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Real Dolls, Real Creepy

<i>Aperture</i> magazine peeks into the "lives" of inanimate lovers
 
 
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At first glance, there is something disturbing about Elena Dorfman's photographs of lovers. Upon second glance, it's clear what that something is. Half of each couple is not human, but doll.

Dorfman's photographic series "Still Lovers," which appears in this month's issue of photo journal Aperture, shows men with their life-size, sexually-available Real Dolls.

The $6,500 dolls are made by a California company called Abyss Creations primarily as full-service sex toys for men. They are clearly made to satisfy fantasies; one model has a cup size of 42H.

The dolls' pornographic lifelessness is eerie by itself, but Dorfman's photographs manage to capture an even more bizarre element to the Real Dolls--- the actual sentiment that doll owners have for their silicone rubber lovers.

New York's Edwynn Houk Gallery, which displayed Dorfman's photos last year, described the images as "a series of documentary photographs exploring the relationship between silicone sex dolls and their owners."

The gallery's press release:

The project that began as an investigation into the world of hyper-realistic sex dolls, soon unveiled more complex and unexpected associations.

In a recent interview, Elena Dorfman described the evolution of the series: "What began for me as a playful curiosity, how to photograph men having sex with 125 pounds of perfectly formed, synthetic female, rapidly turned into a serious exploration of the emotional ties that exist between men and women and their dolls. This exploration forced me to evaluate my own notions of love and what it means to value an object, a replacement human being, in effect, as real."

The sex dolls pictured in the photographs are expensive and highly realistic. Owners can choose from nine facial and body types, ranging from very petite to highly voluptuous. They can choose eye color, skin tone, nail length and polish, and the style and cut of the pubic hair.

Despite the functionality of the female dolls, Dorfman quickly discovered a succession of more complex doll/owner relationships. The doll owners, often women, seem to defy our expectations and question the limits of our acceptance. One doll owner fantasizes about marrying his doll, another holds the hand of his date as they watch television on the couch, and yet another owns several dolls that she shares with her family as a reflection of different aspects of her own sexuality and personality.

While I'm sure that some Real Doll owners may truly feel that they have relationships with their hunk o' burning love-silicone, I somehow don't think this is something that should be applauded or even accepted as just another way to express one's sexuality. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that people should spend their emotional energy on relationships with other human beings.

To read more about Real Dolls, check out this story from Salon.com.

Maria Luisa Tucker is a staff writer at AlterNet and associate editor of the Columbia Journal of American Studies.