With the release of their new and supposedly revolutionary condom LELO HEX, the company has once again proven that if you’re a rich dude, people will overlook the fact that you’re an abuser in order to work with you. Who’s the face of their new LELO HEX condoms? None other than Charlie Sheen.
Charlie Sheen: Could We Maybe Not?
If you only know Charlie Sheen as a man of negligible talent whose body composition is probably 13% cocaine, you might not be familiar with the night he spent in jail after assaulting his then-wife, Brooke Mueller. This was in 2009. He was charged with felony menacing, third-degree assault, and “mischief”. He was released on $8,000 bond. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault as part of a plea bargain and never set foot in jail for this crime again.
One incident is never just one incident. One incident is enough to cause irreparable trauma and damage. But Sheen doesn’t have one incident under his belt: He’s got a whole history.
He “accidentally” shot Kelly Preston back in 1990 in their shared home.
He was sued by a UCLA student for striking her when she refused to sleep with him.
He was arrested for beating his then-girlfriend Brittany Ashland (an adult actress) in 1996. He pleaded no contest to battery charges.
Denise Richards alleged that he abused her, assaulted her, and threatened her life. She secured a restraining order after filing for divorce.
In 2010, Capri Anderson (an adult actress) alleged that he attempted to strangle her while they were in his hotel room. This incident is not mentioned on his Wikipedia page, although it is connected to his trashing of their hotel room, which is mentioned.
More recently, Bree Olson (an adult actress) alleged that she was not informed of his HIV-positive diagnosis while they were in a relationship and that she would not have consented to unprotected sex if she had known. Disclosure is a difficult topic, but because she alleges psychological harm, I’ve decided to include it here.
I’ve noted that several women were adult actresses not to discredit them but to show that Sheen particularly had a penchant for going after women that society at large would consider imperfect victims. It’s easy for him to dismiss allegations from these women – they’re just money-grubbing porn stars, after all.
We as a society need to be critical and we cannot dismiss assault or abuse against anyone.
Now, LELO’s rationale for this bizarre choice is that he’s the perfect poster-boy for safe sex, as a celebrity whose HIV diagnosis rocked the media for a hot minute. It’s all about his HIV-positive diagnosis and #winning! It’s got nothing to do with brutally assaulting intimate partners! Besides, if they say they don’t endorse his past, that totally absolves them of responsibility, right?
When we overlook a person’s history of violence, when we keep paying them for appearances and endorsements, when we say “It’s alleged! She’s probably lying!”, then we are contributing to a culture that tells abusers that their actions are forgivable and tells survivors that their pain is meaningless.
This behavior directly contributes to victims’ unwillingness to come forward and make allegations against their abusers or assailants.
But, I know why. I know why they’re working with Charlie Sheen. It’s because he’s a big name and he’s known for drawing attention. He’s a wild playboy, so if he’ll buckle down and endorse a condom like the LELO HEX, it must be good, right? Maybe it’s even because they knew they’d make a few people mad – people like me, who they think aren’t smart enough to figure out that this is “free advertising”.
Years ago, LELO was a premier sexual wellness brand. Their products were body-safe, pleasing to the eye, and marketed (if heteronormatively) with an emphasis on sexual intimacy; this kind of business model was not mainstream at that point. It’s been rumored that sometime in the last 3-5 years, the company made some internal changes that have influenced the direction of their brand. This is pretty obvious to anyone who’s been around since the original Gigi massager and found themselves scratching their heads at Ida, Pino, and Beyond the Wave.
But LELO HEX & Charlie Sheen is the last straw.
In my opinion, LELO has made an important statement by partnering with Charlie Sheen: They only care about women’s health when it sells sex toys. When a woman is beaten, shot, threatened, or strangled? Well…
Update 14 June: It appears their crowdfunding campaign (which is a puzzle unto itself) is full of STI stigma. Yet another reason to call it quits with LELO.
More good news! East Coast News, an awesome distribution company, is currently offering a 100% buyback on all LELO products for retailers looking to ditch their stock in the wake of this awful partnership.
Update 1 December: Lorax of Sex wrote a fantastic piece on why HEX’s unclear breakage status is a huge problem. On #WorldAIDSDay, LELO is still insisting that this is a design feature rather than a flaw, despite the added risk for transmission of a variety of sexually transmitted infections.
This post is completely and utterly reflective of my opinion and my opinion only.