The blow-up doll has become a visual joke in movies and television. However, the dolls that serious collectors flock to are high-end models, made in silicone, and they even have skeletons. They're meant to resemble a real human woman - with some basic enhancements, of course. These dolls can range in price anywhere from $1,200 to upwards of $6,000. They are for the serious collector.
One of the biggest brands of high-end dolls is the RealDoll, a silicone-flesh-and-PVC-bone woman manufactured by Abyss Creations, a company operating out of San Marcos, California. There are nine different bodies and 16 different faces to choose from, each representing a different ethnicity, skin tone, hair color, with a variety of facial features. Like the name suggests, these dolls are uncannily life-like.
It cannot be denied that there is a certain stigma attached to these dolls, generally due to the idea society has of the type of person who would purchase them. However, it would surprise many to know how ordinary a lot of these collectors actually are. A large majority of them are happily married with families, and tend to view the acquisition of love dolls as a hobby rather than a paraphilia.
A big sign that the advent of the RealDoll is entering the mainstream is the indie dramedy, Lars and the Real Girl, starring Ryan Gosling. His co-star is a RealDoll named Bianca, and in the film, Gosling's character Lars has a romantic but decidedly non-sexual relationship with Bianca, due to his socially inept ways and inability to relate to flesh-and-blood women. 'Lars' was critically acclaimed and even garnered some Oscar buzz.
I spoke with an avid collector from the Chicago area who goes by the webhandle Toyman. He's been purchasing high-end dolls for nearly a year, and found himself drawn into the appeal of amassing a personal collection.
Interviewer: "What first drew you to purchasing these types of dolls?"
Toyman: "Curiosity. I first bought a couple of cheap inflatables around 10 or 12 years ago."
Interviewer: "When did you first discover the RealDoll?"
Toyman: "Back when they were featured on the HBO series 'Real Sex', in the mid-90s. I saw obvious advancements in love doll technology and I was quite intrigued. The feel would obviously be superior to that of the shoddy, vinyl inflatable dolls of yesteryear."
Interviewer: "What advice would you give the novice looking to purchase their first high-end doll?"
Toyman: "Do research, read user reviews, find out what it looks like. There are many different companies that make them. Some are better than others, it depends on user preference."
Interviewer: "Do you think there's a negative stigma attached to love doll collectors?"
Toyman: "Yeah. I'd say generally that society has attached the stigma, looking at people like they're crazy perverts, but for the most part they're people just like you or me. Some people have dolls for reasons that others might not comprehend. Perhaps they don't want to re-marry after their spouse passed away, or for medical reasons. Both men and women are known doll-owners and dolls come in both sexes, including transgender."
There are hubs both online and off for collectors to meet, share information, and even sell and trade dolls. It's a place to go where they are accepted, and their motives unquestioned. The forum topics range from photo contests, where users can dress their dolls in themed outfits. The subjects are not always sexual, and there are a large amount of husband-and-wife teams who consider it a fun hobby, something interesting to do together.
For more information, you can visit realdoll.com, or online forum the Doll Chronicles.