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History of the Sex Doll: The Era of Plastic

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By Dollfriend (here) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dollfriend (here) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I remember seeing ads in my younger days for sex dolls. The photos always showed a very realistic looking woman that seemed to hint that this doll would be incredibly life like. You too can have your very own sexy maid or luscious girlfriend. Even back then I knew this couldn’t be possible since most of the blow up dolls I had seen were less than life like pieces of plastic. Even today, blow-up dolls based on famous porn stars have a misleading real photo on the box. When you see what they look like inflated, thanks to a handy site that inflated them and posted pics, there is much room for interpretation. The disclaimer by the manufacturers often states that the doll is based on the model show in the photos. (There isn’t even fine print to tell you that most of the time) We’ve progressed too much more life like dolls since those early days but the simple inflatable doll that barely looks human is still sold and enjoyed by their purchasers. Science helped us go from cloth and leather to rubber then vinyl starting in the mid 19th century

Vinyl and plastic have not been around for very long if you consider how long humans have populated the earth. Rubber has been around for a while but before the advent of vulcanization, it quickly became brittle and would gum up if heated. Around the 1840s, the process of vulcanization was developed paving the way for a more versatile and long lasting material. There is very little information to be found about early sex dolls made out of rubber. Iwan Bloch wrote about sex dolls in 1908, stating they were made out of rubber and other plastic materials, in both female and male form, and that some were made more true to life with the ability to simulate vaginal lubrication and even ejaculation.

Sarah Valverde’s thesis makes mention of an ad in a 1902 Paris circular that was translated by Henry Carey about a custom made doll. It suggests that they were capable of making something quite close to nature. I couldn’t find the source material for this but this is what is quoted in the thesis: “All moves, arms, legs, buttocks, head, eyes; a perfect likeness of the person whose photograph is sent…the complete apparatus, guaranteed against breakage, man or woman, 3000 francs”

I’d love to see how close this perfect likeness was. I’m thinking it may not be as life like as we see with modern love dolls.

Polyvinyl chloride was discovered in the 1870’s. Vinyl or PVC in its plasticized form is lightweight and flexible. It’s also cheaper than rubber, latex or silicone and allows the doll to be inflated. The blow-up doll was born. It’s hard to know how early vinyl blow-up dolls were created since the Comstock Law made it illegal to advertise or send via mail anything of a sexual nature. In 1968, the law had lost its last foothold and we start to see the first ads. Blow-up dolls can be made of welded vinyl or latex, which was invented in 1920. These dolls barely look human with simply shaped arms and legs that often don’t have fingers or toes. The head is often just a bulbous shape with a wide-open mouth lined for your pleasure, although not all of them have an open mouth. The doll will also have one or two other orifices for vaginal and/or anal penetration. The breasts will often have nipples painted on but very little else adorns the body. A head of hair can be painted on or can be just a crude wig. They usually don’t last long as they pop after repeated use. Ads in the 70’s and 80’s show dolls that can be ordered with different color hair and sometimes even different hairstyles to suit the customer’s tastes.

The porn star dolls have been around for a long time and often take a very active imagination to see any similarities. I couldn’t find any information on the very first porn star dolls although the Linda Lovelace doll that came out in the 70’s comes up. In fact, I can’t even find any information about who made the very first blow-up doll. Unfortunately, when you do a search for first blow-up doll or who invented the blow up doll you get a thousand hits for Hitler. Rumor has it that Hitler came up with the idea for an inflatable sex doll to keep soldiers from mixing with non-Aryan women. The Borghild project was also supposed to save Nazi soldiers from rampant cases of syphilis when visiting Parisian bordellos. A few photos that were purported to be evidence of these dolls turned out to be a hoax. Some say the soldiers were too embarrassed to be found with these dolls if captured by the enemy. The best part of this myth is that the prototype of this doll would be the inspiration for the Barbie Doll but Barbie was derived from the Bild Lilli doll fashioned to look like a popular comic strip character named Lilli.

A game changer for the sex doll would be artist Matt McMullen’s desire to make a mannequin that had more realistic curves. While he was developing these prototypes made of hard latex with an interior skeleton, many people asked if they would be anatomically correct. A light bulb went off in Matt’s head as he realized the idea of just making a more lifelike mannequin was not where he should be heading. People would actually pay for his fully anatomical dolls, thus the Read Doll was created. Latex turned to silicone and Matt’s decision to switch from using tin cured silicone to platinum cured was taken up by the entire industry. The first female RealDoll was introduced in 1996, the first male doll in 2008.

In the 20 years since the first RealDoll was created a whole culture of iDollators has become a worldwide phenomenon. All this is a far cry from the false advertisement of those first vinyl dolls. Blow-up dolls continue to be made and sold, most likely because RealDolls and other high quality realistic love dolls are very expensive and very heavy. Sex doll technology is always improving as companies strive for a more realistic and more interactive experience.

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History of the Sex Doll: Before Plastic

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By Dvortygirl (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dvortygirl (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Sex dolls have come a long way in the new millennium. They’ve gone from a homemade companion to odd inflatables to the Real Girl. The need for artificial female companionship (the penetrative kind) has been around for centuries. For some the accompaniment of their own had is simply insufficient. Before modern silicone technology made the real doll possible, most sex dolls were made of vinyl or plastic. But what did we do before the advent of vulcanized rubber in the 1840’s and polyvinyl chloride in the 1920’s? We did the best we could with what we had, apparently.

It’s hard to find much documentation about dolls used for sexual acts before the 20th century. Most likely because those early dolls did not survive the test of time due to the materials they were made out of. Also, people just didn’t document that sort of thing. Stories have been told but not much solid written or printed evidence. We have to go on hearsay and there’s very little of that too.

Cloth was a material used to create dolls for centuries, sex dolls included. There are stories of dolls made of cloth or leather and stuffed with straw or bits of cloth as early at the 15th century. Most notably is the Dames de Voyages (or Damas de Viajes) said to be used by French and Spanish sailors of the 17th century. They may not have been the only sailors to use them. Lonely sailors were looking for “companionship” during long voyages on the high seas of this era. Women were not allowed on board ships as they were thought to be unlucky. Instead, figures were fashioned out of fabric and stuffed to give fullness. At the same time, the Dutch were traveling to Japan. The Japanese gave the name “Dutch Wives” to the dolls supposedly made of leather the Dutch sailors had with them for their long journeys to the east. The term is used even today as slang for sex doll.

The Japanese may have been inspired by the Dutch Wives to make their own sex doll. The Azumagata Ningyo (substitute wife/woman doll in Japanese) was written about in the 18th century but images or written records no longer exist. It may have been sold as early as the mid 17th century. It’s said that this doll made of tortoise shell; cloth and leather could be purchased in Ryogoku, a popular shopping district. I also found mentions of a sex doll referred to as a do-ningyo. This doll was in the shape of a young girl with a velvet vulva. Tahi-joro (traveling whores) was another term for these dolls. I’m somewhat unsure if the azumagata ningyo is shaped like a person or is just a pillow shape with an entry area that is lined with tortoise shell and velvet, silk or leather. Ningyo means doll in Japanese so I’m leaning towards a female shaped doll of some sort.

A fascinating thing that came up often in my research was that these dolls seemed to be reserved for those of higher rank in nearly every culture that used them. They were reserved only for those of a high rank, those higher up the chain of command or higher up the social ladder. These dolls sound extremely rudimentary so it’s hard for me to imagine a low ranking sailor or lower class citizen couldn’t enjoy the comforts of a rag doll with strategic openings. One wonders at the hygienics involved in something that may not ever get washed, or washed well, especially after a lengthy time of being repeatedly used. Did many share them or did you have an exclusive relationship with your raggedy love doll? If they were shared there is a certain “ew” factor when it comes to cleanliness and I don’t even want to think about the ease of transmitting STIs among your shipmates.

The French, Spanish, Dutch and Japanese probably weren’t the only ones to come up with this tool for fornication. It paved the way for more realistic looking dolls once rubber is improved with the invention of vulcanization. It’s a shame none of these earlier dolls survived. It would be amazing to see what level of detail, or not, was given to the cloth doll. Unfortunately, we will probably never know what they really looked like or how they were made. Sex with simulacra will continue to evolve along with technology. It will be interesting to see where this this technology takes us.

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