At one of the world’s biggest tech trade shows, where companies come to talk up oversized televisions and curious concept cars, two engineers walked attendees through a build-your-own vibrator workshop.
Crave, the sex tech company behind the exhibit at this year’s CES, offers a variety of vibrators aimed at women, including one that doubles as an Instagrammable necklace. At the expo in Las Vegas, the company launched a gold vibrator ring.
“It’s jewelry. Customers wear it to places where they’re starting conversations with their lovers or friends,” Ti Chang, Crave cofounder and VP of design, told CNN Business. “Women’s pleasure has been stigmatized for so long,” she added. Chang hopes the workshops and the wearable nature of her products will help people feel more comfortable discussing sexuality.
Sex technology was on full display at CES this week. The trade show’s organizer estimated there were roughly a dozen sex tech companies – including Dame, Lovense, Ohmibod, Pulse and MysteryVibe – presenting their innovations at CES and trying to make female sexuality and pleasure less taboo.
It’s a stark contrast to last year when CES was marred by controversy after stripping an award from a sex toy called the Lora DiCarlo Osé personal massager. The Consumer Technology Association, which operates the conference, said at the time 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.”
Lora DiCarlo, the sex toy company behind the device, was also banned from exhibiting at future shows. Following accusations of gender bias, CES eventually reversed its decision four months later and returned the award. After that, the conference officially sanctioned sex toys for 2020 following the outcry.
“When they took the award away, it was definitely a slap in the face,” Lora Haddock DiCarlo, the company’s founder, told CNN Business in a recent interview. “It said to us that women’s sexuality didn’t deserve to be noteworthy of innovation.”
Her company is back at CES this year, debuting two new sex tech products. Lora DiCarlo’s booth at Sunday’s “CES Unveiled” press event was mobbed with reporters and analysts.
Earlier this week, the company announced that the Osé device, the one initially stripped of the award, brought in more than $3 million in pre-sales in 2019. The company also pre-sold more than 10,000 of the devices in December.
“The biggest thing we’re excited about is continuing that social mission of changing the conversation and bringing it into the mainstream,” DiCarlo said. “There is nothing shameful about sexuality. It’s part of our health and wellness. I’d love to see that more widely accepted.”
Other sex tech companies were excited to be officially welcomed to the show. For Liz Klinger, cofounder and CEO of smart vibrator company Lioness, her goal is to help women “understand their own bodies and pleasure more.”
“Right now, words like ‘vibrator’ or ‘vagina’ are almost like equated to Voldemort in Harry Potter, where it’s like, ‘oh, He Who Must Not Be Named,’” Klinger told CNN Business. “For us, it’s about destigmatizing the topic.”
At CES, Lioness launched the a second-generation version of its vibrator, which offers AI-assisted guidance, based in part on machine learning and dozens of user studies.
“We saw there was huge interest in [sex tech],” said Jean Foster, senior VP of marketing and communications at the CTA. “From our perspective, sexual health is important to overall health [just] as sleep, fitness and good nutrition. It’s just part of our general health and wellness, and that’s [our] message to the market.”
“But more importantly, it’s a technology product,” she added. “If these products are true tech, it makes sense to have them in the show.”