Women's sex toy company sues New York subway system for rejecting its ads

A company that makes women’s sex toys announced Tuesday that it is suing New York’s transit system over allegations that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is perpetuating a "ridiculous double standard" by rejecting its advertisements.

According to court documents, Brooklyn-based startup Dame Products had gotten in contact with MTA in July 2018 to run an ad campaign on the subway. 

The ad campaign showed pictures of the sex toys — which appear to be smooth objects in various shapes and colors — along with phrases including, “Toys, for sex” and “You come first.”

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Dame alleged that the company received a preliminary approval in September and later submitted its final ads in November. The company had been in contact with Outfront Media, the company that serves as the MTA's advertising contractor, and allegedly been told by a representative that Outfront had "no rejections" to two of Dame's ads. 

"We didn’t hear a peep until after Thanksgiving, three weeks later. Our campaign was rejected. The MTA cited its own 'updated guidelines' preventing 'sexually oriented' businesses from advertising," the company wrote on its website.

"This made us wonder: Why are pharmaceutical and supplement companies like Hims, Hers, and Welleco allowed to advertise on the subway?"

Other companies like Hims, a men’s health startup that sells products treating hair loss and erectile dysfunction, has had their ads displayed in the city’s subway system. 

Dame fired back with the lawsuit, alleging the MTA’s move illustrated “sexism, its decision to privilege male interests in its advertising choices, and its fundamental misunderstanding of Dame’s products.”

“Imagine you are a woman standing in an MTA subway car. Look left, and you see phallic cactuses — both flaccid and erect — which promote erectile dysfunction medication beneath the slogan ‘hard made easy,’” the company wrote in its lawsuit. “Look right, and your eye catches an advertisement for ‘Kyng’-sized condoms, their foil packets shiny.

“And just overhead are advertisements for the Museum of Sex, featuring sets of naked buttocks or women dancing in a room full of inflated plastic breasts,” the suit continues. “This scenario is not just your imagination … Each one was given the MTA’s stamp of approval.”

MTA spokesman Maxwell Young told The Hill in a statement: “We have not been served with this lawsuit and cannot comment on it directly, but their public statements are clearly inaccurate as the MTA’s advertising is in no way gender-based or viewpoint discriminatory."

Young added that the MTA's advertising policy FAQ page says advertisements for "sex toys or devices for any gender" aren't allowed.

The complaint asks for an injunction to allow Dame to display its ads on MTA property and for the MTA to “void” its ban on ads promoting a “sexually oriented business” because of the measure’s “vagueness."

"In 2019, the MTA's Victorian view of female sexuality and the First Amendment cannot stand. … All New Yorkers — and all women — deserve better," the complaint reads. "It reveals the MTA's sexism, its decision to privilege male interests in its advertising choices, and its fundamental misunderstanding of Dame's products."

Updated: June 19 at 10:10 a.m.