Jackie Rotman: Intimacy Justice: Business Practices to Support Sexual Equality

Jackie Rotman: Intimacy Justice: Business Practices to Support Sexual Equality


[MUSIC] In a lot of families, conversations
about sex go something like this.>>[LAUGH]
>>Good talk.>>[LAUGH]
>>Or if words are exchanged, they’re so uncomfortable and so
vague that very little gets communicated. This was not the case in my family. In my family conversations about
sex were normal, common and open. There’s no more emblematic example than
the famous orgasm talk from my dad. [LAUGH] When my brother
got hit first girlfriend, he got the how to please
a woman talk from my dad. My dad got this talk from his father. So when I was 19 and
my Catholic mother still had not given me the orgasm talk,
my dad decided he was going to recite the latest research literature
to me about the female orgasm. [LAUGH] I was 19, in my Stanford
undergrad dorm room not far from here. The talk went something like this. Jackie, Hollywood makes it look
like sex is all about intercourse, but only 15% of women can have
an orgasm from intercourse alone. The vast majority of women
need clitoral stimulation. Then he said, and it’s really important
that a woman be pleased first in bed. Why? When a man has an orgasm, it’s over.>>[LAUGH]
>>So the women needs to be pleased first. At the time,
I thought my dad was just so quirky. [LAUGH] And I’m still the first
to admit that he is very quirky. But what I realize now is that
there was also so much power and wisdom in what my dad was
telling the 19 year-old me. So often in our culture, a woman’s sexual
well-being is valued less than a man’s. We see that not only in
relationships oftentimes, but also in our broader business systems. [COUGH] You may have heard that this
January at CES, the largest consumer electronics trade show, a women’s
vibrator company got an award but then how the word rescinded and was not
allowed to present at the conference. CES called the product,
profane and immoral and yet dedicated an entire room for
VR porn for male users, and has prominently featured sex robots and
other sexual products geared at men. What I want to show today is
that CES is not a one off issue. Our business practices
systematically discriminate against female sexual wellness compared
to male sexual wellness. I could give you scores of examples, but
I’m going to talk about advertising, financial institutions and manufacturing. First advertising. Ride the subway in New York and
you can not escape the massive amounts of advertising for
erectile dysfunction. Also on the radio, TV, and
all across ads right now. Hims shows erect cactuses
to represent penises.>>[LAUGH]
>>Roman offers to deliver Ed drugs directly to your door. One might wonder, where are the ads for
women’s sexual wellness products. This advertisement was for a woman’s
sexual wellness company called unbound. And the same subways in New York City
banned these advertisements, they wouldn’t post them. Why? They were considered too phallic.>>[LAUGH]
>>Again,>>[LAUGHS],>>Cactuses represent erect penises, yet the women’s sexual wellness company,
this was too phallic for the FTA. This is not just the New York subway,
and it’s not just ED. Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, and
Instagram have many advertisements, not only for erectile dysfunction, but
also for penis enlargement pumps, male sexual enhancer gels, playboy, all kind of
products addressing men’s sexual needs. But ban not only female
sexual wellness and pleasure companies, but
also sex education companies, and even products that prevent pain for
a woman during intercourse. Second, financial institutions. Stripe has a policy against
working with all sex toys. Stripe itself considers this policy
to be outdated and overly moralizing, but the issue is that its partners banks
and credit card companies will not do business with sex toy companies they’re
considered too much of a brand risk. The thing is, sex toys are much more commonly
used by women than they are by men. So practices that say no to doing business
with these companies disproportionately impact companies that address
women’s’ sexual needs. As context,
53% of American women use a vibrator. 40% have used one with a partner. And vibrator usage is associated
with better sexual function for women across every measure. Arousal, lubrication, desire,
lack of pain, and orgasm. But this entire category
of product is banned, not just from working with payment
processors like Stripe, but from opening a bank account if the bank
knows what the company does and from getting loans from the bank. This applies not only to Stripe
companies but again to sex education sites such as OMGS which conducted
the first large scale study about female pleasure and was working to
educate the mass public about it. Third, manufacturing. An entrepreneur named
Melanie Crystal left a partner-track career in law to create a product that
was initially intended to address and prevent STI transmission for
oral sex on a woman. It got a factory that was
really excited to work with it, it was a condom manufacturer. But as soon as the factory realized
the product was for oral sex on a woman, it backed out of working
with the company and said it was against their
shareholder values. Basic steps for businesses like getting
a manufacturer, a packaging partner, a product liability insurance
are huge barriers still for companies that address
female sexual wellness. One result of all of these norms,
both in business and in our culture today although 95% of
men say they have an orgasm always or almost always when they have sex,
that figure is only 65% for heterosexual women, which a lot
of us still thinks sounds high.>>[LAUGH]
>>This is not because women
are just not orgasmic. Definitely not the case. In fact, lesbian women have orgasms
essentially as much as men. And research shows that women who by
themselves achieve orgasm easily and within minutes The difference is the gap
is because of a lack of understanding about female pleasure but
also a lack of value in our culture of female pleasure compared
to male sexual pleasure. We have historical precedence both for female sexual health
products being embraced much more slowly than men’s products,
but also for changing this. When it came to oral contraceptives, the birth control pill which
came out in 1968 for 40 years, this was the only prescription drug
that insurance wouldn’t cover. Women’s groups long thought to change
this, women were paying more and medical bills than men because of this and
they had little real success. What changed this? 1998, Viagra came out. It was covered by half of insurers
in the United States quickly. Prescriptions were quickly prescribed and
it was only after Viagra came out that women’s groups could effectively
argue this was discrimination and successfully got birth control covered. I believe that today we have
an other landmark opportunity. The Viagra patent is expiring next year. We have more licensing agreements
which is why we’re seeing tremendous ED advertisements. I think this is an opportunity to once
again point to the double standards and make sure we bring women’s health along. And what I ask is will we use this
opportunity to make sure that women’s sexual wellness is included? Or will we stick with the status quo? At Stanford GSD,
our Graduate School of Business, we talk about changing lives, changing
organizations and changing the world. You may not think that your job or
your job after business school has the potential to change sex lives, change
organizations, and change the world. But if your job touches on advertising,
payments, banking, investing, finance, packaging,
manufacturing, insurance. Or determining who has a voice
accelerators or at trade shows, let alone if you work in law,
the social sector, education or the public sector, you will actually
be in a position to make decisions that impact people including in
the intimate aspects of our lives. When I think about- well, I want to show
you a picture of, this is my dad and my sister and I the day that we moved
my younger sister into college when she was around the age I got
the talk I told you about. And when I think about 19 year old me and
the messages I heard from my dad, they are so different than
the inequities that I’ve experienced and from the realities I talked about today. 19 yea old me heard that my pleasure
mattered just as much as any other man’s, if not more.>>[LAUGH]
>>19 year old me heard that I had agency over my body and
that my sexuality was mine. 19 year old me heard that intimacy
could be a rich source of positivity in my life and a source of deep
connection with other people. These are the realities I want for
all women and for people of all genders, all sexual orientations,
and all sexual identities. It is time that women’s sexual
well-being is valued as much as men’s in business and
in our culture.>>[APPLAUSE] [MUSIC]

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