The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has returned an award for a women’s sex toy, four months after it was revoked in a move that drew accusations of gender bias. In January, the Lora DiCarlo Osé personal massager, marketed as a hands-free vibrator for “the holy grail of orgasms,” was named as an Innovation Awards Honoree in the show’s Robotics and Drone product category.
But shortly after, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which operates the conference, stripped Lora DiCarlo of the award, saying that “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.” It also banned the company from exhibiting at future shows.
Lora DiCarlo’s founder and CEO Lora Haddock said the decision resulted from a systemic gender bias that pervades the tech industry.
There was outrage and disbelief earlier this year when the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) the organization behind the major CES annual tech show revoked its Robotics Innovation Award from women’s sex toy Osé. Now, exactly four months after Osé manufacturer Lora DiCarlo wrote a damning open letter to the CTA about the fiasco, the organization has backtracked (again) and re-awarded the accolade.
At the time, the CTA said the “blended-orgasm machine” was not eligible for its Innovation Awards and should not have gotten so far into the process, citing a portion of the terms and conditions that stated “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.”
Haddock said in January that a “long, documented history of gender bias, sexism, misogyny and double standards” has plagued the CTA and CES specifically, noting that a sex doll for men was launched at CES in 2018 and that a virtual reality pornography company exhibits there annually.
“Men’s sexuality is allowed to be explicit with a literal sex robot in the shape of an unrealistically proportioned woman and VR [virtual reality] porn in point of pride along the aisle. Female sexuality, on the other hand, is heavily muted if not outright banned,” she said.
On Wednesday, CTA offered Lora DiCarlo a “sincere apology,” after announcing that the award had been returned to the company. In response, Haddock recognized the gesture but said that it was just the first step in driving long-term change. She thanked the company’s fans, saying they had helped to send a message of inclusivity and diversity. While the organization said it “did not handle this award properly,” it did not specify whether such products would be allowed to exhibit at the conference or eligible to receive awards in future.
The CTA added that it will announce updated policies in the run-up to the next Las Vegas show in January 2020. The statement did not explain why it took four months to re-assign the award.