A friend passed on this article today: A (Straight, Male) History of Sex Dolls and I think it’s worth a post.
Female-bodied folks use toys to get off: vibrators, butt plugs, dildos, nipple clamps… there is even the Sybian rider (aka the fuck machine) and a Hitachi attachment for the Sawz-all. There’s some intense stuff out there, all to help women feel good and get off, with or without the help of a partner. Male-bodied folks use toys too, and they have a similar range of intensity. There are various kinds of masturbation sleeves and ass/prostate toys and synthetic vaginas and mouths and asses, among many others. And, there are dolls.
And like the article mentions, both men and women buy and use dolls, and 10% of the market is male dolls. However, this leaves the vast majority of dolls female, as well as the vast majority of buyers and users male.
My main question:
Do sex dolls objectify people, and women in particular (since the majority of dolls are female)?
Do sex toys in general distance people from human interaction?
Do sex dolls, toys, and other sexual aids (I’m thinking here of simulated child porn) help or hurt sexual health, equality, and consent?
I think toys in general are awesome. Like birth control, they help people own their sexuality and sexual health, taking responsibility for pleasure and sexual satisfaction. They also are awesome to use with partners and expand a couple or group’s sense of sexual variety, exploration, and intelligence. They aid in personal and relationship awareness, communication, and growth. And for that, I am all for toys.
Are people who own sex dolls patriarchal misogynists with an inability to connect to real people? Or are they simply acting on a kink in a safe way?
I think, with most things, there is probably a spectrum of folks out there using dolls, for a variety of reasons that I would and would not agree with.
For sure, I would rather see someone who gets off on violence against women acting on those desires with a doll than a real person. Similarly, I would rather see a pedophile masturbate to simulated child porn than assault a child.
I also think that dolls are probably a great aid for people who are isolated or have disabilities that make sex with a person difficult or impossible.
And, like several interviewees in the article, there are obviously folks who truly seem to enjoy sex dolls purely because they are dolls. In this way, it just comes across as a kink.
I think the rub comes for me when someone who doesn’t typically or superficially ascribe to patriarchal ideas, like ownership over women’s bodies, uses a doll because of how that relationship could shape that person’s beliefs and attitudes about women in general. Could owning a doll and having sex with it and not having to relate to the doll in ways that one would with another person influence how the doll-owner later interacts and treats women?
And how is a man having sex with a doll different than a woman getting off from a cock-like dildo? I think the difference for me is that doll-owners reportedly “have sex with” their dolls; I’m not sure if I would ever say I had “sex with” my dildo. I got off, I masturbated, I came. But I didn’t have sex with it. The relational aspect of doll ownership and doll sex, and the ownership itself, is what is thought-provoking and potentially concerning.
I don’t have as strong of an opinion as the article’s author does; I don’t think sex dolls are anti-feminist or immediately objectify and degrade women. Having sex with inanimate objects that resemble women has a long history, and a certain population’s desire for that doesn’t seem likely to go away. Having a healthy outlet for that desire should be available to people, although I feel as cautious about look-alike dolls as I do about simulated child porn. And really, I think my caution has more to do with the fact that it’s difficult to acknowledge that people have desires that create discomfort for me: it’s difficult to acknowledge that people are attracted to inanimate objects and children and even more difficult to say that people with those desires deserve healthy outlets, not only so they don’t hurt people but so they too can have sexually healthy lives.