Content warning: abuse.
On June 14, LELO announced the launch of their new condom, HEX. They also revealed that Charlie Sheen would be their condom campaign spokesperson, saying that Sheen is the best possible person to “engage on STI prevention, condom usage and change”.
Do you know what else Charlie Sheen is? An abuser. I will not go into the details of his abuse convictions and allegations; Sarah from Marvy Darling has done so exceptionally well in her recent post, which I highly recommend. I will also not go into details about the number of LELO screw-ups in the past: Dangerous Lilly has a “Dear Lelo: I quit” masterpost and a new post about the Charlie Sheen disaster, both of which I also highly recommend.
I am here to say that I am a survivor, and I am angry.
It is absolutely deplorable and unacceptable for a sexual wellness company to partner with a known abuser. It is clear to me that this decision was purely motivated by shock value and publicity, without any concern for their customers or the educators, reviewers, or stores that work with them. What about someone with a history of domestic violence screams “Yeah! We really love our customers and we want them to be comfortable endorsing and buying our products! We are REALLY committed to sexual freedom!”? (Hint: nothing.)
Furthermore, as Kitty Stryker points out on Twitter, Sheen also has a history of whorephobia, and she hoped to hear more from folks in ethical porn denouncing LELO’s decision. This was LELO’s response: “Our commitment to feminist porn is absolutely unchanged. It means a lot to us.” What about putting an abuser as your campaign’s spokesperson is feminist AT ALL? (Hint: nothing.)
LELO thinks everything is fine because when directly asked why they were partnering with a known abuser, they said their HEX partnership with Charlie Sheen is not an endorsement of his past. I am here to say that is bullshit.
The narrative LELO is working to craft about their partnership with Charlie Sheen is so similar to the silencing and shame I experienced when I told people I was an abuse survivor. As many perpetrators of domestic violence are, my abuser was incredibly popular. In my hometown, everyone knew who he was, and everyone loved him. People didn’t believe me when I told them he abused me. Over and over again I heard awful things like, “He couldn’t have done that! He takes great care of his family. You must have imagined it.” and “Well, that wasn’t really abuse. You’re exaggerating. Do you honestly think he did that? There’s no way. He wouldn’t have so many friends if he was an abusive man.”
When LELO says that, essentially, they can ignore Sheen’s abusive past to make him the spokesperson of their new campaign, they are doing the exact same thing as the people who told me they didn’t believe that my ex-partner was abusive. When you don’t believe survivors or when you excuse a person’s history of domestic violence in favor of their other “redeeming qualities” (in this example, Charlie Sheen’s ability to speak to condom usage, in LELO’s opinion), you are complicit in a culture that blames survivors and shames us into silence.
I will not stand for LELO’s blatant refusal to acknowledge that survivors matter. Our experiences matter. Our hopes and dreams matter. We should be able to exist without “sexual wellness companies” reopening our pain and then implying that our pain isn’t valid because the company isn’t “endorsing” past abusive behavior.
I will never support LELO again. I will never purchase their toys again or accept them for review from an independent retailer. I have removed the LELO toys I do own from my Toybox page. I will very likely dispose of those toys immediately.
If you are a survivor also struggling with LELO’s partnership with Sheen (or anything else), please know that you are loved and supported. You matter because you are here in this world, and you matter to me.