The Cable

A Brewing Controversy Over Swiss Coffee Shop’s Sex Robots

One café in Geneva is looking to offer its customers an extra perk with their espressos, but not everyone is sold on the idea.


A new controversy is brewing in Geneva over a planned café that offers customers sex robots with their order of coffee.

Bradley Charvet of erotic services company Facegirl made headlines in Switzerland when he announced that he would open a coffee shop that caters to, well, coffee-drinkers with appetites. The idea was modeled on coffee shops in Thailand which offer similar services. Initially, he planned to staff the café with sex workers –- a legal, albeit strictly-regulated industry in Switzerland -– but that proved legally undoable.  

“Paid-for sexual services are banned in public establishments under the law on catering and the sale of drinks,” a spokesperson for the city’s department of security and economy told Le Matin.

That initial plan prompted backlash, too. Grégoire Théry, the head of a French anti-prostitution group, told L’Express the move would in effect be legalizing pimping. And the latest development comes just days after police in Bern announced the close of an investigation into an illegal prostitution ring involving more than 80 trafficked Thai women between 2011 and 2014, showcasing the human cost for countries with legalized sex industries.

Enter the robots. They could let Charvet bypass Switzerland’s strict regulations on sex workers, though the city is still reviewing his proposal.

And the price? Charvet hopes to charge 60 Swiss francs for coffee-with-benefits. He said he is in talks with an American company that manufactures “lifelike” randy robots with a price tag from $1,800 to $3,000 (or in coffee enthusiasts terms, up to 570 venti pumpkin-spiced lattes).

This isn’t the only story on Switzerland’s sex worker industry raising eyebrows. In April, Zurich city councilwoman Christine Seidler filed a motion for the city to open a municipal brothel. Seidler told that it would help regulate the industry and prevent illegal prostitution.

Councilman Martin Götzl dissented, telling the paper, “It cannot be the job of the city to operate a brothel with tax money.”

Photo credit: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

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