When you write a lot about sex robots and sex dolls, like I do, you tend to attract attention. It’s not always the fun kind of attention, but it’s still attention and I welcome it. I’ve been discussing this topic, and writing sexy short stories about it, long enough to make clear that my interest is serious. It really pays off when you connect with others who are equally serious.
That happened recently when some people from an actual sex doll brothel in Europe saw some of my articles. One of their representatives actually reached out to me and we organized a Skype call. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I was genuinely curious. It’s one thing to write about sex dolls and sex robots. It’s quite another to get actual insight from someone working in that field.
I’m grateful for the opportunity because the discussion we had was incredibly revealing. For the record, and in the interest of full disclosure, the sex doll company in question is called Naughty Harbor. Before you look them up, please note that their website has plenty of NSFW content. They work with sex dolls. That should be a given.
They currently operate out of the Czech Republic. They have facilities for both the manufacturing of sex dolls and for operating a small sex doll brothel. They haven’t been in business for very long, but they have been on the front line of this emerging industry.
The individual I spoke to, whose name I won’t disclose out of respect for his privacy, works closely with the founder and the owner of Naughty Harbor. He shared a great deal of information on the basics of the industry, the people who use it, the challenges of operating in 2020, and the emerging trends. Among the many issues that came up, here are some key highlights.
Issue #1: The Taboos And Stigma Of Sex Dolls Still Very Strong
This was probably the largest and most pressing challenge for Naughty Harbor and companies like it. Like most things related to sex, there are a host of taboos about sex dolls. From the people to use them to the people who buy them to the people who develop genuine connections with them, the stigma surrounding them is still incredibly strong.
At the same time, the demand for companionship and sexual experience is also strong. That’s never going away, no matter how much taboo or stigma is heaped upon it. Just ask the Catholic Church. That’s what drives the sex doll industry. With sex doll brothels now starting to emerge, the taboo is starting to wane to some degree.
The individual from Naughty Harbor explained how big a deal privacy was for customers. Some wanted absolutely no face-time with anyone. They wanted what amounted to a no-contact experience. They just call ahead of time, have someone set up a room with a sex doll, and have all the transactions occur behind a computer screen with complete anonymity.
It’s not unlike the type of no-contact deliveries that have become so common during the ongoing pandemic. It’s not like walking into a legal brothel, standing in front of a bunch of sex workers, and doing business out in the open. Even in places with liberal sex work laws, like Europe, the desire for privacy is still critical.
That’s likely to remain the same as more sex doll brothels open up. However, this is also where our discussion brought up other key insights.
Issue #2: The Pandemic’s Effect On The Industry
Like any industry, the ongoing that same pandemic I mentioned earlier is affecting the sex doll industry. The representative said outright that there has been a noticeable uptick in interest and sales. That makes sense too. People who have been stuck at home for weeks on end are bound to get lonely. Even if you live in a place with legal sex work, a pandemic is kind of a mood killer.
These sex dolls are suddenly seen as both a viable option and one that’s safer. You can clean a sex doll. In fact, Naughty Harbor reported that they’ve developed a very diligent process for sanitizing their sex dolls. It’s at a point where these sex dolls, including the ones being used at the brothel, are cleaner than your hands are this very instant.
For those who’ve become very conscious of germs and disease, as most of us have been under the pandemic, this is key. It’s an element of control and assurance you can’t get with a flesh and blood sex worker. It’s not even something you can get with a typical partner. There’s value in that and it outweighs any stigma or taboo.
While I wasn’t privy to exact numbers, Naughty Harbor did indicate that business has been strong for sex doll brothels during the pandemic. They’re expected to remain strong, even after the pandemic passes. If anything, it has shown people that this industry can provide a legitimate sexual outlet and that can be very beneficial for people.
Issue #3: Research And Benefits
Another interesting issue that came up was the ongoing research surrounding the use of sex dolls. Naughty Harbor is playing an active role in that effort. According to the representative, both manufacturers and sex doll brothel owners are coordinating with researchers who are interested in this field.
Make no mistake. The interest is growing and not just because of the pandemic.
Even before people were isolating in the name of public health, research into the effects of loneliness were painting some pretty bleak conclusions. Considering that humans are a social species, which I’ve belabored before, this makes a lot of sense. Can sex dolls help with this?
Naughty Harbor believes that it can. Researchers are interested in just how much or how little help that a sex doll can provide. Even though they’re not alive, the mere facsimilia of human companionship is certain to have a tangible impact on someone’s psyche. The nature and extent of that impact remains unknown, but will be a key point of interest.
Between social isolation due to pandemics and the emerging concerns regarding the incel phenomenon, sex dolls could provide key points of interest. We’ll need that perspective, especially as sex dolls become more lifelike and eventually become sex robots.
Issue #4: They’re Getting More Lifelike
In addition to the social impact, we also talked quite a bit about the technology. The sex dolls of Naughty Harbor are quite lifelike, but you’d never mistake them for an actual person from afar. They’re still getting incredibly close, though. They’re just on the edge of that uncanny valley in which most sex dolls and sex robots operate at the moment.
The fact they still look artificial may be part of what fuels the taboo, but the technology is changing rapidly. The individual I spoke to says it’s getting both better and faster. Companies like Naughty Harbor are already using technology like 3D printing to both build and repair sex dolls. They’re also using better silicone blends that better mimic the feel of real human flesh.
They’re getting to a point where they can look like real people. They’re also at a point where they can be made to look exceedingly unreal for those with specific fantasies. That was something Naughty Harbor said is a growing trend. Those who seek the use of sex dolls don’t just want sex. They want an experience and they’re willing to pay for it.
Accommodating those fantasies is currently a niche market, but one that’s getting easier as the manufacturing processes are improving. It’s getting to a point where the only issue is scale, which is more a logistics challenge than a technical challenge.
Issue #5: They’re Getting Cheaper
Five years ago, if you wanted to buy a well-made sex doll, chance are you’d have to spend upwards of $5,000 to $7,000. There are used cars that cost less than that. That kind of cost is also a major barrier for those seeking an experience with a sex doll. It’s also helped keep the industry shrouded in taboo.
Today, that cost is not nearly as big a barrier as it once was. While many high-end sex dolls still cost thousands, many quality models now can be bought for less than $3,000. It’s less the cost of a used car and more the cost of a large appliance, like a refrigerator or washing machine. The models offered by Naughty Harbor range between $3,000 and $1,800.
That’s still not cheap, but it’s trending in a cheaper direction. In our conversation, we both agreed that once the price drops below $1,000, then the market will start to expand. I think there’s a psychological component to seeing something that costs less than four figures that makes it seem less daunting as a purchase. If you’re lonely, that may be a price you’re more willing to pay.
Like I said, the main issue now is scale. It’s hard to make a quality sex doll and charge a low price for it. Manufacturing is still quite labor intensive, especially for those who want to customize their dolls. That process will need refinement, but once that happens, it could become as easy and routine as ordering a pizza.
Issue #6: They’re Being Customized In Unexpected Ways
Another issue that came up, which I actually brought up, was the kind of customization that people are asking for. Naughty Harbor does offer customization options for their sex dolls, as most other companies doo. However, the customization requests haven’t been too extreme.
One common request is for dolls that look like ex-lovers. That is apparently more popular than those who want sex dolls resembling their favorite anime characters, which is a niche field in and of itself. That surprised me, but it probably shouldn’t. I can understand someone missing the physical intimacy once provided by an ex-lover, even if the relationship didn’t work.
It helps affirm that there’s a real emotional component to those who use sex dolls. Again, it’s not just about the sex or the sweet release that comes with it. There’s a deeper connection at play and it’s different than the release someone gets with a typical sex toy.
This led us to discuss whether anyone has requested a sex doll resembling a celebrity. At the moment, Naughty Harbor says that has not been a very common request, but they expect that to change. It’s only a matter of time before someone requests a sex doll that looks exactly like a popular Marvel, Disney, or DC Comics character.
Since the size of the industry and the market isn’t that large just yet, we couldn’t do more than speculate what kind of impact that might have. Some companies do stipulate that they cannot make dolls resembling real people for legal reasons. However, that hasn’t stopped some porn stars from licensing their likeness for an extra revenue stream.
If there’s money to be made, the industry will find a way. However, that will send it into some legally contested territory. While American sex doll manufacturers cannot make dolls out of real people, other countries don’t have those same restrictions. According to Naughty Harbor, the Czech Republic has no such laws on the books. I doubt that’ll remain true for long.
That brought us to the last issue that is sure to become prominent at some point.
Issue #7: The Legal Issues Are Just Beginning
At the moment, the laws in both Europe and the Americas designate sex dolls as sex toys. They’re basically classified as a far more elaborate version of a vibrator. For now, given their current place in the uncanny valley, that makes sense. The question is what happens when sex dolls become both more lifelike and more accessible to the general public.
The number of sex doll brothels popping up all over the world is growing. The industry as a whole is evolving. With that come some significant legal challenges, some of which have prevented some sex doll brothels from opening. Those challenges are likely to gain greater complications in the coming years.
Can you classify a sex doll brothel the same way you would a traditional brothel?
Can you make the act of essentially renting a sex toy illegal?
How do you even classify and regulate a service like producing sex dolls?
Those questions cannot go unanswered because there have already been some issues. One of the biggest involves the sale of sex dolls that resemble children. That’s an issue that Naughty Harbor acknowledged is a growing concern. At the moment, those kinds of sex dolls are illegal to make in many parts of the world, but there is an emerging black market for them, mostly out of Asia.
Like with any black market, there will be nefarious customers seeking nefarious providers for an illicit service. Naughty Harbor did say they work with the authorities on addressing this issue. At the same time, they too are trying to figure out the best way to deal with it. Like with many issues involving the sex industry, there’s always a chance that one particular effort could do more harm than good.
It’s a serious issue, but one that is making clear that sex dolls are here to stay. There is a demand for them and that’s not going away anytime soon. The law is very behind the curve right now. Naughty Harbor and I both agreed on that. At the same time, it may also be what’s driving the industry.
As concerns about sex work and human trafficking remain highly contentious, sex dolls might emerge as both a recourse and a complication. If the demand for human prostitution goes down while the demand for sex doll brothels goes up, then is that something the public and the politicians they vote for will accept?
Only time will tell. Naughty Harbor is just one of many companies in this emerging field. They’ll certainly have a part to play, especially as the industry matures and more research is conducted. Once it gets to a certain point, lawyers will get involved. That’s sure to complicate the industry, but after talking to Naughty Harbor, I’m fairly certain it cannot be stopped.
Once again, I’d like to thank Naughty Harbor for taking the time to speak with me about this issue. I hope to have more like them in the future. The sex doll industry is growing and evolving alongside other emerging technologies. It’s going to happen faster than most of us expect. Are we ready for it? That remains to be seen. I have my doubts, but I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this issue. A pandemic may have tempered our collective libidos, but our desires will eventually return. Like it or not, sex dolls may be a larger part of the sexual landscape from here on out.