Despite the growing acceptance of sex toys among women, the gender gap is still wide when it comes to purchasing any products.
According to Facebook’s advertising policy, ads must not promote the sale or use of adult products or services, except if the focus is family planning and contraception. Viagra is seen as a health product and is allowed, while lubricants for women who have been through menopause are considered a no-no. Any mention of a reproductive organ is an automatic rejection, but many other terms often get vetoed.
Sexual health companies Unbound and Dame, both founded by women, recently partnered on an “Approved, Not Approved” campaign to raise awareness about the outdated advertising regulations on social media. Their goal is to show how these regulations discriminate against women—and reinforce outdated taboos about sexual health and pleasure—by holding back growth of the women’s sexual wellness industry.
The Tech Industry, Too
This discrimination exists in the tech industry as well. At the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, a micro-robotic vibrator called the Osé was stripped of its innovation award and banned from exhibition, even though in the past sex robots and virtual-reality pornography have been accepted. The Osé device was called “immoral” and “profane,” according to press statements by the Consumer Technology Association, the organization that puts on the show. Lora DiCarlo, the company that makes the Osé, appealed the decision and called out the organization for gender bias and inconsistency in addressing sex-positive women’s products versus male-oriented devices, and CES reversed itself again and agreed to give the award. In addition, CES will now include tech-based sexual products for its 2020 show in Las Vegas.
A June op-ed in the New York Times, titled “Vaginas Deserve Giant Ads Too,” took this inequality head on.
“There are the Hims [erectile dysfunction] ads, which suggestively feature cactuses, both standing and slumping; there are the Roman ads, offering to deliver such drugs directly to men’s doorsteps,” laments Jackie Rotman, the founder and chief executive of the Center for Intimacy Justice, the first advocacy nonprofit dedicated to equal business rules toward women’s sexual wellness companies. “Given all of this, shouldn’t we expect to also walk by an equal number of ads hawking women’s sexual health and wellness products, featuring, say, a giant papaya?”