Texas, the supposed home to the values of individual liberty and smaller government, just saw one of their largest cities enforce a ban on the first ever sex robot brothel to be introduced in the United States. Last week, the city council of Houston unanimously blocked businesses from allowing customers to have sex with their robots for money, though did not prevent customers from owning personal sex robots ordered elsewhere.
The decision comes after KinkySdollS, a Canadian-based A.I. company, announced their latest robot brothel set to open in 2020. Their plan was to house these “adult love dolls” and allow their customers to rent them and their private rooms for whatever use. This, of course, saw massive resistance from the puritanical religious-conservative groups against all things sexual liberty, from legitimate crimes of trafficking to simple pornography. An online petition published by Elijah Rising, one of the Texas non-profit groups demanding a government ban, secured over 12,000 signatures.
“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 group wrote, resting their argument on the slippery slope fallacy.
Their reasoning is that society allowing these consensual sex acts, whether it’s between standard adults or these glorified Barbie dolls, is a gateway to a life of crime and sin. Safe sex, by this logic, inevitably leads to acts such as kidnapping, sexual assault, child molestation, and rape. Prohibition, therefore, is being rejustified against the sex work industry because morality police deem their cause the ‘greater good.’ Talk about quite the overreaching reach-around.
Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner also gave the media contradictory statements by claiming he wasn’t trying to be the “moral police” of his state, yet has also said he supports the council’s ban on moral grounds. “You simply cannot engage in sexual activities with any inanimate objects at the business,” Turner told The New York Post, issuing the puritanical case for the decision. “It’s just not the sort of business that I want in the city of Houston. 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.”
Sensitivity, however, shouldn’t be confused with iron-fisted gatekeeping.
There is a conversation to be had about children, adults and sexual liberty heading into the future. In a column for The New York Times, libertarian economist Robin Hanson was cited for his comments on the rising trend of “incels,” (a community formerly known as “angry virgins” but who now identify by the new technical term “involuntary celibates”) who feel as undervalued in life by their inability to have sex. Hanson, offering readers a provocative thought experiment, wondered whether society has a role in “sexual redistribution.”
He made no suggestion of a Handmaids Tale-like dystopia — where women are forced to fuck their misogynist male oppressors all day every day —and no suggestion that citizens are entitled to sex. His article, however, asks the serious questions of whether sexual inequality is a problem and whether these powerful institutions are just in restricting such pleasure liberties. Other industrialized nations, from Australia to those in Europe, see sex as a liberty that can be exchanged freely, though certain regulations apply.
The United States, however, don’t apply the same standards to sex they would guns, even though both can involve shooting loads into faces, yet only one results in death. After all, can a so-called small government state truly justify intervention between consenting adults and sex? The only difference between a legally married couple and the illegal client/hooker set-up is how they spend their money. The difference between a legal sex toy in the home and the rented sexbot in the brothel is where they’re having sex. This inconsistency is truly potent, to say the least.
“One might plausibly argue that those with much less access to sex suffer to a similar degree as those with low income,” Professor Hanson wrote, “and might similarly hope to gain from organizing around this identity, to lobby for redistribution along this axis and to at least implicitly threaten violence if their demands are not met. Though I focus on male complaints, my comments here are about sex inequality in general, applied to both men and women.”
Hanson, recognizing the supply and demand conflict in sex and violence, suggests a genuine free trade of sex is a more nuanced, peaceful approach to the failed practice of simple bans and ‘enforced monogamy,’ as once suggested by controversial psychologist Jordan Peterson. “A tweet on this post accuses me of advocating enslaving and raping women,” Hanson continued, making the argument for both legalized prostitution, sex robots and economic improvements as beneficial.
“Apparently many people can’t imagine any other way to reduce or moderate sex inequality. Rape and slavery are far from the only possible levers,” he pleads. “It should be obvious that ‘sex’ here refers to a complex package that is desired, which in individual cases may or may not be satisfied by sexbots or prostitutes or relationships. Whatever it is the package that people want, we can and should ask how we might get more of it to them.”
Turner is right that sensitivity should be considered. In an article for the British Medical Journal, Professor Chantal Cox-George and Susan Bewley are speculative of the health benefits posed by these incel groups. They claim the benefits, such as safer sex for those with transmittable diseases, pedophiles with a sick fetish that could be inflicted on real children, social anxiety issues, are more “speculative” assumptions that need consideration.
This just gets at the heart of the issue, which is that the sex industry, given its horrible reputation, lacks research. Until further developments are made, it seems these debates, once again, result in legislation that is quickly passed, without consideration for citizens’ rights and pleasures, just to criminalize victimless acts some don’t particularly agree with. As noted by Annie McAdams, a Houston-based attorney representing sex-trafficking victims, “one thing Texas loves to regulate is sex.”