Why child sex abuse dolls will not prevent child abuse

We have previously exposed major shopping app Wish selling lifelike, child-sized sex dolls marketed for men's sexual use. These products exist to aid users in their fantasies of raping children. 


In Australia, under the Combatting Child Sexual Exploitation Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, child sex dolls are classified as child pornography material. Possession of a child sex doll is illegal, as is using a carriage service to advertise or solicit them, or using a postal service to send them. 

Despite this, some advocates for child sex dolls claim they could prevent child sexual abuse and encourage their development for paedophilic use. Collective Shout's Campaigns Manager Caitlin Roper responded to these arguments in an essay published last month in Arena magazine, and reprinted in full at ABC Religion and Ethics


"Better a robot than a real child": The spurious logic used to justify child sex dolls

By Caitlin Roper

Though highly controversial, child sex dolls are already on the market and have been sold through mainstream online retailers like Amazon and Wish for a number of years. Experts predict child sex robots will be next, and some believe they are already in production.

The highly gendered nature of sex dolls and robots is rarely acknowledged by academic supporters of the products. The vast majority of these dolls and robots are embodied female, typically designed according to pornographic standards. Research indicates that sex-doll owners are overwhelmingly men. Child sex dolls are similarly gendered and modelled on the bodies of prepubescent girls. I am yet to see a male-bodied child doll. Essentially, these products are lifelike material representations of women and girls marketed for men’s sexual use.

Academic proponents of female-bodied sex dolls and robots fail to situate the products within the wider cultural context in which they are produced — one in which gender inequality persists, where male violence against women and children remains a serious global problem, and where women and girls are raped, beaten, abused and prostituted by men. Within an existing system of male dominance and female subordination, female-bodied sex dolls reinforce women’s subordinate status and the sexual objectification of women and girls. Despite this reality, a number of academics encourage the manufacture of these products for men’s sexual use, and some actually herald child sex dolls as a therapeutic treatment for child rapists — an approach that I see as both misguided and irresponsible.

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Child-sex-doll advocates claim that childlike dolls will prevent the abuse of actual children. However, there is no assurance that paedophiles who have access to child dolls will use them instead of, and not in addition to, children. There is no evidence for the previously popular idea that men perpetrate sexual violence against women, children and other men due to uncontrollable sexual desire, or because they do not have a sufficient outlet for their urges. Likewise, there is no evidence that child sex dolls will lead to a reduction in the abuse of children.

The argument that child sex dolls could function as a sexual outlet, preventing individuals who would otherwise rape children from doing so, also fails to consider the wider cultural context in which these products are manufactured — a system of institutionalised male dominance, routine sexual objectification of women and a culture that eroticises girls.

Cultural messaging increasingly presents girls as sexually available and appealing. The “Teen” porn genre consistently features on the online pornography aggregator Pornhub’s list of most popular search terms. “Barely Legal” pornography featuring teens with pigtails, flat chests and braces can be purchased in newsagents and petrol stations. G-strings, padded bras and bikini tops, and underwear with sexually suggestive slogans are marketed to pre-teen girls. Advertising material depicts girls in sexualised and adultified ways. Schoolgirls are fetishised, and sexy-schoolgirl costumes are sold in mainstream retailers. Instagram routinely hosts sexualised content of underage girls and comment responses from predatory men. Major bookstores and online marketplaces have been exposed selling erotic e-books that feature incest and child abuse. Adult retailers sell male masturbators designed to emulate the vaginas of teenage girls — such as the Teenage Dream or Lolita Vibrating Vagina — with promotional material emphasising youth and innocence.

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I cannot help but conclude that the academic arguments in support of child sex dolls are baseless, unconvincing and are open to being hijacked by vested interests. They prioritise men’s sexual preferences over the rights of girls. Academic advocates fail to consider the gendered dynamics involved in the production of female-bodied child dolls for adult men’s sexual use, or to situate their development within a cultural context of gender inequality.

If child sex dolls function as advocates claim, they will maintain paedophiles’ sexual urges for children. Rather than encouraging restraint or investing energy into pursuing healthier relationships or sexual practices, child sex dolls enable the realistic fantasy experience of sexually abusing a child.

Child sex dolls and robots do not offer a solution to child sexual abuse. Rather, they detract from meaningful attempts to address an epidemic of child abuse and obscure the cultural drivers that contribute to it, such as male power and the sexualisation of girls. If ending child sexual exploitation is the objective, the answer will never be found in legitimising these practices.

Read the full piece here. 

This piece originally appeared in Arena Magazine no. 163 (arena.org.au). 

See also:

No evidence child sex dolls prevent child sexual abuse, says report - Collective Shout

Wish app must stop selling child sex dolls - Collective Shout

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