A new sex toy, Osé, has won one of the highest accolades in the tech world: a CES Robotics Innovation Award. Well, it did, but then the organisation behind the awards (the Consumer Technology Association) revoked the prize and ruled that the toy cannot be exhibited at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) because any entries that are deemed to be “immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA’s image will be disqualified”. The toy’s creators, Lora DiCarlo, were then notified that their product should never have been entered into the competition in the first place, as it didn’t meet their requirements for the Robotics and Drone category and, as such, was ineligible.
The sex toy in question is, unsurprisingly, designed to give pleasure to people with vaginas – and it sounds like a marvel. Osé is the world’s first hands-free device designed to give its user a combined orgasm, using innovative micro-robotic technology to mimic the feeling of the hands, mouth and tongue of a real partner. The device fits itself to the body of its user, making sure it doesn’t move out of place, and provides personalised G-spot and clitoral stimulation. Unfortunately, it’s not available to the public until later this year.
In an open letter to the CTA bosses, founder and CEO of Lora DiCarlo, Lora Haddock, condemned the decision to revoke the award from the toy. “Gary Shapiro (CTA president and CEO) and Karen Chupka (Executive VP) sent a letter stating that our product was actually ineligible for the Robotics and Drone category entirely,” she writes. “Seriously? Our product that was designed in partnership with a top university robotics engineering laboratory.” Osé was indeed created in partnership with robotic engineers at Oregon State University and is currently waiting on eight different patents. Not only does the toy qualify for the Robotic and Drone category, CES’s own expert judges thought it was good enough to win.
Past entries include a sex robot (for men) and a VR porn company that exhibits at CES every year – yes, one of the booths is surrounded by men stood around watching actual porn
As for the removal of Osé from the CES exhibition floor, it’s nothing less than the censoring of female pleasure. Past entries include a sex robot (for men) and a VR porn company that exhibits at CES every year – yes, one of the booths is surrounded by men stood around watching actual porn. This toy is made explicitly for women and LGBTQ+ people, and Haddock believes this is why the show is reluctant to support it, writing, “This double-standard makes it clear that women’s sexuality is not worthy of innovation. It seems the CTA is just fine with ‘female-oriented’ products such as breast pumps, Kegel exercisers and even robotic vacuums – things that also benefit someone else – but something that squarely focuses on women’s sexuality is off the table.”
Haddock’s letter points to other instances of sexism and discrimination shown by CTA, including the presence of ‘booth babes’ at the exhibition and all-male-speaker line-ups; moreover, the show doesn’t have any anti-harassment policies. According to Lora DiCarlo’s research, only one in 100 CES Best of Innovation Awards have been won by women. At last year’s event, women who attended began to share their experiences and highlight each other’s work under the hashtag #HereWeAre, in an effort to show that the tech world is no longer a place for men only.
Haddock finishes her letter with a plea to CES to stop stifling innovation – especially when to comes to tech created by and for women and LGBTQ+ people. “At its core, these biases smother innovation by blocking access to funding, exposure, and consumers that could take brands and products to the next level. You never know how technology can be used, the future of healthcare might well be in the patent for a sex toy. But if CES and CTA are so intent on keeping women and sex tech out, we’ll never find out.”