By Elizabeth Warner
Cover image via National Center on Sexual Exploitation
As a recent resident of Texas, I was appalled to hear about the proposed sex robot, or sexbot, brothel opening in Houston, Texas just a couple hours away from my home. While Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, is fighting to keep the proposed business out of his city, it appears current regulations won’t apply to the robot sex industry.
As I’ve looked into the issue of sex robot brothels even more, I’ve come to understand why my gut reaction was right: a business like this will harm families, communities, and nations. Though these brothels haven’t infiltrated the US yet, they are common in Europe. Because this is just beginning in the United States, we must tackle the issue now before it gets established. We can’t allow the plague of the sex robot industry to infect our communities.
What are sex robots?
While sex dolls have been around for some time, sex robots are an emerging technology. These dolls are animatronic – designed to look and act like humans. Companies like RealDoll are creating robots that, with artificial intelligence, can learn about and respond to their “lovers” in sexually satisfying ways. Additionally, manufacturers distribute sex robots and dolls that are made to look like children (though a bill against this passed the House back in June this year). A sex robot costs thousands of dollars, and as technology improves the price decreases. Rentals make these sex robots even more affordable.
The proposed brothel in Houston, run by Toronto company KinkySdollS, would rent sex dolls by the hour. It’s unclear what regulations would apply since the robots are not human.
Why are they harmful?
Unfortunately, the attitudes generated by this industry impact a lot more than just the robot. Here are just a few of the ways that the sex robot industry is harmful:
- Objectification. Perhaps the most obvious harm that comes from selling or renting sex robots is turning sex into a monetary good to be purchased without any concern for the other party. As one robotics expert said, “The development of sex robots will further reinforce relations of power that do not recognize both parties as human subjects.” Not only this, but some sex robots come with a setting so the robot will resist sexual advances for the raping pleasure of the buyer. (Roxxxy robot calls this setting “Frigid Farrah.”) We are fooling ourselves if we think this isn’t promoting rape culture.
- Detachment from a relationship. When sex is just something you buy, it’s no longer about companionship, commitment, and love. Psychologist Douglas LaBier explains that your sexual satisfaction “depends on the extent to which you’re . . . building connection . . . in the other parts of your relationship.” If we want people to have healthy sexual lives, we need to encourage sexuality within healthy, committed relationships — not with a lifeless robot.
- Prostitution and trafficking. The sex robot industry is built on a prostitute-john model, which encourages the concept of prostitution or even human trafficking. The Campaign Against Sex Robots explains that “technology and the sex trade coexist and reinforce each other creating more demand for human bodies.”
What can you do?
Now that you are aware of the sex robot trade, what can you do about it? Thankfully, you don’t have to sit and wait for the next sex brothel to come to your neighborhood. Here are a few things you can do:
- Sign a petition. A large group of organizations have banded together to create a letter opposing the normalization of sex dolls and robots. You can support this letter by signing their petition on Change.org. To sign a petition specifically against the brothel in Houston, sign this petition on Change.org by nonprofit organization Elijah Rising.
- Share the info. In order for people to take action against sex robots, they need to be informed. Take the time to share this article with your friends and family, or point them to other resources like the Campaign Against Sex Robots.
- Talk to your Senator. Currently, the CREEPER Act (an act to ban child sex robots and dolls) has passed through the House but not the Senate. While this won’t fully address the problem of sex robot brothels, it’s a step in the right direction. Reach out to your Senator and share your support of this important legislation.
The use of sex robots and the establishment of sexbot brothels is a threat we need to halt before it spreads any further. It has the potential to seriously harm individuals, families and communities. It will cripple those who struggle to form healthy relationships and encourage the further objectification and abuse of women. Please, get ahead of this trend and stop it in its tracks.
We don’t have to stand idly by and watch sex robots become the norm. We can work together to inform others, share our voices, and influence politics for the better.
Take a stand and do something today to fight against this dehumanizing practice.
Elizabeth Warner graduated from BYU-Idaho with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marriage and Family Studies. Her favorite thing is being a wife and mother, but she also enjoys writing about the family, exercising, and experimenting with vegetarian recipes.