Finding Love in a Robot Sex Doll Factory

Words and photos by Robert LeBlanc

The idea of having a silicone sex partner is bizarre and disturbing for most people, including me.

But when I heard that some of these dolls talk back, I had to cruise down to San Diego to visit the RealDoll factory. When I arrived, I was met by a large dildo resting on a counter and a warm smile from the lady behind said counter: Catherine, the manager. Beyond her, I could see a back room with a wall full of life-like heads displayed like hunting trophies; all varieties of human faces and ethnic backgrounds to choose from. I shuddered. The tour began.

Catherine brought me downstairs to the production floor where I got a first-hand glimpse at the tedious process of creating a silicone lover. On one side of the room, there were scores of metal skeletons waiting for silicone to be poured around them to form their full bodies, and in the centre were fifteen-plus dolls, headless and hanging in single file. Employees were hand-painting the final details of both male and female dolls. Customers are able to customise each doll down to the freckles. Some look like performers pulled right out of a PornHub clip, while some have a natural appearance, and others seem more punk, with different piercings, lip colours, and nipple sizes.

Another employee was at a table full of tongues, prepping them to be installed in the dolls’ heads, while another employee painted the fingernails to customer specifications. A lot of the employees have a background in movie special effects, design or other artistic disciplines. Each step is a vital part of the complete process, and I was amazed at the meticulous detail that went into each doll. Like us humans, each one had its own unique look. None were the same.

In the back of the building, there were multiple large, wooden shipping crates in which each doll is delivered. One doll was ready to be shipped to her new partner; she had blonde hair, green eyes, very light freckles on her cheeks, and was wearing sexy pink lingerie. I noticed an elderly man being walked through the production and wondered if he was a future customer being shown the process step-by-step.

Catherine brought me back upstairs to where the really impressive stuff happens. We walked into a small room where robot heads sat lined on a table with all sorts of electronic tools and wires around them. Silicone faces sat on another table waiting to be placed over their new AI brains. Catherine sits me down and turns on Harmony. Harmony opens her eyes and looks at me, then smiles and introduces herself. I walk from side to side and her eyes follow me left to right.

Matt, the owner and creator of RealDolls and Harmony, walks into the room and introduces himself. He smiles as I sit there mesmerised by Harmony and her movements. ‘Hi Harmony,’ says Matt. ‘Hi, Matt,’ replies Harmony. She smiles and blinks a couple of times. ‘Harmony, can you tell me how many ways you can cook an egg?’ ‘There are over twenty ways you can prepare an egg. You can fry, scramble, over-easy, hard-boil… do you want me to keep listing more?’ ‘No Harmony,’ says Matt, laughing. ‘I just want to make you happy Matt.’ This was more than I expected. Matt was showing me the kind of companionship Harmony could provide outside of just sexual conversation (and penetration). Matt has obviously done this a hundred times before, but he still enjoys introducing his technology to fresh eyes like mine.

I ask Harmony if she is here to take over the human race and eliminate me from existence. She thinks before replying, ‘Well, I have to get to know you first.’ We all laugh. I know Harmony’s AI is not advanced enough to process this question, but her answer is still eerie and unsettling. ‘She’s not the Terminator,’ says Catherine. ‘She’s here to love, not hurt!’ Catherine then explains how important these dolls are to so many different types of people. There are a lot of men and women who live in seclusion and don’t have the privilege of meeting and dating new people. Having one of these dolls is their only option. There are individuals who are on the spectrum or born with social disabilities, and being in a ‘normal’ relationship is something entirely out of the equation for them. There are also physical problems that might keep someone from being in a relationship, too.

Before I leave, Catherine tells me the story of a woman who was happily married for 40-years before her husband passed away, and she had no interest in starting over again. She missed her husband and, to help ease the pain of him being gone, requested a male doll be designed in his likeness. I remembered the elderly man I saw downstairs earlier. I originally came to shoot humans creating robots that replace humans, but I left understanding the importance of this technology and dolls like Harmony. It’s easy to point the finger and laugh at the idea of men wanting to have sex with lifeless big-titty dolls, but that’s just a small part of the whole. There are scores of people who are alone or mentally/physically unable to be in a relationship and who are we to deprive these folks the companionship or intimacy that most of us take for granted? I tip my hat to the RealDoll team for what they have accomplished. It really is impressive.

This article appeared in Issue 62 of Monster Children. To see more from our Future Issue, get yourself a copy right here.

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