“This double standard makes it clear that women's sexuality is not worthy of innovation,” reads an open letter written by Lora Haddock, the founder and CEO of Lora DiCarlo, after she was hit with devastating news. Not only was her company no longer being recognised with an Innovation Award at the Consumer Electronics Show, but Lora DiCarlo wouldn’t even be allowed to present or have an exhibition space at the conference.
In October 2018, CES informed the owners of Oregon start-up Lora DiCarlo that they would be receiving an Innovation Award in the robotics and drones category for their hands-free sex toy for women and gender-nonconforming people, the Osé. To be able to present — let alone win an award — at such a large and notable event can be critical in a start-up’s journey to success and obtaining crucial investors.
Weeks later, Lora DiCarlo learned that the award had been rescinded.
CES’s sponsoring organisation, the Consumer Technology Association, originally cited a clause in the awards’ terms and conditions that said that products that were “immoral, obscene, indecent, profane, or not in keeping with CTA’s image” would be disqualified.
In the open letter published by Haddock, she pointed out the “obvious double standard” given that the show had featured a sex doll and virtual-reality pornography in the past.
“Clearly CTA has no issue allowing explicit male sexuality and pleasure to be ostentatiously on display. Other sex toys have exhibited at CES and some have even won awards, but apparently there is something different, something threatening about Osé, a product created by women to empower women,” reads Haddock’s letter.
Representatives for CTA later said the reason was because the device didn’t fit into any product category, reports the New York Times. Haddock found this claim to be an “insulting and frankly ridiculous assertion.” The Osé is the subject of eight pending patents — and possibly more — for robotics, biomimicry, and engineering.
Haddock’s letter inspired CTA to reverse its decision and reinstate the award along with a public apology. “CTA is pleased to present Lora DiCarlo with a CES 2019 Innovation Award,” said Jean Foster, CTA’s senior vice president of marketing and communications. “CTA did not handle this award properly. This prompted some important conversations internally and with external advisors and we look forward to taking these learnings to continue to improve the show.”
Lora DiCarlo also announced this week that it secured an additional $2 million (£1.54) in financing.
Haddock contributed a quote to CTA’s announcement saying, “The incredible support and attention we’ve received in the wake of our experience highlights the need for meaningful changes and we are hopeful that our small company can continue to contribute meaningful progress toward making CES inclusive for all."