Dame Products, a sex toy and sexual wellness company based in Williamsburg, announced this week that after three years, it has settled its lawsuit with the MTA and will become the first female-founded pleasure product brand able to advertise its wares on the subway.
Dame’s “Get In Touch With Yourself” campaign will begin appearing in the subway over the next three months, which the 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.”
In 2019, Dame sued the transit authority over allegedly discriminatory advertising practices after the MTA rejected its sex toy ads despite approving similarly suggestive ads for dating websites and male-focused sexual products (including erectile dysfunction meds). A year prior, Dame went through an unsatisfying back-and-forth with the MTA over their ad copy (which included lines like “Toys for Sex,” “More intimacy than rush hour,” and “Some riders need extra help getting off”), spending $150,000 to revise their campaign to meet the agency’s standards.
Ultimately, the MTA stated it had rejected all the ads because they “promote a sexually oriented business, which has long been prohibited by the MTA’s advertising standards.” Dame argued in their suit that the MTA had a double standard when determining which ads were too provocative, calling out sexually provocative campaigns from companies like Roman and Hims, which included photos of cacti in the shape of penises.
“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.”
MTA spokesperson Eugene Resnick confirmed the news with Gothamist, saying, “The MTA has settled the lawsuit brought by Dame. As part of the settlement, Dame will run a paid advertising campaign on MTA subway cars in November through January. The advertisements will promote Dame’s brand and, unlike the earlier ads involved in the lawsuit, will not specifically depict or refer to its products.”
Indeed, the ads in the new campaign don’t include any photos of the sex toys which were featured in the Dame ads from 2018 and 2019. The new campaign is instead filled with “abstract graphics” that symbolize and refer to female pleasure.
However, a spokesperson for Dame told Gothamist there will be more ads than there would have been: “For the ads, the new campaign is much larger than the original one, taking up a half-car on 10% of all the lines for the month. There is also OOH [out-of-home] wheatpasting across the city as well.”
To coincide with this settlement, Dame also announced its new Clinical Advisory Board this week; its medical advisors will weigh in on product development, hardware designs, workshops and more. The company notes that this board makes its offerings “the first ‘doctor-approved’ pleasure products on the market.”