Municipality Pulls the Plug on 'Real Doll' Business
Last week I read about a sex doll business that was starting up in Toronto. This is a company who has purchased several 'real dolls' - life-size silicone dolls with three penetrable orifices and for an hourly rate, you can spend some time with these dolls. This is in-house only, you do not take the dolls home. So essentially it's like a body rub parlour, but there are no live sex workers, only dolls.
I get that there might be a bit of an 'ew' factor, there's just something about using a doll that someone else has used that really weirds people out. But I would expect, and sincerely hope, that the company knows how to clean the dolls properly so that there's no risk of any kind of infection. Once the cleanliness question is out of the way, I actually think this is kind of cool. Real dolls are interesting, and having sex with a life-size doll must be a fantasy for some people. But real dolls are very expensive - $6000 to $10,000. Most people don't want to invest that kind of money in a toy (and as I've also explained to my partner, even if we wanted to invest that much money, it's life size and it doesn't collapse, where in the hell would we store it when we aren't using it?)
Anyway, I digress. The point is, sex dolls are interesting and expensive so I can see where there might be a business opportunity there. For those who claim to be concerned about sex worker abuse and safety, this seems ideal - no real humans are involved in the sex work. But when some people heard that this business was opening in their neighbourhood, they lost their shit.
One city counsellor who represents the area hit the media running. He was quoted in several papers, blogs and television newscasts saying that this was not good for the neighbourhood and that he was pretty sure it was against zoning bylaws (why he didn't know for sure before speaking to the media is another question). Some residents in the area have also been featured in the media clutching their pearls and wondering about the 'safety of their children'.
One mother said that she found out about it because the business had put up posters advertising their upcoming grand opening (pun intended on my part). This is the one and only complaint that I feel is legit. If you are walking your young child to school and they see a picture inviting people to come upstairs and fuck a doll, that could bring up some really difficult questions that you may not have been at all prepared to answer. Explaining sex dolls to elementary age children is awkward and maybe not something you want to be forced to do. So I agree that they should be disallowed from advertising in residential areas and areas where there are schools nearby.
That, however, is the only legitimate complaint, in my opinion. If there is no obvious signage and advertising, most people would probably not even know the doll shop is there. There's even a back entrance off a parking lot so people going in are not evening entering off the street. Most people who would use the services of this place are well aware of the general attitude about it and so would likely be quite discreet about going in there. How in the world is someone quietly dropping into the back entrance of a strip mall and fucking a doll alone in a private room going to hurt anyone else? How is this going to bring down the neighbourhood?
It sounds like the whole thing is a bit of the gong show. The owner of the business said they had a license to operate in that space. The councillor said that he was pretty sure they are not legally allowed to operate in that location and should not have had a license approved. City administration said they were not aware of the application. Either somebody (or everybody) doesn't know the policies and procedure around licensing or somebody (or everybody) is not telling the whole truth.
As I predicted, city councillor Filion found a way to shut it down. The business was slated to open this week but last Thursday, they were informed that the city was cancelling their license and the landlord was terminating their lease.
The inquisitor wrote this about the decision. "After more in-depth review, the city staff ruled that because the dolls would be used on premises rather than sold and taken offsite for use, the business would have to be categorized as an “adult entertainment parlour,” and therefore be unsuitable in Willowdale where North York Plaza is located. The regulation that was cited to stop the brothel opening came to being around 20 years ago to block sex shops from opening up outside of industrial areas."
So in spite of the fact that this doll parlour was highly unlikely to actually hurt anyone (given proper cleaning procedures) and in spite of the fact that the whole idea of a sex doll playhouse is brand new and there are not any regulations that relate specifically to it, and in spite of the fact that had they not put those posters up, most area residents wouldn't even know it was there, it is not allowed to operate.
The owner of the business (and I make a disclaimer here that I know nothing about the owner of this business and do not vouch for their motives or reputation, I simply support their right to operate this particular business model) must have already made an investment into this location as they were set to open this week. That time and money is now lost to them. If the city had a problem with them being there, they should have least done their homework in advance of issuing the license rather than pull it just before they were about to open.
As the owner of an adult business I can tell you that most of us live in fear of this exact thing happening to us. Most of us do our very best to comply with licenses and regulations and to operate our business in a manner that respects the communities and municipalities in which we are situated. We know full well however, given our sex negative culture, that if someone decides they don't want us around, it is probably not going to be hard to come up with an excuse to shut us down.
If this objection to this doll house was really about the impact on children or health and safety, it seems like it would be quite easy to put some requirements into place - ie. no street level signage or advertising, no window displays, strict guidelines about cleaning and adherence to health codes. This isn't what the residents and councillor were asking for. It's not they want it to operate according to proper health and safety standards and to respect the community and neighbourhood. They don't want it to operate at all - at least no anywhere where they have to know about it. They just don't like the idea of people fucking dolls somewhere in their vicinity, even if they will never ever see it and it will never affect them. They just don't want it in their backyard.