Let’s suppose, hypothetically speaking of course, that a product exhibited at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) could be used to cause severe bodily harm with a weapon to another human.
Furthermore, without much effort, any person could witness the death of another person in a most gruesome manner, including skull crushing or shooting or being eaten alive, complete with blood splatter and disembowelment.
Now let’s contrast that with another product that could, hypothetically still, be used to give a woman an orgasm. Which of those two products is more indecent?
The former was exhibited on the show floor by multiple companies, including VR demonstrations, videos placed on TVs for passersby to see, and by many gaming accessory companies advertising their capabilities in realistically simulating death and destruction.
The latter has frequently been shunned by CES, usually by banning the products from being exhibited. In a well-publicized incident this year, a CES Innovation Award (granted by an independent panel of judges) was rescinded by the show's organizer, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), once they deemed an innovative but sexual in nature product “immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA's image.”
The product I’m referring to is Ose by the company Lora DiCarlo. To be clear, it is not a sex doll, nor does it look like a penis. Lora Haddock, CEO of Lora DiCarlo, is insinuating on her website in an open letter that the CTA has a gender bias against women and their sexual health.
A double standard
This is somewhat substantiated as last year a demonstration of VR porn (catered specifically to men) was allowed to exhibit in a ballroom (albeit off the beaten path) and there are numerous other cases of sexual-related products more catered toward men that seemed to have snuck through the exhibition qualification process.
To be honest, I did see more than one booth this year at CES demonstrating traditional sex products (vibrators, specifically) but I got the distinct impression those products weren’t the primary focus of those booths (with one exception). I also saw several products aimed at “women’s health,” such as nursing pump bras, prenatal health tracking, etc., but that category isn’t for the sexual benefit of women.
The video game industry is allowed to demonstrate their products freely at CES, many of which are geared toward violent games, and yet the sexual health industry continues to struggle with even gaining booth space. Is this a reflection of our values in the United States?
Haddock states her belief 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.”
I further note that “booth babes” are still present, especially in the automotive section of the show. While CTA claims to be forcing out this blatantly sexist practice, they don’t seem to be all that serious about it. At the same time, they’re engaging in a clearly sexist double standard, deeming a device for women’s sexual pleasure as “obscene.” I feel that CES is on the wrong side of innovation – progressive toward technology to the point of allowing violence to be on full display, but puritanical toward female sexual health.
Perhaps actor William H Macy said it best: “I think it’s time for somebody to say, ‘Sex is good. It’s really good; it’s great. And violence is bad — it’s always bad.’”
And maybe someone ought to tell the CTA it’s time to turn their attention to limiting the violence on display at CES, and perhaps even give back the award they took away for an innovative product that just happens to work best on a woman.
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