CES’ Osé Massager Ban: Female Sexual Pleasure is Still Taboo
The scandal is symptomatic of society's need to minimise, sanitise and control women's natural functions, usually by men and male-led business processes
“Immoral, obscene, indecent, profane,” that’s what people at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas think of female-run start-up Lora DiCarlo‘s micro-robotic women’s pleasure device Osé.
Designed by a team of mostly female robotic engineers in Oregon State University labs, Osé is described as “the world’s first hands-free device for the holy grail of orgasms…the micro-robotic technology mimicking the sensations of a human mouth, tongue, and fingers… adjusting to each body’s unique physiology for a personal fit, leaving the hands free for better uses.”
Sounds pretty damn good to me. Should be award-winning, right?
Sadly, wrong. Because the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), that runs CES, awarded and then rescinded Osé a CES Innovation Award in the robotics and drones category and then banned it from exhibiting entirely – for reasons that seem more than slightly sketchy.
CTA first said Osé wasn’t in the correct category, a bit odd considering Osé has eight patents pending around micro-robotics, soft robotics and mechanical engineering for biomimetic functions.
Then it stated that Osé didn’t fit into any category at all (not even the Digital Health and Fitness category that another pleasure device OhMiBod won an award for in 2016…?), before adding that CES entries deemed “to be immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with the CTA’s image will be disqualified.”
Which is strange, because this very same year at CES, you can find a pornographic entertainment company Naughty America showing off its augmented reality porn app, which lets men interact with virtual models in real space. There’s MysteryVibe’s sex toy for men, plus OhMiBod’s remote-controlled vibrator for couples to pleasure each other while apart. Last year’s CES even featured a robotic female sex doll.
Add to that huge double standard the continual absence of female keynote speakers and the presence of “booth babes” dancing in bikinis around stands, it’s pretty clear that CES has a massive sexism problem.
Clearly, it’s fine to get sexual pleasure if you’re a man or if you’re a woman getting it on with a male partner. Women taking matters into their own hands, however, seems to be beyond the pale for the CTA tech dinosaurs. Pretty unsurprising really as it’s a tech bro-led industry that’s brought us the ultimate in female servants (oh hey Siri, hello Alexa) and long been mired by scandals like #GamerGate.
The Osé scandal is just one example of wider double standards when it comes to women’s bodies and sexual wellness. In 2014, the British Board of Film Classification banned female ejaculation in porn, even though male ejaculation is quite literally… everywhere. The message is crystal clear: female sexual empowerment is problematic and needs to be prohibited.
It’s symptomatic of the problem that society generally has with women’s bodies, that their natural functions need to be strictly controlled, usually by men and men-led businesses. The nastily named ‘feminine hygiene’ industry and its ‘sanitary products’ is a massive culprit that even killed women in the past (yes, women were actually instructed to douche with Lysol strong disinfectant); casting the vulva/vagina area as something than needs germ-killing and deodorising.
Treating them exactly like the kitchen floor, even though vaginas are self-cleaning; needing nothing more daily than a quick external once-over with a gentle low pH wash. Despite the fact that even though vaginas are highly porous, female lubricants are less strictly regulated than throat sweets you can buy at the newsagent and have been linked to increased risk of STIs, infections and irritation.
What stuff is being put on, in and around women’s fannies matters.
Globally, around 40% of women suffer from sexual dysfunction (from low libido and orgasm failure to pain during sex and vaginal dryness) and a shocking survey by The Eve Appeal found that while 60% of women could correctly label a diagram of the male body, just 35% could do it for female anatomy.
All of this contributes to the orgasm gap – research from the Kinsey Institute found that gay and straight men climax about 85% of the time during sex, women with women about 75% of the time, but women having sex with men come last at just 63%. No wonder women turn to vibrators – and those who use them have better overall sexual, physical and psychological health, due to the sheer enjoyment factor and simply paying more attention to what’s going on down below.
Which is why the CES’ behaviour towards Osé is very much a feminist issue: it’s literally robbing women of their sexual wellbeing and disempowering them in the process.
But one thing is certain – the dinosaurs died out, replaced by animals that could adapt to a different climate. And flooding into the women’s wellness gap is a whole raft of amazing women-led companies like Osé’s Lana DiCarlo, Elvie and its pelvic floor device, Willow’s mobile breast pump and care products like FUR and Love Wellness designed to work with, not against, women’s bodies.
The dinosaurs are literally running the CES show now, but their time is numbered. Women are taking themselves into their own hands.
Sara Jones, partner + client services director
Published in HuffPost Uk, Jan 2019