The NYC transit agency rejects Dame Products' campaign to advertise their female-focused sex toys and Dame is "going to court to #DerailSexism".
- July 2018: Dame submits ad campaign to MTA
- November 2018: With feedback, Dame submits final campaign to MTA
- December 2018: MTA rejects campaign citing “updated guidelines” preventing “sexually oriented” businesses from advertising.
The Double Standard
The MTA does approve sexually oriented ads that are highly suggestive using heavy innuendo. Dame says the selective enforcement of MTA policies is a "decision to privilege male interests while refusing to even talk to us about how we could make a better campaign is sexist. It has no basis in law".
We support Dame's claim that the MTA is blocking them "from connecting with the consumers who stand to gain the most from our products". In order to change the social acceptance around sex, visibility is paramount. Although there are communities that advocate for sexual education and sex positivity, the larger part of the adult population isn't informed about how pleasure products can benefit their sexual health.
Dame writes, "Vibrators offer a host of positive benefits to vulva-havers. They can decrease physical discomfort associated with genito-pelvic pain penetration disorder, provoked vestibulodynia, and vulvodynia. They can treat anorgasmia, boost libido, alleviate vaginal dryness and menstrual cramps, and enhance mood."
Censorship and Education
The Dame products featured in the campaign are not offensive or contain any nudity. The products featured aren't phallic and actually don't resemble any traditional sex toys (read: innovative design). We considered whether the MTA rejection was fear-based censorship. Could the use of the word "sex" and "vulva" be a trigger for what the transit agency anticipates would be backlash from a public that shies away from explicit sexual references?
Imagine someone sitting in a meeting leaning on what could possibly be complaints from the city's parents to block this campaign. Any conversation that takes the stance that children shouldn't be exposed to this content but exposed to an ad with copy like "erectile dysfunction" is problematic. In both cases, a child that can read can have questions (directed to their parents or not) about what they see. We should live in a world where parents are equipped and comfortable with fielding questions, but we don't.
Sex is the most natural and necessary part of human existence, but sex positivity has a long way to go.
Dame's campaign is educational.
"91% of men get where they're going while 60% of women ... don't" reads one ad from the campaign. While those numbers cover mainly cis relationships, they are staggering. 60%! Did you know? If not, you can see how this type of direct educational advertising is necessary awareness for all of us.
The startup's founders say it's their mission to "close the pleasure gap", with a link to this study on the Dame Products site.
Dame says "The MTA’s guidelines are intentionally vague in a way that blocks important wellness tools like vibrators, but allows erectile dysfunction pills. And this selective enforcement has sexist effects. The MTA is apparently comfortable advertising products that make penetration possible, but is unwilling to advertise a product that ensures women actually enjoy penetration and other forms of sexual activity. This is censorship, it is sexism, and it entrenches a profoundly damaging vision of women’s sexuality and equality."
Whether you agree that the MTA decision is sexist or not, the policies are in fact vague and left up to a lot of subjective decision making by the transit agency's ad sales team. The company cites laws in their advertising policies that aren't being broken in this case, (similar Dame ads appear in other public spaces in NYC). The written and unwritten policies leave customers at the behest of individuals with their own experiences, biases, and motivations leading to decisions like this that effectively hinders the work of sex positive activism.
Peepshow Toys is a retailer of Dame Products, carrying the Eva and Fin.