Organizers of the Consumer Electronics Show being held this week in Las Vegas selected a sex toy called Osé as one of a handful of honorees in its robotics and drones Innovation Awards program. But two weeks later, they disqualified the device and banned its exhibition at the event — because it’s an adult product.
The Osé device (formerly called Vela) is a sex toy developed in partnership with an engineering professor at Oregon State University that uses “biometric mimicry” for hands-free vaginal and clitoral stimulation. Initially, Lora Haddock, founder of Lora DiCarlo, the company that makes the Osé, was thrilled about the visibility that the award would give her product in a crowded event. “What it really did for us was attract investors,” she told BuzzFeed News. “It’s definitely a feather in our cap and validates the technology that we’ve created.”
Then, on Oct. 31, Lora DiCarlo’s press team got an email from an event organizer at the Consumer Technology Association saying the Osé was losing its spot in the honoree category, invoking a clause in the terms and conditions of the contest that says the organizers can remove at their “sole discretion” any entry deemed “immoral, obscene, indecent, profane, or not in keeping with CTA’s image.”
It’s unclear why the CTA made the Osé an honoree in the first place, before backtracking on its decision to include an adult product. The trade show gave a sex toy a similar award three years ago, and other companies have exhibited sex toys and adult products at the show over the years.
A representative from CTA told BuzzFeed News, “[Osé] does not qualify because it does not fit in to any of our existing CES 2019 categories.” Asked to clarify if this is because it didn’t meet the standards of being a robot or drone, they replied, “it’s an adult product so not eligible.”
Adult products are allowed at CES, which contributes to Haddock’s frustration. In 2017, a company called OhMiBod got a lot of buzz for a vibrator (pun not intended) that won the Engadget Best of CES award for the health and wellness category. That same year, virtual reality porn at the trade show made headlines (“There’s a room with a bunch of dudes watching VR porn at CES”). OhMiBod is an exhibitor at CES again this year. And while there’s a strong distinction between a sex toy and products related to women’s menstruation, CES did name a “smart” menstrual cup called Loon an honoree this year in the wearables category of the Innovation Awards.
Most confusingly, CES has selected adult products as Innovation Awards honorees in the past. In 2016, a vibrator that connected to e-books (yes, really) called Little Bird was a wearables category honoree.
For Haddock, CTA’s decision to pull the award for her company's sex toy is indicative of the broader problem of sexism in the tech industry and at CES, which still has scantily clad “booth babes” and last year had no female keynote speakers. (This year, CES will have gender parity in speakers.) CES did not respond to a request for comment on Haddock's allegations of sexism or on why it disqualified the Osé despite offering a similar award to a sex toy in the past.
“They have an issue with the optics [of] what it means to have pleasure products on the show floor, and they also have a woman problem,” said Haddock. “As a society it’s very difficult for women to talk about sexuality, sex pleasure, and sexual health. But I think that CES is a very good representation of how intense this problem is.”