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Welcome to the Post-COVID World Where There Are Sex Toy Ads on the NYC Subway

By Lori Perkins

You are NOT dreaming. That IS a not-so-subtle ad for a vibrator on the MTA. “Get in Touch with Yourself!” just may be your new-post COVID mantra.

After three years of lawsuits, Dame Products, a women-owned sex toy and sexual wellness company, announced that it will become the first pleasure product brand able to advertise on the New York City subway.

The “Get In Touch With Yourself” ads will grace the walls and placards of the subway system for the next three months, which the female-founded pleasure company says is a "huge milestone for us, not just because it marks the end of the lawsuit, but because of what it means for the perception of pleasure, specifically women’s sexual pleasure, as part of the wellness conversation."

Before COVID, in 2019, the Brooklyn-based company sued the NYC Transit Authority for discriminatory advertising practices after the MTA rejected its sex toy ads even though they had approved similarly suggestive ads for dating websites and male-focused sexual products (such as erectile dysfunction aids). And before that, Dame had endured a year-long negotiation with the MTA over the content of their proposed ads which, according to Gothamist, included such lines as "Toys for Sex," "More intimacy than Rush Hour," and "Some Riders Need Extra Help Getting Off.” Dame reported that these revisions and run-arounds to meet arbitrary standards ended up costing the company $150,000.

After a year of revisions, the almost all- male MTA (only four of the 21 MTA board members are female) rejected all the ads because they "promote a sexually oriented business, which has long been prohibited by the MTA's advertising standards."

“Sexual pleasure is a critical part of wellbeing. Denying Dame advertising space stifles our ability to articulate the value we bring; to innovate and develop products for female sexual pleasure; and enforces sexual shame as a societal norm,” said Alexandra Fine, CEO of Dame. “The MTA was disproportionately applying their anti sexually-oriented business clause to women’s pleasure advertisements, which is unconstitutional. They allowed erectile dysfunction advertisements to run while denying us, making them a social and economic gate-keeper on who is entitled to pleasure. We’ve had to fight for our right to advertise and we believe this is a step forward in closing the pleasure gap.”

A Dame spokesperson told Gothamist that their advertising campaign which is scheduled to run from November through January "… is much larger than the original one, taking up a half-car on 10% of all the lines for the month."

I think that post-COVID even the MTA might acknowledge the power of self-love!


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