(WARNING: The following article deals with sexual content)
The Houston City Council voted Wednesday to update its ordinances to attempt to stop a company from opening a so-called “robot brothel.” In a move no one could have predicted a few decades ago but one that speaks to the tragedy of a hypersexualized culture with no moral compass, the council revised a local statute so that it now specifically bans having sex with an “anthropomorphic device” at a sexually oriented business.
The manufacturing and marketing of sex robots is on the rise in the United States. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure that would ban the importation of sex dolls and robots that resemble children. The bill, named the Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots (CREEPER) Act, passed the House by voice vote and is awaiting a Senate committee hearing.
But the bill wouldn’t stop the sale of robots modeled after adults, something a vocal fringe group contends could be good for society. In an August article for Slate, Marina Adshade, a lecturer at the Vancouver School of Economics, argued a growing market for sex robots could lead to higher-quality marriages. She wrote that outsourcing sexual needs to robots would encourage “the creation of marriages without the constraint of mutual sexual intimacy” and provide “superior environments for children.”
A New York magazine cover story this summer delved into the sickening depths of the growing industry. The writer toured Realbotix, a new customized sex robot production facility in San Diego. In May, the company had 50 preorders for its $12,000 robots, released midsummer.
But Realbotix doesn’t have a pay-per-use storefront, like the one Canadian sex robot company KinkySdollS wanted to open in the United States’ fourth most populous city. The company announced plans in August to open a “love dolls brothel” in Houston, which would have been the company’s second location after a 2017 opening in Toronto. Critics and community groups in Houston immediately balked at the idea. Last month, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he had asked the city’s legal and health departments to review ordinances to see if any covered the proposed business. When they didn’t, the city decided to create one that did.
“I'm not trying to be the moral police or anything like that,” Turner said. “But I am charged with the health and safety of the people within our city.”
Others feel more strongly.
Elijah Rising, a Houston-based nonprofit organization, started a petition to keep the business out of the city, and more than 13,500 people have signed it.
“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,” the petition says.
Elijah Rising rejects the argument that sex robots will decrease prostitution, claiming evidence instead shows they objectify women and children and create “more demand for human bodies.”
The robots also remove sex from its God-designed setting: the selfless uniting of a husband and wife serving each other, wrote Josh Herring in an article published by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Herring said a Biblical understanding of sexuality stands in contrast to the dehumanizing view pushed by sex robots, where sex is divorced from purpose and pursued only for pleasure, an “the enshrinement of selfishness.” In contrast, Herring said, “The Biblical vision of sexuality understands pleasure as a by-product of a other-oriented relationship.”
The moral confusion surrounding sex robots, Herring wrote, “presents Christians with a rare opportunity: We can now highlight the positive view of human sexuality articulated by God’s Word. We can contrast the folly of thinking that a sex doll, no matter how artificially intelligent, could ever satisfy the real longings of the heart for community … concluding that when we live in accordance with moral reality, we find happiness and lasting human flourishing.”