Houston, We've Got a Problem—with Robot Brothels?

Activists petition to stop a sex-doll shop.


Because life can always get stranger, here's a relatively feel-good story for a week that promises to be a shit show on steroids:

A short drive north of Toronto, $60 buys a half hour alone with a life-sized doll that's "warm and ready to play." Customers take rented sex robots to a private room in a warehouse, near an emissions testing center, before returning them for cleaning.

The owner of KinkySdollS told the Washington Examiner he will open a second location in Houston this month, with a goal of 10 U.S. locations by 2020. How? Because there's no regulation.

"The States is a bigger market, and a healthier market, and God bless Trump," said owner Yuval Gavriel.

More here.

Anti-prostitution activists in the Houston area aren't having it. Or at least they're trying not to have it by blocking the store from opening. Local news station Fox 26 reports:

Elijah Rising, a Houston-based nonprofit group with the goal of "ending sex trafficking through prayer, awareness, intervention, and restoration," has started a petition on to "Keep Robot Brothels Out Of Houston." The petition, which will be presented to City of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's Office, has more than 4,900 signatures as of Saturday with a goal of 5,000.

As of today, the petition has 5,913 signers; the activists are now pushing for 7,500. "Robot brothels will just create an expansion of the already dehumanized act of sex buying," reads the petition in part. "Sex robots sexually objectify women and children."

The owner of KinkySdollS disputes the characterization of his stores as brothels (he says they are more like rent-to-own franchises) and it remains to be seen if in fact Houston, a city famously for relatively light regulation of business, can in fact ban the business under existing laws. (We might also add that it's far from clear that these dolls are anything close to robots).

There is no reason to believe that increased access to pornography increases sexual crime, a belief that underpins Elijah Rising's position vis a vis sex dolls. In fact, there's a wealth of evidence supporting the idea that the proliferation of porn over the past few decades is one of the reasons that sexual assaults are declining. And there are many reasons to believe that recent crackdowns on prostitution, done in the name of ending "sex trafficking," are having the negative effect of pushing more women onto the streets, a generally less safe situation for all involved.

Prohibition, whether of booze, drugs, or sex, tends to do all that.

Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown talked to me for the Reason Podcast about why the media often gets stories about prostitution, sex trafficking, and related topics so wrong. Listen here.

Reason on sex robots.

Here's Fox 26's segment on the story: