Once in a wax museum, I got separated from my group and suddenly found myself alone in the gallery of dignitaries. Hillary and Bill, Desmond Tutu, Tony Blair and the likes were frozen all around me.
Each figure possessed a silent and unique point of view.
I looked from one to the next as a vague fear of the unknown washed over me. I shuddered against the eerie sensation; then hurried off to find other living people.
After I shook the chill, an epiphany bloomed: the lifelike nature of the wax figures imbued them with a presence that bordered on mystical. A new belief akin to superstition settled in me, and on that day my paradigm moved one click closer to the realm of voodoo.
Now shift gears.
If a room full of fully-clothed waxen people could cast a spell on me, what power does a beautiful photo have? Or what about a lovely doll? And if that doll is life-sized and anatomically correct, if she is a RealDoll, then what?
I had to find out.
Much has been written about RealDoll and her owner, but most of it is flat and predictable. Guys screwing big Barbies. Har-dee-har-har. Anyone can write that snarky story, including all the obvious one-liners that go with it.
"So, buddy, does that doll feel like the real thing?"
"What real thing?"
Or you can go the other easy route: Disgusted Feminist. This piece that ran in Salon* for instance, wherein the doll owners are depicted as sad social misfits or sickoes.
Nothing is ever that pat. Nothing. I knew there had to be more.
So for a few weeks, I immersed myself in a huge online doll community, the Doll Forum, in order to write something fresh and unique. The ordeal was stunning and exhausting. After a couple of drafts and discussions, my editor thought that my online experience was more interesting than the dolls, so that's what I wrote up.
Here is a link to the Free Times article.
As soon as I started asking questions, a hundred stories bloomed, some surprised the hell out of me. There were sympathetic stories amongst the doll owners, none of which were represented in the Salon story. My Free Times story is also insufficient. There were so many other things I could not cover: all the different kinds of dolls (including those not designed for sex), the range of attitudes towards real women, and the difficult logistics associated with sex with the dolls. That's just to name a few of the things that didn't make it into my final cut. Hence my article is not all-encompassing, but it is honest and (hopefully) balanced. It also talks about my emotions and reactions, yes, but it does not judge.
You can read the exhaustive discussion I had with the doll owners here. You might wonder why some of the quotes and references in the Free Times article are not there.
Members and administrators were constantly going back to edit and delete comments, although nearly everything I quoted survived--at least since the last time I checked.
I took one hell of a beating at the Doll Forum (most of the bullying comments have been deleted--only after they were up for about ten days--plenty of time to do what they intended), but I stand by my method. I could have gleaned quotes from all over the forum and shaped the doll owners any way I wanted. But I didn't because that is manipulative at best and dishonest at worst. Instead, I stepped into the light, introduced myself with my real name and links, and solicited comments about dolls. Everyone knew they were "on the record."
To close, a few anonymous (and edited) comments from the Doll Forum:
"(My dolls) are respected companions. Because of my mystical beliefs, my dolls are also "spirit guides" or "guardian angels" who are always with me. This is a wonderful feeling. They often help me with important things. If I were ever to lose the dolls themselves, their spirits would still very much be with me."
"The body seven doll was molded from a real woman and I find access to Dolly's fudge shoot to be very easy from a standing position. I had to enlarge both the anal and vaginal openings by leaving in a wooden phallus for one week. I guess they could have moved the asshole after making the mold."**
"We all have thresholds beyond which we will not explore. Love dolls cross so many boundaries for a lot of people."
Every doll picture on this post was taken by the doll's owner. And yes, every pic includes dolls and only dolls. Here is another photo that is NSFW.
*That story was a mangled version of Meghan Laslocky's longer and more even-handed piece that ran in Salt Magazine. I have no idea how she felt about it, but when the longer article was pointed out to me, I was shocked and dumbfounded at how Laslocky was edited in Salon.
**This comment was part of an older post, one in which I had no participation.
I encourage letters to the Free Times editor Frank Lewis. Here is the email link. Be sure to include your full name and city.