Houston, Texas, is home to 155 Starbucks shops, 93 owned by the company and 62 licensed to other vendors. But the large Southern metropolis actually has a higher number of brothels than coffee shops, according to the figure State governor Greg Abbott revealed in a statement earlier this year – the total figure is thought to be around at least 200.
This proliferation may well be why the city was the first choice for Canadian sex doll manufacturer KinkySDolls‘ expansion into the US, following the first successful year of ‘trading’ in its debut sex brothel in Toronto, Canada.
However, earlier this month, Houston’s city council voted unanimously to block the brothel from opening, calling it “weird” and “gross”, according to the AP.
The Canadian firm has sex robots for sale on its website from $2,500, selling a range of silicone dolls that are warm to the touch and can respond to human speech through AI technology, it says.
At the firm’s flagship ‘rent before you buy’ store in Toronto, customers pay $23 for 30 minutes of ‘intense pleasure’, $93 for one hour or $159 for a two-hour session.
Whatever you personally think about these outlets opening, the sex industry is certainly pushing robotics technology forward. Jenna Owsianik, sex expert and co-author of the Future of Sex report, told Vice Canada it’s a ‘taste of what’s to come’
“[Sex brothels are] a bit of thermometer to see how ready society is for these alternative relationships with technology and having it out in the public. We’re seeing a little bit of what’s to come down the line in terms of the media and public’s reaction,” Owsianik explained.
However, KinkySDolls’ Toronto outlet now has some competition: rival firm Aura Dolls opened its first robot brothel in the city earlier this month. Its owners – who are remaining anonymous – claim they got the idea to open the shops from similar stores in Europe and Japan (where you can also visit booths and pay to watch VR porn by the hour).
Two and a half thousand miles away, Vancouver’s first sex brothel is preparing to open its doors on November 1 (although the city council says it is yet to receive a business licence application).
At Toronto’s first Aura Dolls store, customers can choose between six different dolls and won’t have to meet a member of staff during their visit. When customers call up to book, they can also request what the doll is wearing and how it is displayed. After the session has ended, a member of staff comes to collect the cash and clean the dolls.
But Houston’s city council – and 13,000 people who signed a petition opposing the brothel – hasn’t caused KinkySDoll to give up on US expansion just yet.
Founder Yuval Gavriel recently revealed he has plans to open 10 more stores across the US by 2020 and is in talks with lawyers to sue the city for blocking his proposal.
For many people in 2018, buying a sex doll or robot is simply too expensive – it’s not unusual to see a $12,000 price tag on some high-end models.
The launch of these robot brothels will give intrigued customers a chance to experience this fast-developing technology at an affordable price – and could change the way we view sex work forever.