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The Mr. Fix-Its Who Save Broken Sex Dolls

Manufacturers don’t want to get their hands dirty, so these Real Doll artisans come to the rescue

Human relationships are complicated, but one can attempt to circumvent them with some money and no shame. This is the bleak, glorious dream of technocapitalism. Case in point: Sex dolls.

The most popular (and humanoid) option is the RealDoll. For around $6,000 one can get an around 115-pound anatomically correct mannequin with rigor-mortis limbs and the vacant stare of a crash test dummy. If one is willing to lower their standards, they can even purchase “slightly blemished dolls” for a reduced price — an island of misfit toys you can fuck.

The dolls’ manufacturer, Abyss Creations, was established in the late 1990s by artist and heavy metal guitarist Matt McMullen. What started as an art project was soon rendered perverse by internet demand, as users commented on his photos (“cool doll but can i fuck it?”). McMullen began adding mock-genitals to them, and cornered the market. According to a Vanity Fair article from 2015, they sell six to ten dolls each week, and have a long waiting list.

But what happens if the doll breaks? Even if customers treat theirs well (purchases come with a douche ball with antibacterial soap, to scrape away the dried sex crust) and avoid tech fairs where it could potentially be ripped apart by swarms of horny men, things fall apart: Joints loosen, creases form after prolonged sitting, extended friction causes skin to become discolored. Sex dolls merely substitute the abstruse complexities of social interactions with the frustrating headaches of routine maintenance.

This isn’t to say that the dolls aren’t sturdy. It’s worth pondering, from an engineering perspective, the astounding resilience of objects designed to be fucked. RealDoll frames are made of steel, and the silicone skin is heat- and water-resistant. An archived version of their website from 1998 claims that the dolls can “safely support over 600 lbs.” The current website has since lowered the weight to a mere 400 pounds. This is no less impressive, though it’s curious to imagine what circumstances led to the edit.

But no matter how strong the dolls are, entropy is unavoidable, and Abyss doesn’t offer repair services. According to the FAQ section on RealDoll’s website, this is understandably “due to health concerns for our employees.” (They defer users to phone and email support and online repair tutorials.)

For a brief period, an artist named Slade Fiero accidentally became a prominent doll repairman. As Abyss was first getting attention, Fiero happened to be looking for a mannequin to use in an art project. He found a broken RealDoll on eBay, bought it, and got McMullen to send him a repair kit.

Fiero was unfazed by the experience of fixing the doll. At the time, he had a friend who worked at a local coroner’s office, who allowed him to participate in over a dozen human autopsies. It was easy to transition to working on plastic. “Well hell, I’ve cut open people, why not the doll?”

Fiero flipped the refurbished doll on eBay, making a couple grand. He took photos of the doll surgery and posted them to his personal website, sladesworld.com. The photos went viral. McMullen soon reached out, offering to sell him defective dolls at a reduced cost. With the additional attention from his website, and some referrals from McMullen, RealDoll customers began reaching out for repair services. Fiero unwittingly stumbled into a lucrative refurbish and repair business. He became The RealDoll Doctor.

For about a decade, his business thrived. At its peak, Fiero was fixing roughly six dolls a month. Giant crates arrived at his suburban home in California. They had ripped limbs, broken teeth, busted jaws, missing fingers, mangled breasts, “doll leprosy” (don’t ask) and torn vaginas. “I had one guy from Berkeley who had sex so hard with his doll that he ripped the leg off it,” Fiero told Details in 2008. “Her calves, from below the knee, had what looked almost like knife puncture wounds. Hundreds of them. I don’t know what this guy was doing to this doll.”

Unfortunately for agalmatophiliacs, business slowed during The Great Recession, and Fiero decided to retire. Doll owners are now mostly on their own, and so they of course seek help on internet forums.

There are a number of active doll communities online, offering varying kinds of advice and support. They include The Doll Forum (TDF), Club Real Doll, OurDollCommunity (“For Doll Lovers, by Doll Lovers”), Love Doll Forum and Universal Dolls. They’re similar to other hobbyist message boards, like those for guitar amplifiers or model trains, except with way more implied sexual intercourse. Presumably.

The Club Real Doll repair forum is hosted by Abyss, and is probably the most official resource. Employees regularly take questions, including their shipping coordinator Jeff, who goes by the handle skintricks. His advice is practical and non-judgemental:

Q: This is my Super Tanya and the color seems to be coming off the area below her bush….It is pretty unsightly and I think it might get worse! — Brick
A: Brick, color rubbing off means you wore thru the sealer. It’s not a hard fix, but since she has pubic hair, it can be tricky. You could do the same as a nail color or lip color fix. You just have to be careful to not get the colored powder on the lace pubes (unless, of course, if they’re punched in). Then “stipple” sealer on the color. Or airbrush it on, which would be the best.

Posts often include step-by-step instructions of repairs, and feature photos of abused dolls in various states of destruction. The whole vibe is sort of like if David Lynch shot a porno.

Skimming through the threads, one gets a sense of the common maladies of sex dolls. And, more generally, the disturbing extent of male sexual violence if/when unbound from even the most lax social mores. One user purchased a used doll from TDF, and is fixing it up, providing photos resembling “classic car restoration project” meets “leaked photos of crime scene.” The doll apparently arrived wrapped in a green sheet, with its genital cavities torn apart by something.

In another post, a user repairs their doll’s busted jaw. They pry the flesh off its face, revealing a smooth plastic skull, then attach felt washers to the hinges, to add friction to its movements. It has a warning: “Disclaimer: The publisher will not take any responsibility when you get bitten by your doll!!” There’s also a GIF of the new jaw in action.

Going deeper, one post discusses hand-punched pubic hair (a technique involving poking strands of hair one-by-one into latex/silicone with a needle), which looks more realistic than hair that’s simply glued on. Another user angrily writes about the difficulty of changing his doll’s head (topic: “Swapping heads…WTF”), and based on this daunting step-by-step guide, it’s actually easy to empathize with his frustration. “I enjoy stroking, hugging and running my hands over my doll,” writes user Nexus-7.5 in his instructions for restoring skin smoothness, “so you can imagine my dismay realizing I’ve damaged it and won’t feel that super soft and smooth effect all over. Sigh.” There are gory reconstructions of ankles, the sealing of gaping wounds and questions about breast enhancement (always larger).

Meanwhile, some posts read like sad short stories. User FiveByFive writes:

“Nearly a month ago, I engaged myself in an intense session with Elizabeth, tantric in its slow-and-go-and-slow-and-go nature. It was great…but I went a bit too far. With the doll in an exaggerated missionary position, legs held far closer to her head than they should have been, I felt/heard a muffled ‘pop’ interrupt the wild passion. Immediately afterwards, it became clear that there was something seriously wrong; although no exterior damage was visible, there was no mistaking that Elizabeth’s right leg was now broken internally, connected only by the silicone.”

FiveByFive initially considered either ignoring the problem and using the doll until the “inevitable loss of the leg,” trashing her or seeking out an amateur repairman from the CRD forums. He chose the latter option, and took Elizabeth to forum member Dodgeman, in what was her first car ride. “She gazed silently ahead, bemoaning her inability to partake in the delicious (albeit inferior to Hardee’s) Carl’s Jr breakfast I’d stopped for.” Dodgeman was able to machine a new femur, and Elizabeth’s leg was saved.

I reached out to Dodgeman to talk about his repair service, and was met with some resistance. Partially because he was very busy. “I am repairing another doll right now and time is tight,” he wrote. Additionally, like a lot of members of the forum, he’s suspicious of outsiders, who are often unnecessarily cruel about his hobby and profession. “I think it’s best if I steer clear for now, as people have closed minds and can be jerks towards doll ownership.”

“People need to wake up and smell the Maxwell House and learn how to really live to the fullest,” he added before signing off. “That is not the society that we live in at the moment, as it is only getting worse.”

Shortly after Dodgeman sent his reply, I was permanently banned from the forums.

Let’s say FiveByFive couldn’t fix his doll’s leg, and wanted to get rid of her. He’d face a dilemma: How does one properly dispose of a busted sex doll? Cramming it head-first into a condo’s trash chute, or wrapping it in a clear tarp and dumping it into a canal in the dead of night might attract unwanted attention. In one (possibly apocryphal) story from 2008, a man in Japan was questioned by murder investigators after he disposed his doll in the woods and it was found by people walking their dog, who mistook it for a dead body. One could always send it to a recycling service, or go the serial killer route, and dismantle their doll piece-by-piece, melt down all the plastic in a tub, and throw out small bags of unidentifiable parts in phases over the course of a few weeks.

Perhaps because of the difficulties involved in disposing them (along with their exorbitant costs), there’s an active secondary market for sex dolls. They’re available in the sales section of TDF, on a web store (also run by TDF) and sometimes on Craigslist, in various conditions, sometimes with more than one previous owner. Two sample listings: “Una kaine sex doll for sale $300 (no head)” and “NAOMI, 160cm. Very realistic. TPE no smell whatever.” To cut down on fraud, users are required to include a sign in their images with the date and their forum handles. Consequently, the dolls resemble hostages.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about these listings are the sellers’ reasons for ditching their inanimate girlfriends. Breaking up is hard to do (sic):

  • “I am moving out of apartment and now sell my cute lady.”
  • “…my personal circumstances are also in flux so I thought it would be best to find her a new home.”
  • “I started a relationship and don’t need nor do I want her to find the doll!”
  • “I love this doll but bills are mounting.”
  • “TDF wont allow me to sell the head here because its too child like so I can only sell the body of the doll. I only owned this doll for 4 days and I have to get rid of it because my wofe eont allow me to have it in the house anymore because she thinks its too creepy and shes worried the kids will find it.”

Some might question why anyone would want to purchase a total stranger’s used sex toy, one that (presumably?) has been filled with gallons of male reproductive fluid. But hey, a deal’s a deal.

Currently the dolls are pretty primitive, just hardened plastic goop molded around metal skeletons, and they’re relatively easy to maintain. But sex doll technology is advancing rapidly. Abyss is set to release a robotic head featuring AI software. These newer models might become incredibly difficult — if not impossible — to repair. Sort of like how nobody really opens up and works on their smartphones or laptops like they once did with desktop computers.

What will become of these unfixable dolls, especially if they become more socially acceptable and popular? Will an indifferent maintenance worker huck them one-by-one into an incinerator in a blaze of noxious fumes? Will there one day be an enormous landfill consisting of piles of mangled plastic corpses that have been fucked to death? Will their hollow screams echo across the New Jersey Turnpike?

Based on the casual depravities of the repair forums — a large catalog of the physical damage caused by perverse loneliness and violence and alienation and despair and maybe even love — one gets the impression that their average life cycle won’t be very long or hopeful. Should the AI eventually become self-aware, how will the dolls feel about their life as disposable sex objects? Do androids dream of electric sleaze?