Sex Doll Trend Explored in New Documentary


Author: Nick Nam

Members of the Occidental film community, curious students and the general public all gathered in Johnson 200 not knowing what to expect Thursday, March 31. The tension came largely from the Cinematheque’s movie theme which follows individuals with a passion and perhaps even love for life sized humanoid dolls. Not childhood action figures or Barbies but dolls with a purpose for sexual companionship.

“The Mechanical Bride” a documentary by Occidental’s very own film and media professor, Allison de Fren, enraptures viewers in a world which is simultaneously bizarre and fascinating. The film follows the lives of everyone involved in this subculture from those who manufacture sex dolls to the ones who purchase the dolls and ultimately analyzes why such a culture exists.

In an episode of “That ’70s Show” Kelso once said referring to an attractive female, “She’s hot. Like a robot!” Ashton Kutcher’s absurd line may be just one example of the psychological insight into the workings of male sexuality.

Professor de Fren first began her documentary a decade ago when she began to research industry and technology in Silicon Valley. After she came into contact with members of ASFR, (Alt Sex Fetish Robots), a group for individuals who have a fetish for robots and inanimate objects, she attacked the subject as an ethnographic study of male sexuality.

This industry literally turns women into things and takes objectification to a whole new level. Made from materials such as silicon and real human hair, careful attention is paid to the creation of these dolls to replicate the look and feel of an actual organic woman. There are different dolls to accommodate every taste which will attempt to assuage the deepest of male fantasies.

Men who purchase these dolls have the opportunity to construct their idea of the perfect women. As an outsider, this whole industry appears quite demeaning towards women. However, de Fren stated that she did not want to take the documentary in a feminist direction since she wanted to expose a world in a humanistic way to discover a subculture, for the most part, alienated from the rest of society.

“I really wanted to explore why it is easier for men to have sexual relationships with sex dolls than women,” de Fren said.

The documentary introduces viewers to several colorful characters who are connected to the dolls and the sex doll industry from the manufacturers of the dolls to the patrons of the dolls. From the outside looking in, this market and culture seemed very surreal. But what can be understood from the individuals who promote this industry is that everyone involved has genuine passion and perhaps even love for these lifeless women.

One has to ask, exactly how a man can fall in love with a life sized silicon doll. Dolls serve as substitutes for real women. For many men, the dolls symbolize the type of women they would never be able to date in real life.

One doll owner from Detroit, Michigan is heavily profiled. This individual has fallen in love with his doll, Chi-Chan, a half English half Japanese synthetic female. He states that when he first purchased his doll, his relationship was “90 percent sexual and 10 percent emotional.”

As time progressed however, this relationship evolved into an emotional connection and ultimately he became “engaged” to his doll. Doll owners purchase new clothing for their companions, photograph their dolls in new outfits, and hold conversations with them as if interacting with a live human woman.

The film jumps around the world to look at other heavily industrialized countries and cultures who have an appetite for sex dolls including Germany and Japan. In Germany during WWII, there was research in creating sex dolls for German soldiers. It is also in Germany that the world’s current most advanced sex doll was made. Japan remains the country with the largest market for sex dolls other than the United States. After meeting doll collectors in these countries, it becomes obvious that these individuals are alienated from the larger scope of society.

Film major Kat McLain (sophomore) attended the screening. “I thought it was really eye opening. It’s really interesting to learn about a culture that is so stigmatized by society,” McLain said.

“The Mechanical Bride” truly envelops the audience in a strange but real look at human loneliness and sexuality. The film raises the question if oppressive industrialism has inhibited our abilities to form genuine human connection. The future of sex dolls is unclear, but there is a strong possibility that science fiction may one day become reality.

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