Guys and Dolls

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 by

Is five becoming the new old-school Channel 4?

Consider the following. On the evening of 10 October, which programme was on which channel?

a) A tawdry piece of celebrity car-crash TV masquerading as socially concerned documentary
b) A thoughtful and non-sensationalist look at a subgroup with an unusual paraphilia

If you matched five with B, then congratulations. On the same evening C4′s Jonathan King exposé was shown, five served up the latest in their “extraordinary people” series, focusing on four men and their unconventional relationships. With life-size dolls.

But out of this unpromising material came the type of programming C4 used to do so well before becoming HBO-UK.

Guys and Dolls considered three American men and their relationships with their over-grown Barbies but, before us Brits get too smug, they also included a Dorset local. The individual circumstances of each man were presented in turn, with obvious parallels between all four: an almost morbid fear of being alone, issues over control and reliability in a relationship, and a perceived incapability of living up to women’s expectations.

The program opened with the bizarrely named Davecat. In his 30s and still living with his parents, Davecat found this a little embarrassing, unlike his predilection for his blow-up beau Sidore. Being a mid-western American, Davecat’s father was obviously not tolerant enough to accept his son’s relationship with Polythene Pam, considering it “unnatural and strange”. Clashes would often occur and, as a consequence, Sidore spent 99.9% of her time in Davecat’s room. But then you wouldn’t think there’d be much point in Davecat’s mom setting her daughter-in-law a place at the dinner table.

Davecat’s plastic fetish had started at an early age after his mother had taken him to a downtown store and found him talking to a mannequin with a tennis skirt. He admired their “beauty and stoicism” and sense of being “incorruptible”.

But that’s not to say he hadn’t had a bloody good go at working on their incorruptibility.

Initially, his relationship with Sidore had been, “Sex, sex, sex”, but had tapered off to his just laying close by and “appreciating” her. Davecat had made half-hearted attempts with “organic women” but had been unable to tolerate the “lack of constancy”, unlike his situation with Sidorie. She was like an anchor in comparison with real women, which is not surprising as being an inanimate object means a plastic doll has much in common with other inanimate objects.

However, he faced an impending separation from his love as she needed repairs after going all loose and floppy over the years (the indignity of aging). Sidore would be away for three weeks which was the longest they’d been apart. Being alone was something Davecat didn’t want to contemplate, although if he’d known the man he’d entrusted his true love to then their separation would have been even more devastating …

As soon as the camera panned around 50-year old computer technician’s Evarard’s house (or indeed, as soon as we’d learned his name was Evarard) it was evident he had a thing for models – and this was before we came face-to-face with his lovers. Model airplanes hung from the ceiling, demonstrating he was a dab hand at patching things up with an Airfix kit.

The production team had arrived early, as “Virginia” was still sleeping, but this wasn’t too inconvenient once her partner changed her eyes from the sleeping set to the awake ones. Evarard cooed as he described how she was so “very static” and didn’t move at all, but that was unsurprising considering Virginia was made out of plastic. And had her closed eyes in.

The nearest he’d got to a girlfriend was a wren from the Royal Navy who’d taken dance lessons and was “quite fit” although, ever the fetishist, he was disappointed she didn’t wear the uniform when they met. Evarard didn’t go into the specifics as to why his wren had flown, but had some generalisations as to why other birds hadn’t flocked to him. He considered attractive women to be “unattainable”, perceived himself as an “outsider” and that all women reacted negatively to him before he’d even said anything.

To counter the negative perceptions, he had taken up hang-gliding to distinguish him from the common man on the street, with the expectation that women would be naturally attracted to guys who do exciting things. Alas, this hadn’t worked out either. If you ask me, he was going about it the wrong way: if he really wanted to demonstrate his alpha maleness he should have casually slipped into the conversation that he was living with a couple of models.

As with Davecat, Evarard was keen to stress the companionship angle to his latex loves. His mother had died 11 years ago and he’d clearly been unable to grieve and move on from his loss. Admitting that it “doesn’t make sense when your mother dies” he said he’d “probably” prefer it if he had a real woman in his life, but “sooner the dolls than no female company at all”.

As he poignantly, if a tad self-pityingly, put it: “I’m 50 years old. Losing my hair. I’ll never get a real woman that would look like this [his model]. A real doll will love me, no matter what.”

So despite the subject matter, the programme had been able to engender some sympathy for these lost souls.

Until it came to Gordon.

If anyone met most people’s stereotype of a sex-doll user it was him. Although his issues over control and dependency were similar to the others, his attitude was the most misogynistic of the men. He described sleeping with a woman who’d had the audacity to have intercourse with another man before him as “like going to a restaurant and being served regurgitated meat”.

His biological father had left him after six months and he’d been raised by his mother in Virginia (the place, not Evarard’s partner). Perhaps as a consequence of this Gordon was quick to emphasise the transitory nature of human relationships (“How many friends do you have from when you’re five or six years old?”) and how it influenced his preference for plastic.

But leaving aside his early attachment difficulties, his experiences in adult life had reinforced his preference for inanimate companions. He’d met a woman at a party and despite his perceived unattractiveness (“Bad skin, bad teeth”) had gotten talking to her and passed on his number. A couple of weeks later she called to ask him over to her place. To babysit while she went out with another man. Wicked, wicked woman!

Gordon had taken this rather hard, although he was at least able to look on the bright side by reflecting on the money he’d save at Christmas by not having to buy her any presents.

Perturbed by the unpredictability of human relationships, he no longer had to worry about “lies and deceit” with his flexible friends, which gave him peace of mind. Plus there were obvious advantages (no pregnancy or sexual disease), although at least with real-life women you don’t have to take a puncture-repair kit on a date. Unless you know she cycled there.

As Jean-Luc Godard once quipped about movies, all you need is a girl and a gun, and Gordon had two of the former and three of the latter, which coupled with his Astroglide lubricant and two-handed broadsword made him his “own god” in his fantasy world. His dolls were worth everything to him, to the point he was planning on having them buried with him, although for the sake of a relatively dignified service I hope he chooses to leave his sword outside the coffin.

The valley of the dolls responsible for all this latex love was situated in California, with the manufacturers shipping around seven dolls a week worldwide. Even by their standards they’d had various unnatural requests to deal with, such as pregnant dolls (Gordon clearly hadn’t placed that order) or an 80-year-old doll (maybe Evarard was looking for a mother-substitute?) One had even asked for pubic hair going up to the belly button, although they’d refused this request on the grounds they “had to draw the line somewhere”. Well even latex doll makers have standards.

Doll creator Matt was flattered his creations were able to fill such an emotional space in the lives of his customers, considering them to function like insoles do in shoes. For those guys incapable of talking to girls, opined Matt, “sex with a rubber doll is better than never having sex at all”. Sharing a similar tenuous grip on reality was Slade, who was the maintenance man when the dolls needed their annual service. Some of his work were minor things such as replacing teeth. Or vaginal lips. In fact the model he was working on at that moment had what he described as a “destroyed vagina”.

Of particular concern to Davecat, considering Slade was repairing Sidore, was his confession that he’d had sex with a couple of the dolls entrusted to his care. The bounder!

But just to prove the show was giving an equal platform for both men and women to demonstrate their psychological flaws, on came Slade’s girlfriend Rebecca. Unbelievably, she’d been jealous of the dolls when she first started dating him, feeling intimidated by what she perceived to be their “physical perfection”. However, as time passed she had got over this jealous phase, seeing the latex ladies as just “a very high form of masturbation”.

Which is where Mike came in.

As the only man featured who was bridging the gap between fantasy and reality by having sexual contact with a real woman, and perhaps not coincidentally, Mike was pretty upfront about his dolls functioning as an outlet for his 3am urges. Unlike other guys who had Harleys, sex was his hobby, and with his eight-woman harem of Lilo Lills, he was the Lou Bega of latex.

Complicating things for him was his burgeoning relationship with Texan lovely Jodie and the realization that although sex with the dolls “can be awesome, [they] provide zero companionship”. Jodie seemed admirably open-minded about Mike’s activities, but as she had met him via the internet and he’d turned out not to be a serial killer then she’d probably considered the fetish as a something of a result.

He saw the possibility of wedding bells and used his birthday as an opportunity for Jodie to “meet the prosthetics”, leading to a particularly memorable exchange as she met his 3am girls for the first time:

Jodie: Do you use all eight?
Mike: No. Just one at a time!
Jodie: I need a beer!

Jodie liked the fact that he’d opened up to her and took his doll fetish as just being a part of who he is, but if she ever found out he preferred sex with dolls over women she’d “break it off” (I believe by “it” she was referring to their engagement).

So a happy ending. Or perhaps not.

A week after the birthday surprise, Jodie decided to end it. But then she’d probably found out the truth about the kind of man who has sex with an inflatable doll. They’re notorious for letting their women down.


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