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Not real women, mercifully?
February 22, 2009 11:10 AM   Subscribe

A Real Doll "doctor" gives an interview, describing the art of patching up the dolls and questioning their treatment by their owners.
posted by Grrlscout (158 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
The convention of referring to the dolls-- inanimate objects-- as "she" and "her" squicks me out so severely that I have a hard time reading this.
posted by jokeefe at 11:32 AM on February 22, 2009


Am I not supposed to refer to my computer as "she"? Is that wrong?
posted by Justinian at 11:35 AM on February 22, 2009


I'm a proud devient and somebody who goes out of his way to not judge folks, no matter how bizarre and upsetting their kinks may be to others/the mainstream/whatever.

Nonetheless, a similar (if not the same) article was in Details magazine within the last couple of months, and the pictures of and pull quotes regarding the damaged dolls were so upsetting and so made me doubt my typically optimistic viewpoint of humanity that I ended up ripping the pages out of the magazine because I was tired of accidentally seeing them as I thumbed through the magazine and losing a bit of my soul each time.

(Yes, I just admitted to being a bathroom magazine reader. Viva la old media)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:36 AM on February 22, 2009


Am I not supposed to refer to my computer as "she"?

Depends on what you stick in your machine and the damage you do when you do it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:38 AM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Real Doll repair is creating a job for at least one American. Is this part of the massive stimulus package?
posted by lukemeister at 11:38 AM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I thought this was going to be about New York Doll Hospital - or something similar. So consider it a mark of the post's quality that I liked it despite expecting something very, very different.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:39 AM on February 22, 2009


For some, real dolls are themselves massive stimulus packages. no?
posted by Cold Lurkey at 11:40 AM on February 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


That was a pretty good read.

My favorite part was how when he was done sculpting the Male version for Abyss, they told him to pick out any doll body / shape / whatever, and he went with a blue elf from Everquest.

Heh. Awesome.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:43 AM on February 22, 2009


"I had one guy from Berkeley who had sex so hard with his doll that he ripped the leg off it."*

I just lost a little bit of my soul right there.
posted by porn in the woods at 11:44 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can you point to the spot on the doll where you hurt it?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:47 AM on February 22, 2009 [9 favorites]


Do they make male RealDolls? and if so, could I have one made in my own image so I can engage in my ultimate narcissistic sexual fanatsies? Until they legalize cloning anyway.
posted by jonmc at 11:52 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Get more articles like this delivered to your door each month!

No thank you.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:57 AM on February 22, 2009 [12 favorites]


He had sex with a doll once, and he enjoyed it, but his principles prevent him from making a habit of it. "I'm not going to be fucking dolls and shipping them to other people," he says. "That's fuckin' rude. What kind of businessman would I be if I did that?"

Seems to almost say without saying it that the doll he had sex with "once" (and enjoyed it!) was one that went to a customer.
posted by BaxterG4 at 12:34 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


People are sending him their beloved—or at least a sex partner that they paid a lot of money for.

That's just common sense: when you pay a lot of money for a sex partner, you need to keep them in good shape.
posted by ghost of a past number at 12:38 PM on February 22, 2009


"Do they make male RealDolls? and if so, could I have one made in my own image ..."

Yes, as a matter of fact, they do.

Now, as to whether you can get one made in a pale, skinny, chain-smoking, misanthropic version, well...
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:38 PM on February 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


"wormy root cellar of the male psyche" - it strikes me that a magazine for women would never, ever describe an intimate mental aspect of women the same way (and would be shunned if it did).
posted by BaxterG4 at 12:40 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Could I have one made in my own image, so I can engage in my ultimate narcissistic sexual fanatsies?

You could, but it wouldn't be original.
posted by nanojath at 12:40 PM on February 22, 2009


I don't know, I can't get het up about this. Not only do I feel it would be hypocritical to knock a man for owning a sex toy, but I don't know if the if poor condition of some of the dolls properly reflects the level sexual violence on the part of the men.

I've not yet had the opportunity to see a real doll in the 'flesh', but can imagine that despite their lifelike qualities, they're not exactly quite the same physique as a human. Ripping a leg off a doll during sex seems extreme, but its probably easier than ripping a human leg off. Likewise tearing or marking skin. Indeed, I'm sure lots of humans do mark or ever break skin during sex, but unlike real dolls, we heal, and don't have to be sent to a repair shop. I'm sure the cumulative bruising/scratching/chafing from sex would start to look pretty bad real soon if we didn't self-repair.
posted by Sova at 12:44 PM on February 22, 2009


Seems to almost say without saying it that the doll he had sex with "once" (and enjoyed it!) was one that went to a customer.

Hopefully, she wasn't questioned too closely about her virginity.

Interesting that the DamagedDolls article is devoid of photographs. Perhaps this was to maintain the illusion of silent perfection.
posted by terranova at 12:45 PM on February 22, 2009


You would think that for the price of one of these "dolls" you could hire a hooker who'd be willing to cosplay.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:46 PM on February 22, 2009


BaxterG4: ""wormy root cellar of the male psyche" - it strikes me that a magazine for women would never, ever describe an intimate mental aspect of women the same way (and would be shunned if it did)."

True. But then female perversion causes a lot less suffering in the world than male perversion does.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:52 PM on February 22, 2009


Metafilter: probably easier than ripping a human leg off.

You think this stuff is sick? I've heard that there are people who will masturbate using a simulated disembodied penis.
posted by Cookiebastard at 1:03 PM on February 22, 2009 [30 favorites]


You might want to label the second link as a PDF -- it's now tidily curled up in my download file, and I'm not all that sure I want it there.
posted by jrochest at 1:09 PM on February 22, 2009


You would think that for the price of one of these "dolls" you could hire a hooker who'd be willing to cosplay.

Wouldn't this be more like keeping a hooker on retainer?
posted by dilettante at 1:12 PM on February 22, 2009


As interesting and appalling as that article is (thanks, Grrlscout), I'm struck that nobody really discusses the "better their owners do it to the doll than to real women" argument in detail, or even alludes to it, in the article. (The point of which is not, admittedly, to debate the ethics or cultural significance of Real Dolls.) Seems like a fairly logical extension of the "porn lowers the number of rapes by sexually frustrated males" argument, and certainly the same sort of thing seems to be condoned when it leads to relief of workplace stress, at least in some contexts.
posted by cupcakeninja at 1:16 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


"perversion"... hmmmmm... that's a vague but loaded word. If the argument is going to play in the domain of imputing fault for sexual problems by gender, then nothing stops someone from arguing (and no doubt many of the RealDoll users would) that our culture or female "frigidity" indirectly causes the suffering (the proximate cause of which is male perversion). I'm (very) NOT making that argument, my point is just that the whole area seems unfruitful to approach in this way. To use words that I'm not really comfortable with but don't have better ones: there is more male sexual aggression in the world than there is available female capacity to absorb it. Seems unfortunate, but, like death, it's how evolution got us to where we are now and it's true of this world we live in, so what're we gonna do about it? I'd think everybody would much rather have some guy mutilating his sex doll than mutilating a real live woman. (So when I hear about an abused sex doll, I think "good, that could very well be the much lesser of two unpleasant possibilities.) And I suppose most would rather the guy have more manageable passions or a sex partner, but in many, many cases, these aren't available options and this is a problem that looks to be around for the rest of human civilization. Good luck and best wishes to the (presumably mostly) lonely, desperate people who find a RealDoll to be their best option to reduce the amount of suffering in their world.
posted by BaxterG4 at 1:16 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


on lack of preview: haha took care of it for you, cupcakeninja
posted by BaxterG4 at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2009


With their smoothly engineered curves, their expectant lips, and, yes, their eternal willingness, the dolls are—there's no getting around it—hot.... and She never lies, cheats, get pregnant, or passes on disease. She offers great sex unfettered by the pesky daily push-pull of a relationship. She never says, “No.”

Being as their "willingness" and "great sex" consists of total passivity, it's a bit of a contrast to the "yes means yes" thread, no?

As for the men "abusing" the dolls, I couldn't care less. They are objects, like a toaster or a mailbox. They don't have feelings. The problem I have is with the radical level of anthropomorphosis that is occuring: the doll goes not to repair, but "to hospital". "She" gets "sick" and must be "nursed back to health". And on and on.
posted by jokeefe at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ya gotta admire the sense of professional ethics: "I'm not going to be fucking dolls and shipping them to other people," he says. "That's fuckin' rude. What kind of businessman would I be if I did that?" Absofuckinglutely kee-rect. Rule #1 is thou shalt not fuck the merchandise.
posted by localroger at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


here is more male sexual aggression in the world than there is available female capacity to absorb it.

Fucking hell, Metafilter, we used to be able to do better than this. WTF.
posted by jokeefe at 1:18 PM on February 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


What fascinates me about Davecat and the other folks in the linked documentary (from channel four iirc? I watched it a while ago), is the relationship between loving this object, and the objectification of a lover. Not only do we men have a problem with treating a woman as if she were an object, but we also have to go and treat objects as if they were women.

My immediate response to watching that movie and visiting the realdoll website was the desire to cover a roomba in those disembodied penises and vulvas and anuses and boobs that they sell, some kind of squishy silicon rolling monstrosity made of primary and secondary sexual characteristics, with a pair of extra long and skinny cocks out front like antennae, bumping into the furniture and spinning in circles on the floor all day long. You can custom program roombas now right? I would love to have one of these trained to repeatedly bump into the shins of guests like a developmentally disabled affectionate cat.
posted by idiopath at 1:19 PM on February 22, 2009 [25 favorites]


There is more male sexual aggression in the world than there is available female capacity to absorb it.

We're not SUPPOSED to "absorb" it. Would you say there are more racists in the world then there is available victims to absorb it? It makes no sense.
posted by desjardins at 1:28 PM on February 22, 2009 [17 favorites]


Now, as to whether you can get one made in a pale, skinny, chain-smoking, misanthropic version, well...

Been smoke-free going on two months (and have put on a few pounds), hoss, so that option won't be neccessary.
posted by jonmc at 1:28 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fucking hell, Metafilter, we used to be able to do better than this. WTF.

jokeefe: I'm truly sorry if that offended you. I'd like to know why because it certainly isn't my intention. That's why I said I wasn't comfortable with those words and didn't have better ones -- perhaps I should have given it more thought until I did. Anyway, my intended point was very much (as I tried to state) not to say that women are at fault. They so aren't. Or to say that women need to behave differently. That's not at all what I mean.

My intended point was that there are a lot (a WHOLE lot) of men who don't have a chance of ever having a consensual sexual encounter again. And may not have ever before. This is heartbreaking for them and often dangerous (and thus heartbreaking again) for others. Vilifying the natural male sexual drive ("out of balance" as we may see it) doesn't help the problem, either for men or for their potential victims, so I'd like to instead discuss what we can do about this less-than-optimal situation we find ourselves in.
posted by BaxterG4 at 1:33 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


While he does do custom work on occasion for customers who are willing to pay
the price or have legitimate needs, McMullen does sometimes put his foot down. No
lactating dolls, urinating dolls, amputees, seven-foot tall dolls, Britney Spears replicas,
or dolls with armpit hair or heartbeats. And no dogs either, as was the request of one
prospective customer who called him.
“He asked me if I could make him a silicone dog, because he was a breeder, and
he didn’t want to hurt his dogs anymore, he said.


Yikes.

RealDog?
posted by Ron Thanagar at 1:36 PM on February 22, 2009


As for the men "abusing" the dolls, I couldn't care less. They are objects, like a toaster or a mailbox. They don't have feelings.

So a car made by mini or volkswagon or whatever can become a "lovemark", not only symbolising the unique idiosyncrasies of the person but also embodying the soul of an entity as abstract as the company itself, if not capturing the zeitgeist of a whole generation (and we have no problems with the emotional currency being passed around there) but when a man fucks a doll that looks like a woman all of a sudden it's just an object and the transference will be our dirty little secret?
posted by doobiedoo at 1:47 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


RealDog?

Oh man, that's tame. Just keep reading:

Another prospective customer sent nude pictures of his 60–year-old mother, wanting a custom built replication. A surgical pathologist wanted a vagina duplicated from a specimen he had in a jar.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:54 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


desjardins: I didn't say -- nor do I believe -- that women *should* "absorb" the male sexual aggression that has no opportunity for release. I pointed out in fact that I was NOT making this argument, only using it to attempt to point out that the real problem here isn't "men" or "women" but "biology has made humans be *this way* which isn't how we want to be but nonetheless we are, and it was obviously beneficial (in the coldly calculating way that natural selection uses) to the species to get it to where we are." So now it doesn't serve our aspirations anymore in this respect but that doesn't make the problem go away, so let's see what we can do about it to make the best of a very non-optimal situation. I put no fault upon women, the issue is one of configuration (which seems unlikely to ever go away). It appears I wasn't clear but my meaning was simply that there seems to me to be little to be gained from vilifying and assigning blame by gender -- yes, there are dark, unfortunate, harmful impulses in many, many men (again, that were used to get us humans to this level of dominance), so I'd prefer to see our culture see what it can do to mitigate this problem. And it just seems to me that further shaming those who purchase RealDolls does more to further the problem than to help it. I wish these guys weren't this way and I think it likely that most of them wish they weren't this way either. But they ARE so let's try to keep women from being hurt. Do RealDolls do that? That, I don't know. I hope so.
posted by BaxterG4 at 1:55 PM on February 22, 2009


My argument is not with the attachment of symbolic value to things-- half our marketing runs on that premise, and I'm the first to admit that my brand loyalty to Macs has a lot less to do with any percieved technical superiority than with what I've been persuaded to see as their "coolness"-- it's that the dolls are specifically not simply a nexus of symbolic transference but that they're seen as stand-ins for actual human beings. It's better that men abuse the dolls, says somebody upthread, than actual women. But why would they? They are dolls, not surrogate human beings. That's my issue. The men who own them grant them human feelings and characteristics, and is that not delusional and deeply childish? The dollas are sex toys; I might as well try to have a conversation with my vibrator. Unless what the doll's owners are acting out is a kind of socially acceptable slavery.
posted by jokeefe at 1:58 PM on February 22, 2009


She offers great sex unfettered by the pesky daily push-pull of a relationship.

My definitions of "great sex" include having a partner that's actively engaged in the task.

Maybe I'm weird, but in my mind, masturbation≠great sex. Hell, it barely qualifies as sex. It's jacking-off, not "having sex."
posted by five fresh fish at 1:58 PM on February 22, 2009


Another prospective customer sent nude pictures of his 60–year-old mother, wanting a custom built replication.

Crazy motherfucker.
posted by jonmc at 1:58 PM on February 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


My intended point was that there are a lot (a WHOLE lot) of men who don't have a chance of ever having a consensual sexual encounter again. And may not have ever before. This is heartbreaking for them and often dangerous (and thus heartbreaking again) for others.

There are millions of women in this world who have never had a consensual sexual encounter, and many more who might never have one again, due to age or infirmity, either. Does that justify female violence due to sexual frustration?

the real problem here isn't "men" or "women" but "biology has made humans be *this way* which isn't how we want to be but nonetheless we are, and it was obviously beneficial (in the coldly calculating way that natural selection uses) to the species to get it to where we are."

Look, you're just making things worse here, imo. Your premises, particularly the one about "biology", just seem to me to be so off base that I'd have to ask you to explain yourself in order to argue with you. And I doubt I have the energy.
posted by jokeefe at 2:02 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are millions of women in this world who have never had a consensual sexual encounter, and many more who might never have one again, due to age or infirmity, either. Does that justify female violence due to sexual frustration?
My goodness, no. What would make you think I would argue that it would be? Or that male sexual violence is justified? Ever? I certainly said no such thing and strongly disapprove of sexual violence. Always, no matter how desperate or frustrated. While I'm at it: women's sexual frustration is equally heartbreaking as that of men. I'd be just as in favor of ways to reduce that as well.
posted by BaxterG4 at 2:11 PM on February 22, 2009


"Seems to almost say without saying it that the doll he had sex with 'once' (and enjoyed it!) was one that went to a customer."

Maybe it's their loaner.

"You would think that for the price of one of these 'dolls' you could hire a hooker who'd be willing to cosplay."

The risks of hiring a professional include disease, lawyers, and a criminal record. These dolls probably seem like a crazy bargain.

"No "lactating dolls, urinating dolls, amputees, seven-foot tall dolls, Britney Spears replicas, "or dolls with armpit hair or heartbeats."

One of these things is so not like the others.
posted by Mitheral at 2:19 PM on February 22, 2009


Oh cool I was waiting for a post on the new Joss Whedon show.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:21 PM on February 22, 2009


Oh cool I was waiting for a post on the new Joss Whedon show.

It is a bit weird that the "dolls" in Dollhouse are seemingly hired out as escorts. Given the more pro-female themes of his past shows, I really wonder what Whedon is thinking.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:23 PM on February 22, 2009


there are a lot [...] of men who don't have a chance of ever having a consensual sexual encounter again. [...] This is heartbreaking for them and often dangerous (and thus heartbreaking again) for others. Vilifying the natural male sexual drive [...] doesn't help the problem, either for men or for their potential victims

What the hell? Do you seriously think that celibacy, sexual frustration, and "the natural male sex drive" are what lead men to commit acts of sexual violence? This seems completely insane to me – and your claims about biology and evolution, as jokeefe says, are just naturalized versions of this crazy unexamined assumption. When it's expressed from the feminist side (by Mary Daly et al), the idea that male desire is "dangerous" and requires "victims" meets with furious denunciation from the MeFi "masculinist" brigade. So why is this idea suddenly okay if it's a defense of Real Dolls?

FWIW, I am far more creeped out by the Laslocky article's prurient tone, its use of "she" to describe the dolls, and its overwrought, sensational, adjective-drenched prose than I am by the dolls themselves. Apart from using them for (admittedly entertaining) lulzy giggles at other people's perversions, they just seem like any other ludicrously expensive sex toy to me. Though the way the owners and "doctor" (eww) talk about the dolls does reveal some not-so-palatable things about the way they see other people.
posted by RogerB at 2:24 PM on February 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


No lactating dolls, urinating dolls, amputees, seven-foot tall dolls, Britney Spears replicas, or dolls with armpit hair or heartbeats.

Does this seem like an odd list to anyone else? The only one that seems genuinely creepy is the heartbeat. The rest seem like minor fetishes at best--it's like the guy will only work on dolls that turn him on.

It's a wide, weird world out there.
posted by maxwelton at 2:26 PM on February 22, 2009


My superficial understanding was that they were basically walking tabula rasa, empty clones that you "download" a personality into, for a set price? Like that one episode of Futurama with Lucy Liu in it? Or are they actual humans who get mindwiped at the end of each episode?
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:26 PM on February 22, 2009


that comment intended for Blazecock, btw
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:27 PM on February 22, 2009


Or are they actual humans who get mindwiped at the end of each episode?

I don't think they are clones. Echo, at least, seemed to have her own life before signing up to be a "doll". Granted, it's only been two episodes, but the "dollhouse" doesn't seem much more than a very highly-paid hooker service with well-armed pimps.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:35 PM on February 22, 2009


RogerB: I am perhaps naive and incorrect but I intuit that there's a substantial subset of sexual violence offenders who would not have become offenders if they were not sexually frustrated. Is this not the case? (Please note, I'm absolutely not saying anything about this justifying their offense or that it should in any way be morally or legally mitigated by this frustration.)

To clarify my usage of the phrase "the natural male sex drive": I mean "natural" only in the sense of "the devil didn't put it there", the range and distribution of male sexual aggressiveness has the parameters it has because of amoral natural selection. It's fortunately non-normative in our society to behave sexually in a way that causes harm to others and we should set policy however we can to prevent such harm and such behavior should be shunned by our society. Natural human impulses also make people murder innocent people. This is awful and unfortunate but true and part of how we got to where we are so let's do whatever we can to reduce the situation.
posted by BaxterG4 at 2:37 PM on February 22, 2009


"...part-time tattooist, art collector, and onetime pot dealer..."

Not cool, man, NOT COOL! NARC! NARC!
posted by tehloki at 2:41 PM on February 22, 2009


They are also, according to the company, resistant to heat, water, staining, and stretching, but there is one "real" aspect of the dolls that doesn't get a lot of play, because it has a tendency to disrupt the fantasy: Every now and then, they get sick.

They don't get "sick." They get damaged from neglect or hard use. It wasn't a virus that caused a doll's jaw to get jammed into the back of her head, it more likely overenthusiastic face-fucking.

The thing that taps into some squick for me is this apparently huge market for a doll with this flexible status -- not human, man-made, just get it repaired when you damage it AND ALSO a "she/her," an intentional human stand-in that (who?) should be treated with perhaps a modicum of dignity. Fiero is portrayed as being very comfortable standing right on that line, but then again, the writer also goes on and on about Fiero's devotion to the macabre.

Even though Fiero is a world-renowned specialist, a lot of his neighbors have no idea what he does. In fact, so rare is the nature of his expertise that he may qualify as the ultimate specialist.

Also, between this ridiculous breathless writing and whatever the hell that pop-up thing was, this wasn't really a pleasant article to read.
posted by desuetude at 2:46 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm anthropomorphosicising this a bit myself, but they all had eyes pleading for help yet accepting of their grim fate. So skeeved.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 2:46 PM on February 22, 2009



What the hell? Do you seriously think that celibacy, sexual frustration, and "the natural male sex drive" are what lead men to commit acts of sexual violence? This seems completely insane to me – and your claims about biology and evolution, as jokeefe says, are just naturalized versions of this crazy unexamined assumption.


So Steven Pinker went off on the "Rape isn't about sex, it's about power" argument in The Blank Slate, and I have to say, he had a point. Apparently legal efforts towards castration, chemical or otherwise, for repeated sexual offenders were stymied by activists arguing that rape wasn't about sex, rather it was about power. But when people actually looked at the data, recidivism rates post-castration were something like 1/50th the normal rate.

Pinker was pretty pissed, because what was actually a crazy unexamined assumption was getting women hurt. A thief who steals money isn't out for the glory of the theft. He needs cash. Remove the need, the crime stops.

(Of course, there are *other* reasons why castration might be a socially problematic treatment to deploy. But 'it won't work, because rape is a power thing' has been thoroughly debunked.)
posted by effugas at 2:48 PM on February 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


This entire post disturbed me no end. My stomach is still upset from it even now, as I type this. I'm almost shivering from it.

I want to get to a more forgiving place, to find some good in it. But I can't. The cumulative effect of reading this links is horrifying to me.

These men are deeply, deeply troubled, ESPECIALLY that last dude with the girlfriend.

Total. Creepshow.


I've never been more grateful and in awe of real women everywhere than right now.

THANK GOD that I'm not sitting in some duplex somewhere with my eight silicone dolls playing hard-on dressup, or off counting my dolls and gun collection in Shithole, VA.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:53 PM on February 22, 2009


Curiously, this thread on objectum sexuals does not mention realdolls at all. I am inclined to think there's an uncanny valley effect going on here -- being in love with Mimas or riboflavin is not as disturbing as a realdoll.
posted by oonh at 3:04 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


the "Rape isn't about sex, it's about power" argument

I don't have the energy to continue this derail much longer, but I will observe that (of course) nobody reasonable thinks that power and sex are easily separable – or, for that matter, thinks that "power" is purely cultural while "sex" is purely biological. I haven't read the Pinker thing you mention, and I'll try to take a look at it, but given his usual style of militant oversimplification, philosophical faux-naivete, and biological innatism, I don't think its conclusions would likely either surprise or convince me. That chemical castration reduces sex-crime recidivism seems unconnected to what we should think about innate vs. cultural factors, anyway; if the biological ability to maintain an erection or have a sex drive were just the necessary substrate or precondition for a totally culturally-determined (or mental-illness-driven) pathology, it seems to me, you'd expect the same result. And anyway, BaxterG4 was (it seemed to me) making a totally wrong-headed claim about what he calls "natural" male desire leading, inexorably or just potentially, to rape and violence, not about the genesis of unusual or extraordinary sexual pathologies. Again, it strikes me as bizarre that the idea that male desire is necessarily aggressive or violent should be anathema coming from feminists but just dandy when couched in evo-psych just-so stories.
posted by RogerB at 3:08 PM on February 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


They’re called “reborns”: incredibly lifelike baby dolls that sell for up to $4,000 to adult women who collect them, change their clothes, and in some ways treat them like real babies.
posted by jouke at 3:18 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


The article was clearly going for a kind of an icky JG Ballard vibe, but it was well written, I thought.
posted by empath at 3:32 PM on February 22, 2009


Vilifying the natural male sexual drive ("out of balance" as we may see it) doesn't help the problem, either for men or for their potential victims, so I'd like to instead discuss what we can do about this less-than-optimal situation we find ourselves in.

Setting aside the discussion of whether a sex drive is a male-only phenomenon, and how much of it is 'natural' and what all that means, there is something we can do about this - look at it honestly for the evidence of psychological illness that it is and stop trying to comment on it as a purely sexual phenomenon.

The men in the video are grievously alienated from society. Their interpersonal development has been thwarted. Their social skills are abysmal. They seem to have been arrested at a profoundly juvenile stage of development. All of them could use intensive therapy, and this kind of sensationalism doesn't do them any favors. They're messed up.

This isn't about sex. It's about an inability to form healthy and appropriate human attachments. I think that there's a distraction inherent in the fact that their problems are couched in the sexual realm, and are thus somewhat titillating for people to read about. We all think we're experts on sex, and many of us are invested in being seen as open-minded and kink-friendly to such a point that we become reluctant to call a spade a spade. But this isn't a kink. These guys have real problems, and I doubt anyone would care about that fact if their interpersonal problems manifested themselves in any other way (there'd be no documentary about the model airplane building, even though it largely fulfills the same needs). The fact that their problems have a sexual component makes them of interest to magazines and the BBC and MeFi.

It gets tiresome hearing about men's "needs" are thwarted by the "culture of frigidity" and other such language that's already occurred in the thread. In the film, as in life, these men often bemoan the fact that they can't draw women's attention and they aren't getting lucky. But the reasons for that are never located in the right place - sure they can't get women, but it's not due to appearance. They look fine and there are many uglier, less promising individuals who get laid all the time, get married, have families, are loved and love in return. With these guys, their personal challenges are due to their lack of individual development, to the fact that they aren't whole adults talking responsibility for their relationships with others. Almost anyone can form relationships when the obstacles to intimacy in their lives are removed through therapeutic experiences in which they are good-faith participants. But these guys are taking a shortcut so they won't have to deal with those obstacles head on.

In reality, men and women are in the same boat. We all have to learn to appropriately express our sex drives in the society we live in as we grow up. We have to learn how to have healthy relationships and how to manage the threat of intimacy so that we can gain its benefits. Some people don't manage it. Those people have emotional problems. They need additional help to be successful at building relationships within socially acceptable boundaries. These guys are those people. They're not getting that help. The dolls are making their lives feel more livable, but they aren't creating solutions that make up for the life skills they are flat-out missing.
posted by Miko at 3:40 PM on February 22, 2009 [48 favorites]


Simulated necrophilia.

Yeah. I'm gonna go ahead and judge these sick fucks.
posted by tkchrist at 3:42 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sure this documentary has been linked here before, but this is some crazy-ass shit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xrvbj2aRT1I

Excerpt from first guy interviewed (perhaps the only guy ... I got enough of a freak-fix from his interview and I didn't watch any further):

"When she first came into my life it was sex, sex, sex, sex, sex. And now it's tapered off to where it's like we're there for each other, we're always there for each other. She's an anchor to me because I know what to expect. With women, you don't really get that."
posted by jayder at 3:44 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whoops, I see the poster linked to that video. Duh.

Anyway, how do the owners get the jizz out of their RealDoll?
posted by jayder at 3:46 PM on February 22, 2009


. She's an anchor to me because I know what to expect. With women, you don't really get that.

Unpredictablitity. Lack of control. Scary.
posted by Miko at 3:49 PM on February 22, 2009


Anyway, how do the owners get the jizz out of their RealDoll?

Felching. Duh.

Simulated necrophilia...Yeah. I'm gonna go ahead and judge these sick fucks.

I kinda agree, but then...somebody else pointed out above that a lot of people masturbate with the aid of what is, essentially, a disembodied - indeed, castrated - penis, which, it could be argued, is not only necrophilia, but desecration of a corpse.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:50 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Same way you get it out of a fleshlight, I imagine.
posted by dead cousin ted at 3:51 PM on February 22, 2009


a lot of people masturbate with the aid of what is, essentially, a disembodied - indeed, castrated - penis, which, it could be argued, is not only necrophilia, but desecration of a corpse.

Yeah, it's exactly the same thing.

Come on, now. Watch that video again. If it were about women and their relationships with their cylindrical plastic dildos, would you feel better about it?

It's not the object. It's the relation of the human to the object that is the symptom of a problem.
posted by Miko at 3:53 PM on February 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't know if I would want to put that thing in the dish washer though.
posted by dead cousin ted at 3:54 PM on February 22, 2009


Yeah, it's exactly the same thing.

Fair call, I didn't watch the video.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:56 PM on February 22, 2009


It is a bit weird that the "dolls" in Dollhouse are seemingly hired out as escorts. Given the more pro-female themes of his past shows, I really wonder what Whedon is thinking.

He addresses that directly in this recent Fresh Air interview. Not in an entirely satisfying way, I don't think. See also.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:08 PM on February 22, 2009


meh. who cares. let people be who they be.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:13 PM on February 22, 2009


^that was in response to Miko, specifically.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:14 PM on February 22, 2009


Well, that would involve not gawking at them online.
posted by Miko at 4:19 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Come on, now. Watch that video again. If it were about women and their relationships with their cylindrical plastic dildos, would you feel better about it?

It's not the object. It's the relation of the human to the object that is the symptom of a problem.


I think that's a fair point, and I suppose the question to ask people who are disturbed by this, is: if somebody just kept their real doll in a cupboard, didn't anthropomorphise or bond with it as a person, and used it purely for sexual gratification, would you then view it as morally equivalent (more or less) to a vibrator/dildo? Or what if, for the sake of argument, they formed a relationship with an inanimate object that wasn't based on sex but merely companionship?

Would they both be equally as disturbing still, or would one or both suddenly become acceptable?

I'm really interested to know.
posted by Sova at 4:20 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I kinda agree, but then...somebody else pointed out above that a lot of people masturbate with the aid of what is, essentially, a disembodied - indeed, castrated - penis, which, it could be argued, is not only necrophilia, but desecration of a corpse.

That is pretty silly. All masturbation then could be said to be essentially with some castrated or disembodied body part. Even your hand.

People may spin all sorts of personal fantasy around masturbation when they use their hands or an inanimate dildo or what ever. But mostly those fantasies are imagining the being connected to the inanimate part - which is really an avatar of the imagination.

Sure there is mix of some freaky fantasies in there. But most people who settle for the dildo only require the dildo. RealDoll people need the whole doll. They need proof what they are with is entirely submissive.

When you require a whole simulated being to BE inanimate — so completely submissive materially —for your masturbation... I dunno. It's like you need to prove the object of your fantasy is 100% non-interactive. The only thing that submissive is a corpse.

I guess if these were androids that moved or something. But it's still pretty creepy. And that video? Gah.
posted by tkchrist at 4:24 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder if there are zoophiles who prefer taxidermied specimens to the real thing? If so, there must be taxidermists who specialize in "blem" repair. If the mounts are mammalian, stray hairs should be less of a problem.
posted by Tube at 4:25 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


if somebody just kept their real doll in a cupboard, didn't anthropomorphise or bond with it as a person, and used it purely for sexual gratification, would you then view it as morally equivalent (more or less) to a vibrator/dildo?

I supposed it wouldn't disturb me so much if was thought of purely as a sex toy. But how could an entire simulated human body be "just" a sex toy? There has to be something else going on there.

Or what if, for the sake of argument, they formed a relationship with an inanimate object that wasn't based on sex but merely companionship?

That would be profoundly sad in my opinion. Heart breaking really.
posted by tkchrist at 4:29 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or what if, for the sake of argument, they formed a relationship with an inanimate object that wasn't based on sex but merely companionship?


I've known of two adult men that had relationships with objects (one a Raggedy Andy doll), but both were developmentally disabled. And, yes, it was sad.
posted by Miko at 4:32 PM on February 22, 2009


But how could an entire simulated human body be "just" a sex toy? There has to be something else going on there.

Why? I don't see it. We use simulated human bodies to teach, for example, surgery. Is there some reason it can't just be about surgery?
posted by Justinian at 4:35 PM on February 22, 2009


The casual user of a real-doll, who is maybe taking a break from dating or wanting a fallback for a lonely night, will get no criticism or mockery from me. I have done less dignified things to get off when I was lonely or horny enough.

The only criticism I would have of any of those people who love their dolls, and especially the ones that love the doll because they cannot love a woman, is a concern for their well-being, not because they do naughty things to silicone Barbie shaped dolls, but because they seem simultaneously too fragile and too selfish to love a human being. And I think they would gain much from growing out of that fragility and that selfishness. We all get hurt in relationships, feel betrayed, feel used, get lied to. And we hurt people, betray people, use them, and lie to them. It is inevitable. And living through that and loving someone after that and becoming a better person and re-earning your own self respect makes you another class of human being, one that these people seem afraid they are incapable of becoming.
posted by idiopath at 4:59 PM on February 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


It's like you need to prove the object of your fantasy is 100% non-interactive. The only thing that submissive is a corpse.

I'm sure the lack of animation is a technical limitation, not a customer preference.
posted by ryanrs at 5:08 PM on February 22, 2009


For a really good (fictional) movie on the subject, you guys should take a look at Lars and the Real Girl :) The guy is nearly exactly as idiopath describes, but his growth through the movie is touching. (No squicky doll sex either, so fear not.)
posted by Bakuun at 5:37 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


The casual user of a real-doll, who is maybe taking a break from dating or wanting a fallback for a lonely night, will get no criticism or mockery from me. I have done less dignified things to get off when I was lonely or horny enough.

I am having great difficulty imagining anything less dignified than humping an overpriced mannequin, that would concievably get the job done.
posted by jonmc at 5:42 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


...although now that I think about it, how hard would it be to make a walking, talking RealDoll? She doesn't need to actually walk around, of course. Maybe all she does is twist and squirm a bit. And who among us can pass a turing test while fucking? Just give her a tape loop of appropriate noises. I'm sure there's a market for a doll that struggles and says "please mister, you're hurting me".
posted by ryanrs at 5:44 PM on February 22, 2009


ryanrs, current tech could do much better than a tape loop. Animating the face for speech is a major challenge though, possibly greater than getting it to walk around. Especially if the facial animation hardware is to be compatible with the occasional blowjob.

RealDolls are another step toward a little fantasy that has animated some SF geeks since the first robot stories, the perfect human simulacrum sex toy, which looks and acts exactly like a real human being except that it does whatever you want with no needs or wants of its own. To me the most interesting part of this was the squeamishness of the RealDoll creator himself -- no lactating dolls, no heartbeats, and so on. Those things are coming and much more. If he doesn't make them, someone else will duplicate his tech and do it.
posted by localroger at 6:04 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's weird how sweet and endearing I founds 'Lars and the Real Girl' and how profoundly creeped out I feel after reading these articles and watching the video. I mean, part of me wants to think "live and let live," these guys aren't actually hurting anyone, but dichotomy between women as objects (the "chewed up meat" comment the guy from Virginia made about women who'd been with more than one man) and objects as women ('Davecat' and 'Everhard', in particular, had the creepiest...relationships with the dolls) makes me uncomfortable.
posted by cosmic osmo at 6:04 PM on February 22, 2009


the most interesting part of this was the squeamishness of the RealDoll creator himself

He's smart to keep it vanilla. RealDolls are largely about simulating a thing you can't have. When that thing is 'a cooperative woman', it's merely creepy. But when that thing is an uncooperative woman or a real-world acquaintance or a child, then there is a risk of pitchforks and torches. Drawing the line where he does makes good business sense.
posted by ryanrs at 6:23 PM on February 22, 2009


...although now that I think about it, how hard would it be to make a walking, talking RealDoll? She doesn't need to actually walk around, of course. Maybe all she does is twist and squirm a bit. And who among us can pass a turing test while fucking? Just give her a tape loop of appropriate noises. I'm sure there's a market for a doll that struggles and says "please mister, you're hurting me".

Should be easy to combine enough a RealDoll with something like this: Why did you do that for? It's hurt.

Creepy, but easy.
posted by naoko at 7:04 PM on February 22, 2009


They’re called “reborns”: incredibly lifelike baby dolls that sell for up to $4,000 to adult women who collect them, change their clothes, and in some ways treat them like real babies.

Holy shit, those Reborns are as creepy as RealDolls. I guess it goes to show that the female maternal instinct can be just as twisted and weird as the male sex drive. I suppose it's better that these women vent their maternal urges on inanimate Reborn dolls, instead of having/adopting real babies and losing interest in then as they grow older. The situation is really quite similar to RealDolls actually, save for the fact that there's very little social stigma against women who own baby dolls.

Frankly, I think that anything that keeps real humans from being used for other people's emotional needs and urges is a good thing. Even if it is creepy; far better that a thousand people get squicked out by a lifelike facsimile, than a single real person be degraded and used as a comfort toy.
posted by PsychoKick at 7:08 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Frankly, I think that anything that keeps real humans from being used for other people's emotional needs and urges is a good thing. Even if it is creepy; far better that a thousand people get squicked out by a lifelike facsimile, than a single real person be degraded and used as a comfort toy.

It's kind of a false choice, when we don't have to have either. You could as easily argue that the availability of benign outlets in itself perpetuates and perhaps exacerbates the problem, because the stigma that might otherwise result in more aggressive attempts to refer for treatment, or even self-confrontation, is normalized and lessened. Because a product exists, the use of the product must be all right.

I'm not sure I believe that because someone has a Real Doll they will never have a violent outburst against a real woman, or, on the flip side, that they will ever use the doll as a stepping stone to real relationship skills. I'm not aware of any evidence that their availability provides any social utility.
posted by Miko at 7:20 PM on February 22, 2009


Ron Thanagar: "No "lactating dolls, urinating dolls, amputees, seven-foot tall dolls, Britney Spears replicas, "or dolls with armpit hair or heartbeats."

Now listen, we have dolls that cry, talk, walk, blink and run a temperature. We don't need any lactating/urinating/amputee/giant/hairy/chewing dolls!

This is why Hermie doesn't like to make toys.
posted by dr_dank at 7:27 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Damn, Naoko. I was mostly trolling with the "please don't hurt me" suggestion. Rule 34 strikes again.
posted by ryanrs at 7:37 PM on February 22, 2009


Miko - beautiful post, and do I detect the opinion that if these guys are severely socially damaged and need help, then they should not have the option to refuse that help and go back to their dolls?

This entire post disturbed me no end. My stomach is still upset from it even now, as I type this. I'm almost shivering from it.

Toughen up.

When you require a whole simulated being to BE inanimate — so completely submissive materially...

I'm not sure that's the point. Why wouldn't these people jump at a doll with speech recognition & synthesis, a mouth that moves, hands that grip...
posted by magic curl at 7:39 PM on February 22, 2009


I am having great difficulty imagining anything less dignified than humping an overpriced mannequin...

Humping a really cheap one.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:46 PM on February 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Do I detect the opinion that if these guys are severely socially damaged and need help, then they should not have the option to refuse that help and go back to their dolls?

Do I detect a disingenuous leading question?
posted by Miko at 8:00 PM on February 22, 2009


...and that's why I can never shop at Macy's again.
posted by ryanrs at 8:00 PM on February 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Animating the face for speech is a major challenge though

Their creepy, creepy faces.
posted by Tenuki at 8:00 PM on February 22, 2009


damn it, Miko
posted by ryanrs at 8:01 PM on February 22, 2009


Calling Real Dolls sex "partners" = I do not think that word means what you think it means.
posted by chowflap at 8:05 PM on February 22, 2009


Miko - No. Just want to know where your line of thought led, and why. I'm quite sincere.
posted by magic curl at 8:06 PM on February 22, 2009


I've never been more grateful and in awe of real women everywhere than right now.

Yeah, wow, I hate to say it dude but ratchet the Internet White Knight stuff down a notch.

I guess this is kinda disturbing if you live in a world where you believe that all people everywhere should be in possession of a certain defined set of attributes, such as a capacity for mindless socialization and a boundless love for flesh-and-blood intimacy - else there's a very real chance they are mentally ill and require "help" - but I disagree.

These people, while we may sit slack-jawed at their bizarre pronouncements or obvious affections for, yes, inanimate objects (though I doubt we'd be quite so disturbed if similar feelings were expressed for, say, the any of these or these or these) are, honestly, doing no harm to anybody but themselves and those stupid enough to remain attached to them. It just seems odd to me that so many people here seem to be shocked and unsettled by them.

Yeah, so, some guy obviously stabbed the shit out of his Real Doll and another one dislocated its jaw or something, or maybe it was the same guy, or maybe one guy got his buddy around to for a night in, but so what? You can do similar violence in video games or vicariously through films, and the only thing that troubles me about people being violent to Real Dolls is that they're busting up something they just spent a few grand on, which is just a silly thing to do.

A few days ago there was something of a furore over some videos posted to YouTube with a couple of little shits abusing a cat, and I'm not saying this is the same people because I honestly don't know or care but a few people here on MeFi were critical not of the cat abusers, but of 4chan's response to them and the subsequent to-do. "Just a cat" and "Hardly even hurt it" and "Just kids" was the gist of a few responses scattered throughout the site. That was harm to an actual living breathing sentient creature, arousing a chorus of "meh". But somebody fucks the eye socket of a silicone doll and and states that they prefer the company of an object (a bit like a computer, really) to the company of a person we fall over ourselves in outrage.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:07 PM on February 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


(For the record, I think that a man who looks on a rubber doll as a "partner" or "companion", broken in the head or not, is just a plain old moron, and frankly I'm really glad he's staying at home ordering leather g-strings online and not outside stinking up the natural aesthetic.)
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:10 PM on February 22, 2009


(For the record: four martinis at lunch. DRINK GIVES ME CRANKY COURAGE and also broken English.)
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:12 PM on February 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


…deviated preverts…
posted by oaf at 8:12 PM on February 22, 2009


Just want to know where your line of thought led, and why. I'm quite sincere.

It doesn't lead anywhere other than noting that our culture is good at some things and a lot less good at others. It's good at commodifying sexual material. The links drew attention to these guys because they, themselves, were providing a degree of fascination in that their problems have something to do with sex. I wanted to point out that their problems are not really sexual in nature.

This is the status quo and is happening. I'm in no position to tell them whether to get help or continue with the dolls or whatever. I am, however, in a position to note that the only reason this discussion is happening is that their problems have a sexual dimension, which makes the subject matter titillating enough for magazines and websites and documentaries.

Our culture is not always so good at bringing up men with a full, healthy integration of sexuality, individuality, and intimacy. For the record, it's not so hot at doing so for women, either.

So here we have an instance where people who have been developmentally shortchanged are commodified for our entertainment, even as they take part in the commodification of simulated sexual partners, because we're good at commodification. At the same time, they're in a world that has offered them little support thus far, and less to be hoped for, because we're not as good at interpersonal support for healthy intimacy.

Would I like to see the culture change? Yes. Would I like it if people like this and many others had much lower barriers to access to therapy so that they could have real relationships? Absolutely. Beyond that, I'm not prescribing anything.
posted by Miko at 8:21 PM on February 22, 2009 [12 favorites]


Really well put Miko.

I do find this attitude of "well if it stops him from doing this to a real woman it's OK" really strange. It's like having your cake and eating it, you get to judge the person on the basis of broadly accepted criteria of what it means to have healthy relationships but you also get to condone a lifetime of alienation and isolation. I mean despite the momentary release I don't buy that these people are happy with the choices they've made that led them to this situation and it's patronising to pretend that it's satisfying in anyway beyond the novelty of long tail simulations.
posted by doobiedoo at 9:13 PM on February 22, 2009


It's kind of a false choice, when we don't have to have either.

I disagree entirely. I don't think we're ever going to eliminate the sad fact that humans regularly emotionally degrade and use other humans. It's inevitable as long as humans have emotions and independent desires.

You could as easily argue that the availability of benign outlets in itself perpetuates and perhaps exacerbates the problem, because the stigma that might otherwise result in more aggressive attempts to refer for treatment, or even self-confrontation, is normalized and lessened. Because a product exists, the use of the product must be all right.

By that logic, providing insulin shots perpetuates and exacerbates diabetes, because insulin shots mean that there's less pressure to actually find a permanent cure. Or that providing condoms in schools perpetuates and exacerbates underage sex, because the stigma that might otherwise result is lessened.

It's fine to desire a perfect solution, but don't let it get in the way of implementing merely serviceable ones in the meantime.

I'm not sure I believe that because someone has a Real Doll they will never have a violent outburst against a real woman, or, on the flip side, that they will ever use the doll as a stepping stone to real relationship skills.

And if that is true, what of it? It just means that a user of RealDolls or RealBorns is no more or less "broken" as humans generally are, because people in real relationships with real people/children are often abusive or otherwise (and we have all of human history as relevant data).

I'm not aware of any evidence that their availability provides any social utility.

These widely available dolls seem to be a recent development, so of course there's going to be a lack of evidence on whether or not they provide any social utility. I'm just taking an educated guess; at worst I guess that they're just creepy but harmless, and at best they might actually decrease emotional abuse.

But more importantly, what of it? Even if turns out that they provide no social utility, there are plenty of socially useless things already, including some real relationships.
posted by PsychoKick at 9:13 PM on February 22, 2009


I don't think calling these people "sick" or "perverted" or "deviated" is constructive and makes assumptions about these people that may or may not be true (i.e. only interested in a completely submissive partner, simulated necrophilia, etc.)

I do agree that there are some serious issues with socialization, with self esteem, with shyness, etc.

But the mind is a powerful thing, and therapy isn't a magic pill like in the movies - it can be literally a lifetime of work and struggling and introspection (and also a bit of luck) to pull yourself out of that hole of self-inadequacy - and that's only if you have the drive, patience and determination to follow through - and people who are down on themselves typically don't have the positive experiences to motivate them - it's a never-ending cycle or failure.

So what to do? Here is an outlet that gives these people a chance to be happy. It might not be agreeable to us, but so what? Really, who cares?

Why are we judging them? The only thing we should be doing is expressing our gratitude to God or to whoever we believe in or to our neural connections being what they are, that we don't have to experience the agony that they do.

It might not be the most healthy thing to do for these men, but what is worse:

1) Denying yourself a relationship, thereby hurting yourself emotionally?
2) Having the relationship, fulfilling your emotional needs but hurting yourself developmentally?

Emotional pain is horrible - look at the market for anti-depressants. Therapy is hard work and not 100% certain. Life is short. Go for the doll. Be happy. Without happiness, life is hell
posted by bitteroldman at 9:21 PM on February 22, 2009


It's inevitable as long as humans have emotions and independent desires.

No, it's not inevitable.

I'm just taking an educated guess;


Actually,it's just a plain guess, not an educated one. Without any evidence at all to bring to bear, we really have no way of telling whether the availability of a doll increases, decreases, or has no impact on sexual violence or the formation of healthy sexual relationships.

there are plenty of socially useless things already, including some real relationships.

I'm not arguing with that point. But I'm also not in support of celebrating the doll relationships as normal, healthy, or unremarkable. They're at best harmless, and at worst strong evidence of underperforming human relationships.
posted by Miko at 9:26 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


And if that is true, what of it? It just means that a user of RealDolls or RealBorns is no more or less "broken" as humans generally are, because people in real relationships with real people/children are often abusive or otherwise (and we have all of human history as relevant data).

The difference is that someone living in a simulated relationship never gets to go through the difficult consequences of their behaviour, whether this is clinging to grief or abusing a partner. The more you sanction regressive behaviour in the name of private welfare and securing the population's safety the more autistic and fucked up a society becomes.

By your logic the civil liberties movement was simply a mistake of technology, given advanced enough simulations we could simply replace the problems of being with the appearance of an infinitely cooperative world. I agree that human degradation is ineradicable, but I disagree that removing the source from common contact and replacing its focus with a surrogate object is helpful to anyone except those supplying surrogates.
posted by doobiedoo at 9:27 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Quick thought experiment, a friend of yours is going through a tough patch emotionally and relationally, they start experimenting with Real Dolls. A year later they're still at it. What do you do?

Is it still preferably to be happy than to deal with the personal difficulties? Is it good for them to avoid the necessary confrontations and problems? And if not, is it good for anyone to do so?
posted by doobiedoo at 9:32 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


~ I think that's a fair point, and I suppose the question to ask people who are disturbed by this, is: if somebody just kept their real doll in a cupboard, didn't anthropomorphise or bond with it as a person, and used it purely for sexual gratification, would you then view it as morally equivalent (more or less) to a vibrator/dildo? Or what if, for the sake of argument, they formed a relationship with an inanimate object that wasn't based on sex but merely companionship?

In the linked .pdf article, one of the people interviewed explicitly does this. He refuses to allow the reporter to refer to the doll as "her," only "it," and he doesn't say he "has sex with" it, he says he "masturbates."

Personally, yes, I find that to be much less disturbing. He still spent 7 grand on a thing to help him jack-off better, he still dresses it up and plays out little fantasies with it, both of which push it beyond a fair comparison to a dildo, but it isn't on par with naming the things, dressing them, and sitting them at the dinner table. Or taking them in the car with you when you go out. Or "introducing" them to real people in your life. Or calling women "organic women" to imply that synthetic woman isn't an oxymoron.

They have those mechanical-penetrating-sex-table things that have to cost several thousands of dollars, and that seems to me to be roughly equivalent to a Real Doll as strictly sex-toy. Weird, unusual, but not batshit.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:32 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's like having your cake and eating it, you get to judge the person on the basis of broadly accepted criteria of what it means to have healthy relationships but you also get to condone a lifetime of alienation and isolation.

Well, what's the alternative? I don't understand the choices these people make, but I sure as shit understand that it's none of my business when they're not hurting anyone. I don't know them. I'm not in any position to comment on what they really need out of life. Maybe what they really need is to be left alone to fuck their life-size Barbie doll. It seems like a strange need to have, but I have to entertain the possibility. The problem, if there is one, is with people who look at one dimension of someone's life and think they know the whole story. That's not intolerance, it's just downright blinkered.
posted by Ritchie at 9:33 PM on February 22, 2009


Emotional pain is horrible - look at the market for anti-depressants. Therapy is hard work and not 100% certain. Life is short. Go for the doll. Be happy. Without happiness, life is hell

Sounds so fine! But remember, we have not seen a complete picture. We saw some men and, in one case, a girfriend. The first subject of the film refers to condemnation from his father, with whom he lives, and who hates the doll. But that's all we hear about him. Don't you think there's a lot more to this story? There are two parents in that picture, but we don't get to meet them. We aren't invited to explore the guy's interactions with his parents or their opinions about his relationship. It doesn't sound like his relationship with the doll is integrated with his family relationships in a peaceful way. Is that happiness? How many hours of happiness with the doll does it take to pay for unhappiness with the family - time edited out, or unexplored, by the documentary?

What about work? Do these guys have jobs? Some of them do, apparently. What are their work relationships like? Fulfilling? Can they go out to dinner with co-workers, and invite their SO? Is their home life a secret from co-workers? Can they show their photos of their dolls to their co-workers?

What does it feel like to lose your new, real girlfriend after you decide to share your relationships with 8 Real Dolls with her? How many real girlfriends are you willing to lose to this? How happy does it make you? How happy is it to realize that yes, maybe she's not "the right girl" if she can't handle your relationships with 8 Real Dolls, but that there may not be any real human girl that can handle it? Or if there is, that you don't want to be with them?

How happy is it to understand that the more you want to indulge in your fantasy relationship with an inanimate object, the less the world is willing to treat you as a normal, acceptable human being? How happy is it to have to tell yourself that real women will never, ever accept you, but the dolls have no choice?

These men verbalize this, and more.

Do you really think this is happiness? Do you really think 'happiness' is possible within these bounds?
posted by Miko at 9:35 PM on February 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


[a friend starts] experimenting with Real Dolls. A year later they're still at it. What do you do?

Not bother giving the lawn mower back, for starters, since I stopped answering their calls six months ago.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:37 PM on February 22, 2009


You could almost be talking about homosexuality for a bit there, Miko.
posted by ODiV at 9:41 PM on February 22, 2009


You could almost be talking about homosexuality for a bit there, Miko.

Except I'm not, and comparing relationships with inanimate dolls to relationships with gay human beings is probably not an avenue of argument you're going to want to continue down.

Si-chan is a girl who Davecat thinks he could never meet. “If I were to go to a bar and try some pick up lines, the chances of coming home with someone are highly unlikely,” he speculates. “No real woman seems to think I’m good enough for them.”
***
Aside from Sidore, Davecat has never officially dated anyone. One foray into
romance several years ago, with a female friend, ended in disaster when he discovered
that she was “a raging psychopathic liar.”... He compares his interaction with women to a bodily reaction, something overwhich he has no control. “People who are allergic to roses can enjoy artificial roses. In the same way, artificial women serve the same purpose for men who are, in whateverway, allergic to real women.”
**
When I ask him how having Ginger and Kelly has affected his life -- if perhaps he
feels more confident -- he writes, “I don’t like being around people at all now…the less
human contact I have the happier I am. Yes, I do feel more confident. I realized not
long after I got Ginger that I don’t really need anybody….I feel safer and more secure
knowing that I will Never waste my time and money on another human female that just
wants to use me.”
***
Relationships have eluded Everhard. “You see boys and girls walking around
together, but how they get together is a huge mystery to me,” he says. The details of
boy-meets-girl are a “closed book” to Everhard. “I just want to know how does it
happen?” he asks. He’s not the kind of man who can strike up conversations with
women, and he’s also, he’s noticed, not someone who can contribute equally in
conversations in groups....He says he’s driven to impress women, but
he’s a failure at it, and since he’s had his dolls, he worries less about not having a real
girlfriend. He told me that he could almost imagine how conflict in human-to-human
relationships might actually make for a more enriching experience, but that doll love is
less hassle because dolls don’t have needs beyond those that he imagines.
***
He asked me if I could make him a silicone dog, because he was a breeder, and
he didn’t want to hurt his dogs anymore, he said


All from the linked PDF.

Happy!
posted by Miko at 9:59 PM on February 22, 2009


I'm not trying to argue anything. It was just a thought that struck me. Mostly after reading these paragraphs:

What about work? Do these guys have jobs? Some of them do, apparently. What are their work relationships like? Fulfilling? Can they go out to dinner with co-workers, and invite their SO? Is their home life a secret from co-workers? Can they show their photos of their dolls to their co-workers?
...
How happy is it to understand that the more you want to indulge in your fantasy relationship with an inanimate object, the less the world is willing to treat you as a normal, acceptable human being? How happy is it to have to tell yourself that real women will never, ever accept you, but the dolls have no choice?


How sad is it that you could replace 'inanimate object' or 'doll' or whatever with 'same sex partner' and these sentences would still make sense? Just reminded me how far we have to go in that department and I thought I'd comment on it.
posted by ODiV at 10:09 PM on February 22, 2009


I'm not aware of any evidence that their availability provides any social utility.

Well, we can say the same thing about any sex toy, but I doubt you, or society more broadly, would be so critical of vibrators.
posted by rodgerd at 10:10 PM on February 22, 2009


Do you really think this is happiness? Do you really think 'happiness' is possible within these bounds?'

Agreed, it's not "wholesome" happiness. And it's not the ideal way to live one's life. But I am not the happiness judge, nor is anyone on this planet.

My point is that given the limited number of years that we have to live, the other responsibilities that we have to deal with, and the profound impact sex and relationships have on our psyche, then a relationship with an inanimate object might do more benefit than harm. Maybe if there was a reasonably effective solution for socialization deficiencies would I then agree that these dolls are a bad thing, but I'm not convinced that a "cure" exists.

I also agree with you - in that we do not see the entire picture - perhaps I am just as mistaken to immediately sympathize with these folks just as others immediately condemn them. I just think that sympathy is much more constructive than condemnation.

That being said, I am definitely biased (No I don't have RealDoll): I've met people who chose being happy over doing "what's right", as well as people who chose to do "what's right" over making themselves happy. In my limited experience, the happy people come out on top, in that the people who forgo happiness become regretful, miserable, killjoys (myself included), so I'll admit, I'll always enthusiastically cheer for the "whatever makes you happy" team.
posted by bitteroldman at 10:18 PM on February 22, 2009


I read this thread, then watched the movie, then read the article, then read the PDF. I didn't have a disgusted or concerned or grossed out reaction; file under: some people get off on some crazy shit. I understand that it must be shocking to see a guy who apparently acts out a torture fantasy on a doll and I think that it's Fiero's right to refuse him repeated service. Based on the (granted, repetitive) information and interviews in the links, that guy does seem to be more of an outlier. I see in the PDF that one doctor was concerned about this guy rehearsing his fantasy, but again, the availability of the RealDoll can't really be enabling him that much more than anything else he could concoct or get his hands on. I also think McMullen drew some interesting boundaries for what is okay and what isn't, and he gets to make that call. Good for him. I wouldn't want to contemplate where I draw the line between what kind of simulated sex is okay and what isn't.

These guys have a variety of reasons for purchasing the dolls and their relationships with the dolls vary just as much as everyone's sex life varies. It's sex, it's love, it's marriage, it's a hobby, it's companionship, and/or it's masturbation. I don't understand it any more than I personally understand foot fetishes or gang bangs or erotic asphyxiation. I understand sex toys, though. There have been 4,000 dolls sold (right?); whether it's the cost or the taboo or just not knowing the option, not that many people seem to be participating, but I'd be willing to bet more people would give it a shot if the cost wasn't so steep. It's interesting and I'm glad a few people have taken the time to ask about it. I'm glad those guys shared. (And thanks Grrlscout for the links!) They aren't all normal, typical, mainstream people. They seem to have some problems, some more than others. But I don't think they're gross or deviant or broken just for having the dolls, and I think it's a shame that some people do.
posted by juliplease at 10:39 PM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


(note: I'm replying to multiple posts, but I'm not putting in names because I want to focus on discrete ideas, not the posters. Apologies for any confusion.)

But the mind is a powerful thing, and therapy isn't a magic pill like in the movies

This this, a billion times this. Even more so given that so many we deem maladjusted are utterly determined to not be "fixed" in the first place. Therapy doesn't work when the patient simply does not want to "get well".

By your logic the civil liberties movement was simply a mistake of technology, given advanced enough simulations we could simply replace the problems of being with the appearance of an infinitely cooperative world.

Guess what, that sums up our current situation pretty nicely. Racism, sexism, and all those other nasty tribalistic instincts are still very much alive and well in people's minds and hearts. We just made it unacceptable to actually act on them in our shared spaces, unacceptable to invoke their appearance and public manifestation. It would be nice to be completely rid of those instincts, but I'm not willing to compromise the most basic civil right of them all, the right to one's own thoughts and mind.

I agree that human degradation is ineradicable, but I disagree that removing the source from common contact and replacing its focus with a surrogate object is helpful to anyone except those supplying surrogates.

It's immediately helpful to those who were being abused and degraded, the "focus".

They have those mechanical-penetrating-sex-table things that have to cost several thousands of dollars, and that seems to me to be roughly equivalent to a Real Doll as strictly sex-toy. Weird, unusual, but not batshit.

Those sex toys are called sybians.
posted by PsychoKick at 10:50 PM on February 22, 2009


Thanks, PsychoKick, I knew it was something like that, but I didn't want to try Googling it.

I finally read the second half of the .pdf, and it left me with one big question: who is buying a sex doll, second hand, on eBay? Seriously, wtf is that? And the article makes it sound like there is heavy traffic for this? I sure don't want to look that up, either, but isn't it a whole lot like sharing a condom somebody else already used?
posted by paisley henosis at 11:01 PM on February 22, 2009


Couple of points:

(1) I don't think that we can definitely say that forming an emotional attachment to an object is always a bad thing. Think about Paro robots, for instance. Apparently, doing occupational therapy with a Paro has been shown to have positive effects on general social functioning, at least for some seniors. (Previous link is to an abstract-- unfortunately I can't access the actual paper.) Other than the squick factor, what's the difference between a Paro and a RealDoll?

(2) At the same time, I think the assumption that Real Doll is a harmless vent for violent sexual impulses is problematic at best. For me, this harkens back to the pornography debate. Many hours have been spent and much ink has been spilled over the question of whether pornography could reduce harm by providing potential abusers with catharsis, or whether it would stimulate people who viewed it to additional acts of abuse. I've got a desk full of o-chem homework right now, so I can't really rehash and document the entire debate here. If you're unfamilar with the debate and interested in dipping your toes in, google "catharsis model" and "imitation model." If recollection serves, many interesting findings were made (for instance, in one study perpetrators of domestic violence tended to view more pornography than members of a control group) but ultimately, there has been no decisive victory for either side. Opponents of the catharsis model do note that, while the internet has increased availability of pornography, we have not seen a corresponding dip in sex crime.

All this is to say-- while I personally find the idea of having-- er-- congress with a silicone doll to be seriously, seriously blechy-- I just plain don't know enough to condemn these guys for it. Nor do I feel like I know enough to give them an enthusiastic pat on the back.

Some of the quotes in the article do kind of remind me of certain men I've known-- friends, friends of friends-- most of whom I met when I was young and in the SCA. They were courtly, sometimes even effusive-- but they could never, ever stop relating to me as a woman-- and for them, "a woman," was a capricious, inexplicable being who had the power to, at any time, bestow the life-giving gift of sex-- but who probably never would. These folks were prone to moodiness and anger, especially once you got to know them. I remember one of these guys telling me that the reason he couldn't get a girlfriend was because he was "too nice." The vitriol with which he discussed his "niceness" freaked me out more than a little.

He downloaded a lot of soft-core porn, that one-- though often it was so that he could Photoshop superhero suits onto the models. He also had a truckload of stuffed animals. I'm trying now to imagine him with a Real Doll-- would it help, allow him practice and roleplay, to build confidence? I'm not sure. Would having a top-of-the-line latex girlfriend to cuddle up with at night make him feel less reflexively angry at the attractive women he met in his day-to-day life? Maybe. If it didn't also crystallize his identification of himself as a sexual outsider, and an unloveable failure.

The executive summary of this overlong comment, I guess, would be that this is a complicated issue. I don't feel at all comfortable with the way man of the men in the articles and the video seem to conceive of women. At the same time, the Real Dolls seem to be a source of genuine comfort to them-- and unless Real Dolls are shown, conclusively, to contribute to cause tangible harm, I don't think I could, in good faith, argue that these men shouldn't have them.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:15 PM on February 22, 2009 [8 favorites]


there'd be no documentary about the model airplane building, even though it largely fulfills the same needs

Wow. That puts my office co-worker's radio-controlled aircraft obsession in a whole new perspective. And it makes sense.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:50 PM on February 22, 2009


Oh, they should certainly have their dolls. But they should not expect us to treat it as normative sexual behaviour. There's a damaged freakiness to it all. It's one of those things best kept a private matter. No one wants to hear about your masturbation device. We are not going to think it's a girlfriend. TMI.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:04 AM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do you really think this is happiness? Do you really think 'happiness' is possible within these bounds?

Despite the ick factor some of us experience, one is hard placed to deny that — whatever happiness is — these individuals are happier than they would be if said toys never existed. If it is harmless, then why should we begrudge them any modest happiness?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:29 AM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, I don't know about that - maybe if they didn't have the dolls, they'd have done something about their lack of ability to relate to women by now. Maybe they'd have jumped on AskMe and posted a question about how they could get better at talking to women, or how they could keep a relationship going once the honeymoon was over. Other people manage to ask for help, and the internet makes it even easier these days to find out what you need to know. And if they did work on trying to fix whatever problem they have, maybe they'd be happier than they are masturbating with a replica of the real thing.
posted by harriet vane at 1:07 AM on February 23, 2009


Oh, they should certainly have their dolls. But they should not expect us to treat it as normative sexual behaviour.

Double-edged sword, isn't it? If your sexual behaviour occupies the thick part of the bell curve, then talking about it is bragging. If it's in the thin portion, it's a sad little freakshow.
posted by Ritchie at 1:10 AM on February 23, 2009


Well, I don't know about that - maybe if they didn't have the dolls, they'd have done something about their lack of ability to relate to women by now. Maybe they'd have jumped on AskMe and posted a question about how they could get better at talking to women, or how they could keep a relationship going once the honeymoon was over. Other people manage to ask for help, and the internet makes it even easier these days to find out what you need to know. And if they did work on trying to fix whatever problem they have, maybe they'd be happier than they are masturbating with a replica of the real thing.

Oh dear, let's try taking the doll out of the equation and replacing it something else, say, celibacy. We end up with basically "These celibates are just ignorant of the possibilities. Maybe if it was more difficult to be celibate, they would be forced to pursue normal relationships and automatically be happier!" Somehow, I don't think such bullying tactics are a good way to change abnormal people into "normal" people... to say nothing of the presumption that normalcy will fit well on people who have already displayed such a clear preference for the abnormal.

Besides, who's to say that they haven't already tried multiple times to have normal relationships? Given the huge pricetag and even huger social stigma involved with owning these dolls, more likely the owners have already tried everything they could to be normal, before finally buying the freaky things.

I'm all for having good relationships with real people, but I don't think making these guys more miserable is a going to convince them otherwise. And some people just aren't cut out for normal relationships.
posted by PsychoKick at 3:03 AM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Real Dolls are so 20th century.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:34 AM on February 23, 2009


PsychoKick, what bullying tactics? I'm not suggesting that these dolls be taken back from their owners and never be produced again. I'm just questioning the idea that they necessarily make their owners happier. As Miko pointed out earlier, it's not really obvious how it actually produces happiness for them. Meeting one need in your life doesn't mean that everything is fine - and it can cut off other avenues for meeting your other needs. You're still thinking of it as a problem related to sex, but I don't think it's a kink we're talking about here.
posted by harriet vane at 6:21 AM on February 23, 2009


These folks were prone to moodiness and anger, especially once you got to know them. I remember one of these guys telling me that the reason he couldn't get a girlfriend was because he was "too nice." The vitriol with which he discussed his "niceness" freaked me out more than a little.

This is one of the most terrifying things to deal with as a day to day interaction with some of my male friends. I don't thing artificial aids, be they visual, or tactile make one bit of difference either way, just like cultures that swathe their women in fabric and make their male relatives their gate keepers don't see a rise in positive attitudes towards woman. The craving isn't even for the sex, it's that their validation of self worth is tied up in their capacity to get some.

Personally I've gotten into the habit of calling guys on the 'nice' tirade, but every time I hear it I don't feel safe around them anymore, because as a woman I feel like if they got the wrong idea they'd hurt me, or try to.
posted by Phalene at 7:23 AM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ritchie,
Well, what's the alternative? I don't understand the choices these people make, but I sure as shit understand that it's none of my business when they're not hurting anyone. I don't know them. I'm not in any position to comment on what they really need out of life. Maybe what they really need is to be left alone to fuck their life-size Barbie doll. It seems like a strange need to have, but I have to entertain the possibility. The problem, if there is one, is with people who look at one dimension of someone's life and think they know the whole story. That's not intolerance, it's just downright blinkered.

Let's be clear, there is no way to approach this issue without judgement. What is "Maybe what they really need is to be left alone to fuck their life size Barbies" but a judgement that for some people an inanimate object is good enough? And what is that but the most condescending judgement of what a person deserves (putting aside their capabilities) emotionally?


palmcorder,
I don't think that we can definitely say that forming an emotional attachment to an object is always a bad thing. Think about Paro robots, for instance...Other than the squick factor, what's the difference between a Paro and a RealDoll?

You're right there is no difference, it's another surrogate simulation of a set of relationships, this time of filial love and commitment, which we had previously taken for granted but which are now easier to outsource to private industries and manage economically than to provide socially and secure politically. It's far from unambiguously positive, it just replays the same dynamics of the Real Doll dilemma exchanging the seedy tragedies of lonely men with the comic tragedies of old age.

I guess the confusion is the sense of inevitability that both situations carry, there will always be people who fail to pick up, in varying degrees, the necessary social skills for full human relationships (to the extent that the absence of dysfunction is outright suspect) whether this is romantically or familial. The moral question of whether they deserve these relationships when weighed up against whatever personal responsibilities or mitigating circumstances is then suspended in favour of a technical solution, simulations managed by markets, which does nothing to resolve the moral problem only to defer it to another level, from a private problem amongst the particular parties to a social problem of condescendingly approved outcasts.

The confusion is to think that the problem of loneliness can be solved with technological fudges, rather than dealt with morally and socially before getting to the market of simulations, the question isn't how much harm does it absorb and how real can these dolls get, it's

"[a friend starts] experimenting with Real Dolls. A year later they're still at it. What do you do?"

Not bother giving the lawn mower back, for starters, since I stopped answering their calls six months ago.

(turgid dahlia)

should you have answered that call?
posted by doobiedoo at 7:49 AM on February 23, 2009


will be putting my simulated soap box away for a week now
posted by doobiedoo at 7:56 AM on February 23, 2009


I just think that sympathy is much more constructive than condemnation.

I want to be very clear that my discussion here is not aimed at condemning these men. The opposite. I've been arguing that the most appropriate response to this behavior is concern and compassion. There's a tendency to default to either "point and laugh at the sex freak" or "this is just another sexual kink," and I don't believe that either of those are compassionate responses. I think both are shallow viewpoints, and both identify the behavior as a sexual one, when it's not.

I'll always enthusiastically cheer for the "whatever makes you happy" team.

I don't accept any charge that I'm anti-happiness. I'm pro-happiness. But I must point out that repeatedly, the men describe feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, rejection, not belonging, frustration, and alienation. I think that no matter how you conceive of this behavior, you have to take into account that while it may produce comfort and pleasure, it doesn't seem to preclude overall unhappiness. These men seem to be suffering.

Whether these particular men could or should be helped in therapy is beyond my scope. If they came to AskMe about the issue, I'd be among those that recommended it. But that's a personal matter. It's up to the men, and their friends and family members who are affected by their behavior, to figure out if there's anything to be done to improve their relationships and emotional health. I'm a strong believer in the idea that you can't force help on anyone who doesn't want it, and wouldn't want to try. But I don't think it does anyone any favors to pretend that this behavior isn't problematic. It may be that they don't want to address the problem, but that doesn't make the problem nonexistent.

A lot of people have underedeveloped emotional literacy and interpersonal skills. It's a shame; it's kind of tragic, but it's fairly common. Here in this thread we have examples, and every day on AskMe we have examples. Many of us have relatively mild problems with intimacy or are somewhere along the maturation process of learning how to get what we need from others in appropriate ways, take care of our own needs, and give to others when they have needs, in appropriate ways. That is all part of the normal development of a human being.

Some people have encountered greater challenges and obstacles to intimacy than the majority have encountered. And some of them have found a comforting refuge from those problems in relationships with dolls. I think a compassionate stance toward those people has to take in the fact that their emotional development has not proceeded normally and their present choices may be preventing their further growth and perpetuating the conditions of their own admitted unhappiness. Of course whether they choose to do anything about that is up to them, but it would really great if they encountered a sympathetic message of understanding, and knowledgeable resources aimed at helping reduce intimacy problems, at least as often as they they encounter leering documentarians and magazine writers.

For people viewing the stories, who aren't in a position to help, we can at least avoid leering. And at most, we can recognize that emotional health is a social good, and that healthy patterns of intimacy and relationship building are the things that knit people together in a society for mutual benefit, protection from harm, and progress toward shared aims. So it's in all of our interest to get better at intimacy and connection, and in our society, we could do better at providing structures and support for healthy emotional development. When families don't do it, our pop culture and marketplace are not ideally suited to pick up the job.
posted by Miko at 8:06 AM on February 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


I want to be very clear that my discussion here is not aimed at condemning these men...

I don't accept any charge that I'm anti-happiness. I'm pro-happiness...


I hope you didn't read my comments as a direct response to the comments that you gave previously! And I apologize if I didn't make this clear (it was late and I was tired!)

To be more clear, I pretty much agree with everything you say! I think you are very kind and compassionate, and greatly value the contributions you make to all threads!

My disappointment is specifically with the various posts upthread by the various people who have made condascending remarks.

And I don't for one second think that you are anti-happiness - in fact, I don't think that anyone here is trying to say that these men do not deserve to be happy (at least I hope not!). It's just that happiness is subjective - what makes me happy and fulfilled might not be the same for anyone else, and while it might not be healthy in some respects, it prevents further breakdown in another way.

Men married to dolls is not society's only ill and it is far from being the worst. There are plenty of things that we do to alienate ourselves from society and to damage our mental health, and which have more profound moral implications: drugs, gambling, work addiction, internet addiction, criminality - but if someone were to post about a guy who sees his job, for example, as his relationship, or prefers Second-Life girlfriends to the real-life ones, I doubt there would be the level of cruelty and snark that I have seen in these posts.
posted by bitteroldman at 8:41 AM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I see a lot of speculation about the mental state of the men involved with Realdolls, and what their relationships to them actually entail. But what I'm not seeing is any actual clinical data about the psychological state of these people, just sensationalized "reporting". I wonder if anyone's actually done a real study of these people?

In any case, if you think the situation is controversial now, wait until Project Aiko gets fully realized. Though the inventor claims she's not intended as a sex doll, think about realdolls that can talk and respond to their owner, take care of minor household tasks, walk, maybe even dress themselves. And as AI and materials research continues, they become more lifelike, and better able to anticipate what their owner wants....

Now think about a man who is able to completely shut himself away from society, except for his collection of realdoll servants. He could work and do necesarry communication through the internet and over the phone, or maybe his advanced dolls could do that for him.

Is it a classic SF scenario, or a Japanese "Maid" anime? Or something from this role-playing game?
posted by happyroach at 10:11 AM on February 23, 2009


I think the thing that bugs me so very much about this is that Real Dolls are, quite literally, the ultimate objectification of women. As has been pointed out up-thread, RDs are vastly different from more conventional sex toys because the latter are used just to get off when you're alone and/or enhance your sex play when you're not. I'd wager that very, very few people have dinner with their dildos, introduce their dildos to their family, and/or otherwise anthropomorphize their dildos, regardless of how life-like the veins are or whatever.

Real Dolls, on the other hand, indulge the repugnant but long-lived idea that women are objects to be used for a man's pleasure*, without complaint or concern from the woman. As a society we're getting better at turning away from this way of thinking, but to me a Real Doll is a step backwards, a lurid (and expensive) endorsement of the concept of woman as chattel.

It's fucked up. Period.

* Yes, I know they make male RDs. Yes, I'm sure there are female customers. I'm speaking to the majority of the clientele.
posted by shiu mai baby at 10:22 AM on February 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now think about a man who is able to completely shut himself away from society,

I think the thing that bugs me so very much about this is that Real Dolls are, quite literally, the ultimate objectification of women


Yeah, I think that can all go off into some pretting chilling directions - and that's why I think more of our attention could be devoted to getting better at nurturing real human relationships, from birth onward, and assisting people in building a healthy capacity for intimacy, better than we collectively do now. It's not about the availability of a product, it's about alienated people for whom the complex reality of other human beings is too challenging and fearful, who can only muster enough courage for relationships in which they have utter and total control at all times. I'd rather work to dramatically reduce the number of people in that condition than focus on the nature of the products available to them, which will undoubtedly get more sophisticated.
posted by Miko at 11:24 AM on February 23, 2009


Lipstick Thespian: I live in the same town as this guy. Imagine how I feel...
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:59 AM on February 23, 2009


But I must point out that repeatedly, the men describe feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, rejection, not belonging, frustration, and alienation.

They describe those feelings in context of the happiness they now experience. You are applying your valuation and meaning of belonging as the "correct" experience that they should share, and you accordingly evaluate defects in them for not sharing your valuation of societal norms.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:07 PM on February 23, 2009


(regarding so-called "nice guys")

The craving isn't even for the sex, it's that their validation of self worth is tied up in their capacity to get some.

I don't think that's just a "nice guy" problem. Society in general looks harshly on those who don't succeed in the mating game, and even more so on those that refuse to play. We even romanticize it with sentiments like "Better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all." Can't help but think that idea's responsible for more than a few miserable marriages and abusive relationships.
posted by PsychoKick at 12:18 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Real Dolls, on the other hand, indulge the repugnant but long-lived idea that women are objects to be used for a man's pleasure...

Well, possibly they reinforce it for those men, but I'm not convinced that society as a whole is looking at a few yards of funny-smelling pink silicone and going "hey, yeah, this is just what women used to be like, way back when - those sure were the days!"
posted by turgid dahlia at 12:48 PM on February 23, 2009


"Now think about a man who is able to completely shut himself away from society, except for his collection of realdoll servants. He could work and do necesarry communication through the internet and over the phone, or maybe his advanced dolls could do that for him."

*imagining just about every conservative blogger*

Threads like this remind me that (1) social gender roles can deeply fuck up men's minds, and when they do, (2) people generally tend lean to the "this person is a barfy sicko/potential criminal to be shunned" side of possible reactions.

Now I'll go before the DollNet terminators arrive from the future on a mission to kill Miko.
posted by fleacircus at 1:03 PM on February 23, 2009


Personally, I find the idea of sleeping with a RealDoll icky. But I would be curious to know to what extent its male purchasers are predisposed to violent sex crimes against females, and if that "expectation" on my part actually has little basis in fact? I wonder how much of my ickiness comes from my prejudice that they will hurt women if they don't seek sexual release with these toys. I wonder, on that basis, if there are parallels between myself and with bigots who believe gays and lesbians innately wish to abuse children? Perhaps there are interesting questions people can ask themselves based on their reactions to those who use these toys.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:00 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


the same arguments being made against these dolls can be made against drugs, antidepressants, methadone, needle exchange, television, the internet and virtually everything else "unnatural" that we see as substituting for healthy relationships or getting in the way of psychological change in a way that makes us uncomfortable. and yes, they squick me personally.

but it seems to me that the truth is-- as with all of those other things--there are situations in which the dolls may be substituting for real interaction that could exist with work on the part of the guys and situations in which the guys-- for whatever reasons-- will never be capable of genuine relationships.

so, it's harm reduction redux: when is the "best the enemy of the good" and when is enabling someone to be artificially happy better than keeping him genuinely miserable? is it ok for us to use things that make us slightly happy when not using them would make us suffer some pain and then become amazingly happy? how can you tell the difference between those situations and who decides?

it's clearly the case that some people are severely impaired relationally-- whether because of things like asperger's syndrome or because they were severely abused/neglected or whatever. Many such people can get better with therapy or simply with life and with support. Some can't. For those who can't, well, it's icky to the rest of us, but if real dolls work for them and they aren't hurting anyone, why not?

ideally, it would be better to encourage such people to try to improve their real life relationships and to try to help them find ways of realizing that the reason they aren't doing so well with real women has to do with their own issues, not with issues that are wrong with every woman in the world. but this won't always work, even if the men in question do really try to get better. and so...

btw, for the poster who noted the argument over whether porn increases sex crimes, in fact, the rise of internet porn does seem to be linked with a *decrease* in sex crimes, but there are so many other simultaneous changes and measurement issues that it's hard to know if this means anything.
posted by Maias at 3:10 PM on February 23, 2009


Let's be clear, there is no way to approach this issue without judgement. What is "Maybe what they really need is to be left alone to fuck their life size Barbies" but a judgement that for some people an inanimate object is good enough? And what is that but the most condescending judgement of what a person deserves (putting aside their capabilities) emotionally?

Well, let me lay it out for you. I don't pity these people. I don't feel one way or the other about them. How could I? I don't know anything about them other than this one thing they do, and the reasons they claim for doing it.

What I do feel is a sense of awe at how lost human beings manage to navigate themselves to some kind of equilibrium that sustains them over the long term. The method by which these men have achieved that equilibrium is, I grant, weird and possibly offensive. But there's no evidence that it's harmful.

Do these men experience some tension in their lives in the maintenance of that equilibrium? I'm sure they do. But they've proved themselves able to manage it. The product of that tension is, after all, their happiness.

In short: leave 'em alone. They're doing fine. If they wanted help they'd ask for it.
posted by Ritchie at 3:29 PM on February 23, 2009


Jackie Treehorn, man, treats objects like women.

Some genetically engineered thing I saw in ‘Transmetropolitan’ comes to mind: suck dog.

“Do they make male RealDolls? and if so, could I have one made in my own image so I can engage in my ultimate narcissistic sexual fanatsies?”

Hnh. Someone’d probably send me one so I could go do what people tell me to do all the time.

“As for the men "abusing" the dolls, I couldn't care less. They are objects, like a toaster or a mailbox. They don't have feelings.”

A bit ago I took out a printer that broke and spilled ink on me and gave it beating a’la’ “Office Space.” Oh, uh, I didn’t take it out of the office. Just flipped out, cursed the thing out, bloodied my hands a bit (calloused knuckles) but pretty much pulverized the printer.
Same day, someone spilled coffee on me. They were very apologetic, asked if it hurt, I said it did, but “Ah, these things happen.”
There are vast differences between objects and humans and no amount of fantasy can abrogate that - either way.

I’ve been attached to cars, ships, and places and tools, but ultimately those emotions are only about what those things symbolize - the experience with them. Most of that experience is about being with other humans.
Not judge anyone here. Nothing wrong with some fantasy.

But if it comes down to, say, my kids or the house I grew up in - I’d like to keep the house, but if my family isn’t comfortable there - hell, it’s just a house.
There is no’thing’ more important than people.

I don’t get the custom work guy saying he won’t do seven foot tall dolls or Britney Spears or armpit hair - wha?
Or even, really, a dog - so?
It’s his perogative to make or not whatever he wishes. Guy could only make Wilma Flintstone if that’s what he wants, it’s his business.
But who cares really? Howzabout a grey alien? Or some fictional creature? If it keeps someone from harming an animal or person, why not?
(Sex and violence have always been very separate in me. Like oil and water. Maybe it’s because I’ve made a study of violence. Perhaps it’s my nature. Dunno.)

“The dolls are making their lives feel more livable, but they aren't creating solutions that make up for the life skills they are flat-out missing”

Solid. But where does one get those skills? I’m only half-facetious here. On the one hand one could go to a therapist or something. On the other - wouldn’t that be in part an admission to needing growth and change?
There are plenty of men who visit hookers, some of them married. They’re pretty dysfunctional as well.
I imagine someone would rather have their partner masterbating with a fantasy toy than risking disease and other such things by hiring a pro or having an affair.

I’ve got a pretty healthy and happy sex life, but I’m not about to take any of that for granted.

People seek change, in part, because other people evoke the need for change within them. I am a better man thanks to my wife. And she is one of the reasons I get up in the morning and give a shit about the world.
Some folks haven’t found that. And I can’t blame them. It’s a cold world, but it doesn’t have to be. People make it that way.

Why does it have to have any social utility at all? I mostly like to eat fruit if I want something sweet but on rare occasion but I like going out for a brownie, maybe with a little ice cream. It’s not good for me, but it’s tasty. Who is anyone to deny someone else some pleasure if it’s not going to harm anyone else?

"[a friend starts] experimenting with Real Dolls. A year later they're still at it. What do you do?"

Why do I know about it?
Y’know, no one talks about their sex lives like this. Or at least, no one wants to hear about it.* I can show pics of my wife at work, but I’m not going to show the two of us having sex.
Where the sex doll departs from sex - there, I think, is where it starts to get off the rails. Starts. It’s sort of a misuse of the object as its intended pleasure.
If, f’rinstance, I took the brownie a la mode and shoved it in my ass, that’d be a misuse of it as well. Even though no one would object to my right to buy the brownie a la mode.

And yet, this is a bit more complex when it gets to ‘proper’ use of a Real Doll (e.g. ‘companion’) where it fully leaves the rails.
Y’know, religion is a crutch too. Sometimes people need crutches or prosthesis if they’re missing something.

*In mind is something someone said a bit ago concerning homosexual sex (which disgusts me) - it’s none of my business. I do people the courtesy of not laying my squeemishness about them having sex on them - whether it’s two men, two very obese people, etc. etc. It’s none of my business judging their relationship on the basis of what gets them off. Some guy has a foot fetish and likes sticking his wife’s stinky feet in his nose - none of my damn business.
If it crosses into unwelcome territory, different story. I wouldn’t tolerate dinner guests having sex in my bathroom during dinner no matter what they were into.
With the real doll thing - I dunno, it’s a sex toy to me. I’d probably not let someone cart it over to the house.
A lot of people masterbate on cam to cam as well. None of my business and I’m not going to tell them to get a life. At least, not because they spend all their time jerking off on cam.
If they’re alone, I’ll introduce them to people. But one thing has little to do with the other -- at least from the outside.

And that’s our own little pretense/ fantasy where we pretend mom and dad don’t have sex, and gramps doesn’t jerk off and the ugly neighbors’ interest in ‘X’ shaped carpentry in their spare room had got nothing to do with their penchant for covering everything in leather and our nerdy buddy just uses the webcam to talk to his folks in another city, etc. etc. and we just look at it from a “you need to get out more” perspective.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:41 PM on February 23, 2009


And that future AI sexdoll thing - that’s gonna happen. Way too much money to be made for it not to.
Maybe - maybe, it will refine human relationships and rekindle our desire for intimacy linked with sex. Dunno. On a broad enough scale, if all your goofy sex dreams are realized, at some point you want simple human contact.
At worst at least those with those traits for introversion that deep won’t breed.
But hell, look, we’re all here communicating. I don’t believe a robot - even a perfect AI - could fill that need.
And really, in a lot of cases sex is as simple as breathing. You just need that intimacy. And it’s that which seems to be in short supply in our culture. So many things divide us. Not just socially, but physically. And indeed, some by design exactly so they can exploit that need and sell sell sell.

But what concerns me more is roboticising war, the isolation from the carnage and easy emotional detatchment that will bring.
Just sit comfortably at home and push a button and kill all of their pigs and all of their sheep and all of their chickens - all of them, gone for good.
It’s not the AI and terminators eradicating us we’d have to worry about. It’s those psychopaths living in their fantasy world.
But hell, that’s been going on for a while now. Just look at the Bush administration.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:50 PM on February 23, 2009


The thing is that 99% of people want to be actively wanted by another person, sexually or otherwise, and this is something that no amount of synthetic humanity or artificial intelligence can possibly fulfill. You can't program desire into a robot or a doll and simultaneously believe they really want you, unless you're crazy. The suspension of disbelief that has to occur in the RealDoll owner for him to enjoy his "partner's" "companionship" qualifies him as mentally ill to me.
posted by desjardins at 4:23 PM on February 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tenuki: "Their creepy, creepy faces."

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH
posted by subbes at 4:45 PM on February 23, 2009


For all the hype around them, 4000 units sold is pretty disappointing number.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 6:05 AM on February 24, 2009


Dude: 4,000 units at a minimum of $5,000 a pop = $20 million. That ain't exactly small taters.
posted by shiu mai baby at 6:11 AM on February 24, 2009


The dollars are pretty hardcore, but 4000 concurrent users within a 6 billion member system is pretty irrelevant.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 6:43 AM on February 24, 2009


Right, but the vast majority of the 6 billion people on the planet either aren't interested and/or lack the means to afford such a luxury item. Reduce your sample size to the people who have the means and the inclination, and you have a much more impressive sales figure.
posted by shiu mai baby at 6:58 AM on February 24, 2009


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