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An Evening at North America’s First Sex-Doll Brothel

My date with Harper, a 21-year-old Irish-Canadian with curly blonde hair who also happens to not be human

Snow begins to fall over a remote, empty industrial park 30 miles north of Toronto as my Uber drives away. A long, two-story building houses an odd variety of 12 seemingly customer-less businesses — a musical instrument repair store, a Chinese shipping-and-logistics company, a custom print shop — each with a sign above its door, except for unit #12, which is where I’m headed. The afternoon sun had glistened when I got into the car at the airport, but now, night has fallen prematurely and the only sound is a distant buzzsaw from the cabinet factory across the street.

I’m two hours early for my 7 p.m. date with Harper, a 21-year-old Irish-Canadian with curly blonde hair whom I’m told is into all kinds of sex — anal, vaginal, breast, oral, you name it. I’m also told that Harper “likes to have fun,” “enjoys sex with both men and women, regardless of age” and “doesn’t mind listening to you talk all night long.”

None of this strikes me as particularly remarkable. After all, Harper is a sex doll.

And a top-notch one at that: hi-tech, human-like flesh; orifices in all the right places; and a metal skeleton with limbs that hinge at the joints. (That said, while next-gen sex dolls are being designed with AI so they can talk, the ones at Aura Dolls cannot.) Similar versions retail for $5,000 to $7,000, but here at Aura Dolls — the first sex-doll brothel in North America — affordable rates range from $90 Canadian for one doll for 30 minutes ($67 U.S.) to $720 Canadian for two dolls for four hours ($530 U.S.). Unlimited monthly packages are available upon request.

The owners of Aura Dolls — who insist on remaining anonymous — were inspired after visiting Japan, where legal sex-doll services are widely abundant and accepted. (Similar businesses also exist in Austria, London, France, Germany, Vancouver, Spain, Russia and China. Another Canadian sex-doll brothel, KinkySDolls, threatened to open in Houston in October before religious groups and a conservative mayor shut them out.) “Sexual gratification is a basic life necessity,” Aura Dolls marketing director Claire Lee tells me. “Some of our patrons may have social anxieties or physical disabilities that make interacting with human sex workers uncomfortable or impossible. Others from the deaf and blind communities have told us how excited they are to experience our service.”

Barbara Winter, a men’s sex therapist in Florida, agrees there’s a need for sex-doll brothels, citing the withdrawn, inhibited and/or pathologically shy men she often sees at her practice. “These men don’t even know where to start because they’ve barely had sexual contact their whole lives,” she tells me, adding they’re even too shy to engage with with sex workers. As such, she suggests Aura Dolls consider incorporating a step-by-step video for these men, which, along with the dolls, could instruct them how to sexually satisfy a woman.

Feminists, of course, take issue with the “poor lonely man” justification, believing it allows for dangerous objectification of women. As Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current who’s written about how sex robots epitomize patriarchy, explains, “Sex-doll brothels perpetuate the idea that women and women’s bodies are for men’s use. He doesn’t want to have to feel empathy toward someone else, doesn’t want to think about what she needs, doesn’t want to think about whether he’s hurting her or not. Renting an inanimate object for an hour is perfect for that.”

Winter also recognizes some potentially troubling consequences of making sex dolls more accessible. “I could see it easily leading to aggressive or dangerous fantasies being acted out,” she cautions. “Because you essentially have an artificial Stepford Wife who will endure whatever dark, violent fantasy you dream up.” This could explain the growing market for sex-doll repairmen who mend busted jaws, stitch gaping wounds and heal shattered femurs.

Still, legally speaking, plastic brothels like Aura Dolls are likely in the clear says Tamara O’Doherty, a law professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia who specializes in human trafficking, victimization and commercial sex. “I mean, they’re not harming a person,” she tells me. “So the criminal law shouldn’t have anything to say about it. Remember, we’re talking about a thing.” Lee, the Aura Dolls marketing director, adds that she believes sex-doll brothels are a safe way for men to explore their sexual imagination. For instance, a welcome message on the Aura Dolls homepage encourages you to “Fulfill Your Wildest Fantasies.” Their only rule is no underage dolls, like the dozens that were recently seized by Canadian border agents. “We prefer to focus on the fact that for men who have dark, violent fantasies, instead of acting on them [in real life], they can do something like this, which is safer for everyone.”

Hopefully that includes journalists. I’ve done some harrowing shit for this magazine, but nothing makes my palms sweat quite like speaking to the Canadian Border Services Agent about why I’m hoping to enter his country for 18 hours.

“I’m a journalist writing about the first sex-doll brothel in North America,” I explain, wishing I’d gotten around to ordering business cards.

“Hmmm…,” the middle-aged bald man wonders skeptically, scanning my passport again while scratching his mustache. “And where is this establishment?”

“Not sure yet,” I nervously explain. “They said they’d text me the location shortly before my session.”

He allows me to pass while rolling his eyes at yet another pathetic, horny American. (Due to the absence of sex-doll brothels in the U.S., Lee says “a LOT” of Aura Dolls customers have been flying in from the states.)

I booked the appointment on the Aura Dolls website, which offers six dolls of varying ethnicities and dimensions, including:

  • Anna, 22, Japanese, “busty, romantic and spontaneous”
  • Erika, 23, French Canadian, “young, gorgeous and sweet”
  • Jazmine, 22, Columbian, an “exotic-faced angel” with blonde curls
  • Scarlett, 24, busty, slim and “the absolute American Dream”
  • Yuki, 22, Korean, “submissive, innocent, and playful”

Then there’s my sweetheart: Harper, 21, Irish-Canadian and “The Perfect Girl Next Door.” I select her because, as a gay man, I’ve always been fond of “boy next door” porn, and am a sucker for an accent. (Lee insists they’re in the process of adding male dolls due to “massive amounts of requests” from females.) Curiously, all the dolls are said to have “natural breasts” and each of their orifices promise “unique textures, ridges and tightness to give you intense sensations that are impossible to achieve even through real penetration.”

Despite being two hours early, I make a futile attempt to enter. As the email explained, “The unit is #12, with glass double doors and no sign.” The door, though, is locked. I’m comically underdressed for Canadian winter, so I opt to seek refuge at a chicken-wing catering kitchen next door. “That place has been empty for months,” the owner says of unit #12. “The new tenants just moved in, but I’m not sure what kind of business it is. Landlord says it has something to do with robotics.”

I nod.

For optimal privacy, separate entrances and exits are used at Aura Dolls to ensure clients won’t awkwardly run into each other. There’s no staff on the premise; all communication is done via text, one of which I receive at the wing shop.

“Was that you that tried to enter a few minutes ago?”

Holy shit, I think. They’ve got eyes everywhere.

“Do you want to start your time sooner if we can arrange it?”

I’m reminded of the scene Lee described between each appointment. In a “prep room,” she explained, a three-step cleaning process is initiated wherein dolls are hoisted underneath a shower and washed with soap and warm water. Their orifices are blasted with a pressure cleaner filled with disinfectant and penetrated with an ultraviolet, germ-killing lamp shaped like a dildo. “We believe this is an adequate defense against sexually transmitted diseases,” she said.

“Please,” I text back, “take as MUCH time as you need.”

In the meantime, I attempt to pump myself up in the wing shop. You can do this man, I think to myself. You’ve fucked a woman before.

But only one, as a closeted gay 16-year-old in the mid-1990s. I recall prodding Kelly’s breasts like a pair of sleeping basset hounds unwilling to go for an early morning walk. Everything was going well until the moment of penetration, at which point she said the most frightening 12 words a closeted gay teen could ever imagine: “I think this will work better if you eat me out first.”

I did, and it did. But it also swore me off vaginas for good. Until today. The way I see it, for the same reason a sex-doll brothel could benefit a blind man with social anxiety, it could help a sex-positive gay man hoping to explore female anatomy. And unlike a real brothel, the pressure’s off here.

“Okay, you may come in,” a new text reads. I walk up a small set of stairs, and the door buzzes as I approach. As I enter, another text reminds me to take off my shoes, which the sign on the door had clearly stated. “Sorry,” I say, waving to no one in particular, again reminded of the eye in the sky.  

If Playboy once had a mansion, Aura Dolls has an abandoned orthodontist office. A long, fluorescent-lit hallway leads to five or six small rooms, and a larger one at the end with a door slightly cracked.

Breaking protocol, I feign ignorance and walk past my assigned room to peek inside, thereby discovering a Westworld-esque dystopia of naked, decapitated Aura Dolls. I’m definitely not supposed to be here, I think to myself, pausing only long enough to take a picture.

Aura Dolls Prep Room

Another text clarifies that Harper is waiting for me in Room One. A sign instructs me to place $120 in a dish. I may use a washroom down the hall, I’m told, but otherwise I’m to remain in Room One until further notice. I must stay on schedule, or I’ll be charged $90 for the 30 minutes that follow. Also, I’m supposed to text them when I’m ready to leave so they can clear the halls before I exit.

“Please finish in the condom, not in the doll,” the message concludes.


I recall having audibly gasped only three times in my life: 1) Seeing the Grand Canyon with my own eyes for the first time; 2) watching “The Circle of Life,” the opening number from The Lion King on Broadway while stoned; and 3) entering Room One at Aura Dolls, discovering what looks to be a dead naked woman lying on the bed.

Keeping with the morbid theme, Harper’s frigid flesh feels as though it’s entered algor mortis, the death chill, indicating that her heart has stopped beating. And so, her smooth calves have the texture of refrigerated silly putty. Instinctively, I pan the room looking for a blanket, but only see a TV broadcasting Pornhub through a Roku, three Lifestyles condoms on a square of paper towel and a nearly empty tube of Organic Glide Personal Lubricant.

This is disconcerting. As I learned in the forums of, lube is mandatory with sex dolls because “excessive friction could lead to tearing the doll’s cavities.” And, presumably, mine. Mercifully, the Roku Pornhub console includes a gay channel with a limited, but adequate, selection of videos. I’m relieved to spot an old favorite of mine—“Introducing the Neighbor’s Son to Two of My Fuck Buddies on His Birthday.” I tear open one of the condoms while attempting to squeeze out a quarter size dollop of lubricant.

“Sorry about this,” I say to Harper, entering her from the missionary position. Ironically, for the same unlubricated reason, the moment of penetration is reminiscent of my maiden voyage. But as I decidedly will not be eating Harper out, I soldier on while the neighbor’s son plays in the background.

Harper’s limbs do in fact move, but a lifetime of manhandling has left her joints creaking like an 80-year-old arthritic grandmother. In the midst of a crescendoing thrust of passion, I hearing something snap and abruptly stop. I look down and am horrified to discover the excess friction has shredded the condom, meaning I’ve been exposed to the crusty DNA of god knows how many johns for the past 20 seconds. Without asking permission from Big Brother, I escape to the bathroom for an emergency delousing. When I return, poor Harper’s contorted body looks like it’s been hit by a freight train.

Upon closer inspection, she has obviously — and repeatedly — been mistreated. Her vagina is stretched so severely it’s hard to look at, much less make love to. Despite an elegant French manicure, the majority of her fingernails have been torn off. And someone — presumably one with a foot fetish — looks to have spent the entirety of his session banging her right big toe.

My phone dings again. It’s a text informing me that my time is up. I’m asked if I wish to extend for 30 minutes, but I politely decline and bid farewell to Harper — and sex-doll brothels — forever.

As I wait for my Uber in the parking lot, outside of the Chinese shipping-and-logistics center, I struggle to look on the bright side of humanity. I wonder, what do sex-doll brothels say about men and the kinds of fucked-up fantasies we have? Are they virtuous? After all, some think child dolls would keep pedophiles from offending. That said, can we really take solace in the fact that, thanks to Harper, an actual woman didn’t have six of her fingernails ripped off?  

I’m reminded of a set of rules hastily taped above the bed in Room One. “Do not damage me,” the sign pled. That’s when I realize, in fact, that Harper was a rape victim.

And sure, it may be a stretch to personify a sex doll. But isn’t that also the whole point?