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Guys and Dolls

Sometimes your opinions on something are so complicated that it’s impossible to come to any kind of definite conclusion. Instead of falling on one side – or even just off the centre – of an argument you find yourself circling the middle of an issue, looping around it like a moth round a desk lamp.


Sex dolls provide such an issue for me.

I started thinking about them because marketing maven and all-round good egg Emma Podmore asked me to. Sextoys.co.uk has some new ones available, so it seemed the right time to consider the subject. You can go on and take their survey on sex dolls right now, if you like. It’s got feckin’ loads of page views, so people must have some views on the subject. Go on, do that survey. Don’t worry, I shall wait.

Welcome back. Although I respect and admire sextoys.co.uk and the selection of delightful smut they engagingly and inclusively peddle, I don’t think that many people would disagree with me when I say that the average sex doll is a poor representation of an actual woman, at best. I’m not referring to the lack of an incisive mind or compassionate spirit here either, I’m talking about the fact that they generally look like a crayon drawing done by a sexually bewildered twelve-year-old boy.

Perhaps you’ve been tragically short-sighted all your life and you’re unaware of how women actually look.

If we were talking Jude Law as robo-prostitute Gigolo Joe then I might understand the appeal, but most sex dolls are less Jude Law and more… well, balloon animals with tits. This naturally brings up the question of why, from a physical perspective, people might want to have coitus with one, but that question actually doesn’t interest me. Different strokes for different folks etc. Perhaps you like the smell of inflated plastic. Perhaps you’ve been tragically short-sighted all your life and you’re unaware of how women actually look.

It’s easy to be cruel because the sex dolls are so unlike actual women. But this is changing, in a variety of ways. Something like this is much closer to what a woman actually looks like – at least those parts – and one could argue that, from a masturbatory perspective, this is where the action is. It’s… handy, I guess. Portable too.

So, having potentially mastered the synthetic vagina, sex toy developers move outwards, literally fleshing in the rest of the package, and here lies the problem.

The objectification of women is a pervasive and pernicious thing. It doesn’t do anyone any favours, not even men, really. It’s one of the key factors in making sex so complicated and socially ambivalent. So as a fairly hawkish – and admittedly cynical – feminist, the literal objectification of women raises all kinds of trouble. There’s something immediately troubling about sex dolls being a passive, fuckable simulation of women. There’s also something weird about making sure the vagina and arsehole are photo-correct and then leaving the rest to look like a melted novelty candle, but maybe that’s just me.

This clashes sharply with the laissez faire, laissuz fuck attitude I normally bring to The Vibe. And I have to admit, although the issue is problematic, it really comes down to the separation between fantasy and reality, the real and the constructed.

It’s undeniable that the way we interact affects the way we think. Part of the reason that sexism is so insidious is that we’re taught to be sexist without ever realising it. Our day-to-day lives reinforce negative standards and images, often without our knowledge, and sometimes even being aware of the process does not entirely negate the effect. The reason why sex dolls seem difficult for me is that I’m aware that creating a fake woman to be your own easy-storable fuckbot might affect how you view and treat actual women.

The counter argument to this – and it’s not a bad one, I suppose – is that I’m simply incorrect, and that when people buy a sex doll, they aren’t looking for a perfect copy of a woman (except without all that boring talking and thinking stuff). They’re looking for a doll to have sex with. They’re looking for a representation of certain aspects, not a simulation of the real deal.

This might explain why it doesn’t matter that they don’t look like real people. You aren’t looking for real people, you’re looking for a fleshlight with hips.

Knowing a sex doll isn’t a real woman is important. But what’s crucial is knowing that real women aren’t sex dolls.

The separation of the real and the represented is an important issue in our society. Every time I make the argument that violent video games do not lead to school shootings, I’m mirroring the ones that say sex dolls don’t contribute to misogyny. And, if it’s true, then it’s a good enough argument for me. It fits nicely into my ‘different strokes’ general mentality.

It goes both ways, too, and I guess this is the important part. Knowing a sex doll isn’t a real woman is important. But what’s crucial is knowing that real women aren’t sex dolls. If you have a healthy and educated view of other people, you’re highly unlikely to mistake the two in any context.

So provided it doesn’t affect how you treat people in your day-to-day life, I guess I’m OK with sex dolls. And writing that sentence I realise that you could replace ‘sex dolls’ with almost any other sexual practice and have it be true for me. When it comes to the real vs fantasy debate, what you want to believe is far more important that any unconscious effect an action might have. If you tell yourself that sex dolls are nothing like real women, then you’ll keep that view regardless of how realistic they look. And in that case… go for it, I guess. But I might wait until they’ve ironed out some of design flaws. I’ve got the idea of a robotic Jude Law in my head, and I’m not going to settle for less.

What do you think? Am I way off the mark, dead on or, as I suspect, circling feebly around it? Chuck a comment in if you have an opinion, I’d be really interested. I’d also like the opinion of someone like Girl On The Net, who both thinks about sex with a greater degree of sophistication than I and is – I can only assume – in possession of a non-synthetic vagina of her own. Laydeez: your opinion on sex dolls? What if Gigolo Joe was a real thing, would you go for that?

I mean, dibs, obviously.

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