Is Prudishness Profitable? Maybe We’re Asking the Wrong Question?

Is Prudishness Profitable? Maybe We’re Asking the Wrong Question?

How sexually hung up are some people? They’re so hung up, they can’t even bring themselves to invest in companies with great potential, if those companies make products or offer services related to sex.

Do you have a great idea for a high tech sex toy? You might find it hard to secure funding for research and development. Got a profitable adult entertainment company you’d like to grow quickly by drumming up cash from a venture capitalist? Good luck. It’s not impossible, but you’re very likely to be told your product or company is too “high risk” for their tastes.

Much of this comes back to “vice clauses” that prohibit people like fund managers from investing in companies involved in gambling, or that sell alcohol, or that distribute cannabis — or that make sexual wellness products.

These vice clauses both confuse and enrage Calico, who keeps getting stuck on the definition of “vice” and wondering if we’re really still so hung up on sex here in the 21st century that we will sit still for sex itself being termed “immoral or wicked behavior.”

Read all about it in Calico’s new post, “Maybe We’re Asking the Wrong Question?”

– Calico Rudasill, Exclusive adult movies for women and couples

prudish woman

Read on…

Not so long ago, my husband and I sat down with a financial advisor to talk about our (meager) stock portfolio and how we might go about improving the return on our various investments, minimal though they may be.

One of the things we asked about was the possibility of investing in the cannabis sector – an idea driven in part by seeing a massive line wrapping around the parking lot of a local cannabis dispensary when we drove by it a few weeks ago. Sure, COVID-related restrictions on how many customers they could let in at once was part of the reason for the long line, but you couldn’t have fit the number of people in this inside a freaking airplane hangar, let alone the roughly 1500 square foot space occupied by this dispensary.

The financial advisor frowned slightly at our cannabis questions, not out of any opposition to cannabis businesses of his own, but because “the regulatory environment is very uncertain” when it comes to cannabis businesses and products, he explained.

As I listened to our advisor’s feedback, I grew frustrated – not with the advisor, but with what he told us about the market. I’m sure the information was reliable and that he was giving us good advice, but a more fundamental question kept eating at me…. 

Why Are We Still (Selectively) Hung Up on So-Called “Vices”?

At a time when sports gambling has gone legit (and nationally so, more or less) and you can buy lottery tickets in 44 out of 50 American states (plus Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico) and surveys show consumers are more accepting of things like adult entertainment than ever before, why are certain quarters of the financial sector still so afraid to invest in things like pleasure products and sex toys?

“Sex Sells, But How Well? The Viability Of Venture-Backed Sex” is the name of a recent article from Forbes that looks at the capital-raising efforts of Cake, a sexual wellness company that recently began placing some its products in Walmart stores.

As noted in the Forbes article, “sex-focused consumer startups are largely absent from the portfolios of blue chip investment firms known for helping direct-to-consumer brands… make it big. Part of this has to do with vice clauses, which prohibit funds from putting investors’ money towards businesses that are considered controversial, like alcohol, gambling, and yes, sex.”

My most immediate reaction to this sort of thing is to grasp either side of my head in my palms and scream “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” – which provides momentary release, but also scares the hell out of our cat.

Oh, that Wicked Immoral Thing… From Which Nearly All of Us Were Born

For starters, the definition of vice is “immoral or wicked behavior.” If sex is a vice, then we’re in big trouble as a species, seeing as how sex is the root cause for almost all of us existing in the first place – minus so-called “test tube babies” and Ted Cruz, who as you know was hatched from an egg made of pure despicability. 

On the other hand, given how terrible we are as a species, prone to consuming every resource in our path like a bunch of omnivorous termites holding smartphones, I suppose I can see an argument for procreative sex being immoral and wicked, but if I’m just having sex for pleasure, who and what is getting harmed by that? Nobody and nothing, that’s who and what.

The more I think about the question posed by the headline of the Forbes article linked above, the more I think it’s the wrong question – which is not to say the article is full of wrongness, as it’s a very good piece that appears to be more of an argument FOR investing in sexual wellness companies than against such investing.

To me, maybe the question investors and their advisors should be asking is this one:

Is Prudishness Profitable?

prudish womanInstead of questioning whether sex sells well enough to produce a ROI, maybe what we should be questioning is whether the “vice clauses” should be relegated to the dustbin of history. 

As noted back in 2018 by whomever it was running the Twitter account for Peter Thiel’s “Founders Fund” at that time, “the problem with a vice clause continues to be how often the popular conception of ‘vice’ is wrong, and how quickly that conception changes.”

Or, as Caitlin Strandberg from Lerer Hippeau put it to Forbes in laughing off the question of whether sexual wellness companies like Cake can scale: “They absolutely can. They’re consumer product businesses that are direct-to-consumer. They’re digitally native brands that are omnichannel, and it’s a suite of products that consumers search for, they enjoy, and they come back and replenish.”

While some of that jargon goes over my head (or perhaps zips by on a path between my legs?), I understand it well enough to know this much: Caitlin Strandberg, who knows way more about this stuff than I ever will, is scoffing at the traditional wisdom for a reason.

Let’s stop asking whether sex sells well enough for sexual wellness brands, pleasure products and other sex-related products to profitable. Let’s start asking if these vice clauses have outlived their usefulness – or indeed, whether they ever had any usefulness to outlive in the first place.

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