In January, administrators from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the organisation that puts on CES, rescinded an innovation award from a sex toy company for being “immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA’s image.” Five months later, and the organisation has decided that the technically impressive piece of hardware is deserving of its recognition after all. Even if it does fuck.
“We realise at the time we didn’t handle it well,” Jean Foster, SVP, Marketing & Communications at CTA told Gizmodo in a phone call on Wednesday. “We made mistakes on how we handled it,” she said, adding that after CES, the organisation regrouped and reached out to Lora DiCarlo, the company behind the sex toy, to chat.
The sex toy, called Osé, was submitted to the CES Innovation Awards robotics and drone category. The device used micro-robotics to mimic the feeling of the mouth, tongue, and fingers. “Seriously?” the Lora DiCarlo team wrote in a blog post in January detailing the incident. “Our product that was designed in partnership with a top university robotics engineering laboratory (Oregon State University has ranked the #4 ranked Robotics Lab in the US), inspiring the genesis of OSU Professor John Parmigiani’s Prototype Development Lab. Osé is the subject of eight pending patents and counting for robotics, biomimicry, and engineering feats. We have a team of absolute genius woman and LGBTQI engineers (and a few wonderful men) working on every aspect of this product — including a Doctor of Mechanical Engineering with expertise in Robotics and AI and a Mechanical Design Engineer who specialises in Material Science with a background in Chemistry. Osé clearly fits the Robotics and Drone category - and CTA’s own expert judges agree.”
And, at the time, CTA doubled down on its decision to revoke the award, telling Gizmodo in an email in January that “The product referenced does not fit into any of our existing product categories and should not have been accepted for the Innovation Awards Program. CES does not have a category for sex toys. CTA had communicated this position to Lora DiCarlo nearly two months ago and we have apologised to them for our mistake.”
But it’s clear that after some backlash, the organisation has wised up and decided to recognise that even if a product makes you come (read: makes a woman come), it doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of its innovative feats.
“We agreed that it was the right thing to do to give them the award,” Foster said. She added that they haven’t changed any product categories, but that companies can continue to submit their products to the existing ones if they believe they are eligible.
And there doesn’t necessarily need to be a separate category to signal that the organisation respects and is willing to honour the successes of products related to sex. In fact, including them in categories for which they have displayed “outstanding design and engineering” is arguably a more meaningful gesture indicating that they view these devices as equally as impressive and important as their competitors.