Victory For Women’s Sex Tech: CES Returns Prestigious Award
Lora DiCarlo’s ‘blended-orgasm' device gets the recognition it deserves.
It was a welcome surprise when the world’s biggest tech show returned the Robotics Innovation Award to sex tech startup Lora DiCarlo earlier this month.
Accusations of gender bias hit the Consumer Technology Association, the group behind the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) after it revoked the prize it originally had bestowed on the sex toy Osé in January.
With a heavy dose of sexual shaming, the CTA reportedly explained its knee-jerk move pointing to its terms and conditions that states:
“entries deemed by CTA in their sole discretion to be immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA's image will be disqualified.”
An award given—an award taken away
The initial decision to renege on the award given to company Lora DiCarlo was met with well-deserved outrage.
In an open letter that was released shortly after this year’s CES, the company pointed out the hypocrisy behind revoking the award. Event organizers had welcomed many sex-specific tech developers, leading to the accusation that the CTA didn’t really have a problem with sex—just with female sexuality.
As the letter states:
It's … important to note that a literal sex doll for men launched on the floor at CES in 2018 and a VR porn company exhibits there every year, allowing men to watch pornography in public as consumers walk by. Clearly CTA has no issue allowing explicit male sexuality and pleasure to be ostentatiously on display. Other sex toys have exhibited at CES and some have even won awards, but apparently there is something different, something threatening about Osé, a product created by women to empower women.
Gender bias, sexism, misogyny, and double standards
Further damning, Lora DiCarlo called out CES for its unfair treatment of women in the tech sector.
CES and the CTA have a long, documented history of gender bias, sexism, misogyny, and double standards—much like the tech industry as a whole. From the exclusion of female founders and executives to the lack of female-focused products allowed to exhibit on the floor—there are demonstrable issues with diversity. Gary Shapiro has even defended the use of scantily clad booth babes while denying that there is a hostile environment for women at CES. We've seen token concessions, like the attempted 50/50 split of female and male keynote speakers in 2019 after an all male lineup in 2017 and 2018—but sadly it's just cosmetic. It is not trickling down to who's allowed a seat at the table.
An apology and a re-award
Finally, more than four months since the 2019 show, the organizers revealed in a recent press release that the award would be presented to Lora DiCarlo.
In the press release about the re-award, CTA began by saying that it “recognizes the innovative technology that went into the development of Osé and reiterates its sincere apology to the Lora DiCarlo team.”
It then goes to quote CTA’s senior vice president of marketing and communications, Jean Foster, saying “CTA did not handle this award properly. This prompted some important conversations internally and with external advisors and we look forward to taking these learnings to continue to improve the show.”
To the company’s credit, Lora DiCarlo accepted the apology and the CES 2019 Innovation Award in the Robotics and Drones category.
As quoted in the same press release, Lora DiCarlo’s founder and CEO, Lora Haddock, said:
“I am thankful that the CTA has reconsidered our eligibility for this award and validated the innovation our engineering team is responsible for.”
She continued, thanking “… the incredible support and attention we’ve received in the wake of our experience highlights the need for meaningful changes and we are hopeful that our small company can continue to contribute meaningful progress toward making CES inclusive for all.”
A state-of-the-art orgasm blending device
Before CES, the Osé had already received positive recognition for its advanced engineering as well as being a female run and female-focused sex tech developer.
Lora Haddock, for instance, interviewed more than 200 women during the development of the Osé, using their feedback to design what she hoped would be an elegant and effective way of achieving blended-orgasms.
As Lora DiCarlo says on its website, the Osé uses:
“advanced micro-robotics it mimics all of the sensations of a human mouth, tongue, and fingers, for an experience that feels just like a real partner. No need for vibrations. It even flexes and adapts to your body for a personal fit that hits all the right spots—because there are better uses for your hands.”
Ironically, around the same time as they received their apology from CTA, Lora DiCarlo also got $2 million in seed money from the Oregon Opportunity Zone, which will go towards the development and release of the Osé.
A reason to celebrate?
While all this makes it a good day for female-focused sex tech, that CTA even withdrew the award in the first place is still cause for concern and outrage.
As Lora DiCarlo said in its initial letter about having such a high award given and then taken back on the grounds that they, and their product, was considered “immoral, obscene, indecent, profane” is actually more about the stigmatizing of pleasure.
“We also believe that society needs to drop the taboo around sex and sexuality—it's a part of life and health that absolutely should be part of mainstream discourse. No shaming, no embarrassment, just the comfort and freedom to be yourself and enjoy your own body.”
Image sources: LoraDiCarlo