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The history, origins and use of sex dolls is wider and more widespread than the history that has been written down and widely shared.

Love dolls and artificial companions have existed for thousands of years, further back than the myth of Galatea and perhaps to early statues devoted to fertility, but accounts are limited because in some societies such dolls were criminalised in a way that they are not today.

One of the first academic accounts of sex dolls as we know them today comes from the 1908

book The Sexual Life of Our Time by Iwan Bloch.

Iwan Bloch, a psychologist who helped to develop the field of sexology, covered a lot of topics but his descriptions of the capabilities and features of love dolls became absolutely fascinating as they showcased what appeared to be lost and highly sexual technology.

Was it true at the time? And if it wasn’t, has his description instead become a prophecy of the distant future we live in now?

Sexual Lives Out Of Time

The Sexual Life of Our Time in its Relations to Modern Civilisation was one of the first encyclopaedias ever made concerning sex and sexual topics, and whilst branded as obscene when the 1906 German book was translated into English and published, became one of the earliest frank accounts of sexuality.

It is a gigantic book and covers hundreds of different topics, with the section on sex dolls a mere 200 words out of a book that is nearly 800 pages long, sandwiched between a section on the sexual act of “Pygmalionism” (where sex workers pretend to be statues coming to life) and one on exhibitionism.

However, it is quite a fascinating account, as it describes sexual “Vaucansons” (a now-archaic term for surprisingly realistic automata named after the inventor of the same name) made from rubber and “other plastic materials” that were sold by certain Parisian rubber articles.

It describes some exceptionally advanced features for that era, such as genitals that self-lubricate, artificial penises that ejaculate, and are described as “artificial humans”, suggesting a level of realism far greater than expected from the late 19ths century.

It created a lot of interest in the idea of a secret history of “fornicatory dolls” that had technology decades if not a full century ahead of what we know about love dolls.

Unfortunately, more recent studies into sex dolls, particularly the work undertaken by Bo Ruberg, suggest that Mr Bloch may have been taken in by a mythology surrounding Parisian sex dolls at the time.

Of the two sources he cites, one is a 1904 collection of short stories by René Schwaeblé and the other is an erotic novel written under a pseudonym by Alphone Momas. 

This, alongside extremely exaggerated advertising copy of the type commonly found in the 19th century, suggests that almost nothing he claimed at the time was true.

However, nearly a century later, a lot of the features he described, such as dolls that looked lifelike using plastic-like materials such as silicone and vinyl featuring organs that secrete fluids, all came true, except they are more openly available and more accepted than in Mr Bloch’s time.

September 18, 2023