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A Synthetic Love Affair

The perception of owning a sex doll depends on the social scripts, be it the feminist or the patriarchal narrative, to which a gender adheres. With eons of control over a female's sexuality, the feminist woman of today regains her power by embarking upon a journey that involves stocking up on dildos, vibrators, wands, suction toys, anal beads, butt plugs, so on and so forth.

Whereas, the purchase of a sex toy or a doll by the masculine product of centuries worth of ingrained patriarchy, is often ridiculed as less than a man as he was unable to procure a woman to cater to his pleasure.

Masturbation is more acceptable by the culture when the subject in question is a male, whereas it is condemned for a woman to take on the responsibility of self-pleasure. However, when it boils down to the usage of a toy or a doll, the roles are reversed. Women are being encouraged and empowered to own their own orgasms, and rightfully so, as they were denied of them for centuries. While for men, its a direct hit on their ego, on their masculine energy as they were unsuccessful in recruiting a woman for this job. This narrative further takes shot at a man's sexual impotence, as either no one wants to fuck him or he just can't get hard, and can do so only in the presence of a doll.

This stems from the ideology that

  1. A woman's purpose in a patriarchal establishment is to pleasure the man in every manner thinkable, and it is clearly visible in fetishes and kinks harbored by this toxic masculinity.

  2. The masculinity possessed by a man depends on how many women he can procure to kneel down and give him head or the number of women he can fuck.

Let's dive in a bit.

Agalmatophilia, a sexual attraction to dolls, statues or mannequins, isn't a fairly new fetish. Its earliest records date back to the Roman poet Ovid's (43 BC- 17 AD) depiction of a sculptor, Pygmalion, who was known to abhor women so much so that he often referenced them as malicious. It so happens that Pygmalion had vowed to never get married, and yet he set out to sculpt his idea of the Perfect Woman on ivory. He did fall in love, immensely with his ivory-cast woman that he even beseeched the Gods to breathe life into her. Aphrodite, taking pity on this man, did grant his wish.

To Pygmalion, the ideal woman was mute, possessed the perfect shape, supple breasts, narrow waist and a peached butt, and always was willing to cater to his erotic desires. I am yet to come across the second half of the story that addresses how Pygmalion evolved to tolerate the opinions and ideologies that came with his now-alive ideal woman.

The Pygmalion mentality is often paralleled in modern adaptations in movies, books and songs, depicting the classic male's ideal woman: My Fair Lady, The Stepford Wives, Pretty Woman, Miss Congeniality, and for my Indian audience, every Bollywood depiction of the Aadarsh Sanskari Bhartiya Nari.

I believe that the cultural acceptability of sexually assisted devices depend on the anthropomorphic characteristics possessed by these devices. Dildos have been around for centuries. In 2009, in France, a 36,000-year-old a penile carved bison horn was excavated, and named the Blanchard Phallus. The Kamasutra and other erotic texts from India, mention gold dildos being gifted to brides and wives just before the husband heads out to war, so as to prioritize her pleasure during the separation.

So it isn't any sexually assisted device but the humanistic characteristics of dolls that make it to the front page. It is the misogynistic gaze that objectify and degrade women to the level of sex objects and the discomfort and disgusted responses by the objectified that calls for a deep analysis.

Psychologist and sexologist Iwan Bloch linked the fantasies of necrophilia to "how Pygmalionists flocked to brothels to masturbate over young women posed as statues". In his exposé on the Parisian brothels, Les Maisons de Tolérance (1892), he references an elderly man who visited the brothel every week to worship the statues of Greek Goddesses for a 100 francs.

This particular kink was further depicted in La Femme Endormie (1899) where the character of Paul Molaus, had sworn of romance but still craved sex. His justifications for owning the doll was that "it will always be compliant and silent, no matter how lewd the act I chose to perform."

To add to the list of examples, the story of Homunculus in Les Détraqués de Paris, René Schwaeblé introduces the reader to Doctor P's explanation for building artificial women was that "with my dolls there is never any blackmail, jealousy, argument or illness... They are always ready, always compliant, no blackmail, no scenes of jealousy, no arguments, no discomfort! They are always ready, always docile."

Early sexologists wrote of the similarities between sexual experiences of doll-owners and necrophilia. There were unsettling records of dead women being turned into dolls for the male's pleasure.

An English dentist, Martin van Butchell had mourned the death of his wife by having her embalmed and dressed in an expensive gown, and propping her up at the window of his dental practice to be gawked by the public, a pay-per-view enterprise.

The famous French courtesan, La Païva, who was once referred to as the Queen of kept women, was also embalmed and kept in the attic by her last husband, Count Henckel von Donnersmarck, his second wife completely unaware of her husband's memento stashed upstairs.

Sexualizing women took a highly commercialized route with Barbie, which was based on the German cartoon character, Bild Lilli from Bild-Zeitung, Lilli was described as a high-class call girl. Soon she was immortalized as the "saucy, novelty doll", and often gifted to men on bachelor parties, dangled from the rear-view mirrors of cars or even gifted to girlfriends as a "suggestive keepsake."

In 1956, on a holiday in Switzerland, Ruth Handler's 15-year old daughter, Barbie, fell in love with the Lilli dolls and bought three to which, in three years, Handler rebranded and unveiled the first Barbie doll at the International Toy Fair in New York.

As long as there is misogynistic mindset with respect to the role of women, there will always be a market for sex dolls, be it the vinyl, latex or even the silicone version. Of course, even Harmony 3.0, the leading sex robot in the industry, created by the Californian company, Realbotix, is yet to develop a human touch and a human-like intimacy. These toys are a novelty, however they are yet to ask us how our day was and generate a genuine connection.

Yet, we have people like the Kazakhstan-based bodybuilder, marrying sex robots.

Will robots eventually replace humans as potential sex and life partners? Would you subscribe for the Synthetic Love Affair?


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