Cliff Richard once famously proclaimed his love for a rather unconventional type of girl; namely, a “crying, talking, sleeping, walking, living doll”. Since the song’s release in the 1960’s, it appears that many others have followed Cliff’s example and found themselves a similarly unusual life-partner. Although they can’t yet walk, talk, or cry independently, the ideal girlfriend Cliff immortalised in his top hit is no longer a speck on the lonely hearts’ horizon. These plastic girlfriends are called ‘RealDolls’ and are the latest phenomenon in the adult entertainment industry. They look pretty, they don’t criticise, and most importantly, they are always available for sex.

Initially launched in 1996 by American company Abyss Creations, these life-sized sex-toys have become increasingly popular across the globe. The company receives around 400 orders a year and ships an average of seven dolls per week.

The dolls have fully articulated skeletons boasting movable stainless steel joints, encased in skin of “flesh-like silicone”. With an average height of 5’ 3”, a weight of 70 pounds and silicone breasts that would fill a C cup, the dolls conform to a masochistic ideal of female perfection: an ideal which very few of the RealDoll enthusiasts, to their own admittance, would realistically be able to attain life.

The RealDoll website is the first stop for doll collectors, or ‘iDollators’, looking for a new female companion. A photographic gallery boasts endless different options for face type, skin tone, wig style, eye colour, and yes, pubic coif (the standard ‘shaved’ to the more demure ‘trimmed’.) It is possible to create the girl of your dreams with a click of a mouse. Yet at around £4000 per doll, and requiring a spare couple of hundred pounds to splash on sexy outfits and lingerie, the dolls don’t come cheap. However, if you’re more into your bargain shopping, there’s always the option of purchasing your girlfriend ‘second hand’. Some men prefer the experienced woman, and the RealDolls certainly don’t disappoint; just make sure you order a second-hand doll repair kit with your vintage purchase, complete with nipple and labia touch-up equipment.

Every single doll comes with an option of interchangeable faces – one for the waking hours and one for ‘sleeping’ – and orifices in all the right places, including a 7” deep mouth capacity with detachable tongue. Needless to say, the dolls come prepared with cleaning equipment, consisting of douche ball and antibacterial soap. Romance will have to take a backseat for these lovely ladies.

But it’s not only the girl dolls who have all the fun. Abyss Creations have recently produced three male RealDolls, complete with six-pack and 5 o’clock shadow, presumably for those women (or indeed men) out there who are eager for a sexy, silent, silicone man friend. Attachable penises range in size from the somewhat bizarre ‘limp/flaccid’ style to the X-large. For those that enjoy a bit of both, the RealDoll makers are not averse to attaching both sets of genitalia to their creations. Result: the She-Male.

The BBC documentary ‘Guys and Dolls’ interviews Abyss Creations’ officer manager ‘Debra,’ who reveals a number of strange requests that their customers have made, including pregnant dolls and one that looked ‘like an 80 year old.’ One client even wanted his doll to be covered in pubic hair ‘up to the belly button and all round the back’.

It is apparently not unusual for customers to send the company photographs of porn stars, models, or somewhat frighteningly, ex-girlfriends, to be recreated in silicone form. The website insists that they require written consent from any person a customer desires to give a RealDoll makeover. Before investigating the content for this article (I now know more than I ever wished to know about life-size sex aids) I assumed these creations were solely intended for sad, lonely men, probably in middle-age, with substantially inept social etiquette, who couldn’t maintain a normal relationship with a real woman. It surprised me to find that actually many men, and indeed women, who are engaged in relationships with other human beings, enjoy using the RealDolls to vamp up their sex lives, with a number of women heralding the dolls as the key to their marriage’s survival. Perhaps their inherent delight of collecting dolls in childhood progresses, and they merely swap their Baby All-Gones with ‘Melissa – 5’3”, face type 14.’

But it’s not all about the sex. One of the RealDoll creators ‘Matt’ compares his dolls to shoe insoles – ‘everybody doesn’t have problems with their feet but some people do, and everybody doesn’t have social interaction problems but some people do’. A rather peculiar evaluation, but an interesting one nonetheless. Because although it is undeniably odd that these men regard their dolls as real girlfriends, is it actually wrong? It’s a kneejerk reaction to condemn them as weirdos, but realistically they are not hurting anyone. These men obviously suffer from chronic low self-esteem, so much so that even talking to a living female leaves them in a cold sweat. The majority have spent their lives cringing away from society because they know they do not fit the prototype of ‘normal’. They find solace in their dolls. They create personalities and emotions for them. They have likes and dislikes, imaginary careers, favourite past-times. They care for them, they love them and they believe that the dolls love them back. A RealDoll’s life expectancy exceeds 10 years, and so do many of the relationships forged between man and doll.

Everard is a 50 year-old computer technician from Dorset. He enjoys hang gliding, collecting model airplanes and photography. He especially enjoys sharing these hobbies with the five most important people in his life – his five RealDolls. Everard likes to impress ‘Virginia’ in particular with his hang gliding, dressing her appropriately for a summer’s day and allowing her to watch his airborne exploits from the safety of the passenger seat of his car. He also loves photographing ‘Rebecca’ and ‘Louise’ in pleasing, natural poses such as reading a book or relaxing on a bench. Sometimes he sets the camera on timer and joins them to create a scene he can later cherish in a frame.

Everard’s behaviour may seem that of a madman to an outsider, but most of the men that love these dolls are not lunatics. They know they are deluding themselves, they know that their girlfriends aren’t capable of real emotions, but as Everard explains, their company is better than none at all. One RealDoll enthusiast, who calls himself ‘Davecat’ describes his feelings for his doll ‘Sidore’ – “The main thing is that she knows she makes me happy and I make her happy. She’s an emotional anchor. But at the end of the day she’s just a doll.” It’s at this point that initial feelings of disgust and creeped-outness change to that of pity and almost compassion. The emotional bond between man and doll, however loony it may seem to an outsider, is surely preferable to digest than a ‘relationship’ based upon purely physical satisfaction. It seems somehow more morally acceptable.

Nevertheless, I am not yet a full convert to doll loving. Despite my budding sympathy for these particular cases, there are of course just as many men who use the dolls solely for their primary purpose, and they appear all the more abhorrent when compared to those who love them. ‘Mike’ is a collector who has acquired eight RealDolls. Unlike other enthusiasts, he keeps his dolls haphazardly in boxes in the garage, or shoved ruthlessly under beds and sofas. There’s no pretence with Mike. He uses them and abuses them and seems proud of his insatiable thirst for silicone pleasure. He claims to use them “in between relationships” but often prefers their company to humans. He declares that when romancing real women you usually have to ask before you do anything, and they might say no. Good observation Mike.

To me, Mike’s behaviour is just the kind expected of a man who is open about having sex with inanimate objects, regardless of whether they are painted to resemble a life-sized Barbie. I’d prefer it if he kept his plastic fetish to himself, or at least tried to disguise it as ‘love’, like his RealDoll contemporaries. Although Mike is only using the dolls for the purpose they were admittedly created for (why else would they come equipped with three ‘entries’?) it seems far more unnatural than watching Everard lovingly smear foundation over Virginia’s languid face.

As you read this, inventors are working on producing even more realistic and artificially intelligent dolls to fill emotional voids in many people’s lives. A prototype of robot-doll has already been unveiled to the adult public. ‘Roxxxy’ is a brunette beauty who can converse with her partner using a catalogue of prerecorded phrases. She can discuss the latest football score, your favourite car and even snore realistically. Sensors under her silicone skin allow her to moan seductively when caressed. Her inventor Douglas Hines states, “We are trying to replicate a personality of a person,” and reveals that people’s customized personalities can be shared with others online. “Just think about wife or girlfriend swapping without actually giving the person to someone else.”

Call me old fashioned, but I think I’ll give cyber silicone-swinging a miss for the time being.

Lily Bowden

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