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Elon Musk should stop making that stupid sex joke about Tesla's car names

Elon Musk should stop making that stupid sex joke about Tesla's car names

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Tesla handed over the first Model 3 cars to customers Friday night at an event just outside the company’s headquarters in Fremont, California. But before those happy early adopters drove home in their all-electric dream cars, Elon Musk spent a few minutes speaking to the crowd and to a live stream. It went about as well as most of his public speeches go, with the Tesla CEO oscillating between funny, awkward, and sort of heartfelt. And then, of course, he made the same sex joke he’s been making for years.

It’s time he stopped.

If you’re unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, here’s a mercifully quick recap: at some point early in his tenure with Tesla, Musk decided that he wanted the naming convention for Tesla’s cars to follow a pattern. First there would be the Model S, then the Model X, and finally the Model E. Shuffle those around and — guess what? — they spell “sex!” But a curmudgeonly combustion-engine carmaker got in the way of Musk’s fun. Ford threatened to sue over the trademark, and so the Model E became the Model 3.

Musk is smart enough to know that a generation of millennials fluent in 1337 5p34k would still be able to get the joke, so he kept making it anyway. Basically any time Musk spoke in public — at official company events, during live streams, speaking to investors — he’d make a joke about how his company’s cars’ names spell out S-3-X. (He’s also teased a crossover SUV called the Model Y.)

Musk, of course, made the joke again at last night’s Model 3 handover event. And shortly after, the Tesla Motors Twitter account tweeted a video of the company’s three cars driving together with the caption: “S, 3, X on a bridge.”

This is a man whose company’s mere existence has helped prod the competition into taking electric technology seriously, something that could actually change the world, and yet he can’t stop making an unnecessary joke about sex. And not just unnecessary, but inappropriate, considering Tesla’s factory has been labeled a “predator zone” by its female employees.

Tesla exists in the middle of a Venn diagram between Silicon Valley and the automobile world — two industries that are plagued by sexism, harassment, and general inequality between men and women. But Tesla’s supposed to be about making the world a better place. At the very least, Elon Musk could live up to that standard by dropping the joke.