I’ve been agonising over writing about the LELO HEX for the last few weeks. I knew writing it would mean I could no longer accept new review items, or promotional items from LELO. I feel bad about this decision because the people I have worked with during my contact with LELO have been great. However, this is about LELO management, the people at the highest level. They continually disregard the people who buy and use their products, proving they just don’t care about the consumer.
The LELO HEX controversy is just the latest incident in LELO’s dive off the deep end. It has been addressed by people much more eloquent than myself but I still felt like I had something to say. I have endorsed their products on HornyGeekGirl in the past, and therefore feel I have a responsibility to say something. I will be leaving those reviews up but they will now include a link to this post. The people I have seen writing about this are: Sarah at MarvelousDarling who was the first I saw responding on Tuesday. Lilly at DangerousLilly talked about it on Wednesday. FormidableFemme covered it from an abuse survivors’ perspective on Thursday. This issue has also been covered in blog posts by countless other people; CaraSutra, DailyBeast, Dizzygirl, Shawna at Sexsiopa, Molly, ShWomen store, NinjaSexology, . (I will add to this list as and when I see new posts). also wrote a review covering the ‘safety’ aspect of the HEX.
When I first started reviewing sex toys LELO were one of the brands I really coveted. To me they were one of the top luxury brands. They cared about their customers, and about making innovative products that would speak to women. Unfortunately, over the last few years LELO seems to have become completely removed from that image. They use gimmicks to create a buzz but forget about creating an actual viable product.
The ‘Bankers only’ Pino Cock Ring, that came packaged with cuff-links and a money clip. What on earth were they thinking? HeyEpiphora did a great post about it. Then there was the scented Lily 2. A gimmick that seemed to have no place in reality. The vibrator itself was adequate but what was the point of the scent. I found I couldn’t smell it unless the Lily 2 was directly under my nose, and after a few washes even that had gone. I would rather have had more power than the pointless scent. Most recently there was the Penis Tuxedo. They created a (dry-clean only) Tux to fit a cock. No, I don’t know either. It’s like three or so years ago management at LELO all had brain transplants. Out went sex-positive, female driven design, and in came douche-bro marketing and design. Which leads us to the LELO HEX.
When LELO first announced the HEX it was unclear whether or not it was supposed to be an April Fool’s joke……I still think it’s unclear. It feels like the whole thing might be a prank that has just gotten out of hand, and no-one is prepared to yell stop.
First there was all the mystery marketing. Where they talked in very vague terms about their new condom. Saying it was revolutionary, and innovative. That it completely redesigned the condom from the ground up. Then things got a bit more detailed, which is where confusion set in. Their ‘revolutionary and innovative’ LELO HEX condom was still made of latex. The only difference I could see was that it had a slightly different structure…..or rather a very pretty pattern. They were touting it as ‘safer’ because the honeycomb structure was stronger. That it would hold together even when pricked by a pin. Which sounds good in theory but in practice I want to know if my condom has a hole in it. I want to know as soon as the hole forms. I want to be able to stop and replace the broken condom before I end up with any unwanted consequences.
A condom that holds together after being pricked by a pin isn’t going in my toy box. Cells are microscopic, millions of them could get through a pin prick hole. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe LELO had tested thoroughly, and would have reams of data on how their condom held up…….they didn’t. When ‘scientists’* at the launch were asked about this, they seemed confused. When the query was clarified and they were asked for specific data, “what is the transmission rate, if one of these fails?”. They had a small meeting and their response was “well we won’t know that until people have been using them for a while.” Yeah, you heard that correctly. They are selling a product on a benefit that they haven’t tested. Letting people believe it’s much safer, even though they don’t know.
I am desperately hoping this is just a case of the staff at the launch not being properly prepared for real questions. If not, this seems like a massive judgement lapse on the part of LELO. One which is sure to have an unhappy ending.
They seem to be all about lapses in judgement at the moment. Not just in describing a fairly standard (if not potentially more dangerous) condom as revolutionary but in choosing their spokesman for the campaign. To some degree I do understand why his name may have first been suggested, however it should have been vetoed immediately. You do NOT want someone representing your (supposedly women friendly, sex positive) company who has a history of domestic violence. Who ‘allegedly’ had unprotected sex with sex workers without disclosing his HIV+ status. Nothing about Charlie Sheen says safe, responsible sex. It feels like they just found a celebrity who was willing to work with them, and grabbed with both hands.
At the launch Charlie Sheen gave a speech about being chosen as the LELO HEX spokesman. He actually said “I am here to make the condom cool”, and then talked about his influence on young people. I think (or rather hope) he was overstating his influence here. If most young people know him as anything more than a coke-addicted, actor with a history of abusing his domestic partners I will be very surprised. The idea that this man could have a positive influence on young people is truly laughable.
I just cannot continue to recommend or support a company who have shown such complete disregard for ethical practice. I believe there were much better qualified people who LELO could have chosen to work with. I believe they could have just sold their condom without all the hyperbolic advertising. Should people use condoms? Yes. Should it be the LELO HEX? No. Choose condoms with a proven track record, don’t buy into the hype and spin that LELO are spreading here.