Robotics

‘Robot brothel’ gets no satisfaction as Houston moves to block opening

Houston’s City Council on Wednesday updated one local ordinance to specifically ban individuals from having sex with an ‘anthropomorphic device,’ a device that resembles a human being, at a sexually-oriented business

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 4:35am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 8:32pm

A Canadian company’s plan to open a “robot brothel” in Houston has been short-circuited by city leaders.

Houston’s City Council on Wednesday updated one local ordinance to specifically ban individuals from having sex with an “anthropomorphic device”, a device that resembles a human being, at a sexually-oriented business. But the change would not ban the company from selling the dolls for use elsewhere.

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The company, KinkySdollS, had previously said it wants to open a “love dolls brothel” in Houston in which people would be able to use its human-like dolls at a business that has drawn comparisons to the robotic hosts on the science fiction series Westworld.

It would have been the company’s second location. The first location opened in 2017 in Toronto. On its website, the company says it provides an “adult love dolls rent before you buy service”.

On its website, KinkySdollS says its human-like dolls, which can speak and feel warm to the touch, are available for sale or rent. The dolls can cost more than US$3,000 each.

KinkySdollS, did not immediately return emails seeking comment Wednesday.

Before the City Council unanimously approved the change to the ordinance, council member Greg Travis called the proposed robot brothel “weird” and “gross”.

Travis said he believed that most residents do not want the business to open in Houston.

“We are not sin city,” he said.

Officials said they are not trying to legislate morality with the updated ordinance. Mayor Sylvester Turner said a business could sell such robotic devices but individuals could not use them at the premises before buying them.

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“We want businesses to come. But then they’re some that we say, ‘You know it’s fine if you go someplace else,’” said Turner, who has been part of a chorus of local leaders and community groups that have pushed back against the robot brothel, which would have been the first such business in the US.

Elijah Rising, a Houston-based nonprofit focused on ending sex trafficking, has started a Change.org petition asking that the business be kept out of the city. The petition has received more than 13,500 signatures.

The city ordinance that was updated deals with the regulation of adult arcades and adult mini-theatres in Houston and classifies a robot as an arcade device.

Turner said the change in the ordinance was not targeted at any one particular business but targeted “at this type of behaviour than any business of this kind would engage in”.

Houston has long had a culture that is resistant to regulation and remains the only major US city without zoning. Turner has said that this lack of zoning might have been one of the reasons why the owners of the robot brothel thought to try to open it in Houston.

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Construction of the site for the proposed robot brothel had already begun but was stopped after city inspectors visited the location and determined the business owners did not have the proper permits, Houston’s public works department said last week.

It was not immediately known if the business had obtained additional permits or had resumed construction.