On display at CES was a wide array of female-oriented products, including breast pumps, fertility trackers and skin-care tools, but critics point out that many of them exist to enable women to support something or someone else. “They’re in service of fertility, of society as a whole, of the household,” said Ms. Vars, the technical director at Lora DiCarlo. She noted that a sexual health company that has exhibited at CES for years, OhMiBod, won a prize in 2016 for its Kegel exerciser. “It’s something construed as good for men’s pleasure or fertility,” Ms. Vars said. “I hear that as a joke from men: ‘I like to sleep with women who do their Kegels.’”
“Sexual health wellness is something that can only happen behind closed doors, especially for women,” said Polly Rodriguez, the chief executive of Unbound, a company that makes lubes, vibrators and other sexual wellness products. Ms. Rodriguez has never applied to CES because of its reputation for gender-based discrimination. (Earlier this year, Unbound was in the news after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rejected the company’s ads on the grounds that they violated rules against obscenity.)
But other female-driven sexual wellness products have gone the way of Ms. Haddock’s.
Karen Long, who has been in health care technologies for more than 20 years, was told that her company’s libido enhancing device, Fiera, did not qualify for the health and technology category in 2015. A later email from convention organizers added: “As a practice, we don’t allow sexual wellness products at CES.”
“We’re a consumer product that’s very clinically driven, with studies to support our product, validated surveys, OB-GYNs on board and everything,” Ms. Long said.
“We’re all sick and tired of this,” Ms. Haddock said. “It’s not just about our product. It’s about something bigger. It’s about really embracing an understanding of human sexuality, of recognizing innovation. When you call something obscene just because it has to do with a vagina, technology as an industry starts to lose out.”
Liz Klinger, the chief executive of Lioness, which makes a smart vibrator for women that collects data about sexual arousal, was similarly appalled. (She applied to CES in 2015 and was rejected.) “They said they weren’t going to include any new adult products in this space,” Ms. Klinger said. “That they had bad experiences in the past and didn’t want any new products on the floor.”
Later she found out that another applicant was approved to rent an entire room to show VR porn.
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