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One year after the controversy, sex toys are coming to CES

Crave, a company specializing in the manufacture of sex toys, has a stand at CES 2020 with other companies in the same sector. ROBYN BECK / AFP

Times are changing at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES). This year, for the first time, manufacturers of sex toys were allowed to come and present their products in the aisles of the Las Vegas show which is held from Tuesday 7 to Friday 10 January. And that's not all: a vibrator was included in the list of ten products eligible for the price of the gadget of the year this year.

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A real consecration for Anna Lee, the co-designer of the product, the Lioness. As a good engineer, she highlights the innovations of her product to justify her presence in this fair, which had rejected her three previous requests for registration. By using sensors and artificial intelligence to analyze the data generated (movement, pressure, temperature), the Lioness promises each user to be able to better understand the mechanisms of their pleasure through an application.

Companies that can be counted on the fingers of one hand

But the young woman also knows that her presence owes a lot to the controversy that erupted in 2019, when the CES organizers had withdrawn, two months before the opening of the show, an Innovation Award that they had previously awarded to another manufacturer of sex toy, Lora DiCarlo. In an explanatory letter, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) – which organizes the show in Las Vegas – had justified that such a sanction could be taken against any product considered as “Immoral, obscene, indecent, profane, or at odds with the image of the CTA”.

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Faced with the hostile reactions caused by its decision, the CTA finally decided, in May, to restore its distinction to Lora DiCarlo, admitting to having “Wrongly acted” on this particular case. This year, the company was awarded a well-placed booth in the show, and its leader, Lora Haddock, a tribune in a dedicated conference. “Financing non-traditional businesses”.

Despite this opening by the organizers, companies specializing in sex toys can be counted on the fingers of one hand, concentrated at the edge of a hall in the wellness and health section. The Crave company came with a caravan topped with a large colorful poster presenting “His manifesto of pleasure”. One way, explains his boss, to give visibility to his company – especially to the press – in a country where all advertising is prohibited on platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

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“Misogyny and incompetence”

In terms of doing business, the show offers these exhibitors much less obvious prospects, even if a stone's throw away, Lesley Shirt of the company Mystery Vibe does not rule out meeting distributors or companies that could be interested in a partnership.

While the end time for the ban has struck for these specialized players, some exhibitors still denounce “Misogyny and incompetence” from CTA, when others are surprised that companies specializing in virtual reality have, in the past, been able to offer erotic content for their demonstrations. In 2021, they hope in any case to be more numerous to defend their cause. After all, according to the criteria of the organizers, it is a question of well-being and health …

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