Three years ago, sex toy company Lora DiCarlo had its Consumer Electronics Award revoked. A month after the Bend, Ore., company won the award for robotics innovation, the prize was rescinded on the grounds that the bio-mimicry vibrator was “obscene,” “profane” and “immoral.”
Speaking this morning at TechFestNW, company founder Lora Haddock rehashed the incident and offered a retort.
“It’s not just about sex,” said Haddock. “It’s all about pursuing your sexuality and your identity, and how that influences how you show up in the world.”
In her Monday morning talk, “A Sex Tech Founder’s Battle for Equity,” Haddock and moderator Yesenia Gallardo Avilia discussed the uphill battle of trying to pitch a dual-stimulator sex toy to panels of middle-aged male investors who’ve dismiss Lora DiCarlo’s product as a niche “woman’s issue.” (Lora DiCarlo markets its products toward “people with vaginas,” not just women, since some nonbinary people and trans men also have vaginas.)
Despite the brand’s success—and the fact that it was dreamed up while Haddock attended Portland State University and made with an Oregon State University robotics department partnership—Lora DiCarlo currently has no Oregon investors.
But Haddock has hardly been discouraged. Take that revoked award, for example: In a way, it ended up working to the company’s advantage. The controversy caused a PR storm, sparking articles from publications like Forbes and Wired.
Clearly, the demand for what Lora DiCarlo is doing far outweighs the reluctance of buttoned-up investors. In her talk, Haddock cited the industry’s rapid growth—from just 2017 to 2019, the sexual health industry nearly tripled in value. Last fall, the company announced supermodel Cara Delevigne as a new co-owner and creative advisor.
Lora DiCarlo also benefited from a less discussed, but not exactly surprising, pandemic sales boom.
“Sales rocketed when people were stuck at home,” says Haddock. “People were like, ‘I’m going to figure out myself.’”
At this point, Haddock seems content to leave behind anyone who dismisses gender equitable sex toys as a niche market.
“I think the joke’s going to be on them at the end of the day,” she says. “The industry is going to continue to grow.”