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.
* * *
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.
* * *
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.
This piece originally appeared in Arena Magazine no. 163 (arena.org.au).
No evidence child sex dolls prevent child sexual abuse, says report - Collective Shout
Wish app must stop selling child sex dolls - Collective Shout
Collective Shout campaigns manager Caitlin Roper spoke with Dave Pellowe this week about our campaign against Honey Birdette and how the sexual exploitation of women by companies like Honey Birdette has real-world consequences for women and girls.Read more
Caitlin Roper, from women’s right’s group Collective Shout, said it’s “heartening to hear that police forces are both acknowledging the magnitude of these sexual crimes and implementing measures to stop them”, but she also pointed out that we must address the root cause of harassment.
“While it’s important women feel safe and supported to report these crimes, we also need to focus our attention on educating men,” she told The Huffington Post UK.
“The most effective way to reduce incidents of men sexually assaulting women is to go to the source and teach men that they are not entitled to the bodies of women and girls.
“While mainstream pornography, media, popular culture and the sex industry all paint a picture of women as existing for men’s use and enjoyment and being ‘up for grabs’ we need to counter these messages and challenge these cultural attitudes that effectively give men permission to objectify and exploit women.”
Last week, our WA State Coordinator Caitlin Roper wrote about some of her experiences receiving violent rape threats for running Collective Shout campaigns. Her piece was published by The Guardian news website and sparked discussions about the ongoing issue of online threats by men to female activists and the weaknesses in law enforcement and social media systems to effectively deal with these crimes.
Last night, Caitlin and Talitha Stone were interviewed on ABC's Lateline, sharing their stories of activism and the threats that typically followed.
Watch the video here: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2014/s4121651.htm
Talitha recalled being targeted by Tyler the Creator's 1.7 million twitter followers with a barrage of threats and vitriol and the police's failure to adequately address the situation. Caitlin shared how her twitter profile had been copied and used to solicit sex to men on the internet in her name, and how the police response was to suggest she use a 'more plain' photo on her twitter profile.Read more
*Trigger Warning - violence against women*
Collective Shout's WA State coordinator was asked for comment about Chris Brown and Rihanna for OK magazine.
Despite R&B singer Chris Brown having brutally beaten pop star Rihanna in 2009, the pair appear to have resumed their relationship. Caitlin tells OK magazine that the emphasis needs to be on Chris Brown. He and other perpetrators of violent crime should be held accountable for their actions.