CES to allow sex toys but to ban ‘booth babes’

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CES, the world’s biggest technology trade show, is easing its rules on sex products but will ban scantily-clad booth workers, as it looks to be more inclusive following a sexism row.

The Lora DiCarlo Ose Massager was stripped of its prize in the Innovation Awards’ robotics and drones category at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, but organisers reinstated the accolade months later and issued an apology.

The controversy led to accusations of gender bias, with critics citing sex dolls and virtual reality pornography aimed at men being on display.

Consumer Electronics Show – Las Vegas
The Lora DiCarlo Ose Massager was awarded and then stripped of a prize at CES in Las Vegas, before having it reinstated months later (Lora DiCarlo/PA)

In response to the fiasco, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which runs CES, has decided to allow tech-based sex products on the show floor and for them to be eligible to win awards, as part of the Health & Wellness product category or in the Health & Wellness start-up area.

However, organisers warned that it will initially be a one-year trial, and told exhibitors that products “must be innovative and include new or emerging tech”.

“We don’t want to see rows and rows of just standard vibrators,” Karen Chupka, executive vice president of CES, told US technology news and media network The Verge.

Lora Haddock, founder of Lora Di Carlo, welcomed the move, saying: “We firmly believe that sextech should not be excluded from the world’s largest technology showcase and celebration of innovation and influence.

“Sextech has driven business and technology for decades and shows no sign of stopping.

“It is important to acknowledge a place for sextech in human health and its potential for innovation.”

In addition, show bosses are clamping down on so-called booth babes, a feature used by some exhibitors to lure visitors.

Under the CTA’s new policy, clothing that is “sexually revealing or that could be interpreted as undergarments” is banned, including any articles revealing “an excess of bare skin, or body-conforming clothing that hugs genitalia”.

“CTA is committed to evolving and continuing to create an experience at CES that is inclusive and welcoming for everyone,” Ms Chupka said.

“We worked with a number of external advisers and partners to update and improve our existing CES policies.”

CES also announced that it was is working with Shelley Zalis, chief executive of equality organisation The Female Quotient, to make the show more diverse.

Chris Price
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