In the arms of dolls: a retreat from reality?

Mannequin sex fetishes

Mannequin sexual fetishes (Are people looking for power?)

I’ve always been a little creeped out by mannequins and big life sized dolls. I hate the way that their formless faces watch you as you pass by the shop window. I hate the way that when you see one stripped, its shiny nippleless breasts and taut plastic flesh make you think of still, waitful aliens. I once did a bit of work experience at a department store and the sight of mannequin parts in the back warehouse, out of the shiny context of the display window gave me the heebie jeebies. In the gloom, spare and shapely mannequin legs pointed stiffly out of boxes or were propped clumsily in a corner. Without the expert hands of a visual merchandiser twisting them into a pose, the mannequins all looked a little of key; arms and head at all odd angles as if by some convulsion of rigor mortis.

So perhaps I am not one hundred per cent the right person to write an unbiased article about whether Agalmatophilia; the sexual attraction towards dolls and mannequins, is about gaining a sense of power. I am a little prejudice before I even began my research, which is never a good trait in a Journalist. My favourite horror film of all time is The Stepford Wives (the original of course and not the ghastly Nicole Kidman travesty). I think that the reason that this film continues to terrify and fascinate me is the idea that you can be duplicated in a more visually perfect form, but with your original self destroyed and forgotten about. I’m frightened that somebody could record your voice but make it sweeter; could shape your body and face but erase all your cellulite and your underarm stubble. The Stepford men were all so dreary, with their cliquey little men’s club, so inadequate. It was made clear that their desire for literal doll wives was an extension of that inadequacy, that desire to control.

The weirdness of mannequins was explored humorously in the 90s American sitcom Seinfeld, where a creepy Mannequin Designer who takes a shine to Elaine who creates a mannequin eerily based on her appearance. I now often look at mannequins posing coquettishly in Topshop or River Island and wonder whether whoever drew out their curves and their staring oval faces had a human being in mind before cutting a thigh gap here, a vacant glassy eye there. The visual appearance of many dolls and mannequins is fairly misogynist; the way in which they are meant to represent the perfect qualities of a woman without having the animation of her laugh, the brightness of her intelligence. As if such things are merely secondary attributes.

Sex dolls are easier to understand. They are essentially a hole with lady lumps here and there to add stimulation. They aren’t viewed as a substitute for a real partner. In fact it’s rare to see a stag night where someone isn’t carting around an inflatable doll and whooping excitedly. One could view sex dolls as a more detailed upgrade of a fleshlight. What is more difficult to understand is the men who make a significant emotional connection to mannequins, viewing them as their girlfriends.

I decided to rewatch the documentary Guys and Dolls. This is a documentary about Real Dolls; bizarrely realistic, life sized dolls complete with realistic, usable vaginal openings.  When I first watched this documentary, years ago, it made me furious. I interpreted it as the men shown in the documentary were making the conscious choice to pick doll lovers over real human women out of convenience. I felt that  they deliberately wanted lovers that they could control, could have intercourse with them whenever they chose. I felt that they wanted somebody who wouldn’t answer back. I was particularly annoyed by Virginia based Gordon’s remarks about dressing his dolls modestly so they didn’t look like they had been had by hundreds of men, comparing this to being served second hand meat in a restaraunt. I was angered by their remarks about “organic women” being untrustworthy.  However, upon rewatching, my interpretation was somewhat different. Yes, these men wanted power but it seemed not so much over their sex dolls but over their own life. They were for the most part seemingly incredibly lonely.

A consistent theme appeared to be a desire for consistency in their lives. One Real Doll owner, a young man who called himself Davecat, described his doll Shishan as his “anchor”. It was clear that many of these men had difficulties communicating and establishing human relationships; their Real Doll’s were the one constant in their lives. There appeared to be an general awareness amongst these men that these dolls were not necessarily replacing human female companionship; it was more the case that they viewed these dolls as a way of warding away their loneliness. There was the sense that living with dolls was better than being alone.

The fear of loneliness was a common theme amongst these men. One man fretted about being alone when his doll was sent away for repairs. Another man asked the camera, with a sense of bewilderment: “where would I be without my dolls?”. It was clearly a reality that he could not bear to confront. I was reminded of the lonely kid in the playground who invents an imaginary friend in order to psychologically suppress that innate human fear of being alone, of being an outsider. The imaginative leaps that we human beings take to paint over the inadequacies in our lives in really quite remarkable.

I am very lucky. Despite being shy and slightly introverted, I have never felt truly lonely. I have always had the support network of family and friends. This is something that so many of us take for granted. Only sometimes do I glimpse what genuine loneliness and alienation must feel like. The feeling when you are at a party where you don’t know too many people and feel completely, embarrassingly out of things. The feeling when you wake up suddenly at 3am and feel for one panicky moment as if you are the only person in the whole world who is awake. I regret my immediate inclinations that doll and mannequin fetishes are always about the desire to gain power over a sexual partner. Before we make that assumption it is important to question how we live in a society that is so intricately interconnected yet still we have people who feel as if they are always on the outside looking in. How is it that you can now speak to long lost acquaintances at the click of a button, yet we still have people who are clinging to silicon and plastic at night for a sense of intimacy and connection?



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