French activists are campaigning to shut down a new “sex doll brothel” on the grounds that it degrades women—and silicone. Or something.
Lawmakers are considering a plea to shutter Xdolls, which opened last month in Paris and allows customers to rent a life-size sex doll for $109 an hour, according to the BBC. The business is housed in a secretive apartment with “three rooms with soft lighting, music and ‘naked’ silicone dolls,” reports The Telegraph. The business’s owner, Joachim Lousquy, says his clientele mostly consists of single men, but that he also gets couples.
Xdolls is registered as a gaming center, which makes sense if you consider doll-sex a form of escapist make-believe or wish-fullfilment akin to playing Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. But Paris Council communists and other activists argue that Xdolls amounts to a brothel, which are illegal in France.
Nicolas Bonnet Oulaldj, head of the Paris council’s communist group, told Le Parisien that “Xdolls conveys a degrading image of women.” He also compared the business to “prostitution” and the owner to “a pimp.” Sounds like someone just started watching Westworld.
The rhetoric only gets more extreme from there. Lorraine Questiaux, spokesperson for the anti-sex work organization Mouvement du Nid, told Le Parisien, by way of the BBC’s translation, “Xdolls is not a sex shop. It’s a place that generates money and where you rape a woman.”
I’m hoping that last sentence can be blamed on a poor translation, because there are no actual women being violated here. You can’t rape a non-sentient silicone doll any more than you can rape a vibrator or a Fleshlight. It’s certainly possible that some Xdolls customers have rape fantasies—many people do, male and female—and they might very well use the dolls to enact them. But would that encourage the abuse of actual humans? It’s a question that’s been asked endlessly around violent video games, and research doesn’t support a link to real-world criminal behavior.
You would think a “sex doll brothel” might actually be celebrated by opponents of sex work—but apparently not even lifeless dolls are immune to outside rescue attempts.