Are You Ready For Sex Robots? Too Bad, They’re Already Here.
With so much sex toy variety at women's fingertips, who really needs an artificial man? For more on this, watch BuzzFeed News' Follow This on Netflix.
After spending some time at RealDoll, a sex doll manufacturer in San Marcos, California, I couldn’t stop thinking that the problem with a male sex robot specifically for cis women is you’d have to put a motor in the waist in order to make it thrust. Otherwise, why spend nearly $20,000 on a 110-pound silicone doll, if a $15 pocket-sized bullet could do the same trick? Being on top is a lot of work and also offers little variety, so unless it’s your preferred position or you’re willing to literally back yourself up like a truck onto a silicone doll penis, the appeal of a male sex doll for women remains unclear.
For more on this story, watch the new BuzzFeed News show Follow This on Netflix.
For years, RealDoll has manufactured near-human replicas of women, wildly expensive human-sized sex toys that start at $5,999 for the most basic model — you can pay more for different breast and butt sizes, wigs, merkins, makeup, insertable labias, and so forth. (The male dolls the company makes seem better suited for other men, especially since they’re pretty heavy for your average woman to carry.) Forget all the tropes people spout about why women might not want a sex doll — that we have feelings and what we really want is conversation and someone to hold our hand or to murder a spider while we’re applying body glitter or whatever — because women already have plenty of sex toys. We just don’t necessarily want something that requires its own meat hook for storage.
Harmony, the first speaking, AI-powered female sex robot made by RealDoll’s offshoot company, Realbotix, which rolled off the assembly line this past July, is far from perfect. She speaks in a stilted way, she can’t actually “see” you because she doesn’t yet have cameras for eyes, and she seems to be programmed to “peak horniness” as her main personality trait — but she’s a lot better than Henry, her male counterpart. Henry is still in development: His airbrushed five o’clock shadow is spot-on; his ability to communicate with any sense of spontaneity is not. So far, he does little more than laugh nervously when you speak to him, before saying your sense of humor is a bit too cutting and admitting that you scare him. If I need a fragile man to be afraid of me, I can generally get that for a lot less than the $8,000 these talking robot heads start at. (Bodies sold separately and without robotics.)
While we might not be in the market for sex robots designed specifically for us, women consumers otherwise dominate the sex toy market. We buy strap-ons and vibrators and plugs and whips and clamps and saddles and rabbits and edible lotions and every lubricant known to humankind and items ribbed for my pleasure!!!! and anything that warms and cools and buzzes and hums. Women are perverts. We like options. All the women I know have a bedside table filled with contraptions that make having to actually communicate with another person in order to receive any kind of pleasure basically unnecessary. It makes me wonder why we ever even go outside.
We’ve reached the point where there’s something for everyone, to use alone or with a partner, at every frequency and price point. In New York, I met the women who run Women of Sex Tech, a community that makes new sex toys, entertainment, and educational programs with women’s pleasure in mind. At one of their pitch meetings, I saw products that ranged from reusable heating and cooling pads to put on your genitals during your period or after some rough action, to a vibrator that gathers your orgasm data so you can study it in order to track when and where and how you reach completion best, to “the Cowgirl,” a $2,000 riding sex machine that vibrates so hard that it filed my nail down when I touched it.
It feels almost like a tragedy that men are still stuck believing in one ideal of womanhood, while women have a thousand different ways to achieve pleasure.
Women have so much variety in their sex toys that on the day I visited the RealDoll factory, it was hard not to notice there wasn’t a single male or female doll that wasn’t white. While there was a table filled with bright green penis attachments for the people who want their sex dolls to look like aliens — why not, buy your doll with 10 tits, I’m not your fucking mother — I could not find one brown labia. One of the employees told me that had I just come on another day, I’d have seen an assembly line full of dolls in darker coloring. Even still, all the female dolls look pretty much exactly, eerily the same (minus any custom alterations).
All the dolls have bendable wire in their fingers so you can make them hold on to you. They all have soft teeth that bend and flex so that you can put your body parts inside of them without getting hurt. Their vaginas are removable and dishwasher safe. Their breasts are often comically large, their feet small and pointed like a Barbie’s; they all have firm, round butts of varying swollenness, their lips are full and painted with dark liner and high gloss, and they each have impossibly skinny waists. They may all look like porn stars, but their height starts at 4'10" and the smallest models weigh no more than a child at 60 pounds. You can change their wigs and eye colors and makeup choices and merkins, but otherwise, these girls are so indistinguishable that you have to gaze at their nipple texture and circumference to get a sense of what separates one from another.
These sex dolls look like the idea of a woman rather than an actual human woman. Even the women who work in the factory, helping trim excess silicone from the tips of doll fingers or who paint the eyeballs — the hand-painted ones cost extra, but they’re worth it if you don’t want the doll to look eternally haunted — acknowledge that the most lifelike versions of sex dolls don’t really ever look like anything close to what can be found in nature.
It feels almost like a tragedy that men are still stuck believing in one ideal of womanhood, chasing the physically unattainable, while women have gotten creative with a thousand different ways to achieve pleasure. Still, there’s likely a few women out there who might buy a sex doll or robot, happy with Henry’s vague ability to laugh at your jokes. But with so much variety at our fingertips, who really needs another man? Henry might talk and be able to remember your name, and wear cute glasses that give off a pretty charming “Seth Cohen in The O.C.” vibe, but his body can’t vibrate or throb. With no motor in his pelvis, there will never be a burst of thrusting. (At least there’s no risk of him ever jack-hammering you to death!)
When there are so many other options, a whole world of technology to use for the best kind of selfishness — for women and men — why bother with some doll who still can’t keep up? ●