A Brooklyn-based start-up that sells women’s sex toys is suing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for rejecting advertisements that picture its products — a decision the company has deemed “sexist.”
On Tuesday, Dame Products filed a 40-page lawsuit against the MTA, claiming the agency is perpetuating a “ridiculous double standard” by rejecting its ads, which feature tasteful photographs of vibrators and other sex toys. According to the suit, Dame contacted the MTA in July 2018 about running the ads, and the company claims it was given preliminary approval in November; one month later, however, the ads were rejected, allegedly for promoting a “sexually oriented business.” Given that subway cars regularly display ads related to men’s sexual health, such as those for erectile-dysfunction medications, Dame found this decision egregiously unfair. So today, the company is suing.
In the preliminary statement of its lawsuit, Dame asks the reader to “imagine [they’re] a woman on the subway,” where sex-related ads are ubiquitous. “Look left, and you see phallic cactuses — both flaccid and erect — which promote erectile-dysfunction medication beneath the slogan ‘Hard made easy,’” the lawsuit reads. “Look right, and your eye catches an advertisement for ‘Kyng’-sized condoms, their foil packets shiny.”
What you won’t see are Dame’s ads, which the company claims is evidence of the MTA’s “decision to privilege male interests in its advertising choices and its fundamental misunderstanding of Dame’s products.” Dame’s battle with the MTA isn’t unprecedented: In 2015, Thinx, a company that sells absorbent underwear for use during menstruation, also ran into difficulty getting its ads showing women wearing its panties posted in the subway.
Per the lawsuit, Dame is seeking an injunction that would allow the display of its ads in subway cars, along with a larger demand that could have major repercussions for companies in the future: for the MTA to scrap its ban on advertisements that promote “sexually oriented businesses.” (The MTA has not responded to the lawsuit.)
“In 2019, the MTA’s Victorian view of female sexuality and the First Amendment cannot stand,” the lawsuit reads. “All New Yorkers — and all women — deserve better.”