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Sex toy creator finally gets the CES award she was denied

The group behind the Consumer Electronics Show is returning an award it revoked from a women’s sex toy company earlier this year, which ignited a controversy around the industry’s inclusion of women and acceptance of sex tech. But for now, the show’s operator isn’t announcing broader changes that would actually allow sex toys to be exhibited and win awards in the future.

A CES Innovation Award was initially presented to Lora DiCarlo for its Osé Robotic Massager ahead of the conference in January, honoring the device in the show’s robotics and drones category. But the show’s operator later revoked the award, saying that sex toys weren’t allowed. Lora DiCarlo’s ability to even exhibit at the show was revoked as well.

Now, the show’s operator, the Consumer Technology Association, is returning the Innovation Award to Lora DiCarlo. The CTA says it “did not handle this award properly,” leading to some “important conversations” about the show’s policies around sex tech.

But while the CTA is returning Lora DiCarlo’s award today, it isn’t ready to discuss what kind of changes will be implemented to make the conference more inclusive in the future. For now, it isn’t even clear if Lora DiCarlo will be able to present at next year’s show. The CTA indicates that changes are coming, but it says they’ll be shared “in the months leading up to CES 2020.”

Those changes will be designed to clear up “inconsistencies” in the CTA’s policies around sex tech, says Jean Foster, the CTA’s marketing chief. In past shows, some sex tech has made it to the show floor, while other sex tech — like the Osé massager — has been banned, and it’s never been clear why. “We just identified some inconsistency is in our handling and our policies that we needed to go back in and address,” Foster said in a phone call. She declined to provide specifics about what kind of changes are coming.

A person familiar with the discussions says sex gadgets could be included in a health and wellness section next year, but that nothing’s been finalized. There isn’t currently a health section for the CES Innovation Awards.

Lora Haddock, the CEO of Lora DiCarlo, says she’s “thankful” that the CTA reconsidered her company’s eligibility, but that what happened in January shows “meaningful changes” are needed. “We are hopeful that our small company can continue to contribute meaningful progress toward making CES inclusive for all,” Haddock says in a statement.

The CTA’s actions in January were particularly bad because of the conference’s perpetual issues with the inclusion of women. It’s taken the conference some time to cut out the hiring of “booth babes,” and women were only added as keynote speakers in recent years after widespread criticism. The show is still predominantly attended by men, too.

Lora DiCarlo is founded and almost entirely run by women. It also came to and was removed from the show the same year the CTA launched a $10 million venture fund for “women, people of color, and other underrepresented startups and entrepreneurs” to improve representation.

The Osé is supposed to begin shipping this fall.

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