The Mysterious Origins Of Sex Dolls

The history of sex dolls can be traced back at least over five centuries, and potentially much further depending on your interpretation of certain legends.

Creating statues of human figures can be traced back throughout human history, but seeking companionship that way can be found as early as the tale of Pygmalion, who fell in love with a statue of his own creation that came to life through a quiet wish.

The origins of dolls used for companionship started at sea, with sailors during the Age of Sail creating dolls out of cloth to keep them from being too lonely on long voyages. The Dutch would also trade similar dolls with the Japanese, which has led to the nickname “Dutch wife” sometimes being used.

By the 19th century and the invention of vulcanised rubber, there was a clandestine industry of using this new material to create early sex dolls of surprising sophistication, at least in a day before silicone, latex and vinyl could create more realistic feeling love dolls.

This story has been spread for decades, but the problem is that most of these accounts are false, and to get to the truth we need to break down each element of the love doll mythology that has built up over the decades


The Dame Of The Voyage

A lot of the confusion surrounding love dolls is the use of the term “dame de voyage” in French vernacular, as the similar Spanish expression “dama de viaje”. However, there is little to no confirmation that this term was ever used during the Age of Sail.

The first confirmed use of the term comes from an 1893 short story, and even then “dame de voyage” is used to refer to sex workers that likely would have been common around ports in that era.

The earliest known evidence that love dolls were used for companionship by sailors arrived in the 1880s, centuries before it was supposedly widespread, and by the 1900s they were known to be advertised to sailors.

This does not necessarily mean they did not exist, but no surviving evidence exists to prove it.


The Origin Of The Myth

Because sex dolls were illegal in many countries up until the end of the 20th century, not a lot of easily obtainable evidence exists prior to the 1880s, and one of the earliest studies exploring love dolls was the widely cited 1908 book The Sexual Life of Our Time by Iwan Bloch.

He described incredibly sophisticated rubber sex dolls that had features that would not widely be seen in love dolls until the 21st century, such as bodily fluids, as well as allegations that certain rubber manufacturers in Paris would secretly add catalogue entries for love dolls.

The problem was that Mr Bloch, whilst an integral part of modern understandings of sexuality, had taken exaggerated advertising copy, erotic novels and a collection of short stories at face value and reported their claims as fact.

This is not to say they didn’t exist by that point, as an article from Le Figaro from 1855 reported that rubber love dolls existed, and the nature of the business during the 19th century means that they would have been sold with utmost secrecy regardless.

July 23, 2023


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