CES 2020: Sex Tech Companies Stole the Spotlight

Jan 12, 2020

We usually associate CES (Consumer Electronics Show) with concept cars, unique and advanced TVs, flagship smartphones, smart wearables and all things tech. Breaking from this long-established tradition this year, two engineers were spotted walking attendants through a 'build-your-own vibrator' shop.

With a motto to help people have the sex lives they desire, Crave made its presence felt at CES 2020. The sex tech company exhibited a wide range of vibrators for women, including one that masquerades as a picturable necklace. During the expo, Crave unveiled a gold-tinted vibrator ring.

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While talking to CNN Business, the company's co-founder and VP of design Ti Chang described the recently launched product as a piece of jewelry, further adding that users can wear it wherever they go to have conversations with their friends or lovers. The stigma associated with women's pleasure has been existing for a long time, she added.

The goal behind setting up a workshop at CES 2020 is to make people more comfortable with talking about sexuality. This week, CES was teeming with sex technology, with the show's organizer confirming the presence of about twelve sex tech companies including MysteryVibe, Pulse, Ohmibod, Lovense, Dame and more.

These companies aimed at eliminating the taboo associated with female pleasure and sexuality. This does not coincide with CES 2019 when the trade show was plagued with controversy for depriving an award of the Lora DiCarlo Osé, which is a personal massager.

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In an attempt to make up for its run-down reputation, the Consumer Technology Association that hosts the event explained that entries regarded to be profane, indecent, obscene, immoral or simply against CTA's image will not be included. CTA also implemented a ban on Lora DiCarlo, the company behind the sex toy, restricting it from showcasing its products at upcoming shows.

As expected, CES was marred with allegations of gender bias, and eventually had to reverse its decision just four months after implementing the ban. On top of that, the CTA even returned the award. This is probably the reason CES has officially allowed sex toys to be exhibited this year.

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The sex toy company's founder Lora Haddock DiCarlo deemed the experience as a "slap in the face" while talking to CNN Business in an interview. The CTA's decision to ban the company seemed to convey a message that suggested women's sexuality wasn't deserving enough to be a notable innovation, she added.

Much to her relief and delight, Lora DiCarlo's company is attending CES 2020, where it will be unveiling a couple of new sex tech products. During the CES Unveiled press event that took place on Sunday, Lora DiCarlo's booth was attended by a large number of analysts and reporters.

Making its CES 2020 presence felt, her company announced that the device i.e. the Osé device, which was deprived of the award at CES 2019 garnered over a whopping $3 million in terms of pre-sales last year. On top of that, the company pre-sold over a staggering 10,000 of these devices back in December.

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The most exciting part of making a comeback to the event, according to DiCarlo includes continuing the company's social mission of modifying society's perception and placing it into the mainstream. She believes sexuality isn't something to be shameful about since it is an important aspect of our overall wellness and health. Her goal is to more and more people accepting this outlook.

Other sex tech-centric companies were glad to be officially invited to be a part of the show. chief executive and co-founder of smart vibrator maker Lioness said she is keen on helping women to have knowledge of their own bodies and indulge in more activities that give them pleasure. In an interview with CNN Business Klinger pointed out that terms like vibrators are currently frowned on and their goal is to remove the stigma surrounding these topics.

Lioness took the covers off its upgraded vibrator, which boasts AI-assisted instructions that are based on user studies and machine learning. CTA's senior VP of marketing and communications Jean Foster acknowledged that the event witnessed a noteworthy interest in sex tech.

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From the event's perceptive, sexual health is been touted as an important part of overall health, just like good nutrition, fitness, and sleep, she explained. The message they are trying to convey to the market is that sexual health is a part of wellness and general health; but more importantly, these are technology product and given that they are true tech, these products should be a part of the show.

Although sex tech makers have been placed on the same platform as the other tech giants, it doesn't necessarily imply that they are treated equally. According to a report from The Verge, companies exhibiting sexual wellness products have to comply to follow the event's rules and standard contracts, in addition to following another sex toy addendum.

The Verge managed to get a copy of the aforesaid rules that shows how products are supposed to be promoted, as well as the language the sex tech companies can use to describe or talk about their products. Aside from that, these rules also offer guidelines about the imagery that the companies can display.

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More importantly, the CTA uses the addendum to remind attending companies that CES offers a respectful environment, and it is therefore imperative for them to keep the guidelines in mind while designing their promotional materials and booths. On top of that, the CTA says it is compulsory for the graphics, as well as the booth designs to get approval before they are exhibited.

The document created with bits of advice from Lora DiCarlo and other exhibitors primarily focuses on the use of visuals and sexual language. The exhibitors seem to follow these rules and had no issue doing so. The Verge contacted the CTA to know whether or not it had to reinforce the aforesaid rules when the show kicked-off, but it did not respond. 

Nevertheless, it issued a more expansive statement about the rules later. Note that sex tech has been allowed at the event this year's CES on a one-year trial basis. In short, these rules are likely to change next year.




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