Lora DiCarlo is the founder, CEO and co-owner of her eponymous, female-led sex tech company. After reaching peak sexual pleasure with the “perfect orgasm”, DiCarlo embarked on a mission to recreate the orgastic experience without the need for a partner. Plugging this pleasure gap in 2017, she launched Lora DiCarlo (the brand) with her premier product, Osé, a robotic massager for blended orgasms. Fêted a tech triumph, the device famously went on to win the coveted innovation award in robotics at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and perhaps, even more famously, was later rescinded on the grounds of "obscenity”, “profanity” and “immorality”. A watershed moment for both DiCarlo and the industry, she successfully lobbied the CES to allow sexual-health technology, and for the award to be reinstated. But this moment proved golden for DiCarlo on a deeper level: it highlighted the systemic hypocrisy, sexism and stigma not only in tech, but society as a whole — proving a catalyst for Lora DiCarlo’s “rallying cry” towards a sex positive future.
Dedicated to breaking down the barriers of stigmatisation around sexual health, DiCarlo continues her plight in tackling taboos and normalising sexual empowerment on a global scale, unrelenting in her vision.
To celebrate Lora DiCarlo joining the Par Femme Toy family, we chat to the brand’s beautifully articulate founder about her pleasure journey, the infamous controversy that surrounded Osé, Cara Delevingne’s role in the business (hint: she’s now co-owner), and the importance of shattering society’s archaic attitudes to sex, pleasure and censorship. Hi Lora! You founded Lora DiCarlo in 2017 after experiencing the “perfect orgasm”. Can you tell us more about this and how it led to the evolution of an all-encompassing, global sex tech brand?
Yes! It all started when I experienced my first blended orgasm (simultaneous stimulation of the clitoris, and the Clitoralurethralvaginal Complex — CUV, also known as the G-Spot). It was a unique and mind-blowing orgasm, unlike one I had experienced before. However, it was facilitated with the help of a partner. Afterwards, I could not stop thinking, “how can I do that again?”
I went looking for a product that would recreate the experience in the most lifelike fashion possible, and I knew I wanted something that was hands-free, could fit my anatomy, and moved like a human partner. But after much research, I came to find that these exact specifications did not exist within one product. At that point, I began searching for the physiological data needed to engineer such a device, and quickly learned that that didn’t exist either. So I got to work….and, well — here we are!Why did you feel it important to create a line of pleasure products? And what marks Lora DiCarlo different from other product lines on the market?
I felt it was important to launch this company because there was clearly a need in the market, and truly a ‘problem’ to be solved. In conjunction with our product manufacturing, my hopes remain for our brand to be a catalyst for change, in terms of reshaping how sexual health is accepted by the mainstream. I strongly believe that sexual health is just that, health, and I’d like to see sexual wellness become a cornerstone of the wellness category.
In 2017, I was fortunate to secure an investor, assemble an incredible team, activate my business plan, and kick off development for our flagship product, Osé. Six of our engineers worked closely with professors and PhDs at Oregon State University’s College of Engineering to incorporate microrobotic technology that would closely replicate the feel of human touch while stimulating the glans clitoris and the G-spot (or the urethral sponge).
We are fully invested in our technology, employees, our messaging, and robotics to name a few. We possess entirely integrated engineering, industrial design and manufacturing teams - an amazing lineup of roboticists that you typically don’t see in this space. Their novel application of mainstream tech concepts is just one of the unique differentiators that sets Lora DiCarlo apart from other lines on the market.
Of course, your flagship toy, Osé, won the Honoree Innovation Award from the Consumer Technology Association in 2019, and was famously taken away once the CTA realised that it was a pleasure tech product designed for people with vaginas. In your own words, can you tell us what happened?
In October 2019, we were awarded the Robotics Innovation Award from CES — which was a huge milestone for our company. To our surprise, one month later, we were contacted by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA, who runs CES) and they informed us that Osé was disqualified, and the award was being taken away. They were now referring to Osé as “obscene”, “profane” and “immoral” — and that because of this, Osé should have never made its way through the round of judging (and ultimately securing the award). It should be noted that the CES show floor showcased a multitude of pleasure products for men including sex dolls with customisable faces and accents, as well as pornographic VR systems.
By rescinding our award, they backtracked every notable accomplishment that put our product and innovation on the map at CES in one fell swoop. Internally, this felt like an immense blow to the dedication, energy and hard work that our team had contributed to-date.
We experienced what could have been a debilitating blow to our company, and another strike against the sex tech industry. However, we did not take this double-standard lightly and fought back, because ultimately their argument was not the result of a ‘processing error’ — it was a systemic dysfunction that was deeply rooted in a long history of sexism within the association and within the greater technology industry. What were the repercussions of this? Do you believe this revocation was a turning point in your career — and the brand’s trajectory as a whole?
After a long-fought battle, CES decided to return the award to us. We then had the opportunity to sit down together, to help them to rewrite their policies around sex tech brands, and the category started moving into the mainstream by being recognised on the show floor for the first time. We are proud to be at the forefront of moving sex ‘out of the closet’.
The controversy was an overall golden opportunity, and a testament to how committed we are to our brand mission. There isn’t a day that goes by when we aren’t reminded of the CTA/CES experience, and that keeps us very accountable for staying aligned with the big-picture vision of normalising sexual empowerment on a global scale. What did the whole experience teach you about society and our attitudes / beliefs / values when it comes to sex and pleasure and censorship?
For us, this experience was a huge leap forward not just as it relates to our own accomplishments, but in the mainstream as a very public acknowledgement of women’s sexuality, vaginas in particular. After the award was given back, we sat down together and helped them to implement a progressive policy change that would expand the Health and Wellness category to include sex tech products. We argued that if technology is serving innovative solutions, it’s tastefully and respectfully done, and it does not demoralise or objectify human bodies, then it deserves consideration and placement at their show. The end achievement of this experience ended up creating a more inclusive space to celebrate innovators of all kinds.
Can you tell us a little bit about your partnership with Cara Delevingne?
Cara had been looking at the pleasure products industry and couldn’t find anything really well aligned. However, our CES controversy caught her eye because it was in sync with her ethos of embracing your individuality and truly having a love affair with yourself — and that inspired her to reach out to us. Our efforts as a brand are focused on destigmatising sexuality and empowering folks to explore and be comfortable with their own bodies. That resonated with her.
Cara’s role within Lora DiCarlo is Co-Owner and Creative Advisor. She will be deeply involved in product ideation, including working directly with our in-house engineering team, alongside creative input, media, and advocacy for the greater purpose behind the brand. She will allow us to reach a wider, highly engaged audience, and serve as a total ambassador for the Lora DiCarlo concept. She has some amazing ideas about destigmatising the space, which we can’t wait to explore together.
During some of our initial discussions together, I asked Cara what kind of product she wanted to make. She answered with, “what kind of product do people need?” — Cara is deeply invested in the wellbeing of our consumers, and that is what makes her such a remarkable fit. Do you believe there is still stigma / shame associated with women's sexual desires and needs, periods and vulvas in society? And in what ways do you think we can destigamise these topics?
Yes — very much so. Society as a whole (not exclusive to female-identifying individuals and issues) are still disastrously ashamed or even disgusted by sexuality. Sexual wellness is understanding that we are all sexual beings, and embracing every aspect of our sexuality is pivotal to our overall health. Ultimately, it comes down to accessible messaging, creating community, offering data-driven solutions, and inclusive educational value for people to feel even a tinge more comfortable with the subject. Only then can real change happen. We are creating different product lines that are approachable and unintimidating, endeavoring to ultimately have ‘something for every body’.
We find women with a social presence still feel scared / embarrassed to talk about sex and pleasure on their platform, often in fear of tarnishing their brand (and potential advertisers). Do you also find this? And how do you believe we break down these walls and fears?
Even the safe spaces to talk about sexual wellness on the internet and in many other places are wrapped in shame because, sociologically, the stigma is alive and well.
I realised during my time in the sexual wellness space, that everyone is so timid or embarrassed to discuss sexual wellness. A few minutes into these conversations people would realise that I didn’t have any shame in discussing sexuality and that I wanted to talk openly and honestly about it. I noticed as soon as every single person I talked to felt like I didn’t have shame talking about this, they immediately became more comfortable talking about it as well. Most people don’t have an outlet to talk about it anywhere else and this made me realise everybody out there does want to talk about it. The more we talk about it openly and normally, like it should be, the more comfortable we can make those around us about the topic. Little by little, we can chip away at these stigmas.
You’ve written extensively about BIPOC representation in the sex toy industry. Can you tell us about the underrepresentation of these voices, and how Lora DiCarlo plans to amplify them?
The events of 2020 shined a very bright light on the importance of kicking down doors for people who don’t look or live like us, and we want to make sure Lora DiCarlo is actively making space for these individuals on social media, and beyond.
Our partnership with Cara is one avenue in which we plan to expand our reach and further encourage humans to embrace their sexuality with positivity and confidence. That push on positivity is also intertwined with our push for inclusivity, and we are investing our resources into uplifting marginalised voices in the sexual wellness space in 2021.
Additionally we plan to expand with sex tech that appeals to a wider and more diverse spectrum of sexual experiences and pleasure profiles As we invite more people into our world, we are also examining how we can improve sex and pleasure from varying entry points. We believe every part of the sexual experience is deserving of special attention and care, so we are working to build out our company to deliver on that commitment. What are some things—obvious and obscure—you find sexy?
Pontificating about the origins of the universe.
The angle of the jaw.What do you appreciate most about your body? And has your relationship with your body changed over time?
Good grief, yes! I used to be obsessed with being perfectly fit, even when I was fitness competition ready, I was still completely dissatisfied with my appearance, beating myself up for just having a body. Over the years, I’ve seen troughs and peaks in my fitness, maladies, injuries, depression (this is not only mental; it can have profound physiological effects as well!) but every time I faced an obstacle, I would research and approach different solutions. Over time, picking and choosing individual issues at a time brought me to realise that I was going about it all wrong and the best approach was a holistic and multi-faceted one, which also meant opening up a closet and having a nice little chat with all of my skeletons that I’d shuttered away. I started considering my whole health and wellness. After a few years of reengineering my approach to my body and my mind as one, I can honestly say I feel the healthiest I ever have mentally, emotionally, and physically. I’m nowhere near perfect (no one is) but I am energised now knowing that the self work is a journey that I will be on with myself for the rest of my life.What sex / love advice would you give your younger self?
You are the only one holding you back, baby girl, and you don’t owe anyone a damn thing. Now go give your mum a hug.Finally, in regards to female pleasure, sensuality and sexual empowerment, what is your hope for the future?
One of the key values of the Lora DiCarlo brand is the empowerment of women and femmes, and celebration of the unique stories that make each individual who they are today. My hope is that Lora DiCarlo will help to normalise sex positivity and sexual exploration for the world at large. I know we’re going to continue to break into mainstream spaces and amplify that message, whether it’s in 2021 or it takes longer, we will keep marching on.