Dolls vs Dames–Who’s Winning?

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So much for the new sex doll brothel. Slated to open this month in Toronto, Aura Dolls met a roadblock after a city councillor denied the company’s right to do business. A sex doll brothel falls under the “adult entertainment” category, which is forbidden in the Willowdale wards. Outraged locals are triumphant over the derailment; others don’t care what happens between a man and a robot behind closed doors. To be sure, Aura Dolls will pop up somewhere.

Depending on the features and customizable options, sex bots cost upwards of $15,000—clearly out of reach for most customers. Aura Dolls are priced at $80 for a half hour and available 24/7; package deals are in development. With six models to choose from, even a modest inventory could soon translate into a fortune. Bear in mind that each doll is meticulously cleaned and sterilized after use. The estimated shelf life of a bot is six months, though some of the more popular models may face earlier retirement.

Those who question the viability of a sex doll rental business might consider the facts. On its website, Aura Dolls states that its “vision is to bring you an exciting new way to achieve your needs without the many restrictions and limitations that a real partner may come with.” In other words, Aura dolls never have a headache and don’t need a safe word. All orifices are fully functional and scientifically enhanced to produce maximum pleasure, reportedly more intense than anything a real woman can offer. The dolls range in age from 21 to 24 and each has an online description that includes ethnicity and descriptions of physical attributes as well as personality quirks. Some are even said to be jealous of other dolls and prefer to be booked in advance.

To ensure privacy, an Aura Doll brothel will feature separate entrances and buzzer-activated exits, and payments will be handled without human interaction. Patrons will not see staff or other customers, though a camera will scan them upon entry. Their chosen “bad Barbie” will be waiting for them in the room, along with the option of music and/or televised porn.

In answer to many requests, the company is planning to add male bots. Presumably these full-size Kens will be as realistic and accommodating as the females. The penis of course will have to offer more than an erection, considering the vibrator competition. Perhaps the mouth will work, specifically the tongue—Aura Dolls is not giving away any secrets at this point.

Those adverse to the idea of a sex doll brothel believe that the industry is degrading to women, that it objectifies them in a literal and vulgar way. In comparison, there have been no complaints of dildos and vibrators dehumanizing men in the same fashion: frankly isn’t a vibrator just a stripped-down male with a few bells and whistles?

Some have no beef with the entrepreneurial angle; it’s the robots that creep them out. What sort of depraved weirdo would pay for intercourse with a silicone doll? It’s true that mail-order sex dolls have been around for a long time, but their cheap artificiality provokes more derision than outrage. Aura Dolls are hyper realistic, astonishingly human-like, and this is where the lines begin to blur.

While robots are being enhanced with memory, speech, voice recognition, even functioning G-spots, human females are working hard to keep up. Between make-up, Botox, face-lifts, tummy tucks, hair dye, weaves, fake fingernails, push-up bras, Spanx and waxes, women are becoming more robotic every day. Men readily accept these improved versions of their spouses and are in fact uncomfortable when reminded of certain realities like menstruation, body hair and the physical tolls of aging. Nor do they have any trouble believing in their own deceptive measures, like the bogus erections Viagra makes possible. And wives, gladly or reluctantly, go along with the prank.

Beyond the possibility that sex doll brothels might lower crime rates against women, the practicality of the dolls, their unarguable advantages, are alarmingly numerous. Assuming the bots are maintained as promised, there is no risk of contracting social diseases and no risk of spreading them, nor can Aura dolls become pregnant. Any kinky proclivities—things a man would not ask or expect of a girlfriend or wife (and might even resent them for)—can be accomplished in complete anonymity with a willing partner who keeps her secrets. And no guilt cause, hey, she isn’t real. It’s the ultimate affair.

On the downside, there are certain hazards to relying on sex dolls to make your carnal dreams come true. These dolls mean business—some of the more high-tech models come with a choice of 40 nipple colors and can talk and even understand their customers. If a doll is real enough to rent, can she be real enough to fall in love with? And what about her talents, those scientifically boosted orifices? How can a lowly wife compete with those? There is also the financial issue. What if a patron begins visiting these brothels with frequency. Will he be able to afford his habit? Will there be interventions? A new subcategory of sex addictions?

However realistic these dolls are, we need to remember they are toys, albeit expensive ones. Our greatest threat from sex doll brothels is not the shredding of moral fiber—our fiber is pretty threadbare as it is. Of larger concern is the degree to which artifice is shaping our lives, leading us farther and farther from the qualities that makes us human. We need to ask ourselves why our bodies and faces are not enough, why we mask and alter them, why fake has become the new real, and if we will ever find a way back.

What Ants Know

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There are ants that tend to their injured
by licking their wounds,
slowly transferring their own health
into fallen soldiers,
sealing fresh lesions against lethal bacteria.
Who can say why a creature as small as an ant
with so many hardy brethren,
would bother to stop—an hour if need be—
and help a troop.
In that tiny helmet of a head
are there neurons of compassion, of pity,
or are these ministrations automatic, instinct,
like the urge to tunnel or serve a queen
(what is instinct anyway
but a word for what we can’t explain?).
Some ants will even evac a battered brother,
not the terminal—those who have lost too many limbs
to the brutal jaws of termites—
but the ones who, with proper attention,
may fight another day.
The medics sense the difference
and do what they can
before moving farther afield,
gifted with the knowing
there is not a moment to spare.

Inner Critics

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It was the 70s.
No one had cell phones,
and cameras were for
travel, holidays,
bigger things.
“Selfie” wasn’t even a word.

So when you came across
that ancient photo
tucked in a book,
your stomach jumped.

There you were,
sitting on your dorm bed
hunched over a small typewriter,
looking up, surprised.
Younger, prettier—
that’s to be expected.
It’s the details that fascinate.
The blue eye shadow—too blue,
and eyeliner—too much.
You’re wearing jeans and one of those silly
peasant blouses—all the rage for half a minute.
Long straight hair parted down the middle,
same as the rest of the herd.
A poster on the wall of naked lovers,
red satin sheets. Good god.
A really ugly desk lamp.

STOP!
You can do that now,
tell your censor
to shut up,
leave this innocent alone.

She dogged you then too,
that old nag;
nothing you did
pleased her.
She was with you
from the start,
braiding you with doubt,
cloaking you with dread.
Not anymore.

Age has carried off
what you no longer need,
left you something
to fight with instead.

Now you have your critic
pinned against the ropes.
Let her rail all she wants,
you don’t need to listen,
you slow walking,
white-haired champion.

Love and Lilacs

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When I smell lilac blossoms, I am fourteen again and lying in tall sweet grass with my boyfriend. His hair is blonde and curly, and when he smiles, which is often, his blue eyes turn into twin crescents. There are summer cottages just a few yards away, and people moving back into them, but we are tucked behind a tall hedge and no one can see us. We kiss one long last time before getting to our feet and then, laughing, we brush the telltale grass off each others’ back. At the end of my street he pulls me close and kisses me again—this boy loves to kiss—and then he turns and starts walking down the dirt path along the railroad tracks. I do not take my eyes off him. Twice, maybe three times, he turns and waves, and though I can’t see his face, I know he is smiling.

Back east, where I grew up, lilacs grow like weeds. Each spring their branch tips burst into bunches of light lavender flowers that droop and nod in the breeze. On warm days, you live in their perfume. Tender and persuasive, the scent is like no other. There were roses in my youth, big dew-covered blooms lolling over white fences, but smelling them now does not take me back in time. Roses are not lilacs.

We were fourteen and in love. While I appreciate nature now, back then it was clemency, a place to disappear, and this boy and I were as much a part of it as the plants we hid among, all of us getting the same sun and rain and wind.

Scientists tell us that memories are stored at the connection points between neurons in the brain. The brain has approximately 100 billion neurons, each one potentially connecting to 10,000 other neurons. As information moves through the networks of the brain, the activity of the neurons causes the connection points to become stronger or weaker in response. This process, synaptic plasticity, is how the brain stores information. Once a memory has been created, aromas are potent triggers for recall.

This boy lives in me, my memories of him clear and true because they are welded in place. His wife has him now, but his boyhood belongs to me, as I presumably live on in him. I only need lilac blooms to bring him back and give our sweet youth another moment in the sun.

Photo by Breelynne on Foter.com / CC BY

A Streaked Window

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A child needs a father like a fish needs a bicycle. That’s the conclusion I came to somewhere in my teens. Now, decades later, the notion persists despite the heartening anecdotes I’ve heard. It’s not that I don’t believe the people who tell me their fathers are or were gems; I just can’t envision that Father Knows Best kind of world. Were these men Fred McMurray nice? Did they sit cross-legged on sofas, pipe in hand and gently listen to their children’s gleeful chatter? Did they grin and tousle their hair like Brian Keith in Family Affair? Did they teach hard lessons in a tender fashion, a la Andy Griffith of Mayberry? Or did their good qualities simply edge out the bad? Society holds the bar lower for men than women as if, expecting the worse, all we ask of fathers is decency.

My father, as you may have gathered, was not a nice man. He was a sadist and a tyrant and worse. There are too many similar stories, too many women abused by a father, uncle or grandfather. I know that these men do not represent their gender and that good men are plentiful, but my view remains smudged, a streaked window I cannot wipe clean. Each time I see a father with a young daughter I look for signs of trouble. I want to save whomever I can, now that I have the power.

Two friends of mine, women happily married to each other, are raising a boy and a girl. I have observed their family dynamic for many years, and what strikes me most about these women is their keen awareness of the colossal responsibility they have taken on. These two have made a solemn commitment to motherhood, parsing every detail and possible consequence of their parental decisions in a continual quest to keep their offspring out of harm’s way and reasonably content. The same can be said of another couple I know, married men, who are also raising children. Perhaps this level of dedication comes from hard-won victories: the right to marry, the right to adopt. Perhaps it is borne of suffering, whatever ridicule or injustice these men and women endured growing up in a culture that did not include them. Pain depletes some people, breaks open the hearts of others.

There are communal families, as in the Scandinavian countries, and there are transgendered couples raising children; there are those who, through divorce or tragedy, are compelled to parent without partners, and there are those who deliberately choose that arrangement. Love being fluid and accommodating, families can be cobbled from whatever is there.

I admire these devout parents. I never wanted children—the idea makes me woozy. Motherhood requires resources I must have been born without.

I live in the suburbs, where traditional nuclear families still predominate. The notion that such environments produce the healthiest children is religious propaganda with no supporting evidence. Sometimes I stand at the window and watch the kids across the street playing with their dog while their father washes the car. I have no idea what goes on behind their front door, but the children appear well-adjusted, and I have no reason to believe they’re in danger.

I want this to be true. I want them to grow up as they should, so that the sight of children at play will bring them nothing but joy.

 

Photo by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton on Foter.comCC BY-NC-ND