And Now for Something Serendipitously Different . . .

I generally don’t like to do two blog entries, in the same day, coming from one media source, since there’s truly a wide world of European on-line magazines, newspapers, and weblogs (that I can read and understand) out there. But oooh la la! – when I saw the link to this blog-entry – “The Women of Silicone”! – on the Libération website when researching my own Pervez Musharraf entry, I just thought you would want to know about it. As you can intuit already, it is definitely a change-of-pace!

The weblog itself, situated on the Libération servers, is called The 400 Asses: Planet Sex, Viewed and Recounted by Agnès Giard. (That’s “ass” as in “human rear end,” “bum” if you like,” not “horse-like beast of burden.” And that’s Agnès herself at the top-right, peering down into her web-camera – don’t you agree that she is trying to look as Japanese as she can?) And this entry that is entitled “The Women of Silicone” is a quite fascinating report – with pictures! but mostly just of faces – on the booming Japanese “love doll” industry. Yes, those life-sized, hyper-realistic feminine figures which, as Agnès relates, “millions of men buy, clothe, care for and . . . love.”

The Man Right off the bat, Agnès introduces us to Tabo: Tokyo suburb resident, single (mais bien sûr!), a telecom salaryman – and owner of 40 love dolls. In fact, visiting him at his apartment, it’s hard to find a place to put your feet amid all the love-doll clutter. He eats with them at the table; he bathes with them; of course he sleeps (“sleeps”) with them. He states “I don’t know that I could fall in love with a real woman. I prefer the dolls. They are furniture more than anything else, but furniture that I would love to live with my entire life, because they are so pretty!”

The Magazine Then there is i-doloid, the Japanese periodical devoted to love dolls. (Agnès thoughtfully provides us with the link; I don’t know that you’d really want your boss seeing you have this on your computer, but otherwise the site is mostly just weird. She also helpfully explains how the magazine’s name is a clever construction of the Japanese word for love + “idol” + “android.”) It was launched back in November of 2000, and what it is all “about” (in the sense that the original Playboy magazine was “about” Playmate pictorials and the centerfold) is partially-clothed and nude love dolls, posed in erotic positions. The publisher, one Chikahiro Kawamura, claims 8,000 regular readers, each one of which he assumes is a love-doll owner. “But that number is growing,” he goes on to state, “because the love-doll business has taken off and people need to be informed about the new models coming out.”

The Firm Orient Industry enjoys the distinction of being the largest love-doll manufacturer. (Again, Agnès is kind enough to provide the link, and this time you get a handy “Adults only!!” Enter-or-Exit screening-webpage to give you a chance to hesitate and calculate the odds that your boss will show up anytime soon. You know you want to click through on “Enter” when you’re sure the coast is clear.) This company got its start a full twenty-five years ago; it offers a full fifteen different “anatomic models,” but each such model can be combined with different heads, so the possibilities are almost limitless! And that’s not all . . . You can in fact order multiple heads for each single doll you buy! And that’s not all . . . You can even discard all this “Chinese-menu” stuff and simply make your precise love-doll desires known to Orient Industry for a custom-made product – although that could cost you up to ¥3 million (= more than €18,000). You’ve cottoned on by now, dear reader, to the format I’m using here, so what you expect to come next is another surreal quote from Agnès’ article. Here you are, again from Kawamura: “I think that we are the debut of a new era. When it is as natural for a man to possess his love doll as it is for a girl to possess her Barbie, then we will be able to say that we have made progress.”

The Industry But Orient Industry is not alone in its field, of course. In fact, there are around ten such companies, concentrated around Tokyo, and all of them publish yearly catalogues where they set out their love doll (chorus?) lines, old and new, inevitably branded with winsome Japanese female names: Mika, Yui, Mitsumi, Misaki, etc. They come with tongues that really are moist, with eye-pupils that really dilate; and they also come with detailed tags approximating in their level of detail (as Agnès observes) even a CV: age, height, weight, and of course bust-waist-hips measurements. Cue quote, from the PR flack at another love doll company: “These are not [just] inflatable dolls. What counts for us is the charisma they radiate. And the impression of life. Their skin is silicone, but still as soft as an epidermis. They have articulated bones, a coccyx [human tail-bone], a spinal column and can cross their legs, curl up in bed, hold out their arms . . .”

The Face That’s ultimately what it is really all about with love dolls, a feminine, angelic face – but one that under no circumstances is smiling! Sugawara Fumitaka is head of the love-doll company Level D (Agnès thoughtfully provides the link; this one is pretty safe) which succeeds in selling items costing up to €4,500 because of its prowess in recreating just the right facial expressions – vulnerable, mysterious – in its products, and he explains (cue quote): “The dolls should not smile. The dolls should have a vacant air, so that the owner can project upon them his fantasies. They should not offer the least resistance and should mirror our dreams back to us.”

The French If you don’t already know French, dear Reader, wouldn’t the fun you can have with articles such as this one (together with the very real philosophical questions they can raise, e.g. about love and human relationships – should you choose to confront them) be enough to motivate you to go learn it? Forget Molière; forget Jean-Paul Sartre: with some French under your belt you could then go subscribe to Agnès Giard’s blog (the RSS link is here) and enjoy it delivered to you, for free, on a regular basis, without having to rely on me and my EuroSavant whims to let you know what she’s writing about next. I think you can tell that it was loads of fun for me to write about it. Damn, looking at Agnès’ past blog entries, I can see I’m going to have to be very disciplined simply not to turn this into merely a Les 400 culs translation mirror-blog (although of course I have subscribed!).

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