opinion

A Look at the Media's Rejection of Female-Focused Sexuality Brands

A Look at the Media's Rejection of Female-Focused Sexuality Brands

Brand visibility is essential for growth. Unfortunately for brands in the sexual wellness industry, the platforms they need to create that visibility are actively working against them. Though the discussion of sexuality has become more mainstream, shadow-banning is still alive and well — especially for female-focused and gender-diverse sexuality brands.

This problem was recently demonstrated when Unbound ran an experiment. The sexual wellness company submitted to Meta a femme-focused ad campaign featuring sex toys, and it was rejected. However, the platform accepted ads featuring the same products when reframed to target a male audience.

Media censorship and the economic limitations it imposes on these organizations threaten to shift female sexual wellness back to being dominated by the male voice, limiting diversity.

As sexual wellness PR and comms experts, we experience the effects of this censorship every single day. Our female-focused sexuality clients are regularly censored, so we must find ways to overcome this obstacle and get them in front of the audiences they strive to serve.

If you are part of a female-focused sexual wellness brand, you need to understand how this active censorship by the media tech platforms limits your brand’s ability to reach your target audience, and what you can do about it.

What Censorship Means for Female-Focused Sexual Wellness Brands

Media censorship of female-focused sexual wellness brands impacts not only the brands themselves, but also the sexual wellness industry as a whole and the general visibility of female-bodied sexual wellness. This impact is both economic and cultural.

Advertising platforms such as Meta offer the greatest potential for reaching your target audience. This makes them growth engines needed to create a successful brand that attracts customers and potential outside funding.

A January 2022 report published by the Center for Intimacy Justice (CIJ) found that 100% of the 60 organizations studied for the report had experienced rejection of their advertisements by Meta platforms. Half of the organizations had their ad accounts suspended by the platform at some point.

All but one of the organizations that participated in the study were female-led, with the one exception being led by a nonbinary person. These organizations represented categories such as menopause, sexual wellness, sexual education, pelvic pain and menstrual health.

By censoring female-focused sexuality brands, Meta and other tech platforms are blocking these brands’ access to their target audience — access that could potentially translate directly and indirectly to millions of dollars.

Female-led organizations also hire women at six times the rate of male-led organizations. Missing out on potential growth due to limited brand visibility translates to brands struggling to provide competitive salaries essential to retaining women and gender-diverse talent.

Cultural Effects

As mentioned, organizations focused on female sexual health, wellness and sexuality are overwhelmingly female-led, creating cultures that are exponentially more inclusive and diverse. Media censorship and the economic limitations it imposes on these organizations threaten to shift female sexual wellness back to being dominated by the male voice, limiting diversity.

The CIJ report and the Unbound experiment clearly show that female-founded and female-focused organizations — the same organizations pushing for the visibility of female-bodied sexuality and sexual wellness — are being cut off from channels of advertising vital to their survival and success. This exposes these organizations to the threat of being eclipsed by more successful, well-funded male-led and male-focused sexual wellness brands, which are now expanding to include female-centered sexual wellness products.

How to Navigate Censorship as a Female-focused Brand

Despite the jarring reports, it’s not all doom and gloom. Censorship of the sexual wellness industry isn’t new, and those who work in it have always found ways to work with current realities. So how do you make sure your brand is visible?

Short answer: get creative. Here are three ways you can beat the algorithms and get in front of your audience.

Learn a New ‘Seggsy’ Language

Do some research on how other brands in the sexual wellness space are speaking about sexual wellness on their social media channels. Female-focused brands are creating new terms and even language around sexuality as workarounds that censors don’t recognize.

Some examples of this are changing the spelling of sex to “s*x” or even “seggs.” On platforms like TikTok, the younger crowd is using the term “mouth fun” to refer to oral sex.

Get in With Influencers

Another solution is star power. For example, OMGYes received a major boost when Emma Watson praised the sex-ed website while using her platform to raise awareness about the importance of female pleasure.

Shoutouts from big celebrities are great, but partnering with micro-influencers can often be even more effective. Though they have smaller audiences, they’ve often invested time building trust and relationships with their followers, increasing the likelihood that they’ll actually buy a product.

Balanced Messaging Is Everything

Central to brand awareness is your messaging. You’ve got to do research into what works for your particular audience. Even if you have to shift how you deliver your message depending on the platform or media you’re using, the messaging has to resonate.

Thanks to increased awareness of how Meta and other media tech platforms censor female-focused sexual wellness brands, policies are starting to shift in the right direction. Hopefully, such bias will become a thing of the past. In the meantime, the information above can help you use your brand voice to break down barriers to female-bodied access to sexual wellness and pleasure.

Kathryn Byberg is the founder and CEO of Little Leaf Agency, a PR and communications agency dedicated to sexual wellness.

Related:  

Copyright © 2024 Adnet Media. All Rights Reserved. XBIZ is a trademark of Adnet Media.
Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission is prohibited.

More Articles

opinion

How Sex-Ed Lays the Groundwork for Well-Informed Shopping

We often do some research before making purchases, whether by delving into a company’s background, exploring specific products or simply making sure we understand how to use something before we buy it.

Nathan Hammerle ·
opinion

A Look at How Customer Demographics of Full-Size Sex Dolls Have Evolved

For a long time, sex dolls were dismissed as cheap novelties used by lonely heterosexual men. This was especially true of early, inflatable versions, which became the butt of jokes in pop culture. However, things have changed dramatically.

Rebecca Weinberg ·
opinion

Why Getting Back to In-Person Events Is Imperative for Pleasure Biz

Even before COVID-19, consumers were already increasingly shopping online. During the pandemic, that trend naturally skyrocketed, and many of us store owners and suppliers became accustomed to leaning back and managing nearly all of our business from behind a screen.

Sean Quinn ·
opinion

What Pleasure Brands Need to Know About Celebrity Endorsements

The right celebrity endorsement could skyrocket your brand into profitable relevance. The wrong one could send your brand crashing down into obscurity. While the allure of celebrity endorsements is obvious, less obvious are the risks that come with handing over the responsibility for your brand’s reputation to a third party.

Kathryn Byberg ·
trends

The Next Wave: Pleasure Industry Execs Forecast 2024

The dawn of 2024 is upon us and the adult retail biz is buzzing with anticipation, looking forward to seeing what new, innovative pleasure products, lubricants and sensual cosmetic lines will hit the market in the coming year.

profile

WIA Profile: April Hoopes

When you do what you love, they say, you’ll never work a day in your life — and when your job involves educating the masses about sex toys, it’s hard not to love what you do. As director of sales for pleasure brand Edonista, April Hoopes would surely agree.

Women In Adult ·
profile

Bathmate's Tim Brown Talks Legal Standards of Penis Pump Production

Since the company’s inception in 2006, Bathmate has delivered myriad iterations of the brand’s namesake: a hydrotherapy pump utilizing warm water and suction to take advantage of the penis’s naturally hydraulic erectile function.

Colleen Godin ·
profile

Nasstoys Marks 45 Years of Pioneering in the Pleasure Industry

Longtime pleasure products manufacturer Nasstoys, known for its vast variety of adult products and supplements, is commemorating 45 years in the business of making people happy.

Kim Airs ·
opinion

Selling Tactile Stimulation With Textured Toys

Tactile stimulation plays a pivotal role in elevating intimate encounters. As consumers recognize and explore the link between diverse, expansive sensory engagement and enhanced pleasure, we are seeing a shift toward products that go beyond basic functionality.

Carly S. ·
opinion

How Mainstream Can Show Respect in Its Appropriation of Fetish Wear

Once upon a time, fetish wear was strictly confined to kink communities and subcultures. However, it has now made its way onto the catwalk and even mainstream Instagram and TikTok. This visibility of fetish clothing raises important questions about respect for its origins and the cultural significance of fetish wear.

Countess Diamond ·
Show More