Women’s sexual wellness company Dame Products has filed a lawsuit against New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority for refusing to run ads featuring female sex toys, claiming MTA guidelines unfairly discriminate against the company while other brands have been free to use cleavage, phallic shapes and sexual innuendos in their advertisements.
“When I first reached out to the MTA, they said, ‘We’re willing to work with you.’ And I told them, ‘I would love to buy you guys lunch’,” says Alexandra Fine, the CEO and co-founder of Dame Products, who added that the MTA was initially receptive to the core concept of its advertising campaign.
In July 2018, Dame contacted Outfront Media, the MTA’s advertising partner, to run a “tasteful, balanced [ad] campaign” on the New York City subway featuring a series of multi-colored vibrators using the tagline “Toys, for sex.” By September, she says, the MTA had green-lit the campaign and provided feedback to Dame so its ads could be appropriately revised in the lead-up to the campaign’s expected launch date.
According to the legal complaint, Dame alleges that it spent roughly $150,000 tweaking its ads in response to the MTA’s critiques before resubmitting them for final approval. After several weeks of radio silence in which Dame claims it was “strung along,” the MTA ultimately responded by rejecting the campaign in December, citing its revised advertising guidelines.
In its official policy guide, last updated on November 15, 2018, the MTA states that it “prohibits any advertisement that promotes a ‘sexually oriented business,’ and advertisements for sex toys or devices for any gender.” However, according to the lawsuit, the MTA’s decision to ban Dame’s ads was “arbitrary and unlawful.”
“We have not been served with this lawsuit and cannot comment on it directly,” MTA spokesman Maxwell Young said in a statement, “but their public statements are clearly inaccurate as the MTA’s advertising is in no way gender-based or viewpoint discriminatory.”