Culture 7 min read

Blocking the First Robot Brothel in the U.S. and the State of Sex Doll Commercialization

After the blocking of the opening of a robot brothel in Houston, Texas, questions are now being raised about the future directionof the robot sex trade. | Image By FOTOGRIN | Shutterstock

After the blocking of the opening of a robot brothel in Houston, Texas, questions are now being raised about the future directionof the robot sex trade. | Image By FOTOGRIN | Shutterstock

The Houston city council blocked a robot brothel which was supposed to open last month. How does the community feel about this new take on an age-old question?

On Wednesday, the government of Houston, Texas unanimously passed an updated city ordinance that thwarts a Toronto-based company’s plan of opening a robot brothel in the city. It would have been the first brothel of its kind in the United States.

The Canadian company known as KinkySdollS was supposed to open the establishment last month. However, residents of the city were not thrilled when they heard the news. The latter has reportedly prompted a massive backlash from Houston residents and activists who claim such enterprise will ruin the community.

“A business like this would destroy homes, families, finances of our neighbors and cause major community uproars in the city,” Pastor Vega, a member of the Houston City council, said during the meeting.

“I know there are some people that will sit there and say, ‘What does the City of Houston have to do with any of this?'” Greg Travis, another council member, added. “And the answer is ‘We’re not getting into your bedroom, but don’t bring it into our district. Don’t bring it into our city. This is not a good business for our city. We are not Sin City.'”

A petition against KinkySdollS titled “Keep Robot Brothels Out Of Houston” was also launched by the Houston-based anti-sex trafficking non-profit organization Elijah Rising. Prior to the city council meeting yesterday, the said organization has already gathered around 6,500 signatures by Tuesday.

“As a nonprofit whose mission is to end sex trafficking we have seen the progression as sex buyers go from pornography to strip clubs to purchasing sex—robot brothels will ultimately harm men, their understanding of healthy sexuality, and increase the demand for the prostitution and sexual exploitation of women and children,” Elijah Rising’s petition read.

Courtesy of @freddielm

The updated ordinance will now ban patrons from having sexual intercourse with any device that resembles a human at a business establishment. However, the new regulation still allows businesses to sell sex dolls and robots.

Sex Doll Commercialization and Robot Brothel: Solution to Sex Trafficking and Prostitution?

The latest technological advancement and the advent of artificial intelligence have indeed revolutionized the sex doll and robot industry. While sex dolls have been around for years, the newest fabrication methods used by manufacturers, coupled with AI and programming applications, have set them on a course to new levels of sophistication.

The advent of robotic sex dolls has also opened the door to a new form of business called a robot brothel that allows patrons to rent the dolls instead of, or before, buying them. It’s now a booming business with companies like KinkySdollS selling or leasing the dolls as “companions.”

On its website, Los Angeles-based online sex doll seller and robot brothel operator Vivant Doll markets its products and services as both beneficial and therapeutic.

“When Sex Dolls first were introduced into the market, they were considered as “Taboo.” Now, they are more popular every day, and users realize their benefits and sometimes therapeutic use. You will love their submissiveness, flexibility and the pleasure they are always ready to give you,” Vivant Doll wrote.

In the United States, adult robot sex dolls are legal. Now that they’ve become more realistic and sophisticated, the questions of how the sex objects should be used or to whom they should be made for have become significant issues in the country. Add to that the robot brothel industry that’s rapidly penetrating the entertainment market and you have the recipe for a contentious debate over the morality of the industry.

While sex doll companies are firm on saying that their service is not a form of escort service or prostitution, many are still skeptical and consider their dolls and services taboo. Conservatives view the dolls as immoral and vulgar, urging the government to ban the trade in the country.

For centuries, women have been exploited and forced into prostitution rings due to many reasons out of their control. This unregulated trade has also led to other problems like sex trafficking, violence, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Many believe that sex doll commercialization and robot brothels are the solutions to these issues.

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“The advent of sex robots will probably reduce the popularity of having sex with a sex worker. And if it’s going to have that effect, it will also reduce sex trafficking,” David Levy, a London-based AI researcher, said in an interview.

“I don’t see anything wrong in using a sex robot to provide sexual satisfaction to people who can’t achieve it in relationships with other humans. It’s much better for lonely and miserable people than no sex at all.”

But, could sex robots and robot brothels really help reduce the most detrimental forms of prostitution and sex trafficking?

HBO’s series The Deuce chronicles the hardships of female sex workers and corruption in 1970’s New York City. Over 40 years later, the conversation continues.

Researchers disagree with the notion. According to Dr. Chantal Cox-George of St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Professor Susan Bewley of the Women’s Health Academic Centre, King’s College London, it’s “fanciful” to suggest that sex robots would eliminate the century-old societal problems.

“It is speculative whether the development of a sexbot marketplace will lead to a lesser risk of violence and infections, or drive further exploitation of human sex workers,” the duo wrote.

While robot brothels and sex robots could be used to treat some medical problems like erectile dysfunction or be used to aid in celibacy because of old age and health problems, it could also be exploited to worsen existing problems.

Some sex doll manufacturers believe that the object could treat pedophilia or prevent sexual violence because it provides an “acceptable” outlet for those urges. However, this claim is still considered speculation since there are no reliable studies to support it.

There are no available studies yet that can back the arguments of sex doll manufacturers and robot brothels about the benefits of using or renting sex dolls. No scientific evidence as of the moment can confirm if having sexual intercourse with a “toy” can change the state of mind of pedophiles or sex worker patrons.

“I don’t think sex robots will reduce sex trafficking. It will just become another option on the menu for an already distorted and dehumanized commercial market. There’s something more insidious going on in sex trafficking about how you control and dominate another human being – and the pleasure you derive from rape,” Kathleen Richardson, founder of the Campaign Against Sex Robots, said in an interview.

Without any evidence that sex dolls or robot brothels can eliminate sex trafficking and are beneficial to the welfare of those who use it, it may be time for the government to clearly draw a new spectrum of policies that would regulate the advertisement, dissemination, creation, and possession of these sex devices.

It’s just not realistic to try to eliminate prostitution. But, could properly-regulated technologies like this one help reduce Black Market demand?

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

Comment (1)
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  1. pcjoker October 12 at 8:08 pm GMT

    Makes no difference whatsoever if it doesn’t do this and that, if it suits the needs of some and is not directly harming anyone there is no problem.

    Remember that this a free society that we live in, and everyone has the right to live their life however they see fit as long as they stay in their own backyard.

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