Tag Archives: Paris

Sex Doll Brothels And The First (Of Many) Legal Battles

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Go back 100 years and chances are that the smartest, most capable lawyer or judge wouldn’t know how to craft reasonable legislation on what constitutes “obscenity.” In the United States, there wasn’t even a legal standard for until 1973 with the Miller v. California case.

Go back 25 years and chances are even the greatest legal minds of the time would have trouble creating legislation about issues such as online harassment, net neutrality, and fake news. The very concept wouldn’t make sense to them because it has no contemporary context. As a result, the people of a particular time and place can’t hope to make sense of the legal issues that subsequently emerge decades later.

This is the emerging situation with sex dolls. Specifically, it’s the laws governing the growing commercial uses of sex dolls that go beyond that of personal masturbation aids. I’ve often mentioned sex dolls as a precursor to intelligent sex robots, which are certain to be a game-changer for the overall sexual landscape. However, sex robots are the future. Sex dolls exist now.

Even though sex dolls have existed for decades, the industry is maturing to a point where they’re not just exceedingly expensive sex toys. They’re a growing segment of a multi-billion dollar industry. Beyond just being a toy, though, sex dolls have the potential to establish a whole new segment of the sex industry.

In early 2018, France opened its first brothel that exclusively utilized sex dolls. While this did cause controversy, efforts to close it failed. As of this writing, it is still open for business. Around that same time, I predicted that this would be the beginning of a much larger legal quandary. Thanks to some recent news from Canada, this prediction is ahead of schedule.

In August 2018, the city of Toronto was poised to open its first sex doll brothel. It would’ve been the first establishment of its kind in North America. Like France, it generated plenty of controversy. Unlike France, though, the public protests succeeded. The brothel’s opening was suspended. As of this writing, there are no plans to open the sex doll brothel at another location.

That’s not to say it won’t happen. In fact, if I were to bet money on the issue, I would wager that a sex doll brothel in North America will open at some point between now and the end of 2019. It probably won’t be in Toronto, but there will be some locality that decides to take a chance. It’s just a matter of when and who has the bravado/business sense to try it.

I won’t go so far as to say it’s inevitable, but I believe the events in France and Canada have laid the foundation for a new legal struggle. As the laws surrounding prostitution become more restrictive, the demand for a sexual outlet is not going away. You can implement as many laws and taboos as you want. Horny people will find an outlet.

I see the emergence of sex doll brothels as both a reaction and a byproduct of the current rhetoric surrounding prostitution and sexuality, in general. The sex-negative attitudes of social conservative, radical feminists, and other regressive whiners have done such a thorough job of conflating prostitution with exploitation that it’s becoming exceedingly impractical for flesh-and-blood prostitutes to operate.

The passage of recent laws intended to combat human trafficking, of which prostitution is only a small part, was a tipping point. It was hard enough for sex workers to operate prior to those laws and since politicians are more reluctant than ever to favor legislation associated with exploiting women, sex dolls are likely to emerge as a viable recourse.

From a legal standpoint, sex doll brothels are in an uncertain state. They’re not people. They have no measure of intelligence, artificial or otherwise. They are literal objects. While that’s sure to offend more than a few select people out there, that’s what they are from a legal point of view.

Even though they’re objects with overtly sexual functions, they are legal. Outside absurd laws in places like Alabama, a private citizen can legally purchase and use sex toys in most of the industrialized world. If you had the money and wanted to, you could order a sex doll today and face no legal repercussions.

On top of that, there are no laws that prohibit people from borrowing someone else’s sex toy. Set aside, for a moment, the revulsion of using someone else’s sex toy. There are no laws prohibiting such a practice. Being able to rent someone else’s toys/products is an established commercial activity practiced by arcades, pool halls, and gyms.

Under that framework, a sex doll brothel could conceivably operate in a manner similar to an arcade. In fact, that’s the legal argument that the operators of the sex doll brothel in France used to keep it open. The argument was that there were no people working in the brothel. These were just toys. Technically speaking, the place wasn’t a brothel. It was a “gaming operation.”

In the legal world, technicalities are often a good work-around, but they’re rarely the basis for a long-term solution. Make no mistake. Sex dolls and sex doll brothels will need long-term solutions, especially as the sex robot industry matures. The only question is how to go about it.


Would sex doll brothels be regulated like strip clubs?

It’s possible, but that would establish a legal precedent for declaring anything sexually stimulating, including people, as objects or toys. Even the most sex-negative of individuals probably don’t want to establish that precedent.


Would sex doll brothels be regulated like massage parlors?

This is also possible, but it comes with its own legal shortcomings. There are, indeed, legitimate massage parlors that function primarily as day spas. You probably see them in strip malls next to a Hallmark and a dry cleaner. These are not places where people go for sexual release.

Then, there are other massage parlors that still consider themselves massage parlors, but offer “extras” on the side. Whenever there’s a prostitution bust these days, many of those operations involve massage parlors and more than a few have been known to use trafficked women. That association, alone, would make this classification for sex doll brothels difficult.


Would sex doll brothels be regulated like adult novelty stories?

This is probably the most likely. It wouldn’t be that much of a stretch for an establishment to sell both sex toys and provide space for someone to use a sex doll. In fact, this function may end up making sex shops more lucrative. As long as it’s not employing actual prostitutes, then it avoids the same pitfalls as massage parlors.

That’s not to say there won’t be issues. Sex shops are already subject to plenty of opposition. Go to any municipality and you’ll find that zoning laws will go out of their way to place immense burdens on such establishments. They usually can’t be located near residential areas, churches, or schools. They’re often seen as a public nuisance, even when they’re small. A sex doll brothel would be much more visible.

Even in a scenario where sex doll brothels are regulated like an adult novelty store, I imagine most people won’t live near one. Only extra-libertarian communities would even permit them with reasonable regulations. Even those that don’t prohibit them will probably be protested by religious zealots and sex-negative feminists claiming that these establishments promote obscenity, sin, and rape culture.

As a result, I suspect that the future of sex dolls and sex doll brothels will probably circumvent all of that by using them as an escort service. If it’s no longer possible for actual people to work as escorts, then chances are some enterprising sex workers will simply exchange the person for the sex doll. Instead of going somewhere, people order a sex doll the same way they would order a pizza.

In this scenario, there’s no need for commercial space. Someone could run the whole thing out of a garage, a basement, or a rental storage unit. That operation might require some resources, especially once sex robots mature. As long as there are horny customers willing to pay for a sexual outlet, though, there will be a market for it.

That’s the one inescapable fact that will drive both the industry and the legislation surrounding it. You can stamp out prostitution, sex work, and sex toys all you want. People are still going to get horny. They’re still going to seek an outlet. The emergence of sex doll brothels are just the latest and they’re sure to set many precedents, not all of which will be sexy.

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Implications And Predictions In France’s Battle Against Sex Dolls

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When it comes to making predictions about the future, I don’t consider myself all that prophetic. When it involves issues like sex, our attitudes towards it, and all the crazy ways we try to navigate it, I like to think that writing sexy stories gives me some added insight.

As complex, diverse, and irrational as people can be, especially when it comes to sex, we tend to be predictable when it comes to how we react to upheavals in the sexual landscape. Honestly, is anyone really that surprised when internet porn becomes controversial?

The general rule of thumb is that if it something subverts a certain sexual norm, such as removing an expected consequence of sex or undermining a long-standing tradition, someone is going to oppose it. If it somehow makes sex easier to enjoy, but doesn’t involve producing more taxpayers/adherents to government and religion, it’s going to be labeled a moral crisis.

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That’s why nobody should be surprised that when Paris opened a brothel that exclusively utilized sex dolls instead of actual prostitutes, it was controversial. However, the nature of that controversy is different than past efforts to enforce the de-facto state of prudishness. This isn’t just something that moral crusaders and religious zealots oppose. This may very well be a sign of things to come.

For some context, the story is fairly simple. It’s not some crude joke from the pages of The Onion. There really was a brothel in Paris that allowed individual and couples to pay money to “rent” a high-end sex doll. Ignoring, for a moment, the natural aversion to using a sex doll that someone else had used, the concept makes sense from a purely economic standpoint.

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As it stands, operating a brothel and living off the proceeds of a prostitute is illegal in France. In 2011, it also became illegal to buy sexual services, although it’s still legal to sell them. It’s a messy web that complicates the sex industry throughout Paris, but that’s exactly why a business like this works.

On paper, there are no prostitutes involved. They’re using sex dolls. People aren’t buying sex, per se. They’re renting a very fancy sexy toy to use for a while. Renting, using, or buying sex toys is not illegal in France. Other than taking customers away from real prostitutes, this operation was basically an elaborate, yet pragmatic way to circumvent the complications of prostitution laws.

However, the fact the brothel tried to circumvent the law wasn’t the issue. The primary reason for the push to shut it down wasn’t because it offended some uptight religious zealots, who have historically been the most common opponents of sexual upheavals. The main reason came from an emerging branch of feminism, claiming that such an operation was basically a catalyst for rape.

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Now, I try not to cast too broad a brush when it comes to feminism. In the past, I have made it a point to distinguish that there are positive brands of feminism, as well as some inherently regressive kinds. This kind is definitely consistent with the latter. It’s not using the same morality approach that religious zealots have used in the past, but the tactics are the same.

According to a feminist group in France, the brothel is basically a den of rape. It’s very existence promotes the kind of rape culture that feminists have been protesting with increasing fervor over the past few years. These are their exact words, according to The Local.

Lorraine Questiaux of the feminist group Mouvement du Nid (Nest Movement) has argued that Xdolls is making money from “simulating the rape of a woman.”

“Can we in France approve a business that is based on the promotion of rape?” she asked.

On one hand, I can sort of see where they’re coming from, thinking that people may simulate rape fantasies in this place and that can’t be healthy. On the other, I can’t really take those concerns it seriously because it assumes an awful lot about how other people think and feel about sex dolls.

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Simple, non-kinky logic says that you cannot rape a sex doll any more than you can rape a dirty washcloth in the shower. It’s possible that some people may have some really twisted thoughts when they’re using a sex doll or acting out a fantasy, but to assume those are the only thoughts that every person end up thinking is a gross generalization of the vast complexity that is human sexuality.

The police in Paris seemed to agree with that logic. No matter how outraged the feminist group might have been, their protest had no legal standing and rightly so. This is what the police said, once again according to The Local.

But a police source said that while the brothel posed moral questions, the use of the word rape was not legally relevant in this context.

“You cannot accuse a man of raping a doll. It is as if a woman were to file a complaint with the police against a dildo,” the source told Le Parisien.

Most reasonable people, and probably most non-radical feminists for that matter, would agree with that logic. In a perfect world, that would be the end of the issue. Since we don’t live in a perfect world, even if it’s a better world than most realize, it’s unreasonable to assume that this is the last we’ll hear of this issue.

It’s here where I’m going to make a few predictions. As always, I need to make clear that I cannot see the future any better than those reading this article. However, I’ve studied enough sexual upheavals in history, both in centuries past and in more recent times, to see where this is going. The fact that this was even a news story is a sign that there’s something much bigger coming.

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Whatever it is, it’s probably going to supplement the ongoing anti-harassment movement that continues to make headlines, although not for the right reasons. It’s also going to become more relevant as advances in sex dolls and, eventually, sex robots continue to occur at a rapid pace. Even before sex robots gain a measure of sentience, there will be a concerted effort to stop them.

If anything, this story out of Paris is going to motivate other feminist groups with a distinctly sex-negative ideology to step up their efforts. No ideology likes to lose and I suspect they’ll see this story as a new front in the battle against rape culture and male domination. It’s not enough to make gains in the workplace or in entertainment. Even having men pretend to be dominant is dangerous, from their perspective.

These efforts to regulate or shame the use of sex dolls will follow the similar tactics used in other anti-prostitution efforts. As I’ve noted before, those efforts tend to skew the sexual marketplace, inflating the value of one kind of sex while attempting to manipulate how sex is pursued by those in positions of power. Sex dolls and sex robots don’t just change the marketplace. They may very well collapse it.

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On some levels, I suspect that both the extreme regressive on one side of the spectrum and the moral crusaders on the other side already understand this. They know that if sex dolls and sex robots become sufficiently advanced, then the current system that they prefer becomes less sustainable.

They lose power and influence, as a result. Even in non-sexual matters, people fight to retain their power. Whether you’re an outdated business or just part of the demographic that benefits the most from the current system, you’re going to fight to preserve the status quo and you’re going to make any excuse necessary to do so.

That’s why I suspect that the absurd notion that sex dolls promote rape will become a major talking point in the near-future. There may even be bogus studies conducted by biased researchers, funded by the anti-sex equivalent of the Koch brothers, claiming there’s a link between rape and sex dolls.

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From there, pundits and politicians will cite those flawed studies to justify laws and regulations against sex dolls. They already do it with internet porn and video games. It probably won’t take much convincing that a sex dolls, which literally cannot give consent, somehow encourage rape. It’ll become a buzzword and a moral panic, the idea that these dolls will condition people to become rapists.

I don’t think it’ll get quite to the same level as the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, but I suspect there will be plenty of outrage for those who see more people seeking the company of sex dolls rather than jumping through whatever elaborate hoops our culture creates for pursuing sex. It’s already hectic, given all the concerns about harassment and the devastating impacts of divorce laws.

In the end, though, I suspect that these efforts won’t win out in the long run. There’s just too much incentive and too much appeal to both sex dolls and sex robots for any moral crusade to stop it. The human libido is too strong and the potential profits to be made are too great.

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Historically, fighting something that’s fueled by the human sex drive is a losing battle, but one that certain groups insist on fighting. While I don’t know what form it’ll take, I expect that fighting to escalate in the coming years. This story out of France may end up being the first shot.

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