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The amazing history of sex doll-Part1

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The story of Pygmalion goeslike this: A sculptor carves a statue in the shape of a beautiful woman. It’sso beautiful that he falls in love with her, prays that she could become real,has his wish granted, and lives happily ever after. The tale has been reimaginedcountless times since its initial publication as part of Ovid’s epic poemMetamorphoses in 8 A.D.Pinocchio, Frankenstein, My Fair Lady, and 90s makeovermovie She’s All That all have their origins in that myth.But Pygmalion’s true modern heir might be Davecat, a man who lives insoutheastern Michigan with three high-end sex dolls. His first purchase, whichhe named Sidore Kuroneko, he considers his wife; the other two—named Elena andMuriel—are just intimate friends. Though he didn’t sculpt them, they are hiscreations. He designed their bodies before they were manufactured and theirpersonalities after they arrived. “There was never a moment when [Sidore]—orany doll, for that matter—was merely an object to me,” he told me when we spokelast year.

Pygmalion and Galatea Jean-Léon Gérôme)1890;cr.wikimedia

Though Davecat may be one of the most visible modern sex doll owners—with anactive blog and appearances in articles, documentaries, and TV spots—he’s part ofa community called iDollators. These owners of high-end, anatomically correctdolls use them for sex, love, art, and companionship.If Pygmalion lived in today’s world, none of this would be too foreign to him.In Ovid’s original story, there is some implication that the sculptor was notonly in love with the statue but that he had sex with it before it came tolife, according to The Erotic Doll, a book by Dr. Marquard Smith, the head ofdoctoral studies and the research leader at the Royal College of Art’s Schoolof Humanities. Other tales of statue-love can be found throughout classicalantiquity. For example, the Greek rhetorician Athenaeus wrote of a man who hada physical love affair with a statue of Cupid. In a somewhat more recentexample, a gardener was reportedly found attempting to get it on with a replicaof the Venus de Milo in 1877.

Oil painting Pygmalion image credit: Wikipedia, Jean-Baptiste Regnault words

Throughout history, men without access to beautiful statues—but with an inclination to make love to wome-shaped things-have made do in various ways. Sailors often used cloth to fashion fornicatory dolls known as dame devoyage in French, or dama de viaje in Spanish. In modern-day Japan, sex dollsare sometimes known as “Dutch wives”-a reference to the hand-sewn leathermasturbation puppets made by the 17th-century Dutch sailors who traded with the Japanese.

Though sailors’ dolls were just generic substitutes for the female form—anyfemale form—there are some instances of men creating dolls as stand-ins forspecific women. In 1916, after the Austro-Hungarian artist Oskar Kokoschka was jilted by his lover, the pianist and composer Alma Mahler, he wrote that he had “lost all desire to go through the ordeal of love again.” (This is a refrain that doll owners have repeated through the ages.) He still desired Mahler,though, so much so that he provided her dressmaker with incredibly detailed instructions for a life-sized replica of Mahler, specifying not only her appearance but everything down to how her skin should feel. Historians differ on what happened after Kokoschka received the doll. One thing is for sure—it was extremely furry, covered in “skin” more reminiscent of a plush stuffedanimal than a human woman. One account says he was “enraptured” by it all the same; others say he was disappointed. He made several drawings of it, and,according to some reports, eventually destroyed it at a party, either burning it or burying it in his garden. In 1877, a gardener wasreportedly found attempting to have sex with a replica of the Venus de Milo.But the most public prelude to the modern sex doll was the mannequin-based artcreated by Surrealists like Man Ray and Salvador Dalí. A work called “MannequinStreet,” featured at the Exposition International du Surréalisme at the Galeriedes Beaux-Arts in 1938, included 16 mannequins outfitted by different artists,while Dalí’s “Rainy Taxi” centered on a female mannequin whose half-undressedbody was crawling with live snails. Man Ray once claimed that the Surrealistsnot only infused these works with eroticism but personally “violated” their mannequins.

A persistent urban legendholds that Adolf Hitler charged one of his SS commanders to design sex dollsfor German soldiers during World War II, to prevent them from slaking theirlust with non-Aryan women. Whether or not this is true, the commercial sex dolldoes find its origins in Germany. The Bild Lilli doll—invented inthe 1950s and modeled on a sexy, outspoken comic-strip character called Lilli—was an 11.5 inch plastic model, not a penetrable sex doll. In his bookThe Sex Doll: A History, Anthony Ferguson calls the Bild Lilli “a pornographiccaricature.” Although it was marketed to adult men, the doll is widely cited asthe inspiration for Barbie, so, you know, take that and run with it. Custom-designed heads are mounted on a display at the realistic sex doll showroom inSan Marcos, California. (AP) In the United States, sexdolls were first advertised in porn magazines around 1968, when it became legalto sell sexual devices through the mail. By the 1980s, they could be found inmost sex shops—though they were the inflatable kind, more suited to be gaggifts at a frat party than to actually withstand sex with a person. “Most ofthe attention and craftsmanship was focused on the penetration areas, themouth, vagina and the anus,” Ferguson writes, but “the inflatable can onlysupport a certain amount of weight or repeat usage before the seams in thematerial deteriorate.”

The realism and utility of sex dolls took a giant leap forward in the late 90s,when artist Matt McCullen started working on a lifelike silicone female mannequin and documenting its progress on his website. Before long, hebegan getting emails asking if it was … anatomically correct. At the time, it wasn’t. But the demand was there, and so McCullen provided the supply. Hence,the eerily lifelike Real Doll was born. After shock jock Howard Stern got hold of one and seemingly had sex with it on his radio show, McCullen’s company grew quickly, and he now sells anywhere from 200 to 300 high-end customizable sexdolls per year.Most of McCullen’s dolls are female; he makes a small number of male ones, but there are fewer options for customizing them, and they account for just 10percent of his sales. “As an artist, I was always drawn to the female form, so that’s what my subject matter was,” McCullen says. “The female form was my muse.” He insists that actual women have nothing to fear from his dolls.”Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Do I think the dolls will replace women or threaten to replace women? Absolutely not.”

Two female sex dolls wait to be shipped as an employee puts thefinishing touches on a male doll. The company’s founder, Matt McCullen, saysfemale dolls account for 90 percent of his sales. (AP)Throughout history—from Pygmalion and his marble bride to Oskar Kokoschka andhis fuzzy companion—the creators and users of sex dolls have beenoverwhelmingly, if not exclusively, straight men. “In the content analysis Idid of magazines and books, I don’t think any of [the examples] involvedwomen,” says Cynthia Ann Moya, vice-president of the erotica Book Gallery, who wrote her Ph.D. dissertation at theInstitute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco on artificialvaginas and sex dolls from the late 19th century through the 1980s. “This isnot to say that it never happened. But the mythologies that people tell eachother about these sex dolls all involved men.” The twin questions this raises are: “Why aren’t more women using sex dolls?”and “Why are so many men drawn to them?”

Some answers are purely practical. For instance, only 25 percent of women can consistently orgasm from vaginal sex alone, which makes a doll far from the most efficient sex toy. Also, when it comes to Real Dolls and their ilk,everyone I spoke with told me how heavy they are. (Female Real Dolls weigh between 75 and 115 pounds.) Some mentioned it sheepishly, others matter-of-factly, but there was a general consensus that the dolls are difficult for many women to move around.

Most feminists, however, probably aren’t objecting because they’re worried about entering into a beauty competition with the dolls. Complaints about objectification centered on men who treat women as objects—disregarding their agency or feelings and viewing them as mere tools to be used for selfish ends.Sex dolls are objects; they’re also, critically, objects you can own. And these objects you can own are shaped, almost all of the time, like women.