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This article was published on May 29, 2020

Tech promised ‘disruption’ — but they’re still selling us sex

Turns out, the future is really the past

Tech promised ‘disruption’ — but they’re still selling us sex
Callum Booth
Story by

Callum Booth

Editor of Plugged by TNW

Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He w Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He writes about gear, gadgets, and apps — with a particular focus on Apple — and also makes the occasional odd video. Basically, he's halfway between an abrasive gadget nerd and thinky art boy.

This is from Plugged In, TNW’s bi-weekly newsletter on gear and gadgets. Subscribe to it (and our other great newsletters) here.

Let’s start with simple question: have you ever bought a bit of (non-erotic) tech because you thought it’d help you weasel your way into someone’s nether-regions?

No, me neither.

But these people must exist. Surely. I mean, what other explanation is there for LG advertizing its new phone with a TikTok highlighting its ability to snap upskirt photos?

As absurd and ridiculous and fucking stupid as this is — and it is deeply absurd and ridiculous and fucking stupid — don’t write it off as an exception. The technology industry might say it “thinks different,” but its marketing and adverts show we’re still living in the same old sausage fest.

Some more examples? Well, what about the phones being pushed using scantily-clad models? Or the tech conferences showcasing the latest gadgets using booth babes? As much as we may think we’re “post-gender,” why, may I ask, are the most visible women in much of tech in some terminal state of undress?

But let’s take a step back.

Could you argue that this isn’t just sexualization, it’s a form of female empowerment too? Well, maybe we could if the tech industry didn’t do things like rescind an award for a women’s sex toy on the grounds of “immorality.”

Or if companies that used women’s bodies in their adverts didn’t take eight-fucking-years to put a period tracker on their fitness wearables — and even then, shoddily.

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(FYI — this is picture is from a FitBit advert where a dude literally tries to chase after a woman, fails, and then gets into shape so he… can stalk her?)

All this has a clear message: it’s fine to use women’s sexuality to sell shit to men. But if there’s any hint of female autonomy? Bad.

Hell, we’re so used to being bombarded with adverts, we forget their power and overlook their biases. You know, like how ads for Viagra are everywhere, but those for basic female sex education are — strangely — not.

With adverts like the LG one we mentioned at the start, women are shown that technology is not made for them to use, but is instead used for their objectification. Is it any surprise women hold so few leadership positions at tech firms when it’s made abundantly clear this isn’t a world they’re welcome in? Well, when fully clothed at least.

And it doesn’t work in one direction either. Being sold something on the premise I think solely with my penis isn’t exactly empowering.

What this all boils down to is simple. The tech industry loves talking about “disruption” and “democratization” — just as long as it doesn’t have to do any of those things itself and can keep on pushing the same old lazy stereotypes.

Yeah, sex sells — but we should be better.

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