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Meet the Entrepreneur Who Makes Sex Doll Replicas of Dead Lovers to Alleviate Loneliness

‘I’m a very normal mum, I’ve just happened upon an idea’

“If you were to meet me, you would understand that, like — while I’m talking to you now, for instance, I’m doing my ironing. My children are around, they’ve just had their tea. They’re watching a bit of TV before bed. I’m doing my ironing. I’m a very normal mum, a very normal woman. It’s just, I’ve happened upon an idea.”

That’s entrepreneur Jade Stanley, and the idea she happened upon has since blossomed into a full-blown sex doll company: Sex Doll Official. “I’ve always been involved in business — I think I have an eye for business,” says Stanley, explaining that she owned a chain of tanning bed shops before a newspaper article about sex doll brothels (a topic we’ve also covered firsthand) inspired her to start a sex doll rental company. “It piqued my interest, to be honest. I started to think a little bit more about [sex dolls], where you could go with them and the money that could be made — not from a brothel, but from a sex doll rental service.”

Due to popular demand, after only a few months of doing business, Stanley added sex doll customization to the services offered by her company. In fact, as several British tabloids have recently reported, Sex Doll Official will even go so far as to create a sex doll replica of a deceased lover for widows and widowers, which again, says Stanley, was due to popular demand. “Lots of people who rang up were ringing up about… they were looking at it from a comfort angle. The fact that they’d lost a loved one — a partner, a husband, a wife — and could we replicate that,” says Stanley. “Yes, of course we can.”

Stanley stresses that, despite the popular press angle, creating sex doll replicas of dead people is only a small portion of what her business has to offer; however, she also mentions that such dolls have a major impact on the people who purchase them. “The people who buy these dolls take great comfort from them — great comfort,” she emphasizes.

Being able to provide the grieving with some form of comfort, Stanley continues, is especially important in the U.K., where loneliness runs rampant. One 2017 report found that approximately nine million British citizens are often or always lonely, and in 2018, the British government even appointed a Minister of Loneliness to focus on solving the problem. “Loneliness is a very serious issue in the U.K.,” Stanley reiterates. As a result, she estimates that, including replicas, some 50 percent of her customers purchase customized dolls for the sole purpose of alleviating their solitude.

To create a sex doll that resembles a loved one, Stanley says the designers at Sex Doll Official and the customer have to work intimately together. Creating these dolls can take weeks and costs anywhere from £2,500 ($3,200) to £5,000 ($6,425). “The person might have tattoos,” she explains. “Those tattoos are hand-drawn. That’s a very detailed process, and that alone can take days, depending on how descriptive the tattoos are.” Stanley also mentions that every doll has hair implants, because “it looks better.”

The massive amount of effort expended by both designers and customers that goes into creating a replica of a dead lover certainly suggests that the recipient is more interested in comfort than sex (although, as I’ve written before, the two can certainly be related). As Stanley reminds me, her company also offers a stacked lineup of porn star likeness sex dolls, which would surely better serve anyone who just wants to fuck a doll. “The [porn star sex dolls] are obviously very much for sexual purposes,” Stanley says. “You’re obviously not gonna buy a porn star sex doll for comfort reasons.”

But while Stanley is convinced that the replicas of dead lovers are helping to fight the good fight against loneliness, some experts disagree. Last year, for instance, hypnotherapist Zoe Clews warned the Daily Star that similar sex dolls might cause already lonely people to further isolate themselves:

“The manufacturers are already saying that these products will provide support for people who have been bereaved or who are vulnerable through social isolation, whether self-imposed or otherwise. But actually, the likelihood is the reverse will be true and people will simply become more emotionally and socially isolated. These are people for whom a sex robot will provide a veneer of sociability. It will be easier for people who are already victims of fear and trauma to justify their continued disconnection with other people.”

Meanwhile, a 2017 study published in the British Medical Journal specifically argues that there’s no clinical evidence showing that sex dolls and robots can alleviate loneliness. And honestly, I can’t help but think of my colleague, C. Brian Smith, who spent an evening at North America’s first sex-doll brothel, only to conclude that the previously mishandled doll (who went by the name of Harper) rented to him was actually a rape victim:

“As I wait for my Uber in the parking lot, outside of the Chinese shipping-and-logistics center, I struggle to look on the bright side of humanity. I wonder, what do sex-doll brothels say about men and the kinds of fucked-up fantasies we have? Are they virtuous? After all, some think child dolls would keep pedophiles from offending. That said, can we really take solace in the fact that, thanks to Harper, an actual woman didn’t have six of her fingernails ripped off?

“I’m reminded of a set of rules hastily taped above the bed in Room One. ‘Do not damage me,’ the sign pled. That’s when I realize, in fact, that Harper was a rape victim. And sure, it may be a stretch to personify a sex doll. But isn’t that also the whole point?”

Now, neither myself nor Stanley can speak to exactly what her customers do with the replicas of their dead lovers. It’s certainly hard to imagine, after the amount of time, energy and money they spend to be presented with a perfect replica, that Stanley’s customers would mistreat them in the same way Smith says others renters mistreated Harper, or some other doll owners mistreat theirs. But you can’t help but question the legitimacy of what it means to put a doll in the place of a real human.

Still, while many of us probably have trouble even comprehending the idea of finding comfort in a replica of a dead lover — similar to how, in Lars and the Real Girl, the community has trouble understanding why Lars is, in fact, so attached to his sex doll — Stanley affirms that her customers rave about the enjoyment that these dolls provide them. “I’m a married woman; therefore, I don’t have that loneliness issue,” she says. “But I understand the need for it. I understand why people find it to be a source of comfort.”

At the end of the day, for Stanley, when she has the chance to build a doll that rekindles a tangible memory of someone’s dead lover, it sparks a little bit of anxiety, yes — but it mostly sparks happiness. “I think, Wow, I’ve brought a bit of comfort to someone’s life,” she says. “How lovely is that?”