CES opens up to sex tech products

A sex toy opened up a debate about the kinds of products that can be shown off at CES. 

Lora DiCarlo

The Consumer Technology Association, the group behind CES, said next year’s show will include sex tech products. The move is a reaction to the controversy over the treatment of startup Lora DiCarlo, whose sex tech device had its show award revoked and then later returned.

The products will fall under the health and wellness or startup category, and they’ll have to demonstrate a level of innovation, the CTA said.

The incident sparked a debate over the kinds of products that can be displayed at the show, while also drawing criticism at the trade group for its heavy-handed approach. Jean Foster, head of marketing and communications for the CTA, acknowledged that the group didn’t handle the situation well, and admitted Tuesday’s move was in response to that criticism. 

“We are excited to share that Lora DiCarlo will be on the show floor at CES 2020 in the health and wellness area that will now include sex tech,” the startup said Tuesday. “We’re optimistic that this is a step in the right direction.” 

The CTA’s announcement was part of a broader range of diversity-focused news it rolled out. It also plans to more strictly enforce its ban on scantily dressed models. While a ban had already been in place, the CTA said it’d enforce its rules with tangible penalties like less prominent placement of a booth in future shows.

Exhibitors will no longer be able to have personnel wearing sexually revealing clothing, or clothing interpreted as undergarments, marking stricter and more specific guidelines. The CTA now has a way to penalize anyone who violates the rule, and can deduct “priority points” from exhibitors that could jeopardize where they are placed at the next show.

Karen Chupka, executive vice president in charge of CES, said these guidelines will also apply to partners and attendees, and she hopes it’ll extend to other CES-related events outside of the booth. 

The CTA also announced that it’s funding two venture capital firms, Harlem Capital Partners and SoGal Ventures, as part of its $10 million commitment to invest in women, people of color and other underrepresented groups. 

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