Sex doll brothel proposed for Vancouver raises eyebrows and objections

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WARNING: This article contains mature subject matter and may not be suitable for all readers

If you were to visit Bella Dolls’ website, you could be forgiven for mistaking it for an escort service.

The page features profiles of individual “women,” each with names, racy photos and descriptions of their intimate preferences — along with price tags for booking time together.

These women, however, are made of silicone, and they’re at the heart of a proposed new Vancouver business venture that’s raising eyebrows — and more than a few objections.

Bella Dolls wants to be Vancouver’s first sex doll brothel. It doesn’t have a business licence yet, but it has claimed to being inundated with requests from interested parties.

The idea has landed at a time when issues surrounding women’s rights and the #MeToo movement are more salient than ever, and it has some critics already calling for the proposal to be scrapped.

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“The fact that men are willing to penetrate an object reflects the fact that a lot of men view women as sex objects, and further normalizes and legitimizes that kind of attitude,” said Sophia Hladick with Vancouver Rape Relief.

Bella Dolls’ marketing director Ryan Fung said he didn’t want to wade into a political debate over the idea, but said the company believes there is a niche for its product.

“I can’t comment on negative stigma, but I can say that Bella Dolls is here to satisfy a lot of customers’ needs,” he told Global News.

It’s not the first time the idea of a sex doll brothel made headlines in Canada this year.

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In August, a similar venture was proposed in Toronto’s North York neighbourhood, but had its lease cancelled after the city complained to the property owner.

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The surge in interest for the idea has some wondering whether this is the first step toward sex robots.

UBC economist Maria Adshade has studied the idea, and said it’s not out of the question.

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“As they do get better and more advanced and better artificial intelligence and the ability to communicate, I think the implication is that they will start to replace the traditional sex markets,” she said.

Adshade argued that sex robots could eventually be good for peoples’ relationships, taking away the pressure for sexual compatibility or allowing people to redefine their marriages.

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While Bella Dolls hasn’t yet submitted an application for a business licence, officials with the City of Vancouver said there’s nothing on the books to outlaw such a venture.

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“If the city were to receive an application for this type of business, a further assessment would be completed,” the city said in a statement.

“Given that it would be the first of its kind in Vancouver, the city would refer to the Sex Work Response guidelines in reviewing the application.”

The Bella Dolls website is already accepting pre-bookings, and Fung said they’re pouring in already.

The company is keeping tight lipped about where and when it might seek to set up shop.

That’s not stopping critics, who say it’s an idea that will do more harm than good.

“It is frustrating, it is concerning, because it is another example of how women are objectified in the media, and how that objectification is promoted,” Hladick said.