CES has long been a launchpad for innovation and cutting-edge technology. However, at this year’s event, there was a conspicuous void: the near-absence of sex tech. Despite being an industry that caters to a universal human experience, sex tech has always had an uneasy association with CES.
This year, its conspicuous absence begs the question: Why are we still so prudishly resistant to integrating technology and intimacy?
In 2019, sex tech had its headline moment at CES when pleasure tech company Lora DiCarlo won an innovation award—only for it to be rescinded, and then reinstated after widespread backlash. (It later went out of business). This controversy highlighted the uneasy relationship between the mainstream tech industry and its more intimate cousin.
Fast forward to 2024, and it seems CES has effectively managed to chase the sex tech industry off its show floors.
I went looking for sex-tech companies to potentially do a roundup, and there were few enough to recognize only one trend: Not in sex tech, but in the absence thereof. One company stood out: Norwegian company Ohdoki, the creators of The Handy and the CES-launched Oh!, were a refreshing presence in the otherwise prudish tech landscape. Their booth was bustling with activity, offering a stark contrast to the largely sex-tech-absent event.
It’s unclear whether it’s CES itself that’s trying to reduce the amount of sexiness on its show floors – the show itself has evolved a lot over the years, and this correspondent thinks it’s a relief to see the so-called ‘booth babes’ being all but absent: A huge change from my first CES back in 2007 or so, where scantily-clad models were everywhere. But while I celebrate the banishment of sexism – objectifying humans at booths has no place in 2024 – sex itself ought to have a place in the vernacular of technology.
It’s puzzling to me why we, as a community, keep erasing sexuality from tech – when it’s such an universal part of the human experience – to such an extent.