Today in my women's studies class we watched a short clip about Realdolls (website NSFW). The clip looked to be a few years old, and was mostly just the manufacturers (a husband and wife team) illustrating the process of making a Realdoll, as well as talking about the possible reasons someone would want to buy a Realdoll. The other part was interviews with a Realdoll owner and footage of a woman buying a Realdoll as a birthday gift for her male partner, and them playing with it together.
This was interesting because, while I've seen other documentaries about Realdolls before, this was the first time I'd seen Realdolls used in the context of a couple. The company founder mused that some of his customers were couples that wanted to try threesomes but were to afraid to find an actual third person, so shelled out $6000 for a doll instead. That seemed to be what was going on with the couple featured.
That logic... kinda made sense to me? I mean, I get that people can be very nervous about nonmonogamy, but six grand? The potential emotional costs seem much more affordable than that! I suppose I'm kind of biased in my views, being 1) already practiced in nonmonogamy, and 2) not in a position to spend $6000 on anything, but I mean, come on. You could hire a sex worker for less than that, and you get the added bonus of being with a human being who can respond to you.
Still, this clip actually made me feel less creeped out about Realdolls than I normally am. I think it's because they were pretty firm on keeping the line between the dolls and real people; the guy they interviewed didn't have sex with his doll - he masturbated using his doll, and only had sex with his long-distance girlfriend. The creator mentions that many of his customers order the dolls because they specifically have a fetish for silicone and/or dolls; it is the fact that they are not human that is appealing. This I can also understand; I have my own kinks, such as for (non-anthropomorphic) fucking machines, and the whole point is, indeed, that it's not a human giving me pleasure.
And yet... I read the testimonials on the web site:
They have a "presence"; they are soft, sweet, cuddly, endearing, sexy, and more. I have several faces and several wigs for mine. That in combination with a wide variety of wardrobes allows me to be with any fantasy girl I desire!!!! So very liberating!! I can have a HOT dominatrix, a sweet innocent girl next door, a cute shopoholic who loves the clubs at night! A sweet fairy. A rich girl who only wants the best. A hot business woman, hot Bikini babe!!... the list is endless!!!!
Abyss gave me this doll, the closest thing to my ideal female beauty I have. This one will even allow me to kiss and hug her, to even have sex with her.
I read some of the feedback and I get a decidedly icky vibe. Like, these guys aren't pleased that real women won't cater to their desires, so they'll get an inanimate woman-object that they can have complete control over. Oh hey, feminist alarms going off there. The lines between woman and object are blurred more on the site, too; the clothing, which is ostensibly for the dolls, is modeled by real women, and they make Realdolls that are replicas of adult film stars. Inanimate objects become human being with personalities, and living, breathing humans are reduced to sex toys. And when I say "humans," I of course mean women; they do offer male Realdolls, but they are obviously not the focus of either the company or the clientele. Color me surprised. Except not.
However, while browsing the site, I noticed you could get a Realdoll with elf ears and/or unnaturally colored skin (e.g. bright blue or green). I actually thought that was cool. I even thought it might be fun to play with a doll like that; I do enjoy mixing sci-fi and fantasy with sex.
I suppose, beyond the feminist critique, my reaction boils down to my viscerally negative reaction to too-humanlike sex toys of any kind, which is probably because they fall right into the uncanny valley. Flesh-colored, veiny dongs freak me out just as much as the disembodied women's torsos that one can buy, and while blue pointy-eared Realdolls are kind of awesome, a realistic one is just gross. Why would I want to have sex with a severed limb? Or a corpse? Not to mention that, for me, there is a strict dichotomy between sex (involving other people) and masturbation (not involving other people), and realistic sex toys like Realdolls blur that distinction too much for me.
I guess I'll just keep my fire-engine-red-with-sculpted-flames-on-the-tip dildo, thanks!