So, maybe by now you have seen Lars and the Real Girl. It’s a comedy set in Minnesota and the title character, Lars Lindstrom, is the sort of Norwegian bachelor Garrison Keillor never mentions. You see, Lars is a social misfit who sends away for an anatomically correct sex doll, falls in love with it, and begins bringing it along on visits to relatives and out to dinner. According to gossip, the actor playing Lars—Ryan Gosling—became so enamored of his costar that he bought her and brought her home, much to the discomfort of his flesh-and-blood girlfriend, Rachel McAdams.
It’s the ultimate mail-order bride, but of course sex dolls are nothing new. Back when I was a sweet young thing on the comedy circuit, I spent a lot of time in L.A. with a famous big-shot agent who was trying to make me the next Roseanne. Aggressive as he was—he’s actually the guy Jeremy Piven’s character in Entourage is based on—he couldn’t turn me into the next Rose Marie. But we spent a lot of time together, and he would dazzle me with tales of his clients’ eccentricities. According to him, one of America’s favorite funnymen had a thing for elaborately detailed $6,000 love dolls. Actual Austin Powers-style Fembots made of flesh-like sculpted silicone. I guess the real women in his life weren’t cold, fake, and submissive enough.
I’m pretty sure there’s a message here about the objectification of women in our culture, but I can’t get too indignant. The way I look at it:
A) That’s $6,000 the guy won’t be spending on roofies;
B) This is taking exactly the right kind of people out of the breeding pool; and
C) I have considered buying the economy blow-up doll version so I could use the carpool lanes.
So who am I to judge? Fact is, I did once have my own boyfriend doll, Armando. I purchased him for a bit that I used to do onstage, then I ended up taking him to parties as my date. This was a period in my life when dating a fella who would dress how he was told and listen to me for as long as I wanted was pretty appealing. I was up to the challenge of interacting with actual human men, but there were advantages to snuggling up to a guy-shaped balloon. For one thing, he wasn’t afraid of my single-mother status. And a partner you can store in the back of the closet was quite practical in the cramped apartment where I lived.
Eeeew, you’re saying. How could you cuddle with something that just lies there like a lox: clammy, slightly squishy, and unresponsive? Hey, I’ve had girlfriends who married that guy. My problems stemmed from me being the jealous type. I was worried I would come home early and catch him with a female mannequin AWOL from Nordstrom, the two going at it like the marionettes in Team America: World Police. After a trauma like that you’d probably be incapable of having a relationship with another doll.
It was fear of embarrassment that pushed me back to dating guys with a pulse. I couldn’t imagine wandering the streets after a torrid wrestling match, looking for an all-night bike repair shop that stocks flesh-colored tire repair patches. Or what about bringing him home to meet the folks? Mom would give him a big hug, making him blow a huge raspberry and sending him whizzing around the room a couple times, only to collapse in a wrinkled heap.
In all likelihood, guys are psychologically better equipped to have a long-term, meaningful, and committed relationship with a latex lady. Guys love stuff. They love their cars. They love their computers. They love their boats. And they could love us, too, if we were just better engineered.
My hope would be that owning one of these dolls is a gateway for a guy to have a relationship with a lady who is warmer than room temperature—the same kind of imaginative outlet I had when my Barbie was living in sin with Ken. Looking after a love doll does require a certain degree of commitment on the guy’s part. She is harder to clean than an old gym sock; you probably need a bottle brush. And lugging Silicone Sally to the dinner table and waltzing her around the ballroom before retiring to the boudoir takes a lot of effort. These things weigh 130 pounds, which makes them only two percent more plastic by body weight than Cher.
So I will not wag the finger of disapproval from my comfy chair of judgment. We often try to mold our partners like putty. Is it really such a reach to send for one that was vacuum-molded by Mattel instead?