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.


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


Platforming the Pleasure Industry's Voice Through Voting

Very early in my business career, I learned not to mix business with politics or religion. This was a foundational tenet that just made sense. For much of my career, that was easy. However, it has become increasingly difficult to avoid bringing politics into business.

Ken Sahn ·

The ABCs of POS Systems for Adult Store Owners

What point-of-sale system is best for your adult business? Figuring that out can be frustrating, since the numerous options and acronyms don’t easily translate into a clear checklist of features and benefits you can weigh.

Sean Quinn ·

How Pleasure Brands Can Leverage Strategic PR Amid Mainstream Media Layoffs

Thanks to the mainstreaming of intimacy products, pleasure brands can now gain broad exposure in all kinds of publications, from Cosmo to Allure to Good Housekeeping. Unfortunately, the economic uncertainty dominating the world and challenging businesses has hit the media sector particularly hard.

Kathryn Byberg ·

WIA Profile: Ruth Arceo

In the beginning, all Ruth Arceo knew was that she dreamed of being a buyer — but when the opportunity presented itself for a career in the adult world, she found she’d struck it rich. Arceo is the lucky lady who gets to pick and choose how to line the shelves at The Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood, California.

Women In Adult ·

CalExotics Founder and CEO Susan Colvin Reflects on Brand's 30-Year Legacy

Thirty years ago, back when there were only hard plastic sex toys in tan and black, Susan Colvin had a vision of what sex toys could be. And so she set out to create her own company, California Exotic Novelties, which for three decades has been a pioneer, continually reimagining and expanding the pleasure products market.

Kim Airs ·

How to Sell Shoppers on Water-Friendly Toys

From soothing self-care in the bath to the invigorating spray of a shower, water can introduce new dimensions of pleasure, unlock unique sensations and provide a sensual backdrop for intimate exploration.

Carly S. ·

Why BDSM Furniture and Sex Machines Make an Ideal Match

For BDSM enthusiasts and curious newbies alike, a big part of the fun is discovering and exploring exciting new sensations and scenarios. One way to level up is by combining or layering pleasures you already enjoy, and one surefire way to do that is with BDSM furniture.

Rebecca Weinberg ·

Tips for Boosting Ecommerce Revenue With Behavioral Insights

At our marketing agency, we focus on using real data to make better decisions for our clients. We believe every action a visitor takes on a website can tell us something important. This helps us shape our strategies and assist our clients in turning casual website visitors into loyal customers.

Lauren Bailey ·

A Look at the Do's and Don'ts of Gift-With-Purchase Promos

Imagine you’re at a store, deciding between two products with similar packaging, features and pricing. You’re not predisposed toward either brand and you haven’t seen any reviews — but one of them offers, “Free gift with purchase!” Does that win you over?

Vanessa Rose ·

Tips for Navigating a Completely Remote Job in Sexual Wellness

Anyone working in the sexual wellness and pleasure sector has at some point had to deal with issues like bias against the industry, as well as limited marketing and advertising options.

Bryony Lees ·
Show More