The Myth That Inspired Love Dolls

The history of sex dolls is a tale of seeking companionship in times, places and situations where it may not always be easily found.

This was the story behind Oskar Kokoschka’s life-sized doll of his lost love, the dames de voyage that helped keep sailors company during torrid months and years at sea, as well as the inspiration for more recent dolls such as Bild Lilli and RealDoll.

This is not exactly surprising, given that people have been making statues and figures for as long as humanity has had the ability to use tools, but a myth dating back to one of the earliest civilisations may have directly inspired the types of love dolls available today.

Galatea And Metamorphosis

At the dawn of the Common Era, around 8AD, the Roman poet Ovid completed The Metamorphoses, a gigantic narrative poem that aimed to tell the history of the world from its very creation up until 42BC when the murdered Emperor Julius Caesar was deified.

It covers a lot of subjects, myths and legends, but Book Ten features the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea of Cyprus.

Pygmalion was a sculptor who dedicated himself purely to sculpting after seeing what he believed to be the immorality of the Propoetides, instead dedicating himself to creating a sculpture of a woman out of ivory.

According to the legend, this statue (later known as Galatea but never named as such in Metamorphoses) was so perfect that he fell in love with it, treating it like his partner, making a bed for it, giving it gifts and kissing and holding it in his arms.

When the festival of the goddess Aphrodite took place, Pygmalion made an offering, whispering his wish for a bride that looked just like his statue, but was rather surprised that as soon as he went home and kissed the statue, Galatea came to life, and the pair would marry.

The myth of Pygmalion is amongst the most influential in history, inspiring everything from The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare to Pinnochio to the comedy film Mannequin.

However, whilst there are countless stories it has inspired in one way or another, in the 19th century it had a rather strong influence on culture as well.

Pygmalion Culture

The story of Pygmalion returned to culture during the Renaissance, which is potentially where the concept of dames de voyage emerged, but by the 19th century, the concept of falling in love with a statue had a rather unusually strong influence on popular culture.

Just before Iwan Bloch provided the first written account of love dolls, he explored a sex act he describes as “Pygmalionism”, inspired by an 1877 story of a gardener who fell in love with a statue of the Venus De Milo.

According to Mr Bloch’s account, three naked women stand on pedestals and pretend to be statues, watched by a man playing the role of Pygmalion, before the women “come to life” around him, According to sources Mr Bloch cites, this took place in Paris in the late 19th century.

It coincided with the production of the earliest rubber sex dolls, which through a century of evolution would become increasingly sophisticated and lifelike.

September 25, 2023


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