Is he an assh*le?
That's the question everyone asks about sex toy entrepreneur Brian Sloan. It's the question that inspired our video crew to follow him around for a week in Berlin. It was also the last question I asked him during our interview.
His answer was “no” but came with a concession,
It's not completely inaccurate to call me an assh*le.
Surely, working in the sex toy industry doesn't automatically designate a person an assh*le. But then, not every sex toy manufacturer uses a contest to design its products. More specifically, an online vaginal beauty contest that prompted “everyday women” to upload pictures of their vulvas to be rated on a scale of one to 10.
It's a concept that -- critics would argue -- quite literally objectifies women.
Brian sees it differently, explaining,
They didn't call it sexist when dildos were made from men's penises.
Fair point, except while dildos were fashioned after actual dicks, actual dicks weren't acquired via contests. But if they had been, would it have improved the product?
Brian's contest was designed to determine which vulvas men preferred. The guidelines had one major qualifier: no pubic hair. To be fair, this was more of a parameter than an indictment of misogyny (the scanning machine required a smooth texture), but it inherently restricted the results.
It was also the only rule in an otherwise rudimentary submission process, which simply required an applicant to post a picture with a piece of paper displaying #AutoblowVaginalBeautyContest. Such a casual approach resulted in a pretty big surprise the day of the scanning -- one of the finalists actually fabricated her submission.
The thing is, the results were irrelevant. By simply creating the contest, Brian Sloan had over a million people clicking through his website. The traffic nearly crashed its servers. Publications like The Daily Beast and The Gloss were deriding the contest as sexist, but even its staunchest critics conceded its brilliance as a marketing ploy.
Ultimately, Brian is less a sex expert than a businessman -- albeit a businessman in an industry where it's not uncommon to lunch with a giant dildo on the table.
Perhaps years in an industry where day-to-day operations are centered around subjects generally considered taboo would shift anyone's perception of normalcy. It would be accurate to describe a man who uses deli meat to describe a vulva as a misogynist. With Brian, though, maybe he's a weird guy in a weird industry.
But is he an assh*le? I guess I agree with Brian: no, but it wouldn't be completely inaccurate to call him one.