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21 Dec 2018 (Last updated 26 Jun 2023)

Facebook's double standards on men's and women's sexuality

Sexual Journey 2 min read
weighing scales

Is pain during sex for women a health issue of lesser legitimacy than E.D? Facebook seems to think so.

Male and female sexualities have long been the objects of double standards. While it is much more socially accepted for men to enjoy sexuality as something pleasurable, women’s sexuality has long been centered around its reproductive role. Orgasm is not needed for a woman to get pregnant, while it is for men to ejaculate. This has fed the perception that female pleasure is of less importance than male.

Today’s biggest online platforms such as Facebook and Google, are reinforcing these double standards by subjecting men’s and women’s sexual health products to different sets of rules when it comes to advertising.

Drug for erectile dysfunction: approved

While hip start-ups like Roman and for hims who offer E.D drugs manage to run ads on Mark Zuckerberg’s platform, sexual wellness brands for women like Unbound or Smile Makers see their ad campaigns get disapproved.

facebook ad for men's sex product allowed

The argument brought forward by Facebook’s teams is that, in the adult category, one can only run ads promoting family planning solutions. But the argument does not stand and here’s why.

Let’s not dwell too long on the fact that E.D consumption is by no means solely targeted at helping men to reproduce themselves, and that by essence, ED medication is not centered on family planning issues but on male pleasure. By contrast, the fact that 80% of women have experienced pain during sex does not lift the censorship to promote the use of lubricant for women, even in the context of family planning!

Women’s lubricant for pain relief: not approved

Case in point, a campaign designed to promote the use of lubricants for women, and centered on solving the issue of pain due to vaginal dryness, has been disapproved even if the notion of pleasure was at no point mentioned. As stated before, pain during sex is a dramatically common fact for women, mostly due to vaginal dryness. Solving this is the #1 reason why women buy personal lubricants. Not pleasure enhancement, not couple play, just pain relief. Yet, the ad did not go past the approval process.

facebook ad on pleasure not approved

It would seem that under Facebook’s advertising guidelines, a man’s erection (or lack of) is a more legitimate concern to address than a woman’s pain during intercourse. And that while it is (accurately) impossible for a man to reproduce himself without an erection, it is acceptable for a woman to do so while being in pain.

To be fair, Facebook is by no means the only tech company shutting down the door on femtech sexual wellness brands. The payment solution Stripe has refused to work with Unbound, automated marketing tool Drip and Google’s influencer marketing platform FameBit have also deemed the industry and its topic inappropriate.

As femtech industry is growing worldwide and has expanded its footprint in mainstream retail, male dominated tech industry is starting to lag behind, when it could be a major leverage for a positive social change.

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