- Dame, a sex-toy company founded by women, has filed a lawsuit against New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
- The company says the agency is using a double standard in rejecting its ads while allowing other sexually based ads.
- The MTA says its policies were made very clear from the beginning.
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Dame, a company that makes “female-friendly” sex toys, has filed a lawsuit against New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, alleging sexism and censorship at the state agency after it rejected its proposed advertisements.
In the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, Dame’s founder, Alexandra Fine, said the agency, which operates all commuter rail, subway, and bus service in New York, was initially receptive to its design pitches and worked with it on its first drafts in September.
By October, the MTA’s vendor that handles advertising said the agency had no objections to the updated proposals, Dame claimed in court filings. But shortly after, the representative changed course, saying the MTA was rejecting the ads because they “entangle the MTA experience with the ad messaging.”
That didn’t sit right with Dame, given how rampant other sex-filled ads are in the system, even ones that reference trains and buses, according to the suit.
“Although the MTA has previously welcomed advertisements that celebrate human sexuality and openly discuss sexual health and function-not to mention advertisements that use sexual imagery or explicit text to sell consumer goods-the MTA excluded Dame from this vibrant public discourse and denied Dame coveted advertising space,” the lawsuit reads.
“Unable to justify this arbitrary and unlawful decision, the MTA cited only a bogus interpretation of its own advertising regulations ginned up for the sole purpose of quashing Dame’s proposed images.”
The MTA has not yet been served with the suit in an official capacity, and Maxwell Young, the agency’s chief external affairs officer, offered the following comment:
“We have not been served with this lawsuit and cannot comment on it directly, but their public statements are clearly inaccurate as the MTA’s advertising is in no way gender-based or viewpoint discriminatory. The MTA’s FAQs about its advertising policy clearly states that advertisements for sex toys or devices for any gender are not permitted, and advertising for FDA approved medication – for either gender – is permitted. In its proprietary capacity as the operator of a transit system used by all New Yorkers, the MTA is constitutionally entitled to draw reasonable content-based distinctions between different types of advertisements and to consider its diverse customers. We intend to vigorously defend this lawsuit and will be represented by the preeminent First Amendment lawyer Victor Kovner and his colleagues.”
A spokesperson for Outfront, the vendor contracted by the MTA to handle advertising, declined to comment.
“Vibrators are regularly prescribed by doctors as a drug-free, affordable solution for low-libido, arousal disorders, and sexual function issues for those recovering from abuse, cancer, and more,” Dame said on a site for its campaign. “If vibrator companies can’t advertise, those people won’t know what options are available to them.”
It’s not the first time advertising has caused controversy at the MTA. In 2016, the agency banned anti-Muslim ads from the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group the American Freedom law Center, which the group vowed to fight in court.
You can read the full lawsuit below:
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