The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has returned an award for a women’s sex toy, four months after it was revoked in a move that drew accusations of gender bias.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.
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.
Jean Foster, CTA’s senior vice president of marketing and communications, told CNN on Thursday that the organization is committed to making CES “a welcoming environment for all communities, women, (and) traditionally under represented groups in technology.”
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.