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The Ideal Partner?

by GAIL DINES

For all those women who think men are interested only in sex and not conversation or intimacy, think again. A New Jersey based company, ironically called True Companion, has come out with what it calls the “the world’s first sex robot”. This is, according to news reports, a life-size rubber doll that has all the “necessary” orifices. Why the big news? After all, this is not the first time that the porn industry has come out with a sex doll. The company Real Doll has been around since 1996 and offers “ an extensive list of options, including 10 female body types and 16 interchangeable female faces.” Offering to customize the doll to the desires of the particular consumer – color and shape of pubic hair, fingernail colors, hairstyle, ethnic features etc., — — the company boasts that “If you’ve ever dreamed of creating your ideal partner, then you have come to the right place.”

True Companion is trying to build a business on the deep insight that some men want more from their ideal partner than silent beauty. For about $8,000 True Companion offers a doll that actually talks in response to various stimuli, generating nuanced and complex sentences such as “I love holding hands with you.” Douglas Hines, the owner of True Companion, wants the customer to be able to “talk and relate to” the doll because he has come to the great realization that “Sex only goes so far – then you want to be able to talk to the person.” At last, men have discovered that for most women – and perhaps a few dolls – conversation matters! Well, it’s a start.

As ridiculous as this robot may seem to many of us, it actually makes perfect sense in a society saturated by porn, where the average age at which boys first view porn is 11 years. Boys and men are socialized by porn to see sex as lacking in connection, intimacy and emotion. Sex in porn is all about penetration; as chrisfjohn, commenting on the robot on the Huffington Post, said “the great part about porn is that you don’t have to deal with all of the emotions and drama of a relationship.” For chrisfJohn the robot is a bit too emotionally connected – he doesn’t want to “have to listen to it talk.”

For Don E Chute, on the other hand, the price is a bit steep because, he calculates, for that amount he could buy “roughly, 80, $100 hookers.” To be fair, many of the comments do see the problem with the robot-as-partner idea, but the misogyny still drips from some posts, as in the case of AZ85283, when he asks “Mothers, what the hell are you raising?”

Of course, it’s not the mothers but the pornographic culture that is raising men who are increasingly seeing women as interchangeable with sex dolls. If a doll with three orifices can stand in for a woman, then it doesn’t bode well for women who want to be seen as equal to men and deserving of full human rights. To see just how gender specific this is, can you imagine women shelling out thousands of dollars for a male doll, no matter what size his manhood, even if it did say, “can I make dinner for you”?

GAIL DINES is a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston. Her latest book, Pornland: How Pornography has Hijacked Our Sexuality, will be published in July by Beacon Press.

 

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