Toronto councillor says new sex doll brothel breaks city bylaws

Toronto city councillor John Filion says a company planning to open a sex doll brothel in his neighbourhood next month will be stopped because the proposed business breaks city bylaws.

According to their website, Aura Dolls offers customers six 'realistic sensual' silicone dolls

Aura Dolls is set to open in September but Toronto councillor John Filion says the sex doll brothel breaks city bylaws. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)
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On their website, Aura Dolls claims to be, "North America's first known brothel that offers sexual services with the world's most beautiful silicone ladies."

Nestled between a massage parlour, nail salon and dry cleaner, Aura Dolls is slated to open on Sept. 8 in an otherwise nondescript plaza in Toronto's north end. 

The company plans to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will offer customers six different silicone dolls. The website describes the life-like dolls as, "classy, sophisticated, and adventurous ladies." The hourly rates range from $80 to nearly $500.

They add that, "the dolls are thoroughly sanitized to meet your expectations." But that condoms are still "highly recommended."

Toronto city councillor John Filion says people in his community are concerned about the proposed business. 

Filion spoke to As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. Here is part of their conversation.

Councillor Filion, Aura Dolls is urging people to have "an open mind" about their business plan. Would you say that you have one?

Well, I have an open mind about what sort of behaviours people want to do, as long as they don't harm anybody else. It's a totally different matter once you bring that out to the public. So I think I have a fairly closed mind about where people should be having sex with [silicone] dolls.

According to their website, Aura Dolls offers customers six silicone "exotic girls to cater to everyone's choice of beauty." (Lukas Schulze/Bongarts/Getty Images)

So, what's wrong with a sex doll brothel?

It's where it is located, for one thing. Where it's being proposed happens to be near an intersection where about 25,000 people live, all kinds of families, four elementary schools are very near by. And you know, people shouldn't really need to be out on a walk with their families and try to explain to their kids why someone is having sex with a [silicone] doll.

But Aura Dolls says that they are going to be doing this very discreetly, that they won't have explicit signage, and that they therefore won't be bothering anyone.

They've hardly been discreet. They were putting illegal posters all over the neighbourhood. They've probably had a couple of hundred of thousands of dollars of free publicity already. I don't think there's anything at all discreet about what they are doing. They're trying to be indiscreet to drum up business.

What have your constituents been telling you about this plan?

Just that this is disgusting. We don't want this around our kids and this doesn't belong in our neighbourhood.

It's funny, because Aura Dolls says, and I'll just tell you the statement they sent us, they say that, "There is a massive community that supports and believes in this service but is unable to be as verbal and supportive due to the nature of this context."

Can you be sure that there aren't constituents in your area that think this is a great idea?

I can't be sure that there aren't some people who might think, "Oh great, it's just down the street from me. Let me go there." I would say that might be a fraction of one per cent of my constituents. Most people are appalled by this.

And it's not a narrow-minded neighbourhood. Whatever somebody does in their home, I don't think we're going to pass moral judgment on it, again, as long as it's not harming anyone else. But this is just kind of scuzzy. And talk about objectifying women, this literally objectifies women. Is it okay to be advertising this like it is some kind of desirable behaviour? They are promoting it like it is some kind of good thing — it isn't. 

People do all sorts of things that we kind of wish they wouldn't in a perfect world. But they should be doing them in their own homes. 

Aura Dolls says that it's doing nothing illegal. They say that they are being very clear that the dolls they are using represent adult women and that they are actually providing a service. Do you agree that they are doing this legally?

No, they're not at all legal. It's an illegal use. And if there's any confusion about that, they will be getting a letter from the city very soon. It is clearly not a legal use. It's not permitted under the zoning bylaw and it fits the definition of adult entertainment parlour, for which you require a license — and they certainly would not get one. They would not get a license in this neighbourhood because it's not a permitted use.

Written by Katie Geleff and John McGill. Produced by Katie Geleff. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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