Sex robot brothels are now banned in Houston. But people can still have sex with them

More than 13,000 people signed a “keep robot brothels out of Houston” petition on Change.org.
More than 13,000 people signed a “keep robot brothels out of Houston” petition on Change.org. Courtesy

The City of Houston has found a way to effectively ban a “sex robot brothel” from opening in town.

To be clear, there is nothing in federal or state law that prevents such a business from opening in towns across the U.S.

Yuval Gavriel, the owner of a Canadian company called Kinky S Dolls, targeted Houston for its first U.S. location, even applying for occupancy at a storefront along Richmond Avenue in the city’s Uptown neighborhood, according to KTRK.

“I don’t think there’s anything preventing the guy from doing this,” Houston attorney Steve Shellist told McClatchy after Gavriel acquired the real estate.

There wasn’t anything preventing it two weeks ago, but opponents of the sex robot brothel were vocal in their disapproval. Elijah Rising, a local nonprofit aimed at ending sex trafficking, started a petition on Change.org to “keep robot brothels out of Houston.” As of Wednesday, more than 13,000 people had signed that petition.

“Robot brothels will just create an expansion of the already dehumanized act of sex buying,” the petition reads. “There is no evidence that sex robots could help reduce sexual exploitation and violence toward prostituted persons.”

So in order to block it, Houston City Council members hastily altered an ordinance regulating sexually oriented businesses in town, KPRC reported.

Council members voted unanimously to approve the altered ordinance in their regular meeting Wednesday, according to KHOU.

Harmony, developed by Realbotix, is reported to be the world’s first sex robot. ABC News video screenshot

The ordinance neither outlaws the sale of sex robots, nor the practice of having sex with them, the station reported. It does make copulating with a sex robot in a place of business illegal, though.

The “try before you buy” concept has been central to Kinky S Dolls’ business model, as the sex robot dolls are “rented” for use by the half hour or the hour. Disallowing onsite sex with the robo-mistresses would appear to take the air out of the business.

Buying a sex robot doll can cost as much as $15,000, according to the Guardian.

“It’s my prerogative to think it’s gross,” council member Greg Travis said, according to KTRK. “We’re not getting into your bedroom. We’re not legislating morality. We want to have a good image for our city.”

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram