Sexism in sex tech is being called out. In a non surprising statistic, 70% of sex tech companies are owned by men. Earlier this year, Lora Haddock’s award-winning device was banned from exhibiting at the world’s biggest tech event, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It was a sex toy – for women. The Consumer Tech Association (CTA) deemed it “immoral and obscene” and the company’s award was revoked.
A sex doll for men was launched the year before, along with robotic lap-dancers. Virtual reality pornography exhibits are also often on show. It was only recently that exhibitors were banned from having scantily dressed woman (booth-babes) luring men to their stands. Were these not deemed “immoral and obscene” by the CTA?
This was not the first time, and won’t be the last, that the tech industry was accused of sexism and double standards.
Taking care of business
“The sex tech industry will reach £22 million in revenue by 2020,” says Grace Gould, who founded SODA SAYS (School of Digital Age) “to curate tech products that make sense for the world we live in – not some Silicon bubble.” Women are the world’s biggest consumers of lifestyle tech and despite them being the target market, no one is actually speaking to them. Gould recently partnered with UK lifestyle editor Natalie Lee, to create a collection of the best vibrators in the market. The were put on display as part of Libreria’s sex tech Valentine’s day party.
Across the pond, Lidia Bonilla and Polly Rodriguez created Women In Sex Tech in 2015, to help women founders of sex tech companies like themselves, open bank accounts, take out Facebook or Instagram ads and use payment processors. Something men in the industry have less problems with. Funding continues to be a major issue, and women founders in sex tech are not being taken seriously – “it can be hard for male funders to see the potential for solutions when to them, the problem isn’t self-evident.”
“This movement is part of an expanding acceptance of sex toys and the positive impact they have on women’s health. I’m so excited about the innovation happening in this space. Female pleasure shouldn’t have this Victorian stigma around it and sex tech is an amazing way for a woman to explore herself,” says Gould.
Changes have already begun. Fem-tech, such as period-tracking apps, wireless breast pumps and digital pelvic floor trainers, is set to be worth $50 billion by 2025 – proving that the tech industry is finally paying attention to women’s health as a whole.
The lack of focus on this market, by the male dominated sex tech businesses, is what makes the potential for growth in this sector so high. Growth is a given, but who will win? Is it going to be the women pioneering for change and marketing to their demographic that will profit, or the male-led businesses who currently dominate the vicinity?
“We live in a world where most people can’t even recognise a clitoris,” says Rodriguez. “Should we be surprised that it is women entrepreneurs who see just how big pleasure and wellness can become?” Can’t argue with that. With $50bn up for the taking, there is hope that it will be women founders who drive the market and claim their fair share.