A sex doll, or love doll, is a type of sex toy, imitating a human female body for simulated sexual acts. The sex doll may consist of an entire body with face, or just a pelvic part, with the openings - vagina, anus, mouth - for copulation. The openings are sometimes vibrating and may be removable or interchangeable.
There has long been a sailor's term, the "dame de voyage", or "dama de viaje" in French and Spanish respectively, indicating a female sex doll made of sewn cloth and used by sailors aboard ship. They were first developed in their modern form in Japan and Germany during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s - in Germany as part of the military 'Model Borghild' project, and in Japan for use on naval submarines. In both instances, the aim was to give sexual relief to men confined in an all-male environment. 'Bild Lilli doll' was a mid 1950’s German doll marketed as a sex toy for men, and whose design is reputed to have inspired Ruth Handler to make the first Barbie doll for girls.
Commercial forms of sex dolls and love dolls
Cheaper sex dolls are inflatable, using air. These lower price-range (less than $50) dolls are usually rather ugly, made of welded vinyl, and bear only a passing resemblance to women, but they have an artificial vagina and their users are willing to overlook their shortcomings. They often burst at the seams after a few uses. Cheap vinyl sex dolls may be a health risk, if they contain large amounts of dangerous vinyl chloride or phthalates.
At the middle market price-range ($100 to $200), dolls are made of heavy latex without welded seams, have plastic mannequin style heads and styled wigs, plastic or glass eyes, and properly moulded hands and feet. Some contain water filled body areas. The manufacturing process causes most latex dolls to be delivered with a fine coating of zinc oxide covering the skin, and this should be removed by showering. Otherwise, latex is an inert and non-toxic natural material; although a tiny percentage of users may discover a latex allergy. All latex dolls of any quality currently on the market are manufactured in either France or Hungary.
More expensive sex dolls are made from silicone. They can be very lifelike, with face and body modelled on real women or men, with realistic skin material - similar to that used for movie special effects - with realistic or real hair. These love dolls usually have an articulate PVC or metal skeleton with flexible joints that allows them to be positioned in a variety of positions for display and for sexual acts. Silicone sex dolls are obviously heavier than inflatable ones, which consist of mostly air, but are about half the weight of a real human of comparable size.
Silicone dolls are quite popular in Japan, where they are known as "Dutch Wives". Their name originates from the term, possibly English, for the thick rattan or bamboo bolster, used to aid sleep in humid countries by keeping one's limbs lifted above sweaty sheets. There is even a rental service for 'datch waifu' in Tokyo, Doru no Mori, that specialises in sex dolls.
The middle market and high-end market emerged in the USA around 1995. The market has grown for two main reasons. Firstly, the last twenty years have seen huge improvements over earlier types of sex doll, and customers come to realize this through using the web. Secondly, the method of retail purchase has also improved - customers now select online instead of having to take "pot luck" in a sex shop, and a possible purchase can be discussed first in online forums with existing owners. Extras to customise a doll to one's personal taste - wigs, clothes, perfumes, etc - can also be purchased discreetly online.
New materials & technologies for love dolls and sex dolls
The CyberSkin Love Doll has evolved since 1995, and the latest models are significant improvements over those of just a few years ago. The success of the The CyberSkin Love Doll has led others to enter the market for high end sex dolls, often using new proprietary materials.
The manufacturer of CyberSkin Love Dolls uses a new material - a very elastic gel with a strong shape memory, which, they claim, is superior to silicone in quality and also cheaper.
The ongoing advances in robotics suggest that sex robots may be eventually manufactured and sold. A stepping stone to the implementation of full robotics would be to embed some of the rapidly developing cybersex technologies in dolls, to enable telepresence sexual activity. Spin offs from new technologies will undoubtedly be introduced into sex dolls - such as miniaturization, voice response, 'smart materials' and 'intelligent textiles'. Science-fiction and post-feminist theorists have already imagined a variety of artificial women, or gynoids.
Novelty forms of sex doll and love doll
In Japan inflatable love pillows with a life-size picture of a porn star or anime character and optionally a hole for lovemaking are also popular.
Some inflatable sex dolls are made in the form of animals, most notably sheep. These dolls are more of a joke gift or party novelty.
There are also some companies (like Dekunoboo in Japan or Teddy Babes/Eighth Wonder in the USA) that make cloth sex dolls, based on the same technology as plush toys for children. Amateurs have been making their own sex dolls from fabric for some time now, there are even mailing lists for discussing techniques and experiences with MLDs (material love dolls).