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Are Realistic Sex Dolls Creepy?

Pop culture has condemned men who use sex dolls as icky weirdos. But do they get an unfair rap?

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Pop Culture And Pop Culture Backlash

Even professional photographers, like Anoush Abrar, are channeling Hans Bellmer with their work with contemporary sex dolls, though none does a better job than fashion photographer Stacey Leigh. In Leigh’s images, dolls are dewy and flawless, fully or nearly nude, and sometimes, as was the case in her recent recreation of a Helmut Newton shot, one can pass entirely as human.

That photogenic allure inspired Caroll, a 40-year-old Australian woman, to buy a doll of her own about a year and a half ago. Though she didn’t explore her doll sexually until several months after it was delivered, she found the experience “very satisfying.” She’s currently single, but Carroll says her dolls have never provoked a negative reaction from her girlfriends.

Yet negative reactions still abound online, where commenters don’t hesitate to suggest that doll designers and owners be “publicly impaled” because they are “nasty” and “”perverted.” Such extreme reactions, sadly, have been exacerbated by irresponsible social commentary. In 2005’s Still Lovers, Elisabeth Alexandre writes that she and photographer Elena Dorfman specifically sought out men who preferred their dolls to actual women rather than establishing first if this was representative of the doll-owning majority.

She closes with the point that while Real Doll owners are “harmless,” they share the “cheap misogyny” of “women killers and flesh eaters.” With fellows like doll “husband” Davecat, who once said that just as those allergic to flowers can enjoy artificial blooms, “artificial women serve the same purpose for men who are, in whatever way, allergic to real women,” it’s no wonder misogyny earned a mention. (The line about cannibals, however, still seems just a smidge over-the-top.)

Several of Still Lovers less-than-charming subjects were subsequently contracted to appear in the 2007 British documentary Guys and Dolls, thereby assuring that that specific sampling would be reinforced as the norm. Yet if what I found was any indication, the doll-as-complete-human-stand-in phenomenon has been wildly overhyped and wildly over-criticized. We’ve all felt some affectionate toward, affinity for, and even, impossibly, empathy for inanimate objects, be it a stuffed animal, a Precious Moments figurine, or a car. While most of us might not go as far as to make such a connection the centerpiece of our lives, it doesn’t seem in any way indicative of a tendency to kill living beings. Wouldn’t we have an awful lot of murderous children, plastic toys in tow, if it were?

When Meghan Laslocky covered dolls for Salon in 2005, she furthered this silly association by writing about the “horror film” circumstance of one man finding a dismembered Real Doll in a dumpster—apparently not taking into account how difficult it would be to dispose of a Real Doll should an owner no longer want it. This raises the question: Are doll owners dysfunctional weirdoes for caring about their toys in the first place, or are they sociopaths for not affording the doll a human’s burial once it’s no longer of use?

The Real Deal

With less than 4,000 Real Dolls in circulation worldwide, there’s little evidence that dolls are positioned to become commonplace as masturbation aides, let alone common as life partners. When people, usually women, panic about the idea of dolls replacing living females, they display an alarming lack of faith in the joy of human interaction. A speechless, thoughtless silicone lump isn’t satisfying anyone’s desire for true companionship; either the desire for real human company wasn’t there in the first place, or a doll is an unsatisfying substitute. All of the people I spoke with thought the dolls were amusing diversions or simply well made tools, not improved versions of human beings.

 
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