Thursday, August 9, 2018

Strong negative effects are attributed to sex dolls both in public & academic debates; sparse research points to strong positive outcomes as well: sex dolls can provide a lot of sexual & emotional satisfaction, create feelings of comfort, peace & even love

Sex toys, sex dolls, sex robots: Our under-researched bed-fellows. N. Döring, S. Pöschl. Sexologies, Volume 27, Issue 3, July–September 2018, Pages e51-e55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sexol.2018.05.009

Summary: In the 21st century, sexual products such as sex toys, sex dolls and sex robots are openly marketed on the Internet. The online retailer Amazon alone provides literally thousands of sexual wellness products. The Internet has done with sexual products what it has already achieved with pornography: it has expanded and diversified the market, made sexual products more accessible and affordable, and thus normalized their use. Research, though, is lagging behind: in comparison to the large body of pornography studies, research on sexual products, their users, uses and outcomes is scarce. The present paper therefore reviews both the state of technological development and the state of research regarding sex toys, sex dolls and sex robots marketed on the Internet. For each of these three groups of sexual product, we first present the range of products available and then provide data on their users and use. Finally, outcomes of sexual product use are discussed based on theoretical assumptions, available data and selected user experiences. Operating within a Positive Sexuality Framework (Williams et al., 2015) and a Positive Technology Framework (Riva et al., 2012), both rooted in the Positive Psychology Approach (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), the paper argues that sexual products have the potential to improve sexual well-being in various populations. Health professionals working in the field of sexuality need to be well-informed about the ever-evolving market of more and more technologically advanced sexual products. It is their call to foster both, the health-related use of existing sexual products and health-related development of future sexual products.

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Strong negative effects are attributed to sex dolls both in public and academic debates: men who buy and use female or even child-like sex dolls could be led to objectify and abuse real women and children just as they do their dolls (Ray, 2016; Valverde, 2012). Men who accept their dolls as social companions could harm themselves by no longer seek-ing for a human partner. Even innocuous sex doll use could lead to problems for the owner due to stigmatization by family and friends, leading to embarrassment, social withdrawal and guilt (Knox et al., 2017; Ray, 2016). However, the sparse research points to strong positive outcomes as well: sex dolls can provide a lot of sexual and emotional satisfaction, create feelings of comfort, peace and even love, as doll-owners report in surveys and interviews (Ferguson, 2010; Valverde, 2012).

In doll-owner forums, there are a lot of nuanced discussions about the pros and cons of sex dolls. While some owners confirm the problem of social stigmatization, others tell success stories about coming out as a doll-owner to their friends and family and finding acceptance. While some feel anxious about falling in love or becoming over-attached to a doll at the cost of real human contact, others describe the doll as a therapeutic tool that helps them to overcome a traumatic breakup or to cope with seemingly inevitable social and sexual deprivation due to physical and/or mental impairment.