Japanese Love Dolls – Taboo?
Popular j-blogger, haikyoist, adventurer, photographer and linguist, gakuranman guest writes the following article where he explores Japan’s love doll industry and the social stigma surrounding it.
Love Dolls, Sex Dolls, Blow-up Dolls. These are all commonly-used terms to refer to what are essentially mannequins, albeit extremely lifelike and realistic. They tend to be used for primarily sexual purposes, and as such have been stigmatised as ‘masturbation tools’ for people who are socially inept or as ‘unnatural and unhealthy’. But is that the whole picture? For some, it would seem that love dolls are the only way of providing companionship. In this guest post for loneleeplanet, I’ll be taking a closer look at love dolls, their owners and challenging the social stigma surrounding them.
In Japan, love dolls are referred to as ラブドール (love doll), or the more interesting variant of ダッチワイフ (Dutch Wife). Why call them Dutch Wives? I discovered a site that might have found the answer. According to Gizmodo:
‘Dutch Wife’ describes a rattan bolster used in hot, humid countries to keep a sleeper’s limbs suspended away from their sticky sheets, ‘called thus because it was round, fat and just lay there.’
As one of the responses says:
When a Dutch man was stationed in a country (I forgot which) in Southeast Asia a long time ago, he found that it was so hot even at night that he could hardly sleep. One day in one way or another, he found that it felt cool and he could go into sleep when he hugged a bamboo pillow which was woven with thin strips of bamboo and was empty inside just as a bamboo trash box. He ordered his servants to make a larger one so that it could fit his large body. This big bamboo pillow became to be known as a Dutch Wife, and, somehow it became to refer to a sexy rubber doll in Japan.
So there you have it! Never has there been a better reason to grab-hold and cuddle-up! Next: What types of love doll are there?
Really real RealDoll
America’s answer to an inanimate partner. Realdoll manufacture lifelike silicone dolls, offering both female and male variants (although at the time of writing it appears that they are working on a new male doll) as well as having interchangeable parts and recently ‘comic-style’ faces, which I can only assume is due to the rising popularity of manga and anime in the West. Here are a few sample pictures from RealDoll’s website:
My sweet Candy Girl
One of the more well-known love dolls in Japan is the ‘Candy Girl’, an upgradable doll sold by Orient Industries and other shops like Kanojo Toys. A standard doll might cost something in the region of $7000, placing it in the same market niche as America’s ‘RealDoll’. Just like the RealDolls, they are extremely realistic and sometimes almost indistinguishable from real human beings. An extremely interesting article on Orient Industries and how they are trying to appeal not to ‘Otaku’ or maniacs but to healthy adults, can be found over at JapanToday. Take a look at a few of the sample pictures from Orient Industries’ website:
Sex Dolls, Love Dolls – a social taboo?
At first the likely reaction to seeing one of these dolls is shock, followed by disgust and the thought ‘Who would own such a thing??‘. While it’s arguably true that resulting to using products like this is not the ‘natural’ thing to do, I think it bears important questions as to whether or not it is wrong for people to use dolls as a substitute for real human contact. If you were placed in a situation where you had the choice of a doll for companionship or nothing at all, which would you choose?
For some people, it seems this is reality. In the television programme ‘Guys and Dolls’ (linked at the bottom of this post), we see fascinating insights into the secret worlds of several males who own love dolls and we hear their personal reasons and thoughts for owning them. Everard from Dorset, England, for example, had his wife pass away after a long illness. Consider his thoughts on owning a love doll:
She just lies there; they’re very static. They just don’t react at all. But if you don’t mind that, they’re good fun. They’re certainly better than going without any female company at all.
I think it’s this business that we – some of us, anyway – don’t really know how to cope when somebody dies. When your mother dies, particularly, it doesn’t seem to quite make sense. She’d probably have preferred it if I’d had a real woman but uh, I think she’d rather I have RealDolls than I remain completely without any female company at all. Because they, the dolls, have improved my quality of life immensely really. Heh…
As Everard talks in the programme, his face bears a burden and he seems to space out, as if remembering things in the past. Here’s another owner’s views on owning a doll:
When she first came into my life it was sex, sex, sex, sex, and now it’s just tapered off to where it’s just like we’re there for each other; we’re always there for each other. She’s an anchor, She-chan is an anchor to me, ‘cause it’s just like I know what to expect. With women you don’t really get that. – Davecat. Michigan, USA
Another owner, Gordon form Virginia, echoes similar thoughts:
I’ve found that relationships with humans are only temporary. And a lot of people think I’m cold and insensitive for saying it but, everybody just listen, think about when you were a 5-year old or 6-year old kid; think about the friends you got – how many of them are still friends today? See, I guess I’m different from most people. I can bond with inanimate objects. I’ve had that poster for over 27 years, the car, the garage I’ve had for my whole life. I just get attached to physical stuff.
Uh, this is Patricia (shows picture), this is the girl I had living with me about 10 years ago. She took this about a week or two weeks before she left.
Because, as good as the sex is with them, the piece of mind is even better. All the lies and all the deceit and all the times that I’ve been used – it’ll never happen again. That’s piece of mind to me.
This Reuters report about a Japanese man who owns 100 or so of these dolls also says similar things. Perhaps it’s just like being a kid again and having imaginary friends?:
But having said all of that, not all the doll owners think of the dolls as providing companionship. One owner, Mike, seems to view his collection of 8 dolls as merely a means to satisfying his primitive sexual urges:
As a doll the sex may be awesome, and it is, but still they provide zero companionship. Absolutely none. Have somebody to talk to, have somebody to have dinner with, have somebody to share a movie with – you’re gonna want those things and the dolls give you none of that.
And Slade, who runs his own business repairing other people’s dolls, describes his experience with them. Bear in mind that in the television programme he has a girlfriend and speaks from the position of someone who appears to view love dolls as a business, rather than as companions or sex aids like some of the above men consider them to be:
When that doll shows up there in a crate, I have a very serious sense about a job that needs to be done. I have a responsibility of an object that somebody spent a lot of time, effort and money to get and I wanna make sure that it’s cared for properly.
I’ve had sex with a couple of dolls, over the years that I’ve worked with them…This 100-pound doll came to life, like, it’s pushing back, it’s not just like, you know, I’m pushing on it, but all of a sudden its starting to push back and it’s creating motion and friction and the weight of the product and how it behaves in this manner is very stimulating. It was an amazing thing, you know. Very lifelike, very realistic, very odd. But it’s just a doll, you know. It’s a very high form of masturbation.
With such frank and thoughtful testimonies, it should come as no surprise that Realdoll attest to taking about 400 orders a year and shipping about 7 dolls a week, from all over the world. It would seem there is a definite demand for these sort of products, and that isn’t even considering the Japanese market for Candy Girls, or the rental market!
Did you know that love doll rental services are available in Japan? Keep reading as gakuranman examines the practice of renting love dolls in his complimentary post Renting Love Dolls in Japan.
But having heard the thoughts of several owners, what do you think? Would, perhaps, it not be better for these people to see a psychologist to help them overcome their fears of other women? Is there even anything psychologically wrong with them? Is it okay for people to exhibit affection for inanimate objects in this way? Or are love dolls just over-sized sex toys? Leave a comment and get the discussion started!
And finally, a couple of resources for those interested in exploring this area further:
Love Doll book: TokyoTimes
Evolution of the love doll: Revirgination
Guys and Dolls – a documentary on alternative partners is embedded below.