Thanks to Broadsheet for turning me onto this little oddity: a woman in England has started a business selling "reborn" babies.
The babies, much like the "Real Doll" sold to men to have sex with (which I wrote about HERE), are made of molded silicone for a fleshy feel, and are then painted to look terrifyingly "life-like" and realistic.
If you would like an eyeful, this video advertises the wares:
There is something very fishy about the name "reborn": it implies some things that are too sad for a good saleslady to say outright: these "dolls" are replacements for babies who have either grown up, died, or moved away to New Zealand, as in the case featured in this British "coffee talk" style chat about it:
The psychologist hired-on for this chat insists that this is just women stoking their oxytocin fires and giving themselves a high. And he seems to think that makes it okay. And maybe that does: taboos are made to be broken, I suppose...
And dolls are a pretty deeply-ingrained cultural phenom, something we take for granted. But a step back and a moment's thought tells us that little girls cuddling baby-dolls is creepy: it puts them in a too-mature and implicitly sexual role before their time. Yet most of us accept it, and even regard it as "normal" and/or "cute." So why is a grown woman cuddling a baby-doll so creepy? Why isn't this "normal" and "cute"?
How would we react if this were a phenomenon of women buying old-fashioned Betsy-Wetsy dolls, dolls that are obviously fake, obviously dolls, and then spending time cooing over them and cuddling them? The women would seem both insane and mentally retarded: the former for giving love to a lump of plastic, the latter for not realizing the difference between a baby and lump of plastic.
The dolls take that last step into ultra-realism, though, and suddenly the women aren't insane and mentally retarded. The appearance of the baby tricks our brains too, in part: the emotions are set off, but we still know what we're seeing is fake. And so what they're doing strikes us as incredibly "wrong" and "creepy."
The same change applies to men and sex dolls: when a man has sex with a blow-up sex doll, it's sad and pathetic, or campy and ridiculous, but it's not scary. When those dolls become super-realistic, though, the guys who "love" their "Real Dolls" are genuinely frightening.
In that second video, when the woman's husband sees the "reborn," he says that he doesn't like it because it looks like something off a mortuary slab, and I think most of us relate to that. I think most of us relate better to that than to the woman cooing to and petting a lifeless, if impressively shaped and painted, wad of silicone.
And I wonder if maybe the "creepy" feeling we get observing both women cuddling silicone babies and men caressing silicone women comes from their resembling corpses. The emotion-logic disconnect is not dissimilar to seeing a loved one dead: your emotions scream out, "this is the person I love!" but your brain knows it is only a body, the person you loved is gone.
And there is definitely a cultural taboo against sex with dead women and cuddling dead babies.
I think it is interesting that when realistic silicone people became available, the market formed around these two niches: grown women for men to have sex with, and babies for women to cuddle. I think that says a little something about whom and how the human beast objectifies. I also think it's interesting that in both cases, it is an extremely niche, but still extremely profitable, market, and that in both cases, the general public objects.
Just as I predicted with the "Real Dolls," I predict these "Reborns" will soon find themselves filled with sensors and servos, and frankly I think that will make them less objectionable. Once they go from being fake dead babies and fake dead women to being fake live babies and fake live women (the difference being their ability to move, gesture, react, and so on), the taboo will evaporate, and people will find them much more acceptable. (Although probably not entirely acceptable: they will still be "soulless" non-persons without volition.)
Still, at that point, we can expect fake (live) people and animals to become much more common. How common?
How would you feel about purchasing a set of three realistic silicone babies programmed to crawl around the floor picking up dust and dirt all day? You empty the pan by changing its diaper. And anytime you feel like a cuddle, you just scoop one up off the floor and give it a squeeze, and it will giggle and kiss you.
Yeah, that's still pretty creepy.
Cross-posted to The Electronic Girl.