I would like to preface this thread by stating I am a vendor of devices commonly known as “sex dolls” and a researcher of the subject with three studies currently in various stages of progress for publication. I endorse evidence-based research for child abuse prevention and support any individual who decides to purchase this type of device, regardless of appearance and size, for intimate or sexual purposes. I hold a BA in psychology and am currently a UCF graduate student enrolled in the sociology program, I will be defending my thesis summer of 2020.
Although marketed as “sex dolls” this term to describe such a device is inaccurate and limiting. Many individuals purchase these devices for other non-sexual purposes. By continuing to use the term “sex doll” the symbolism this term represents reinforces a culture that attaches negative meaning to the representation of women (and potentially children) as sexual playthings. The consequences of using the term “sex doll” within the current symbolism has encouraged the demonization of the user and scrutiny of the device as having immoral implications. In order to reverse these negative connotations, I believe more inclusive, standard terms must be implemented within the industry including vendors and manufacturers, scientific community and related discussions.
Several years ago, on a prominent doll forum I suggested the term Intimate Partner Alternative (IPA) to replace the more colloquial term “sex doll”; this suggestion was met with a lukewarm reception to say the least. Although not practical for marketing purposes I have incorporated Intimate Partner Alternative as often as possible on my website, research projects and discussions about the subject. IPA is an applicable term for those utilizing the products to express all forms of intimacy such as surrogate relationships- both sexual and non-sexual, expressions of affections and strictly sexual behaviors such as masturbation. The term IPA may represent a more inclusive utilization of the devices for intimate reasons, but it still lacks an all-inclusive meaning.
At the end of the day we have a device and the user of the device. The device in question just happens to be in the form of a human effigy, this form can be male or female, have the appearance of any age and even be a fantasy creature with human like features. Because said device is capable of being positioned into a variety of poses like a child’s doll or action figure, they are in essences a large-scale action figure models (AFM). The AFM is typically anatomically correct and possesses either male or female body features including genitalia; having such features allows the user to interact with the device in sexual gratifying ways. How this device is utilized is determined by the end user. Users of the devices can interact with them in a variety of intimate and non-intimate ways. For those that choose to interact with these devices in an intimate fashion the term “Intimate Partner Alternative” may be more appropriate to describe the device in this type of setting.
As a vendor and researcher, I feel it necessary, as well as a responsibility, to present these devices in such a way they a. Are descriptively more inclusive b. Dispel negative connotations and c. Promote the positive aspects of the devices. I have taken it upon myself to begin transitioning to the following terms in my business and research-
Action Figure Model (AFM)- Used to describe any large-scale human effigy type figure that can be posed in a variety of positions. This device includes representations of males, females or transsexuals, have the appearance of any age and may be a fantasy creature with human like features i.e. vampire, elf, demon etc. The AFM is typically anatomically correct and possesses either male or female body features (or both) including genitalia.This term best describes the device when utilized in non-intimate ways such as photography models or displays.
Intimate Partner Alternative (IPA)- A term used to describe any AFM when the device is utilized for intimate and sexual purposes such as but not limited to- a relationship surrogate, outlet for expressing affection or sexual gratification i.e. masturbation.
Some may consider such terms suggested above impersonal. It is not my intent to diminish the relationship one may have with their AFM. By adopting more inclusive general terms we begin the process of dispelling the current negative symbolism these devices possess therefore improving the image of the device and device user in the public eye. I encourage other vendors, manufacturers, researchers and AFM users to support and adopt these or similar terms in both public and private. This action is only one step in rebranding these products for a more positive public image. For more information about understanding symbolic-consequences in this context please refer to chapter 7 of Robot Sex- Social and Ethical Implications edited by John Danaher and Neil McArthur.