Married to a Doll: Why One Man Advocates Synthetic Love
Davecat met his future wife, Sidore Kuroneko at a goth club in 2000, so the story goes. The less romantic but perhaps more true version is that he saved up for a year and a half to buy her online. She cost about $6,000.
Sidore is a RealDoll, manufactured by Abyss Creations in the shape of a human woman. She is covered in artificial skin made of silicone, so she’s soft. These high-end, anatomically correct—even equipped with fake tongues—love dolls (or capital-D Dolls) are ostensibly made for sex. But 40-year-old Davecat (a nickname acquired from videogames that he now prefers to go by) and others who call themselves iDollators see their dolls as life partners, not sex toys. Davecat and Sidore (or, as he sometimes calls her, Shi-chan) obviously aren’t legally married, but they do have matching wedding bands that say “Synthetik [sic] love lasts forever,” and he says they’re considering some sort of ceremony for their 15th anniversary.
Davecat considers himself an activist for synthetic love, and the rights of synthetic humans, such as Shi-chan. He’s active online, with an iDollator blog, “Shouting to hear the echoes,” that he updates regularly, and has appeared on TLC’s show My Strange Addiction, as well as in a BBC documentary called Guys and Dolls.
According to the backstory of Davecat’s relationships, his Doll mistress (and Sidore’s girlfriend), Elena Vostrikova, saw Davecat and Sidore in Guys and Dollsand moved from Russia to be with them. Davecat purchased Elena, or Lenka, in 2012, and the three of them now share a one-bedroom apartment in southeastern Michigan.
I spoke with Davecat over email about the ups and downs of synthetic relationships.
When and why did you purchase your first Doll? Were you thinking of companionship at the time, or was it just for sex?
I bought Shi-chan back in 2000. Admittedly, my reasons for purchasing her were 70 percent sex, 30 percent companionship. I've always been attracted to artificial women such as mannequins, and especially Gynoids, which are robots made in the likeness of human females. In late 1998 one of my best friends, showed me the RealDoll website, as she knew I was keen on artificial women. I thought they were gorgeous creations, and having one would not only dispel loneliness, but be excellent for sex as well. And I was right!
When did you start feeling like Sidore was not just a sex toy but someone/something you were in a relationship with?
It actually didn't take me too long to regard Shi-chan as a synthetic person, and not simply a thing; it occurred pretty much when I opened her crate for the first time. I was immediately stunned by her lifelike beauty, and after I mentally collected myself, extracted her from her crate, and sat her down on the couch, I just held her in my arms for a while. It felt so right and natural, if you'll pardon the pun. It seemed perfectly normal for me to treat something that resembles an organic woman the same way I'd treat an actual organic woman.
"There was never a moment when Shi-chan—or any Doll, for that matter—was merely an object to me."
Part of the (sexual) appeal of synthetics is how much they look like their organic counterparts. If you have a robot shaped like a refrigerator, that won't have as much draw as a robot in the shape of a human; people will be more willing to interact with the human-shaped one. Further still, if that humanoid robot has artificial skin and sounds like a human, most people dealing with it are more than likely to even have a moment where they forget it's a robot. With Sidore, her draw was instantaneous. There was never a moment when Shi-chan—or any Doll, for that matter—was merely an object to me.
Have you always been interested in dolls, and if so, was it always in a sexual way?
I've always been fascinated by the idea of artificial people, specifically artificial women. Before I knew Dolls existed, I'd long identified as being a technosexual, even before I knew there was a word for it. A technosexual is someone who is attracted to robots. Like any subculture, there's many shades within the term. Some technosexuals prefer their organic partners to dress as robots; others are attracted to robots who don't necessarily have a humanoid appearance, such as R2-D2. My preference is for humanoid robots that are covered in artificial flesh, so they look organic upon first glance; both Geminoid-F and the Actroid series of Gynoids by Hiroshi Ishiguro are excellent examples.
Obviously, I’m sexually attracted to synthetic humans, such as Gynoids and Dolls, but the much larger part of their appeal is that they're humans, but they don't possess any of the unpleasant qualities that organic, flesh and blood humans have. A synthetic will never lie to you, cheat on you, criticize you, or be otherwise disagreeable. It’s rare enough to find organics who don't have something going on with them, and being able to make a partner of one is rarer still.
In your episode of My Strange Addiction, you talk about how you're perfectly aware she's a doll, and you're not trying to pretend she's a person. Yet you consider yourself married to Sidore, a marriage/relationship being something that is inherently two-sided. How do you reconcile those two things in your head at once?
Both Sidore and Elena have two backstories. One in which Sidore is the daughter of a Japanese father and an English mother, and was born in Japan and raised in Manchester, England. Elena's is similar; she grew up in Vladivostok, Russia. The other backstory they have is that they're Dolls. Self-aware Dolls, but Dolls nonetheless. In one backstory they have favorite foods; in the other, they don't eat, becaus they don't have digestive tracts... because they're Dolls. You get the idea.
I've had that dichotomy for as long as I've had Shi-chan and Lenka, and it doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. As I write their characters, they each express themselves through the Internet; they both have their own Twitter feeds, and Shi-chan has a Tumblr. Playing up the Doll aspect allows me to get comedy from the situation, such as when Sidore wonders why I don't just remove my sinuses when my allergies flare up, but writing detailed histories for them exercises my creative writing skills, and makes them more 'human'. Like I said, the dichotomy probably won't be solved any time soon.
Have you ever been in a relationship with a human woman, and would you want to in the future? Do you find yourself attracted to human women?
I'd been in relationships with organic women prior to, and after, having Shi-chan enter my life. When I say “relationships,” I really mean “affairs where I was the other man;” I've never been in a situation where I was with an organic woman who didn't already have a boyfriend.
I don't consider myself to be a very persuasive person; when I was growing up, my father was always pushing me into doing things that I didn't want to do, and as a consequence, I didn't ever want to be That Guy Who's Being Aggressively Persuasive. So instead of asking whatever lass I was with to consider me as a boyfriend, I simply wouldn't force the issue.
I'm still quite attracted to organic women, at least visually. But just because someone's attractive doesn't mean they have a mindset or a personality that’s compatible with my own. I figure that instead of chasing after an ideal person who either doesn't exist in the first place, or is already with someone else, why not buy a Doll? I don't gamble, and I'm not keen on taking emotional chances. We've all seen relationships where things start out fantastically, and then just end up falling apart. A friend of mine just got divorced after 17 years of marriage. That's an enormous investment of time, money, and emotion, and I'm not interested in having someone in my life who may bail at any time, or who transforms into someone unpleasant. Ultimately, getting romantically involved with an organic woman doesn't seem worth it to me.
In December 2012, you purchased a second Doll. How come? Did you feel like your marriage was getting stale?
Back in the early 2000s, my goal was to purchase at least one Doll from every company that's out there. One of the objectives of my blog is to introduce people who aren't iDollators or technosexuals to the idea of synthetic partners, and having multiple Dolls from various companies would enable me to compare and contrast them, so that people could learn what makes them different, and choose the one that's right for them. Also, I always thought it would be cool to have photoshoots featuring multiple Dolls interacting with each other; doing so would further make them less seem like 'things', and more like people. As it is, however, there are around 20 different companies across six or so countries, and unfortunately, I don't have that kind of money. So now my goal is about five. Short of acquiring a two-bedroom flat, I won't have the space for more than five, either.
In a more fictitious context, I thought it would be nice to get a silicone companion for Sidore, so she isn't lonely or bored whenever I'm away from home. As they're both bisexual, they get to enjoy each other on multiple levels. If anything, adding Elena to our partnership has only improved it, as we all appreciate what each other has to offer. Besides, if and when I manage to get additional Dolls, Sidore will always remain my wife; I've no intention of marrying any of the other Dolls we'll have.
My marriage to Sidore is open in the context of she allows me to do anything I want, as long as it's only with a synthetic woman. Incidentally, those are the exact same conditions under which I'll allow her to do anything extracurricular. Very straightforward, yet simple!
But you say you've been in relationships with organic women "prior to and after having Shi-chan enter my life." Is there a story there? Did a relationship/affair you were having with an organic woman cause problems with your relationship with Sidore or vice versa?
I was seeing an organic lass—a coworker, from several jobs ago—who knew that I had Shi-chan. This was back when I was of the mindset that Sidore would remain my wife, but I'd still look now and again for an organic lass to be friends with benefits with. Our relationship started out alright, but several months into it, whenever I’d attempt to get together after work with her, she'd always have something come up. I was beating myself up over it when I realized: Why am I wasting my time trying to get her to hang out and be romantically involved with me, when I have a Doll who is in love with me at home? Plus, it was a bit of a contest with said coworker, as she was interested in two other blokes while she was seeing me. As I'm not competitive, either, I decided that pursuing her was a wasted effort, especially in light of Sidore not requiring any of that silliness.
Then there was the lass I bought a house with back in 2003. I was attempting to help her out of a bad relationship. She claimed to be one of my best friends. She wasn't the least bit romantically interested in me, but I thought that if I helped her and she and I lived under the same roof, eventually she'd view me more favorably. Turns out that didn't happen, as I later discovered that she was a pathological liar with a coke addiction, and I moved out of the house after living there for only four months. That really drove home to me that I guess I'm too trusting with some organics. Some of them can be far too unpredictable. Synthetics have a consistency that I'm thankful for.
What is a typical week like for you? Do you spend most of your time at home with Sidore and Elena, or do you go out with friends? When you do go out, do you ever bring either of them with you? I imagine people in public would react strangely—does that keep you from doing coupley stuff like going to movies?
Contrary to what most of the TV shows we appear in would have you believe, I actually go out quite a bit! Well, enough, I'd say. I'm not a “people person,” and although I love my friends, it's better for an introvert like myself to spend more time alone. Having said that, though, I always have a fantastic time whenever I'm with mates.
"I don't take Shi-chan or Lenka with me when I go out. People have a long and sordid history of being violent toward that which they don't understand."
During the week, I'm usually at work—I do data entry and other bits and bobs at a machine shop—then I come home and either catch up on the Internet, or interact with Sidore and Elena. My job has me come in early, so I usually go to bed early Friday evenings, after meeting my friends online for whatever videogame has caught our fancy, or physically hanging out with them. Saturday evenings have me getting together with friends as well, and Sunday, I usually spend time with my rubber troublemakers, taking photos, watching a film or a telly program, writing or doing research for “Shouting to hear the echoes,” or getting up to other things.
Also contrary to what most people believe, I don't take Shi-chan or Lenka with me when I go out. For one, they're heavy (78 lbs and 57 lbs, respectively), and for another, I'm not so deluded as to think that taking them out and about with me wouldn't raise more than a few eyebrows. Also, I wouldn't want to put either myself or whichever synthetic lass I'd have with me in danger. I don't trust random people enough to think we wouldn't be verbally or physically attacked. People have a long and sordid history of being violent toward that which they don't understand. Or so I'm told.
What do your family and friends think of your relationship?
The way my friends view my relationship ranges from “Well, that's just what Davecat gets up to, I suppose,” to “Be sure to tell your girls I said ‘Hi!'” Most of them are cool with it; pretty much all of my friends are into quirky things, so they can empathize. I wouldn't be surprised if there are a few among them who would rather see me with an organic lass, but overall, they think Sidore and Elena are rather neat. Curiously enough, more of my female friends like them than my male ones. A couple of female friends have picked out articles of clothing for Shi-chan and Lenka on a few occasions!
Of my Mum and Dad, Mum was more open-minded of the two—years ago, when I was in my eyeliner phase, she taught me how to apply it properly—so although she probably would've liked to be a grandmother at some point, she was okay with my unconventional partnership. Dad, on the other hand, to this day categorically refuses to talk about Sidore, Dolls, Gynoids, etc. He's never come out and said it, but he wishes that I were more conventional and acted like everyone else. I wouldn't say that me being an iDollator has driven a wedge into our relationship, as the wedge was already there long before Sidore entered my life. I once told him, half-jokingly, that his attitude is no way to treat his daughter-in-law, but as the man has no sense of humor, he didn't think much of that statement.
"Women, by and large, are more selective than men are, and don't seem to have as much of a need to purchase a Doll as a single, open-minded bloke would."
A more practical consideration: wear and tear. In the Guys and Dolls documentary, there's a scene where you send Sidore off to a special RealDoll repairman to get fixed. I don't know if you plan on spending the rest of your life with Sidore, but that is the typical connotation of "married" (divorce rates notwithstanding). What would you do if she ever just became broken beyond repair?
That sort of thing has already happened, after a fashion: Sidore's had three bodies since 2000. Her first body lasted from 2000 to 2003, her next went from 2003 to 2010, and she's still enjoying her third body. As are Elena and I! But seriously, if her body becomes too irreparable, I simply save up some money and buy her a new one. She's looked exactly the same from 2000 to now, excepting the fact that her current body looks more like how I wanted her to look to begin with; namely, she's extraordinarily pale. I'd be lying if I didn't say that when her body comes close to falling apart through entropy, I'm pretty cut up about it, as anyone would be when facing the mortality of a loved one.
Up until about 2006, most of the Doll manufacturers used tin-based silicone. Which is lovely and soft, but was prone to tearing. Now, pretty much all of the various companies use a platinum-based silicone, which is much more durable. Part of the issue with Sidore’s previous two bodies was that she did develop tears, which, depending on how severe they are, can be repaired. When Shi-chan got her surgeries in 2006, she also went to have her joints tightened, which is something that every Doll needs sometimes, no matter who makes them.
Sidore hasn't had a single tear with her current body, and her joints are just now starting to loosen. But purchasing a new body for her every couple of years when she needs it ensures a kind of immortality, and ensures she'll be around as long as I'm around.
Looking to the future, I know you're interested in androids and robotics and the idea of, for lack of a better word, sexbots. As this technology continues to develop, isn't it all just moving towards getting dolls to be more like humans? And if your preference is for dolls, isn't that counterintuitive?
Well, yes and no. For me, Dolls trump organics, but Gynoids—which is a much less limiting term than “sexbots”—trump Dolls. A Doll's only failing is that she can't move or speak of her own accord, whereas a Gynoid would be able to, dependenton advances in technology, of course.
"Referring to a Doll as a "sex toy" is demeaning and unimaginative."
My ideal version of Sidore would be a Gynoid who greatly resembles an organic, but upon closer inspection, she'd have silicone skin and slightly stilted movement. Now the important thing to remember is that Gynoids and androids are like organic humans, but they would lack the qualities that make organics difficult to deal with. They would be pleasant, agreeable, non-judgmental, aesthetically and mentally pleasing, and more. In day-to-day existence, most people have to deal with at least one person whom they'd rather avoid at all costs. The way I see things, your spouse should be easygoing and a joy to come home to, in order to counteract having to deal with all manner of undesirables when you're out and about. I think the best way to reach that goal is through humanoid robots. It's like having your cake, and eating it too.
You consider yourself an advocate for synthetic love, is that right? And on your My Strange Addiction episode, you say "I think it's a matter of time before more people are choosing the synthetic option." Why is that? What kind of person do you think this sort of relationship is right for?
I don't just consider myself an advocate for synthetic love, but for treating synthetic humans with as much respect, if not more, than organic humans. Referring to a synthetic as a “thing,” or a Doll as a “sex toy,” is demeaning and unimaginative. For one, it's entirely dismissive toward the artistry that goes into creating synthetic humans. Nearly everyone who sees a Doll in person has to admit that the level of work that goes into them is incredible, and the technology involved in Gynoids and androids who are capable of speech and movement is astounding without question. If animals have rights, and rightly so, why shouldn't we treat something that looks and acts like a human with similar rights and respect?
Regarding the sort of person a synthetic partner would be perfect for: when people are in failed organic relationships, they're invariably urged to dust themselves off and try again. But what most people don't realize is that not everyone is suited for the “try, try again” mindset, and with each defeat, they're less inclined to make another attempt, which leads to more loneliness, which makes them even more depressed, etc. Being in a relationship with a synthetic means that the organic is taking a stand against loneliness on terms which harm no one. Instead of being miserable, they're doing something about it, without having to waste time, money, and emotion playing silly games to win the fleeting affections of someone who might be wrong for them in the first place.
Apart from technosexuals and childfree people, one group of individuals who would be well-suited for synthetic partners are introverts. This is why I always stress the difference between loneliness and being alone; many of us introverts actually prefer to be alone, as the noise and agitation of being around others can be incredibly draining. But being lonely—that is, the state of not having a special someone who you can occasionally be alone with—is something no one should have to endure. Having a synthetic in your life means that you can interact with them whenever you want to, and when you want to do something that requires solitude, you can have that as well, without being made to feel guilty about it.
"They make my flat less empty, and I never have to worry about them becoming disagreeable."
The movie Guys and Dolls says that most people who purchase RealDolls are men buying female dolls. Why do you think that is?
For one, Dolls aren't exactly light. Abyss Creations has made great strides in weight reduction and all of the other companies have followed suit, but when high-end ‘love dolls’ first appeared in the U.S., they were pretty substantial. Shi-chan is 5’1″, and her current body is about 78 lbs. Her first body from 2000 was the same height, but around 100 lbs. One reason why there’s not a lot of female iDollators out there is because Dolls tend to be too heavy for a lot of women, which sounds a bit chauvinistic to say, but it’s been corroborated with at least four female iDollators that I personally know. Incidentally, of the people I do know that have male Dolls, with the exception of one, all the owners are gay men.
Furthermore, it seems easier for women to find an organic male partner than it is for men to find an organic female partner. Women, by and large, are more selective than men are, and don't seem to have as much of a need to purchase a Doll as a single, open-minded bloke would.
Also, if more men do start "choosing the synthetic option," as you say, and begin having relationships with objects that are shaped like women, do you think that will encourage the objectification of real women?
The belief that the existence of synthetics encourages the objectification of organic women is baseless. If anything, those of us who are iDollators or technosexuals find that it's more a case of personifying objects. But then, 98 percent of the iDollators and technosexuals I know treat their Dolls like goddesses. I can't really speak for those who don't, and it would be safe to assume that those who would objectify an organic woman would've been practicing that behavior long before knowing about synthetics.
A lot of men are lonely because they're misogynist pricks, true, but a lot of other men are lonely because they don't meet women's expectations. The latter group may be entirely nice individuals, and would treat their girlfriends extraordinarily well, but they're shy, or unappealing on some level, or what have you. (I should note that it goes both ways, gender-wise; there are loads of organic women that remain single due to rejection.) But again, with the synthetic option, individuals who've been romantically passed over for whatever reason don't have to remain lonely. And to detractors who say that once Gynoids are more readily available, men will choose them in droves over organic women, that's rubbish as well. Having a synthetic partner is a preference. What’s more, those of us who desire a synthetic companion leave a larger selection for those people who are only interested in organic partners. We're doing you lot a favor!
Also, I have to ask—do you really feel fulfilled? Does it ever get lonely, is there anything that Sidore and Elena can't offer that you wish you had?
At this stage in the game, I'd have to say that I'm about 99 percent fulfilled. Every time I return home, there are two gorgeous synthetic women waiting for me, who both act as creative muses, photo models, and romantic partners. They make my flat less empty, and I never have to worry about them becoming disagreeable. Because of my status as an iDollator, I've met people across several countries and forged solid friendships. I've seen things I would never have seen were I not an iDollator. I've been interviewed for various television programs and websites, and asked to speak in front of a room full of psychology students about the benefits of synthetic partners. I've collaborated with performance artists and sociology teachers. To this day, I still get people contacting me online, saying that they saw how happy I am with Sidore, and they're saving up for a Doll of their own, to pull them out of their own loneliness. It's true that Sidore and Elena wouldn't exist without me, but without them, I'd be a much more reduced individual, so I owe them quite a lot.
However, that 1 percent of unfulfillment? That's only there because neither Sidore nor Elena are Gynoids. Once that technology becomes affordable, I'll have one made in my wife's likeness, and that'll be the final piece of the puzzle. She'd be able to hug me back whenever I embrace her, we'd be able to attend films and concerts together, and do all manner of things besides. There would be genuine interaction. The foundation for the technology is already there, so I'm convinced it'll happen; it's just a matter of waiting.