What Is a Sex Doll ?

A sex doll (also called a sex toy, love doll, sex doll, or inflatable doll) is an anthropomorphic sex toy that is the same size and shape as a sexual partner. A sex doll may consist of a whole body, or only a head, pelvis, or other body parts (vagina, anus, mouth, penis, breasts) that are intended for sexual stimulation. Sex dolls are made from a variety of materials such as silicone, TPE (thermoplastic elastomer), or rubber to replicate realistic sensations. These materials are chosen for their durability and realistic texture, which enhances the overall experience for the user. The parts sometimes vibrate, and are movable and interchangeable. Sex dolls come in many forms, but are often distinguished from sex robots, which are anthropomorphic creations designed to enable more complex interactions.


Sex dolls first appeared as consumer products in France in the 1850s, sold under the name “femmes en caoutchouc” through rubber goods magazines.  These early sex dolls were born from European and American industries during the Brazilian rubber boom of the 19th century, which coincided with the invention of vulcanized rubber.The first recorded appearance of these rubber sex dolls was in an article in the French newspaper Le Figaro, which reported on an exhibition of American rubber products at the 1855 World’s Fair. These goods, as well as other sex toys produced in France at the time, were heavily criminalized and were therefore produced and sold in small quantities at high cost.

Much of the mythology that has long been circulated about the origins of sex dolls stems largely from one of the first recorded artificial sex dolls in academic literature, which dates back to 1908 and was published in Iwan Bloch’s Sexual Life in Our Time.  Bloch wrote:

In this context, we can mention erotic practices performed through the artificial imitation of the human body or its parts. In the field of erotic technology, there were indeed real Vaucansons, clever mechanics who created complete male or female bodies out of rubber and other plastic materials as “traveling men” or “traveling women” for erotic purposes. The reproductive organs in particular were presented in a realistic manner. Even the secretion of the Bartholin’s glands was imitated by means of “pneumatic tubes” filled with oil. Likewise, by means of fluids and suitable devices, the ejaculation of semen can be simulated. Such artificial beings are actually sold in the catalogs of certain manufacturers of “Parisian rubber goods.”

— Ivan Bloch, The Relation of Contemporary Sexual Life to Modern Civilization
Bloch’s account and those derived from it have been largely disproven in a recent academic study of the origins of sex dolls by Bo Ruberg, which found that this historicization relied heavily on fictional sources, namely René Schwaeblé’s short story collection, The Secrets of Paris, and the erotic novel The Sleeping Wife (written anonymously by Alphone Momas). The only major source for Bloch’s account is exaggerated advertising copy.

It has long been speculated that the first sex dolls were made by 16th-century French (dame de voyage) and Spanish (dama de viaje) sailors who were isolated on long voyages. These masturbation dolls, often made of sewn cloth or old clothes, were reportedly the direct predecessors of today’s sex dolls. However, the term dame de voyage first appeared in an 1893 short story, referring to a sex worker rather than a sex doll.  It was not until the 1920s that dame de voyage came to mean a sex doll, without the addition of en caoutchouc (translated as “rubber”).  The first use of sex dolls by sailors was in the 1880s, and like sex dolls, it appeared in pornographic literature. Later, in the early 20th century, the French began marketing rubber sex dolls to sailors, however, there is no archival evidence of widespread use of sex dolls at sea before this.

Similar to the myth of the “seafaring lady” origin story, the term “Dutch wife” also represents an imagined origin of the sex doll. In this narrative, the Dutch either sold dolls to the Japanese during the Rangaku period, or vice versa. However, the concept was derived from the more banal “bamboo wife”, a cooling device that was historically found throughout East and Southeast Asia.  The idea represented an Orientalized and colonial fantasy of European men having sex with Asian women.In Japan, the term “Dutch wife” is still sometimes used to refer to sex dolls.

In 1918, while in Dresden, Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka commissioned German puppeteer Hermine Muth to create a life-size doll of Alma Mahler (whom Kokoschka was deeply in love with). Although the “Alma doll” was meant to resemble Alma and win Kokoschka’s affections, it did not please Kokoschka, who destroyed it at a party.

German surrealist artist Hans Bellmer, known as the “father of the modern sex doll,” pushed sex dolls further into the future with his more realistic sex doll models made in the 1930s. Bellmer produced three dolls with increasingly elaborate designs that also caused a sensation in the international art world.

There are reports that Nazi Germany created sex dolls for soldiers during World War II as part of the Borhild Project, but this report has not been confirmed by reliable sources and is now believed to be a hoax. However, commercial sex dolls are said to have originated in Germany, particularly since the creation of the Bild Lilli doll in the 1950s, which in turn became the inspiration for the famous Barbie doll.

The late 20th century saw a number of technological leaps forward in the production of human simulants used to replace human sexual partners. By the 1970s, vinyl, latex and silicone had become the most commonly used materials for the manufacture of sex dolls; silicone in particular allowed for a greater degree of realism.

In 1982, an attempt to import a batch of sex dolls into the UK had the unexpected result of invalidating a law prohibiting the importation of “obscene or indecent” articles, which were not illegal to sell within the UK. After the dolls were seized by UK customs and excise officials, David Sullivan’s Conegate Ltd. took the case all the way to the European Court of Justice, where it won in 1987. The UK was forced to lift strict import bans that had been in place since 1876 because they constituted a barrier to free trade for imports from the European Community under the Treaty of Rome.

Shin Takagi, founder of Trottla, produces lifelike child sex dolls, believing that doing so provides a safe and legal outlet for men to express pedophilia. But Peter J. Fagan, a sexual deviance researcher, questions this, arguing that exposure to these products could have a reinforcing effect, increasing the risk of adopting pedophilic behavior. Since 2013, Australian officials have confiscated imported juvenile sex dolls that are legally classified as child exploitation material.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, sales of sex dolls have surged.

Contemporary commercial forms

Cheaper sex dolls are inflatable, using air. These dolls are the cheapest (less than $75), are usually made of welded vinyl, and bear only a passing resemblance to a real person. They have an artificial, often crudely designed vagina or penis, but many users are willing to overlook their shortcomings because they are cheap. They usually burst after a few uses, although they are often given as gag gifts, so many may never get used. In Russia, for many years the Bubble Baba Challenge featured participants drifting on inflatable dolls as a form of entertainment, but in 2013 the competition was cancelled for “health and safety” reasons.

In the mid-market price range (around $100 to $1,000), dolls are made of thicker vinyl or heavy latex with no welds or a mix of polyurethane and silicone, usually wrapped in a foam core. Most dolls have a plastic mannequin-style head and sculpted wig, plastic or glass eyes, and sometimes appropriately molded hands and feet. Some vinyl dolls can include water-filled body parts, such as breasts or buttocks. Latex dolls are produced in Hungary, China, and France, but only the French manufacturer Domax still produces them today.

During the manufacturing process, most latex dolls are coated with a thin coating of zinc oxide on their skin, which consumers can usually remove by placing the doll under the shower. Otherwise, latex is an inert and nontoxic natural material; although a small percentage of users may develop latex allergies.

The most expensive sex dolls (around $1,200 and up) are typically made of silicone (with prices typically exceeding $3,000 in 2016) or thermoplastic elastomers (known as TPEs). As of 2023, prices on eBay for high-quality, full-body TPE dolls range from $200 to $1000. The most common factors that determine price are size, weight, and aesthetics. Pricing follows a rough $5 per pound. Some popular models start at $500 and have gone up to $1000. Prices for full-body TPE mini dolls, full-size torsos, and other body parts can range from under $100 to $300 for scaled-down dolls. Dolls made from either material can be very lifelike, with faces and bodies modeled after real people in some cases, realistic skin material (similar to that used for movie special effects), and realistic (even real) hair. These dolls often have articulated PVC or metal skeletons with flexible joints that allow them to be posed in a variety of ways for display and sexual performances. Silicone or TPE dolls are much heavier than vinyl or latex inflatable dolls (which are mostly composed of air), but weigh about half as much as a comparable-sized real person.

Because of their ability to be posed in a variety of ways, silicone dolls are popular with artists and photographers, who often use them as models.

In Japan, sex dolls are called “Dutch wives” (ダッチワイフ, datchi waifu), which now refers to relatively inexpensive dolls. Their name probably derives from the English word for a thick rattan or bamboo mat used in humid countries as a sleeping aid to raise one’s limbs above sweaty sheets. Oriental Industries, considered Japan’s leading manufacturer of high-end silicone dolls,[17] began using the alternative term “love dolls” (ラブドール, rabu dōru) around 1998 to distinguish its dolls from the inflatable doll images associated with the term “Dutch wife”. The term has remained in use and is now generally used to refer to any high-end product. A Tokyo company called Doru no Mori (Doll Forest) rents love dolls and rooms to male customers. In March 2007, the Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun reported that there was also a rental business that delivered the dolls to customers’ homes and that a specialized sex doll magazine, i-doloid, had a print run of 10,000 copies per issue.

The mid-market and high-end markets emerged in the United States around 1992. There are two main reasons for the market growth. First, sex dolls have improved dramatically over the past two decades compared to earlier types, and customers have become aware of them through the use of the internet. Second, retail purchasing methods have also improved, and customers can now be shown what the doll actually looks like, with seams, hair and even orifices.

In China, the market has flourished due to the demographic effects of the one-child policy, so many new Chinese manufacturers have emerged in recent years.

Non-standard forms

In Japan, people can buy inflatable or stuffed love pillows or dakimakura, which can be covered with pillowcases printed with life-size photos of porn stars or anime characters. Other less common novelty love dolls include overweight dolls, hermaphrodite dolls, and alien dolls, which can be used for fun but are also often used as gag gifts.

Some companies use the same technology to make cloth love dolls as they do stuffed toys. With the widespread use of the Internet among the younger generation, many forums have emerged for amateurs to make their own love dolls using cloth or other materials. There are even mailing lists for discussing techniques and experiences using MLDs (Material Love Dolls).

Some inflatable love dolls are made in the shape of animals, most notably sheep and cows. These dolls are more like joke gifts or party novelties and are not usually suitable for sex.

New Materials and New Technologies

Silicone dolls were originally made with tin-cured silicone, but platinum technology lasts longer and is less susceptible to tearing and denting. For this reason, the “RealDoll” manufacturer reported that they had switched from tin to platinum in June 2009, and all other manufacturers followed suit.

Since around 2012, a thermoplastic elastomer alternative called TPE has become widely used, especially by Chinese manufacturers, allowing them to make realistic dolls cheaper than dolls made from expensive, high-quality platinum-cured silicone.

CybOrgasMatrix dolls use an elastic gel that they claim is superior to silicone in terms of elasticity, shape memory, and durability. Both the company and “First Androids” once offered pelvic thruster motors, audio features, and heating holes, but these options are no longer available. Several modern doll manufacturers now offer this last option on their silicone dolls, adding internal heating systems.

EX Doll and SeeDree dolls now offer foam dolls in the hope of reducing the weight of sex dolls. Cloud Climax reports that the dolls can weigh as little as 9kg while being life-sized, with heads made of silicone for added realism.

Legal restrictions and issues

In 2019, Israeli media reported an incident in which a European sex doll company created a sex doll based on Israeli model Yael Cohen Aris without her permission. In 2020, Playboy magazine further investigated and reported on the same incident, mentioning it in its connection to Deepfake.

Botswana prohibits the importation of male sex dolls under Section 178 of the Botswana Penal Code. The law further abolishes the right to “possess, lend, trade, export, import and/or display obscene articles or any articles tending to corrupt morals in Botswana,” which includes sex dolls.

Since prostitution is legal and regulated, Austria has no legal restrictions on sex dolls, and many brothels offer sex dolls to their clients. Although sex dolls first began to appear in Austria around 1980, they did not become popular until 2017 when a brothel began offering sex doll services to its clients. This can be attributed to the fact that these dolls have become more realistic in recent years.

In addition to having sex with sex dolls, some places allow customers to buy sex dolls themselves. One of the largest sex venues in Vienna offers sex with real women in the sex venue.

According to the brothel owner who provides sex dolls, the dolls are properly cleaned after each service. Using sex dolls for unprotected sex is also allowed, but it is not recommended because there is no guarantee that the dolls will be cleaned after each customer use.

South Korea
In 2018, the Supreme Court of South Korea ruled to legalize the sale of sex dolls. The issue remains controversial in South Korea.

In China, it is not illegal to buy and use sex dolls. Sex doll experience halls have appeared in many cities in China in the past year.

United States
Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Dakota and Hawaii have banned the use of sex dolls that resemble children.

United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to import child-like sex dolls, an offence punishable by up to seven years in prison under several acts, one of which is the Customs Act 1876 concerning the importation of obscene articles. [34] However, the law does not specifically define what constitutes a child sex doll, so all sex dolls are technically illegal unless border officers decide otherwise at the time of import and inspection. The only guideline known to suppliers is to ensure that the doll is over 140 cm (4 ft 7 in) tall, as can be observed on UK websites, as dolls shorter than this are not available for purchase. Other factors that may affect the outcome of a case include breast size and subjective perceptions of facial age.

In Myanmar, on 22 October 2022, two Chinese-made silicone sex dolls honoring the goddesses Thurathadi and Thiri Devi were paid tribute at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, drawing strong public criticism. The dolls were owned by an alchemist named Inn Weizzamo. He bought the dolls from China for $2,400 each and dressed in royal attire to worship them. On the same day, he was arrested on suspicion of endangering Buddhism.

Min Thunya, a Zen master at Buddhist University, said, “The act of worshipping two silicone sex dolls in the image of two noble goddesses is an insult to religion. It is really shameful.”

Research Status

Compared to sex robots, for which there are thousands of pieces of pornography and dozens of scientific studies, the use and effects of sex dolls have been relatively little studied to date. This is not surprising, as sex dolls are a subgenre of sex toys, and sex toys as material sexual objects are overall quite understudied.

Nevertheless, a 2020 systematic review was able to identify 29 published academic studies on sex dolls. These sex doll studies addressed the following five research questions:

What are appropriate theoretical concepts for sex dolls?

How are sex dolls represented in art and the media?

What empirical findings on the use and effects of sex dolls can be obtained through interviews, surveys, or analysis of sex doll online forums?

What therapeutic uses and effects of sex dolls have been documented by clinical case studies?

Should child sex dolls be legally regulated? If so, why and how?

Overall, the current research shows that sex doll owners (mostly men, by far) and uses vary, and that sex dolls can have both positive and negative effects. Similarly, existing empirical research on sex doll owners shows that they not only view dolls as “sex” dolls, but sometimes also as “love” dolls or social partners. A clinical case study explains how living with a doll helped a divorced man overcome emotional trauma and prepare to approach real women again. Psychological theories that can explain people’s relationships with dolls include [transitional object theory or parasocial interaction and relationship theory that is often applied to media characters.

In a 2023 study, “Exploring Psychological Characteristics and Risk-Related Cognitions of Sex Doll Owners,” the authors noted that people are concerned that owning sex dolls will increase society’s negative attitudes toward women and the risk of sexual crimes. However, the study did not find any scientific evidence, but instead found that doll owners were less likely to commit sexually aggressive acts against women. Doll owners also tend to view women as “unknowable” and tend to have low self-esteem.

In popular culture

Since 1942, the BBC has been broadcasting Desert Island Discs, in which guests can bring books or “luxury items” in addition to music records. Several guests chose life-size dolls: Oliver Reed, Ronnie Scott (who chose a saxophone), and Duncan Carse.

The fictional narrator of Italian author Tommaso Landolfi’s comic short story Gogol’s Wife describes his many visits to his biographical subject, Nikolai Gogol. In the residence of the famous 19th-century Russian writer, the future biographer finds Gogol, who is always referred to as Nikolai Vasilyevich (his given name and patronymic), accompanied by a life-size, anatomically correct, blow-up doll. In subsequent visits, the doll is described as having more and more human features, bringing the story closer and closer to the realm of fantasy fiction.

See also

Artificial vagina
Doll fetish
List of inflatable manufactured goods
Object sexuality
Robot fetishism
Sex machine
Uncanny valley

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