such as erectile dysfunction and bladder control" and really paved the way for Kegel exercisers for men. In other words, the time to hesitate is through.
Do you know what a Kegel is? Would you wear/use one of these devices? Let us know in the comments.