A Canadian company trying to open a robot brothel in Houston has had to temporarily stop its preparations because it lacks the appropriate permits, according to local media.
KinkySDolls has a salesroom in its home of Toronto, where customers can buy its talking robot sex dolls; or - slightly upscaling on the gross factor - rent them.
The company targeted Houston as its first US location, but has met strong opposition from both the mayor's office and nonprofit organisation Elijah Rising, which is dedicated to ending sex trafficking in the city.
More than 12,000 people have signed an online petition to keep the brothel - which was meant to open in early October - out of Houston.
The mayor, Sylvester Turner, said that his office is reviewing existing ordinances to restrict of regulate future enterprises, and would also consider drafting new ones.
He told the Houston Chronicle, "This is not the kind of business I would like to see in Houston, and certainly this is not the kind of business the city is seeking to attract."
Robot brothels are not currently illegal, but may be restricted in their visibility and distance from certain buildings, like schools.
Societal and health concerns
Critics say that robot dolls promote unhealthy attitudes and reinforce perceptions of women as sex objects. David Gamboa, a director of Elijah Rising, said, "The business of robot dolls only reinforces the idea that women are just body objects or properties." He added, "This is mechanised pornography."
The Foundation for Responsible Robotics writes, ‘There has been little or no preparation for the potential societal consequences. Robots designed for sex may have powerful impacts on society compared with other sex aids.
‘They could be used as robot ‘prostitutes' working in bordellos, sexual companions for the lonely or the elderly in care homes or as a new means for sexual healing. On the darker side, they could be employed to satisfy rape fantasies or even to satisfy paedophilic desires.'
Elizabeth Perez, a spokesperson for Harris County Public Health, told the Chronicle that the dolls would need to be "well sanitised" if they are going to be shared. However, Stacey Townsend, CEO of Real Love Sex Dolls, said that this is not the intended use, as the materials used in construction cannot be completely sterilised.
On the other side of the fence, supporters of robot sex workers say that the dolls would reduce human trafficking by replacing victims.
KinkySDolls will need to counter these perceptions of its business, as well as local regulations, if it hopes to open a branch in Houston.
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