Oh, Lelo. Once upon a time, your sex toys were the stuff of my dreams. Sure, you pretentiously called them “pleasure objects” but a little snobbery could be overlooked from the industry leader in luxury vibes. Your vibes were body safe and rechargeable, with graceful, visually pleasing designs and an array of fun, bright colors. It was a simpler time.
Sadly, shortly before I started blogging, something changed. Instead of focusing on straightforward quality, you got caught up in your luxury image. We got the Lelo Insignia line, bedecked in gold-painted plastic that chips and seams that make cleaning a chore. We got silliness like the Pino cock ring/cufflinks set. We got the Mona Wave, which could have been brilliant but instead proved the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
We also got the oral sex simulating Ora, proclaimed as “innovative” for doing something Je Joue had already done five years prior with the Sasi. Mere months later, it was followed by the new and slightly improved Ora 2, because the original failed to live up to its own hype. We got the Lily 2, an “aphrodisiac” scented vibrator. Even the technically solid Siri 2 had a pointless (and mostly ineffective) music sensing function added, upping the price without providing added benefits.
And lest I forget, we got a penis tuxedo. An upside down penis tuxedo, no less. For some reason the bow tie end goes at the base of the penis instead below the head where it clearly belongs 1. This is a pretty solid metaphor for Lelo’s recent performance: an ass-backwards dick tux.
And after all of the above-mentioned brilliance on Lelo’s part, there came the price increase in October of 2015. This wasn’t a small increase either, we’re talking as much as $30 per item. The money, we were told, was needed for “research and development.” To say that bloggers met this idea with some skepticism would be an understatement. The caliber of toys Lelo had been producing weren’t exactly indicative of a robust R&D process, just a string of gimmick-centric new designs, and pricier rehashes of old favorites with new “features” tacked on. If you want further insight into Lelo’s fails leading up to the Hex launch, see Sex Siopa‘s article.
Lelo Hex – Is This For Real?
To be honest, when I first started reading about Lelo’s Hex condoms in late March, I was sure it would turn out to be an April Fool’s joke. It’s not unusual for sex toy companies to have a little fun with fake announcements at that time of year, and Lelo had done so before with the “launch” of its intellect-enhancing vibrator in 2014. 2 But no, the teasers and emails persisted long after everyone else had admitted their pranks.
Fast forward to last week , when I checked Twitter on a coffee break. It became rapidly apparent that my fellow bloggers were not at all happy with Lelo. Scrolling through tweets, I wonder what goofball idea Lelo was pitching now. Kegel balls filled with caviar? A vibrator with literal bells and whistles? But no, Lelo had outdone themselves this time, by choosing Charlie Sheen to rep for their new Hex condom.
So What’s The Problem?
I understand what they were going for here. The idea of having an HIV positive celebrity promoting your product and sexual health is not a bad one. What’s problematic is ignoring the fact that this particular celebrity has been charged with assaulting multiple women. If by some chance you aren’t familiar with his multitude of issues, Sarah does a thorough job of cataloging them here. This idea shouldn’t have made it past the brainstorming phase.
I don’t care how blandly and soberly Lelo dressed him. I don’t care how carefully they scripted and shot the video to make him appear reflective and repentant. I refuse to overlook the fact that out of all the available options, Lelo chose a serial abuser as the face of their product. All the deeply serious minor piano chords in the world are not going to drown that out.
Lelo’s take on the controversy consists of a few flippant tweets that they don’t endorse his past, that Sheen’s ability to spark conversation is what’s important. We’re not supposed to remember those details of his history, all the women who suffered at his hands. Their voices don’t matter to Lelo. Pay no attention to the abuser behind the carefully crafted “reformed bad boy” image. This is a slap in the face to survivors, as perfectly expressed by Formidable Femme.
Lelo’s attitude toward Sheen’s issues brings to mind to the “But he does good work” rationalization that protected Jacob Appelbaum. It’s a close cousin to the twisted “logic” used by Brock Turner’s family in their appeals for leniency: that their son missing out on opportunities because he committed a crime is somehow a greater tragedy his victim’s suffering. No. It doesn’t matter what good qualities rapists, harassers and abusers may have, they are still rapists, harassers and abusers.
Beyond the lengthy history of abuse, Sheen hasn’t been a great role model since his diagnosis. He blamed a transgender person for giving him HIV. He blamed “unsavory and insipid” women for many of his post-diagnosis issues. There’s also this article about Sheen trying to drastically cut his child support payments just before the Hex launch gala. The kind of personal responsibility he advocates in Lelo ads seems to be in short supply in his own life.
A Few Words of Advice
“Sometimes you have to be guided somewhere to reach a different place, a different reality.” Those words are uttered by Charlie Sheen in Lelo’s promotional video for Hex. Lelo, the sex blogging community is trying to guide you now. You need to do better. First, you need to admit that the choice to partner with serial abuser Charlie Sheen was ill-informed and tone deaf. Next, you need to make a formal and public apology. After you’ve taken care of that, here are a few more suggestions to help you along:
- Stop claiming that you’re the only condom innovator in the past 70 years when thirty seconds on Google proves you’re not. Unique Condoms, Wingman condoms, FC2 internal condom, polyisoprene, polyurethane…all of these hit the market before Hex.
- Don’t ask folks to crowdfund your expensive condom a few months after drastically raising your prices to fund research and development. It’s tacky, to say the very least.
- Consider that making condom tears/holes hard to detect might be a bug rather than a feature (see Dizzy’s post for details)
- Go back to producing simple, well-designed, quality sex toys (or “pleasure objects” if you absolutely insist). That’s why we liked you. That’s why we recommended you to our readers.
Until/unless Lelo gets their house in order, I am done. My reviews will be linked to this post, and my affiliate banner is coming down. I will no longer recommend Lelo products. If you’re contemplating a Lelo purchase, I can steer you toward other companies that deserve your support. Just contact me and I’ll be happy to help you out.