Future sex

For proud owners of a $5,000 Realdoll, she's always ready when you're ready. But it takes a special kind of man to get ready for a hunk of silicone with three holes.

Published February 26, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Those wry social commentators known as Beavis and Butt-head once summed up the male libido with a question. Watching a half-naked hoochie mama shake her groove thing on TV, Beavis turned to his cartoon pal and asked, "Hey, Butt-head, wouldn't it be cool if chicks just did what you wanted?"

Ah, Beavis, what a wonderful world that would be. Of course, women think the same of men. The difference is that women generally desire a package involving a dozen roses, candlelit dinner and a foot massage. Whereas men want to make the naked pretzel with Jennifer Lopez.

It's the great yawning chasm that lies between Hustler and Cosmo's sex tips. The sex tips of the former involve complete carnal depravity, while the latter's, inexplicably to Maxim readers, almost always seem to include, you guessed it, a dozen roses, candlelit dinner and a foot massage.

Unfortunately, ladies, technology seems to have advanced no further toward netting that dreamboat willing to whisper sweet nothings in your ear while snuggling through an episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

But for the fellas, there's Abyss Creations, makers of the Realdoll.

For a cool $5,000, scrubs of all shapes and sizes can obtain unlimited access to all three orifices on a bootilicious bombshell fashioned from high-grade silicone flesh.

Sure, your local porn palace offers any number of disembodied vaginas sculpted after those of adult film vixens, and the plastic blow-up doll has been around for decades. And Abyss Creations has a number of competitors: Triple-X-Sextoys, for instance, offers a silicone love doll modeled after pornstress Chasey Lain for $259.

But Realdoll is the Cadillac of the club. With five anatomically correct body types; nine head styles, including a Japanese cutie named Mai; and a wide choice of characteristics including eye and hair colors as well as breast size, the company has gone a long way toward fulfilling the promise of that prescient 1975 flick, "The Stepford Wives." You know, the one where a cabal of yupper-crust executives take over a Connecticut town and replace their wives with oversexed androids who dig housework.

At present, Realdolls contain no animated parts. But plans for blinking eyelids, vaginas that contract and voice boxes that respond to sensors in the doll's body are in research and development.

The following comes verbatim from the Web site:

We are happy to introduce Stephanie. Complete with a new body (#5) and a head (#8). This body is an alternative for large breast lovers who do not wish to go with heavier body three. Body 5 weighs in at just 105 lbs, and has 34E cup breasts. Click the picture to the left to see more of Stephanie.

For accessories, Abyss Creations offers extra wigs, so you can mix and match her hair with what she's wearing. (Remember Garanimals, anyone?) And there's even a Realdoll CD with 20 minutes of moaning and groaning to make you feel like the stud-muffin you always dreamed of being.

Crikey, what have we come to? After all, $5,000 can buy a lot of trips to the local brothel for sex with an actual woman, not a lifeless puppet. Apparently some guys would rather own a trailer than rent a penthouse.

Well, according to Dr. Timothy Taylor, author of "The Prehistory of Sex: Four Million Years of Human Sexual Culture," this Realdoll business is just par for the course.

"Non-reproductive sex seems to have been a part of the human sexual repertoire from the time of our divergence from our common primate ancestor," asserts Taylor. "Human sexuality is more a cultural phenomenon than a biological drive."

Taylor says that Ice Age people of 25,000 years ago carved functional dildoes and female figures with detailed vaginas, but whether either was used in sex play remains unknown. And full-body phallic sculptures existed in ancient Greece and Egypt, but were more for religious ceremonies than masturbation.

After looking at the Realdoll Web site, Taylor concedes that they are "extraordinary artifacts." He sees them as "part of a consumer culture of instant gratification, low interaction, standardization and a degree of monotony."

The good doctor pooh-poohs the idea that personal relations would suffer in any significant way. "No normal person will ever confuse a Realdoll with a real partner," he says.

Of course, not everyone agrees.

"Obviously, I don't think it'll make women obsolete," says M.C. Sungaila, an attorney and writer in Southern California specializing in feminist issues. "But reducing a woman to an inanimate object in order to relate to her in the most intimate way is kind of disturbing."

Sungaila grants that individuals have the right to pursue their own fantasy lives but objects to Realdolls' larger message.

"Knowing that it's out there and that somebody thought this was a good idea -- to make money off the complete objectification of women -- is discomforting to say the least," comments Sungaila.

Matt McMullen is that somebody, the creative mind behind Abyss Creations.

"We've sold about 500 in the four years we've been in business," he said. "We make six a week and have about a four-month backlog."

A native of San Diego, McMullen, 30, describes himself as a self-taught artist and says his interests have always included sculpture, special effects and the female body. He was designing Halloween masks for a San Diego business when he began to toy with a Realdoll prototype in 1996. As he tells it, his leap from werewolf masks to sex dolls was not exactly part of a master plan.

"It started off as a concept I had for a mannequin," recalls McMullen. "I had a Web site going, and people kept e-mailing, asking if I could make a love doll. So I changed my design. Now you have Realdoll."

The term "love doll," of course, is a misnomer. What McMullen is selling is pure pneumatic bliss. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you.

But what kind of man buys a Realdoll? McMullen claims he doesn't keep stats. But we do know that they have a little over $5,000 in excess cash or credit.

The elusive McMullen invited this reporter to see his production facility in San Marcos, Calif. Inside, the first thing you see are the skeletons -- the metal armatures for the dolls -- which look vaguely like headless versions of the robots in the "Terminator" movies.

Far in the back is a bizarre spectacle: eight headless female bodies hanging about a yard or so off the floor, suspended from long chains with hooks affixed to the top of the necks. The bodies are, quite simply, gorgeous -- with the sort of firm, round T-and-A that you only find in gentlemen's mags. It's a disturbing sight, reminiscent of plucked chickens on display in a Chinese restaurant. One is torn between lust and horror.

McMullen isn't in. His sister-in-law Shelly Couture, who helps run the business, gives the tour. "Pretty trippy?" asks Couture with a nod to the dolls. "It takes some getting used to."

Couture leads the way to a showroom. "I never thought I'd be working in the sex industry," explains Couture. "But my brother-in-law is an incredible sculptor ..."

Several Realdoll models sit in chairs against the walls of the break room wearing lingerie. Above them are professional photos of each along with the names that McMullen has randomly assigned to the heads: Leah, Celine, Stephanie and so on. The pictures are shot with that Penthouse-style soft focus that makes the Realdolls look especially alluring.

"Go ahead, try it out," says Couture. "That's what you came for."

For a moment, a particularly crass thought flits through this reporter's noggin. But Couture doesn't seem disposed to allow a test ride. Abyss Creations did give Howard Stern one of their products, which he played stick bandit to in no time flat. Afterwards, the shock jock declared, "It was the best sex I've ever had!" In this case, a cheap feel will have to suffice.

Inspection commences on one of the better endowed of the bunch. Her fun-bags feel divine, squeezably soft, yet firm enough to keep from sagging. The nipples are a work of art, and it's difficult to stop toying with them. The remainder of her anatomy hardly compares, but the ability of her joints to move is impressive, as are her adorable feet. The hands seem a little fake since the wire mesh inside allows you to bend them in odd directions. But her face is pretty and would require only minor articulation to fool the eye.

Without further ado, an index finger prods her labia and slips inside. The torso's glory hole is snug and inviting, and one imagines the bliss that would ensue if one's joystick were embedded deep within. A quick anal probe confirms that her delicate flower also has the right stuff.

About this time, Couture's 4-year-old daughter tumbles into the room. "I'm hungry, Mommy," she says.

"Just give Mommy a few more minutes, and we'll get lunch," says Couture. She fixes her child a plate of carrots and potato chips. "Now go watch TV," she says. "Sorry about that," she apologizes. "I'm having day-care problems right now."

So what does her daughter think of the sex toys all about? "To her, they're giant Barbie dolls," Couture says. "She's grown up with them and doesn't think anything of them."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Asked about her clients, Couture is more forthcoming than her brother-in-law. "Some are single, some married," she says. "Some are buying them with their wives' permission, some not. They're doctors, lawyers, etc. Sometimes it's married couples looking for a little spice in the marriage. Sometimes it's for guys who say their wives' libidos aren't as high as theirs. These dolls give you the ability to release yourself in an un-cheating sort of way."

Couture points out that there's a great deal of interest in a male doll, which Abyss Creations is working on along with a "she-male" doll with both male and female parts.

When pressed, Couture says, "We're not trying to make the Stepford Wives. We're not trying to replace women. I'd be the first one out the door if that were the case."

Yet that's what Realdolls are, versions of the Stepford Wives. Of course, one doesn't get the electric charge from Realdolls one gets from being close to an attractive woman. It's better to think of them as the first generation of artificial sex partners (second, if you count blow-up dolls). Subsequent generations will inevitably acquire increasingly sophisticated animatronics and eventually be wedded to robotics. In the meantime, Realdolls meet a need, a need some horny bastard is willing to pay over five grand to alleviate.

Couture proposes to call one of these horny bastards for an impromptu interview. The fellow is a 50-year-old, divorced man living in Arizona who declines to give his name or occupation, though he describes himself as "white collar." He says he's just bought Body No. 2 with the "Leah" head, Abyss Creations' most popular combo.

"I recommend it highly," he says. "It's about as close to the real thing as you can get, and it doesn't give you any back talk."

Asked why he purchased it, Mr. Arizona describes his last marriage to a "real bitch with a heart like a cash register." Once burned, twice shy, it seems. Now he's humping a mannequin.

"There are some minuses," he admits. "You're dealing with a 100 pounds of dead weight. But at least you've got loyalty."

Don't kid yourself, bro. What you've got is a hunk of silicone with three holes. When the phone call was over, it was time to say goodbye to Abyss Creations, Couture and their own little Twilight Zone.

"Why?" asks Katherine Ross' protagonist in "The Stepford Wives" when she finally confronts Patrick O'Neal. O'Neal plays an ex-Disney executive in charge of Stepford's nefarious Men's Association, the group responsible for the wives-to-fembots switcheroo.

"Because we can," he says, nonchalantly.

Of course, they can. It's fiction, silly. But what about real life? We've all seen the footage of electronic dogs and animated baby dolls. But can someone do a version of Christina Ricci that'll give you a roll in the hay to remember? That's the question.

"You could probably use a Realdoll on a mattress and set it up where you're jumping on it for a ride," says John Iovine, author of "Robots, Androids and Animatrons: 12 Incredible Projects You Can Build." "The doll would be the front end of a larger apparatus. An expensive game, but it would work."

Iovine surmises that a fully articulated android could be 50 years away. Similarly, McMullen does not envisage the Realdolls becoming androids in the near future. "I don't see the dolls walking around, vacuuming the floor," McMullen says. "But having their heads move and maybe some facial expression and audio, that's obtainable."

So how many men would line up for some hassle-free and disease-free recreational sex with an android? Are you kidding? All of them! Perhaps Realdolls, or some product like them, will one day in the distant future offer an acceptable alternative to a "relationship," that most dreaded of terms in the male lexicon.

But then those Stepford chicks were pure fantasy. Realdolls and the products like them which will inevitably follow will not be able to function as full replacements for wives, mothers or housekeepers in the near future. Nor will they soon usurp the gratification of sex with a willing, attractive partner.

Abyss Creations recently released "Realdoll: The Movie," starring Ron Jeremy as a hopeless nebbish who alternates between intercourse with the ravishing porn star Shayla La Veaux and her Realdoll doppelgänger. The Realdoll looks awfully pathetic beside the porn goddess. You desire sex with LaVeaux, not with her silicone twin.

Score one for the chicks, Beavis - the flesh-and-blood kind.

By Stephen Lemons

Stephen Lemons is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to Salon. He lives in Los Angeles.

MORE FROM Stephen Lemons

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Love And Sex Sex