Ti Chang is the co-founder and VP of Design of Crave, a company that aims to bring luxury and inclusive design to the sex toy industry.
This week, we were disappointed—but not surprised—to learn that the noted Consumer Electronics Show (CES) revoked an Innovation Award they'd given to a sex toy startup. We got the same rejection in 2017 when Crave applied to exhibit at the show. Their official stance is that we are considered "adult entertainment—a category they do not showcase at CES." Unofficially, however, we know this is not true: at CES 2018, a literal sex doll was shown on the floor of CES and AR porn for men was allowed this year, but when an innovative vibrator is banned, this presents a clear double standard.
As an industrial designer who works on products that improve everyday lives, I believe strongly that sexual pleasure is a core part of the human experience, and that the products people use to enhance their pleasure and connect with others are as important, relevant, and meaningful as any other consumer product.
So it's simply absurd that the leading industry showcases can't keep up with the rest of the country—and increasingly the world at large—that are eager to acknowledge pleasure as part of the human experience. When mainstream retailers from Bergdorf Goodman to Urban Outfitters showcase our products next to other beautiful accessories, why is CES so far behind?
Lora DiCarlo's Osé received a CES Innovation Award, but the trade show revoked the honor soon after.
"We see sex used to sell everything from hard drives to hamburgers—everything except the sort of products that actually empower people to explore and express their sexual wellbeing."
To be clear, it's not just CES. The tech community at large, from Facebook to Pinterest and beyond has a set of policies that show a consistent bias against sexual pleasure—well, a consistent bias against female pleasure, that is. On social media, our promoted posts and advertisements are constantly rejected from these platforms, but we see ads for Viagra, lingerie, and other products aimed at male desire all the time. And of course we see sex used to sell everything from hard drives to hamburgers—everything except the sort of products that actually empower people to explore and express their sexual wellbeing.
It's ironic that these tech companies, who generally tout themselves as progressive and forward thinking, are so far behind the times when it comes to acknowledging pleasure as a vital part of the human experience. Whether they know it or not, these major gatekeepers are perpetuating the shame around female pleasure. To remove this taboo, we think these conversations must take place on larger public stages, which we have worked to bring to mainstream media, world class museums, and events like SXSW. It is in part why we are perplexed that CES, who plays such a crucial role in showcasing innovations that are changing the world, would selectively prohibit brands like Crave that focus on innovation so fundamental to the human experience.
As a prominent voice in sex toy design, I am often asked what the future of sex toys look like. I think it's less about what sex toys look like, per se, but how we redefine our relationships with our bodies to give ourselves permission to touch, love, and play with ourselves. I think the future of sex is a world with more information where we better understand our bodies. Sure, perhaps it would be interesting if you could have sex with a mermaid robot hologram (and maybe you will be able to), but the most transformative future would be in removing the stigma so we can actually better know ourselves and connect with each other. Because all the sex robots or widgets are not going to change much if we believe pleasure is shameful and taboo.