Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Men and Their Toys

The documentary Guys and Dolls, which deals with the recent phenomenon of men purchasing Real Dolls that are the equivalent to a very realistic and very expensive blowup doll—something like a plastic woman—takes you into the lives of five men who own these inanimate people. The film itself, fine as far as it goes[1] in depicting this particular subculture, ends up showing you basically what you would expect from the lives of men who have sex with dolls. But it does ask the expected questions and seems to answer them in a somewhat straight forward manner from the mouths’ of the owners of said sex dolls.

The first of the five men that we meet, a guy unfortunately named Davecat, seems to be one of the more screwed up of the bunch. Davecat lives at home[2] and his Real Girl is the cause of much family feuding. This guy, more than anybody else, seriously gives me the creeps. His dad, who is understandably freaked out about his son’s affinity for plastic people, proves unsupportive of his son’s extracurricular activities wishing that he would go out with an actual human being. All of this gets told to us second hand by Davecat, presumably because his father is embarrassed about the whole thing and wants nothing to do with it. Anyway, he explains that he has always had a fascination with manikins and has stories of when he was younger wondering off at the mall to talk to “synthetic women” in miniskirts or something.

The next gentleman featured in the film is Everard, a 50-year-old man who is incredibly lonely and sad and a guy you can’t help really feeling for. Everard, who also lived with his mother for a suspiciously long time, has been alone since her death eleven years ago and has (creepily) kept his mother’s room exactly the way she left it then. What makes this even weirder is the fact that she died in a nursing home and like recreated her room there Norman Bates style.

Next up is Gordon and he is just as unsettling as Davecat just in a slightly different way. Whereas Davecat has my vote for most likely to be a serial killer, no small feat among these men, Gordon is most likely to be a mass murderer. Don’t be surprised if you see this guy on a killing spree a la postal sometime in the future. Gordon, who admits to having an attachment to “inanimate objects,” also owns three guns two of which are assault weapons and not to be fucked with. “Three guns and two girls,” he boasts. Like the other two men thus far mentioned, Gordon has an interesting family background, his father left when he was less than a year-old and his mother buys him things like four-and-a-half feet tall medieval-looking swords. No correlation is ever proposed between this fact and the men preferring the company of dolls.

Two of the few men anywhere, one would guess, that have Real Girls and girl friends are the last two featured in the documentary. The first, Mike from Texas, is in the early stages of a relationship with a woman named Jody; he has be upfront about having at least one Real Doll and hasn’t scared her off yet, and now that he has a girl friend, claims to no longer use the dolls to get his rocks off. Jody remains unconvinced. So do we for that matter. Nonetheless, he contests that he will “give up the dolls for the right women” which he believes could very well be this woman Jody whom he met over the internet. He has began attending Sexoholics Anonymous meetings at the local Catholic church and even sees wedding bells in their future. At one particularly stomach wrenching point in the film, Mike cleans out his favorite (Lexi) of the eight dolls that he owns. He sticks a cleaning utensil that looks like a feather duster into the doll’s vagina saying that it is beginning to “smell like fish” and, pulling the vag-duster out of the artificial womanly orifice, there is a grime that is truly indescribable and almost made my female companion throw up. Despite his persistence that he is not having intercourse with any of his “girls,” he does admit that sometimes he “wakes up with a raging hard on” and wants to have sex with something while his living sexual partner is either asleep or away. So Mike gets this seemingly brilliant idea, rocket scientist he is not, that springing a proposal of a foursome between him, Jody, and two of his favorite dolls for his birthday would further their relationship. All of this, however, proves to be far too confusing for Jody who splits a week after filming.

The other guy who is currently in a relationship, Slade, may or may not own a Real Doll himself,[3] is known as a quote unquote “doll doctor” who fixes them when they get old and flabby. Seeing his workshops sends chills down the spine. In Slade’s garage are five or six dolls[4] hanging, in a row, from chains that fit noose-like around their necks and makes you recall images from the dungeons of serial killers you see on Real TV. The effect is kind of surreal. Anyway, when having sex with a Real Doll, he says “it comes alive.” It is so lifelike, he contends, that “when you push it feels like it is pushing back.” Somewhat grounded in reality though, he recognizes “it’s just a doll—a high form of masturbation.” It is his girl friend, Rebecca, though who expresses an obvious fact that none of the men seem to have realized—that the Real Girls have set an unrealistic standard for the female form. This typical feminist rhetoric is very true as can be seen with many men and their affinity for porn, this, however, is an actual manifestation of the fantasy into the 3-D world we as human beings live in making it all the more likely that these men will set standards that no woman apart from some .01% could measure up to, literally.

The result of all this ends up being a special kind of sadness in that you just know all of these men will ultimately end up being hopelessly alone. Gordon, for instance, speaking of an ex-girl friend, says that the nicest thing she ever did for him was leave him right before Christmas, that allowed him to spend the money he had been saving up on himself rather than buying gifts for her. He admits “if you are 39-years-old and haven’t found anyone by now, you’re probably not going to.” Well, you certainly won’t now with a couple of freaky life-like dolls hanging in your closet. It seems that these men have sort of just given up. “It looks like it is just me and my dolls from here on out” Everard says, adding “But there are worse things in life.” And one would have to agree that there are worse ways to live. I would strongly suggest not judging these men, I mean more power to them, but it is all pretty weird. All of the men, with the possible exception of Slade, have serious self-esteem issues, clearly. With that said, if they aren’t hurting anybody, why not let them live this bizarre fantasy out to the fullest. However, one of those things that are worse than living with the dolls, Everard says, is “living alone.” But sadly, he is living alone. This points to the two major psychological problems in living out a fantasy, namely that (1) these men have chosen an inanimate Real Girl over a real girl which makes actual person-to-person connection impossible which leads (2) to their constructing such a detailed fantasy that they have blurred the lines between that fantasy and reality in such a way that they are having trouble distinguishing the two.

Living in your own fantasy 24/7/365 makes actual human connection impossible and unless they stop, they are going to have their dolls and nothing else. “I know what to expect, with real girls[5] you don’t get that,” Davecat says pointing to a fact that while it is true, people with thoughts do tend to be pretty unpredictable, is really the problem itself. From time to time, he makes half-hearted attempts at dating “organics” but will always go back to “living in a Barbie world” because “It’s Fantastic!”[6] What he ultimately wants is a constant, and “you can’t get more constant that a doll.”

Which brings us to the second problem, all the men, on some level, tend to think of their dolls as being living things. Gordon again sometimes thinks “I hope I don’t get her pregnant” or “she doesn’t give me any diseases.” Likewise, we see Davecat experience real grief in having to part from his doll for any amount of time.

Unfortunately for Davecat, he has to take his “sweetie” in for some repairs which will take three weeks, the longest they have been apart for the past six years. What this really involves, however, is his putting her in a cargo box and shipping her across the country as you would say a book or a television. An obvious sadness is going on he admits. He sure has that right. He doesn’t mean it the way you would hope though, he says “they’ll be missing each other” and that he “has never had anyone to say good bye to.” But absence makes the heart grow fonder, they say, and “when she returns it will be like a second honeymoon,” which implies a first honeymoon which is heartbreaking.

Despite the film’s tagline, that “For some, money really can buy love,” ultimately it doesn’t. It never does. These inanimate lifelike recreations of a human being do not offer any of the psychic consequences, neither positive nor negative, of being with an actual living and breathing human being. All they are and all they ever will be is an elaborate fantasy that perpetuates the loneliness and alienation that we already experience way too much of.

[1] In that generic documentary way.
[2] Go figure.
[3] Though he does admit to having sex with them on a few occasions, which if he has never actually owned one is even grosser and creepier considering that he repairs them for a living so would have to like barrow another guy’s sex toy. What does that say for cheating btw? I assume most of the men in this film anyway would be pretty upset indeed if they thought their artificial partners had some other man’s dick in their nether regions.
[4] One of the dolls doesn’t have a face, having been removed for detailed painting, which exposes the plastic underneath the area you wish the face was. With teeth and eye sockets, the plastic does resemble a crude skull which makes the scene horrifying if for only a brief moment until you realize the girls aren’t real. This does, however, make you wonder how many serial killers own these things. Jeffrey Dahmer, for instance, didn’t want to kill his victims so much as have the living equivalent of a Real Doll which he attempted to create by drilling holes in the heads of young men and pour acid down into their skulls so as to make them “zombie-like”—i.e. turn them into sexual partners that do not themselves have the ability to think or act much like these men seem to themselves want.
[5] As in women with an actual pulse.
[6] In case you don’t recognize them, these are the lyrics to Aqua’s song “Barbie Girl”. I am so funny I just threw up.

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