Why a Sex Robot Brothel won’t solve the Human Trafficking problem in the City of Houston.

KinkySdollS is a business in Toronto where you can rent a sex robot by the hour, and they announced they are opening a robot brothel in Houston.

The reaction to this by many Houstonians has been varied. People are angry, some are intrigued, and a lot of people are just simply…. creeped out by the entire idea of a robot brothel.

But it poses a legitimate question that we must face with pragmatic sincerity.

Will sex robots stop men from purchasing humans for sex?

If you were driving to work early morning on September 18th, you might have heard a local Houston radio show host presenting this theory:

“this might be something that could detract from Houston’s issue of sex trafficking. Maybe these girls that are getting kidnapped into sex trafficking, maybe there wouldn’t be as many of them if these men could have sex with robots instead…”

We don’t blame or judge anyone for acknowledging this theory. Robot brothels are subject of debate among activists, robot ethics researchers, and lawmakers.

London-based AI [artificial intelligence] researcher David Levy predicted in his 2007 book Love and Sex with Robots that humans would have sex, fall in love and even marry robots by 2050.

“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… Sex robots are just providing an alternative.” 1

Dr. Kathleen Richardson, Professor of Ethics and Culture of Robots and AI, quotes and responds to Levy’s idea:

“…Levy also proposes that sex robots could help to reduce prostitution. However, studies have found that the introduction of new technology supports and contributes to the expansion of the sex industry. … Prostitution and pornography production also rises with the growth of the internet. In 1990, 5.6 percent of men reported paying for sex in their lifetime, by 2000, this had increased to 8.8 percent. 2

The arguments that sex robots will provide artificial sexual substitutes and reduce the purchase of sex by buyers is not borne out by evidence. There are numerous sexual artificial substitutes already available, RealDolls, vibrators, blow-up dolls etc. If an artificial substitute reduced the need to buy sex, there would be a reduction in prostitution but no such correlation is found. ” 2

Concerns About Sex Dolls Imitating Children

You may have heard of this ethical discussion regarding the issue of sex robots for pedophiles. In 2017 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4655 named the CREEPER act outlawing the transportation, owning or selling of child sex dolls in the U.S. The bill is founded on the notion that child-like sex dolls do not deter abusers from harming children. These dolls normalize the acts of pedophilia and legitimize the urge to sexualize children. 2

H.R. 4655 states, “The dolls and robots are intrinsically related to abuse of minors, and they cause the exploitation, objectification, abuse, and rape of minors.” 3

Not only will the robots fail to assuage demand for humans for purchase, but they are also a place of rehearsal for extreme fantasies, of rape, abuse, pedophilia, and other deviant harm.

Rape/Sex Robots

One model of dolls even goes so far as to simulate rape with a “frigid farrah” setting that responds negatively to physical touch. The website describes this model as “lacking an attempt to reproduce consent.”

Robot brothel owners advertise that these dolls are perfect for any customers’ “wildest fantasies” but still have to turn away customers who want things too extreme even for their moral grid.

According to the New York Post, “At one Barcelona [robot] brothel last summer, the owner had to turn away a series of doll johns whose sex fantasies were too creepy to stomach.” 4

Many customers request fantasies of rape and child-like dolls (though they are not offered.)
In my search to understand sex robots, and their implications, I reached out to Dr. Melissa Farley the Executive Director Prostitution Research & Education. She connected me to many of the sources cited in this article, but her words also gave us a picture of what some of our central concerns should be.

“Rape/sex dolls are mechanized pornography. Everything we know about the harms of pornography—how it teaches men to treat women, and how it teaches men especially how to dehumanize and degrade a special class of human beings, (prostituted women) applies ten times more to these mechanized females who invite rape.” -Dr. Melissa Farley Ph.D., Executive Director Prostitution Research & Education

Our Final Thoughts

1. Robot brothels will not stop men from purchasing humans for sex.

Robot brothels will just create an expansion of the already dehumanized act of sex buying. Sex robots will not decrease sex trafficking in Houston, it will only train more men to become sex buyers.

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 demand for the prostitution and sexual exploitation of women and children.

2. Like pornography, these robot brothel’s literal objectification of women will never correlate with the advancement of women’s rights, or reduced violence towards women.

Honestly, I think the notion of sex robots reducing prostitution is as ridiculous as saying the advent of blow up dolls could deter rape. As long as we further reduce the female body as an object for masturbation free from the “inconvenience” of consent, women will not be seen as equals.

3. This is the Church’s problem too.

We are in the midst of #churchtoo and sexual abuse sweeping through churches around the world. The rise in pornography use among Christians is staggering, and it leads to the hidden issue of abuse within our congregations. If we stand idly by as Houston is named the first in the nation to receive one of these robot brothels, what will we tolerate next? The issues in the realm of hypersexual culture are not so far removed from what God is calling us to stand for.

Will you stand with us against robot brothels in Houston?

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1David Levy, Love and sex with robots: The evolution of human-robot relationships, (New York, SIGCAS, 2015)
2Kathleen Richardson, The Asymmetrical ‘Relationship’: Parallels Between Prostitution and the Development of Sex Robots, (Leicaster, ACM Digital Library, 2015) https://campaignagainstsexrobots.org/the-asymmetrical-relationship-parallels-between-prostitution-and-the-development-of-sex-robots/
3U.S. Congress, House, Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots Act of 2017 (CREEPER) Act of 2017, HR 4655, 115th Cong., https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4655/text.
4Michael Kaplan. “Problem at sex doll brothel: The johns are getting too weird.” New York Post, August 29, 2018. https://nypost.com/2018/08/29/north-america-is-about-to-get-a-24-hour-sex-doll-brothel/

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