|Loving Japan Obligatory! #1: Sex Doll|
by Julian X  /  non-fiction  /  13 May 2008
This is the first in a series of pieces, written for an English-reading American audience, looking at oddities of Japanese culture.
Let me preface this series by saying that I do not mean any offense. The products and stories discussed herein should certainly not be taken as representative of Japanese culture overall.
The Japanese are well-known for being enthusiastic about technology. New devices sell very well, and it's no coincidence that we get much of our technology from Japan. (Although Japanese affluence and high incomes, much as with U.S. outsourcing, have meant that those Japanese products are often actually made abroad.) Every once in a while, the U.S. news covers some new Japanese robots, which just seem wonderfully advanced. Our cellphones are to the new Japanese models what yours is to the old giant hunk of portable phone that your dad keeps in the car just in case.
The Japanese are also stereotyped in the West as being more sexually liberated than we are. Of course, it's not that simple, but you can buy girls' panties and school uniforms from vending machines in Japan. However virginal Japanese women are supposed to be, the monotheistic view of sex as dirty has mercifully spared Japan.
So what happens when you combine the Japanese love of technology with the Japanese willingness to openly market sexual items?
You get Orient Industry, which markets the world's best sex doll.
In Japan, sex dolls are apparently known as "Dutch wives" -- who knows why, though the Dutch traded in Japan long before the U.S. sent those famous ships to open up the Japanese economy to trade.
Well, these Dutch wives are like nothing you've ever seen. Sure, America has expensive sex dolls who you can seat at your bar as a conversation starter (as a girl I know used to do). But they're little more than well-built anatomically-correct mannequins with rotating limbs that eventually crack and fall off (the fate of the bar whore in question).
These Japanese sex dolls are on a whole new level. They're molded out of silicone, completely without seams, yet nonetheless remain posable, with state-of-the-art skin that apparently comes closer to the texture of real skin than anything previously produced.
Just take a look at these mugs: they're truly naturalistic works of beauty. The resemblance is uncanny. In fact, I think a girl I met in a chat room once used one of these as her picture...
The company offers several different models, each given a different girl's name, like "Meg" or "Miku." To Western eyes, the dolls look a little weird. Not because they're anything but unrealistic -- there are no big anime eyes here. Rather, the dolls look a little... young.
Some look positively underage. You only have to think of those vending machines with to remember the way the Japanese invest youth with erotic capital. You can also think of the Japanese phenomenon of cosplay, in which girls sometimes dress up in their school uniforms, nostalgically recalling their youth. Or you can think of pornographic anime, in which alien tentacles seem to have a penchant for the same uniforms.
The dolls' appearance is also notably, well, sad. These look like particularly poetic, melancholy girls. Or, if you prefer, like comfort women forced at a young age into sexual servitude. I can only speculate as to why this would be seen as a selling point.
The dolls are guaranteed for life -- the company says they may outlast the owner. In fact, rather than throw one of these life-like beauties away, you can call the company to take it back for disposal. In a nod to their realism, the company reportedly even holds a Buddhist memorial service for the discarded dolls twice a year.
Now, this kind of fantastic luxury doesn't come cheap: a single doll will set you back 600,000 yen, or around 6,000 bucks.
That's not chump change in Japan any more than in the states. So, logically, rental services started springing up. The dolls came out in 2003 or so, and it only took a few months for a rental service to advertise "lovedoll delivery" online. Photos of the available girls, clad in various attire, were offered on the site as if it were an escort service or bride buying site that let you browse pictures of the stable of girls. The cost to use a single doll ran 13,000 yen, or about $130, for 70 minutes. Reportedly, the youngest-looking dolls were the ones the most rented.
This, as it turned out, was only a stop-gap measure. The next step was for Japan's hourly hotels to stock the dolls and rent them out along with rooms. That way, your wife doesn't come home and find you with a doll you have to return in an hour.
Reportedly, the customers are men who are particularly shy -- and therefore more comfortable with silicone than even a paid human companion. Some men even bring their own clothes with which to dress the doll -- took photos. The hotels charge a little less than the old rental service, but still more than some real girls would have cost.
Yes, the fetish of sex dolls had finally come of age. An entire magazine, i-doloid, was started to cater to the fetish. Early covers featured the new dolls exclusively, complete with their melancholy look. Articles carried titles such as "Love Doll Love."
Orient Industries opened a showroom for the dolls, with them situated around a room in various costumes and underclothes -- all with those sad looks.
But all of this was nothing compared to what was to come. In 2005-2006, the fetish really took off. Leave it to Japan to take a fetish to its logical extreme -- this is the country in which the white cloth air-filtering masks, worn on the streets during flu season, have recently started appearing in conventional shots of models.
How could you push the fetish for sex dolls further? You turn real women into sex dolls.
First came masks designed to make women look like sex dolls -- to smooth that distracting individuality out of their features. So, if you can't affort to rent or buy a top-notch sex doll, much less buy magazines devoted to them, you could now make the boring, human woman willing to sleep with you at least look like she has silicone skin.
About a year later came the next logical step. For those for whom a plastic mask was just too fake an imitation of a fake woman, a line of make-up promised to make women appear "like a doll." Complete with that reflective, silicone skin, those latex lips, and expression-less stares that could turn any man hard. Academic theories of simulacra, take that!
Of course, you still have to convince your partner to lie motionless and silent to complete the illusion. Which goes against the tendency to start moaning like a porn actress the moment you touch her (think Lost in Translation). But any girl willing to wear a mask or buy make-up to look like a sex doll for your pleasure would probably be willing to at least try to withold any sound or movement.
If this is all just too new-fangled for you, the Japanese still have their cheaper inflatable sex dolls, some even modeled after sexy Japanese celebrities -- much like how we have plastic vaginas mass-produced after molds of the vaginas of porn stars (any warts or sores, at least to date, removed).
But for the real afficionado, there's no substitute for the real thing. The real sex doll, I mean... not, you know, that old-fashioned thing called a woman. Or girl, in this case.
The next step, of course, is for Japan to combine its high-tech sex dolls with its love for robots. Within a few decades, we may finally get those sex-bots we've been fantasizing about. Sex, after all, drives technology: the early printing press was most used to print pornography, and about 90% of the internet is porn. Robots will be the same. We may be a century from robotic maids, but we're only a couple decades from robot whores. And there's nothing like busting a nut in a soft silicone prostitute to make you forget you don't yet have flying cars.
Of course, those robot whores will look like horribly depressed 15-year-old Japanese girls. Which, if you think about it, is just what you'd expect a personification of the future to look like.
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