CES is the largest tech show in the world. Held every year in Vegas, it’s a barometer for trends in the tech world — you can reliably predict what will become big in the coming years by walking around the floor and seeing what is debuting.
One area that’s been steadily growing is sextech, of course. I watch mostly from the sidelines because as a man in the world of sextech, a lot of what I write feels like “mansplaining” to me. There is a lot of innovation going on in sextech, and most of it is done by women. This is not an accident. During an interview with a European business journal I was once asked to explain why sextech innovators are usually women, and my reply was that women are more driven to improve their sex lives than men so they’d be a lot better at sextech than men. CES actually reflects this — until this year, the biggest sextech splash at the show was a sex doll produced by a male-led company(*yawn*). If that’s not the definition of banal, I don’t know what is.
This year promised to be something different. A female founded company, Lora DiCarlo, initially won a coveted CES Innovation Award for their Osé “vibrator” product. While technically a vibrator, the device is so much more than that. Using biomimicry and robotics, the Osé allows women to reach orgasm while keeping the experience hands-free. It’s an incredible technical advance in arguably the oldest field of sextech, mimicking the human mouth, tongue, and fingers.
Early October of 2018, the panel in charge of the award informed Lora Dicarlo of the award. By the end of October, the award was rescinded. In an article on Tech Crunch, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) explained their position: via a clause in their guidelines, products were not eligible if they are judged “in their sole discretion to be immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with the CTA’s image will be disqualified. CTA reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any entry at any time which, in CTA’s opinion, endangers the safety or well being of any person, or fails to comply with these Official Rules. CTA decisions are final and binding.”
Lora DiCarlo was also prohibited from exhibiting “because they don’t fit a product category,” claimed CTA Senior Manager of Event Communications Sarah Brown in a statement to Tech Crunch.
This is, quite frankly, a lie. CES obviously tried to do damage control by letting a woman communicate their reasoning, but it’s a bit like Sarah Sanders lying for Trump — who is this woman and how much are they paying her to sell out her own gender? Sextech companies have exhibited at CES in the past, most notably the aforementioned sex robot — which was part of a full-on exhibit of VR porn by Naughty America. 2016 was the breakout year for sextech at CES, with a product from OhMiBod winning another innovation award. Despite all of this previous permissiveness, somehow a product aimed at women is “obscene” when it gets too much attention.
Lora Haddock, founder and CEO of Lora DiCarlo, sees through this obvious lie. “There is an obvious double-standard when it comes to sexuality and sexual health,” she writes in a statement on the Lora DiCarlo website. “While there are sex and sexual health products at CES, it seems that CES/CTA administration applies the rules differently for companies and products based on the gender of their customers. Men’s sexuality is allowed to be explicit with a literal sex robot in the shape of an unrealistically proportioned woman and VR porn in point of pride along the aisle. Female sexuality, on the other hand, is heavily muted if not outright banned … This double standard makes it clear that women’s sexuality is not worthy of innovation. By excluding female-focused Sex Tech, CES and CTA are essentially saying that women’s sexuality and sexual health is not worthy of innovation.”
Indeed, this is CES shooting itself in the foot completely. Sextech is dominated by women-led companies, yet CES is continuing to ignore these. This should be a wakeup call to consumers of sextech — don’t look towards the mainstream to show you where the innovation is, but never give up your assault on the mainstream. Next year is bound to be different because of this controversy. The CES is trying quietly to keep a lid on the biggest consumer segment nobody knows about because it offends their sensibilities — when really what they are offended at is that a woman-led company designed something solely directed at women’s pleasure. Ask yourself why the CES hates this, and you’ll understand that the powers that be at CES actually view women as something to prance around in skimpy costumes at booths as “booth babes” — not as corporate leaders. CES and CTA should be ashamed of itself for showing the world how misogynistic their leaders are.