By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photos by Jeanne RiceThe RealDoll may barely qualify as a sex toy—not if that category brings to mind inflatable sheep, electric cattle prods and the World's Biggest Gangbang franchise of videos. In that company, the RealDoll seems out of place and relatively innocuous. What is so deviant about having uninhibited, no-strings-attached sex with a gorgeous, three-holed, never-say-no vixen with a 34E bust and whose $6,000 price tag takes the term "high end" far beyond anatomical perfection?
Following home ownership, is this not the American Dream?
Still, the RealDoll—a fantasy-oriented product that leaves very little to fantasy—doesn't easily fit into the sex industry. One industry insider, who protectively refers to her own products as "sexual-enhancement devices" or "partner pleasure products," slams the dolls because, she says, they facilitate a desire for something that is clearly not sex. "It's fulfilling a psychological hunger, not a physical one," she says.
The manager of an upscale gentleman's club remarks, "Some of my customers have told me they would have sex with a dead body before they would a rubber one."
RealDoll, a.k.a. the World's Finest Love Doll, is the flagship product of Oceanside-based Abyss Creations, which has been selling sex toys for about five years. The doll's Dr. Frankenstein, Abyss mastermind Matt McMullen, says the company has sold more than 800 RealDolls in that time and handles 500 new inquiries per day. Courtship is relatively speedy: prospective buyers join a waiting list about 16 weeks long.
Many others are probably turned off by the price, although customers certainly get what they pay for. For $5,749 (plus $500 for shipping and handling), you get an almost totally customized, state-of-the-art love doll: you choose from five different body types, eight different heads and a host of different skin tones. Specify long blond hair, spiky red hair, blue eyes, trimmed bush. You can even get a doll with breasts the size of your head, a coveted amenity that will run you an additional $300.
Besides the exorbitant cost, there is also the potential stigma of owning one.
EBAY OR FREEWAY
The birthplace of RealDolls is the sort of industrial-style factory you'd find anywhere—once you get past the Texas Chainsaw Massacre foyer, that is, where rubber bodies hang from the ceiling by special hooks and apparatus. Some of those bodies are complete except for hair; others are headless and in various stages of assembly.
McMullen is hard at work in a room straight out of every 15-year-old boy's wet dreams: the back wall is covered with pages and pages of anime and young Japanese nymphs in battle and in bondage; heavy-metal thunder blares from speakers around the work stations; collectors' toys and action figures are strewn about; and there are portraits of women in various stages of undress. And then there are the disembodied breasts and vaginas, as if presented for a man's pleasure without the annoying women attached to them.
Just seven employees assist McMullen, who doesn't look anything like Quasimodo or even Hugh Hefner, but more like the kind of guy you'd see blowing by you on the freeway in a big, white truck with an LBZ sticker on the back window: blond hair, baseball cap, earrings and baggy pants. He's a handsome guy with a quick smile, appearing much younger than his 31 years. He doesn't look like an expert on implements for the sexually desperate.
His status as a sex-industry icon surprises McMullen, too. A self-trained artist who specialized in masks, he began working on a posable-mannequin project about seven years ago—a project that eventually morphed into the RealDoll. McMullen insists that Abyss is not part of the sex industry in the way that companies like Doc Johnson or Vivid Videos are. First and foremost, McMullen considers himself an artist and argues that his client base is appreciably different from those of other companies in the industry.
"The RealDoll is a very high-quality specialty product with a distinctive niche," McMullen says. "This kind of product does not appeal to typical sex-toy customers."
And who are McMullen's clients? Who spends upward of $6,000 on an anatomically correct sex doll?
"There isn't one particular kind of person who wants a RealDoll," says McMullen. "Married men, single men—even a few single women. We've had a few customers who say they're disfigured; they don't have the self-esteem to get out there and meet women for themselves."
McMullen emphasizes that Abyss doesn't track its customers. Instead, he assesses their satisfaction through the ample feedback they offer.
"We get some incredible letters—letters from men who say that [the experience] has brought them a new level of self-confidence and brought them out of their shells," McMullen says. He claims RealDolls have been popular with couples seeking "a little extra spice in their marriage but who don't want the emotional fallout" that could come by introducing a real-live third party. "Couples have written how thrilled they've been," he says, "and that introducing the doll has helped them renew their feelings for each other." (A question on the firm's website FAQ asks, "What happens when 'the honeymoon is over' . . . and I wish to return it?" The answer? "Although we'd like to fully satisfy all our customers, our firm policy is: ALL SALES ARE FINAL." At that point, it's eBay or the freeway.)