A Canadian company called KinkySdollS is under fire for attempting to open a "love dolls brothel" in Houston. The project has received pushback from both community groups and local officials, such as mayor Sylvester Turner. "It's not the sort of business that we advertise for or we seek to attract, or quite frankly, from my point of view, the sort of business that I want in the city of Houston," he told USA Today. "Look, I'm not trying to be the moral police, but I am charged with the health and safety of the people in our city."
KinkySdollS posted last month on their Facebook page that they would be opening their Houston location in early October. The location in the Bayou City would be the company's second, after their flagship brothel in Toronto which opened last year. They refer to it as an "adult love dolls rent before you buy service," and say that their human-like dolls are able to talk and feel warm to the touch. Some of the dolls can cost in excess of $3,000.
KinkySdollS' Facebook Page
According to Alanna Reed, a spokeswoman for Houston's public works department, city inspectors ordered the brothel's owner to apply for a demolition permit after they visited the site and found that construction had been done without a permit. Reed added that her department was not informed of the date that the business wanted to open.
Elijah Rising, a Houston nonprofit that aims to end human trafficking "through prayer, awareness, intervention, and restoration," started a change.org petition that garnered over 10,000 signatures from city residents. "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," read the petition.
After all the uproar, the Houston city council voted earlier this week to update an ordinance that temporarily halted construction of the brothel. "We do need to be very mindful of what comes into our city and what our children and others may be exposed to. So I want to be very sensitive to that," said Mayor Turner.
"I know there's some people that will sit there and say, 'What does the City of Houston have to do with any of this?'" said Councilman Greg Travis during the meeting. "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.'"
The ordinance revised by the council dates back to 1999, and originally regulated strip clubs and other sex-related businesses. The rule in question, which bans sexual contact with live entertainers, would now be applicable to "anthropomorphic devices" as well. That being said, under the updated ordinance, KinkySdollS would still be allowed to sell the robots if they obtain the correct permits to finish construction. But if any contact with the dolls was found to have taken place on the business's premise, they could be penalized and even shut down if they receive four or more violations within a year.
Despite the outcry raised at the local, legislative level, the majority of reactions seen in the Twittersphere were sympathetic toward the robot brothel, saying that it could provide a potential solution to Houston's rampant human trafficking problem. Miya Shay, a TV reporter at Houston's ABC13, tweeted, "Remember, real human trafficking in our area remains a major problem."
A CNN investigative report titled "Inside Houston's Sex Slave Trade" was carried out earlier this year in order to find out just how bad Houston's human trafficking problem is, and it's terrible. They found that Texas has the second most trafficking victims after California, with the majority of girls in both states coming from Latin America. "Once they're kidnapped, these women are no longer viewed as people in the eyes of their handlers. They've been reduced to a commodity that can be bought and sold repeatedly in an open market. In the United States, Houston has become one of those markets," read the report.
FBI special agent Suzanne Bradley elaborated in the report about why Houston is such a major human trafficking center: "People see Houston as a hub for human trafficking because of its proximity to the border. It also has access to the I-10 highway corridor, which goes across the country, so if they're smuggling people in and trying to get them into human trafficking in other areas of the country, it's very easy to get them on that I-10 route and disperse them throughout the country."
In July of this year, nonprofit fact-checking project Politifact investigated a claim by Texas Governor Greg Abbott which stated, "In Houston, Texas, there are more brothels than there are Starbucks." They found that Houston has 155 Starbucks stores and police have tied prostitution-related cases to less than 50 locations in the city. However, since police also identified 200+ massage parlors where prostitution likely occurs (such as places that offer "kissing" services), Politifact marked Abbott's claim as "Mostly True."
What do you think about this situation? Will "love dolls" drive down human trafficking rates in the US? Where do you draw the line? Should the government legalize and legitimize, or restrain and regulate? Let us know in the comments down below!
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