Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Consumer Electronics Show Accused of Sexism for Banning Robotic Vibrator

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Dorian Black
Dorian Black is a writer, filmmaker, and geek blogger based in Los Angeles.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is known for showcasing a wide variety of bleeding edge technology; from the newest generation of virtual reality goggles to the newest generation of smart cars. But their latest show is generating buzz in a not-so-great way over an exhibit CES decided to ban from the showroom at the last minute — a high tech vibrator.

Created by Lora DiCarlo the robotic vibrator, called Osé, is a sex toy that uses micro-robotics and biomimicry. It is so technologically advanced that CES gave it an innovation award in their robotics category. But before the company had a chance to exhibit Osé in Las Vegas, the leadership behind CES changed their mind and sent Lora DiCarlo an email saying that their device was going to be excluded from exhibition because it was deemed to be either “immoral, obscene, indecent or profane.”

Harmony, the sex doll.

Given that one of the most talked about exhibits at last year’s CES was RealDoll’s high tech sex robot, many women in the robotics community are calling sexism on the Cosumer Technology Association (which owns and produces CES). Furthermore, it should also be noted that Naughty America, one of the U.S.’s largest porn publishing companies, have been exhibiting VR porn at CES since 2016. The CTA later went on to claim that the reason Osé was excluded was because it did not actually fit into any of their existing categories and should never have been accepted to begin with, despite their own judges giving it an innovation award in the robotics and drones category.

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“Our product was designed in partnership with a top university robotics engineering laboratory,” said Lora DiCarlo in an open letter on the company’s website. “Putting aside for a moment the implication that women’s sexual wellness products are somehow immoral or obscene — if we didn’t fit their policy, how in the world did our application even get past the first round of vetting by CTA staff, let alone receive high marks across the board from their expert judges?”

The Osé — it’s waterproof.

The apparent hypocrisy behind the CTA’s decision to exclude Osé from the CES exhibit hall (despite allowing sex-bots and VR porn demos) is what has caused this story to take off. Emily Dreyfuss, a senior staff writer for Wired noted in an article that at CES 2019 “you could find rows of devices only for women: breast pumps, fertility trackers, breast massagers, [but] while women’s skin care, fertility, and general health have come to represent entire categories for gadget makers, women’s pleasure is apparently still too taboo.”

Dreyfuss added in an interview with NPR that while she agrees breast massagers that treat women experiencing mastitis are absolutely legitimate and important, it’s the double-standard of allowing devices geared toward motherhood, but not female pleasure, that make this situation play into existing stereotypes. Other news outlets that cover technology have also shared the saga of Osé and support for the robotic vibrator continues to grow. Lora DiCarlo encourages people to share their open letter on social media with the hashtag #CESGenderBias.

What do you think of the ban for Osé? Do you think it was sexism at play? Tell us in the comments!

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