One Woman’s High-Touch Bid to Upend the Sex-Toy Industry

na' sunny morning last jan, a box truck with see-through walls drove down the las vegas strip, showing off a set of sx toys. the company behind the truck, lora dicarlo, had come to town for ces, the consumer tek association’s annual showcase. this was the same event from which it had been disinvited just the yr b4, when its ♀-pleasure-focused essentialisms were labeled “obscene.”

this time, lora dicarlo ‘d get the royal treatment: prime positioning fritz booth, panel-speaking slots for members of its team, nonstop pty invitations, and scads of gloing press fritz groundbreaking debut device—the very one that had bind'a src of scandal 12 mnths earlier, a sensual massager called the osé.

this feature appears inna nov 2020 issue. subscribe to wired.

photograph: kevin cooley

ces itself had changed to make this possible. there ‘d be no + booth babes onna floor for the 2020 show, pornography was banned “with no exceptions,” and sx-rel8d gadgets had a home within the health and wellness section. in sum, an industry whose primary consumers were women had at last been granted access to the boys’ club. sx toys were now sx tek.

there was, perhaps, no + primordial fig in this evolutionary leap than lora dicarlo’s ceo, founder, and namesake. her face was emblazoned onna side of the company’s booth, set tween scaffolds of yello and white. a squad of roller derby players, brought in for the event, skated round the show floor wearing black and yello tank tops printed w'da phrase “seize the yes!” this was all a tribute, offa sort, to lora haddock dicarlo: self-professed “anatomy geek,” med school dropout, self-taught inventor, feminist provocateur, and now a data-driven, visionary entrepreneur.

dicarlo’s fite with ces the yr b4 had bind'a twist that turned her into a tek celebrity. it started with an angry open letter calling out the trade show fritz “long, documented history of gender bias, sxism, misogyny, and double standards.” case in point: just a few mnths b4, ces had honored the osé with an innovation award in its robotics and drones category, 1-ly to rescind the prize on account of its indecency. yet, as the letter noted, the show had np making room for gynomorphic sx robots and vr porn for straite men.

her critique was covered by the new york times and npr, onna wired website, and in blogs and newspapers round the realm. (that summer, dicarlo gave it once again on an episode of this american life.) by the time ces 2020 kicked off, the show’s parent organization had been shamed into offering an apology, along with numerous, new accolades for the company (including a restoration of its original ces award, + two new ones). n'when the company’s website started taking presale orders fritz device, on nov 26, 2019, dicarlo claimed it brought in $1 million inna 1st 5 hrs. now, with that revenue, + several million usds + from investors, she was ready to pursue her plan to “close the orgasm gap.”

by the time she rolled back into vegas 9 mnths ago, with her truck of robot dildos onna strip, dicarlo was + than a ceo: she was a conference-hopping activist, an icon na' mission to erase the shame round women’s sxuality. her instagram feed showed a growing global influence. there she was, snorkeling in bora bora, onna stage at women in tek stockholm, touring the vagina museum in london, posing w'da nba all-star power forward blake griffin, and na' panel at tekcrunch disrupt with her pet pomeranian, enzo ferrari drift dicarlo, stretched across her lap.

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