In the last few days one news from Japan upsetted and outraged the Western media and, by reflex, many online forums. Artisan Shin Takagi, who openly admits to harbor pedophile urges, founded Trottla: a company manufacturing ultra-realistic reproductions of little girls about five years old and above. While the dolls are presented as objects d’art unfit to be used as sex toys, thay have been clearly conceived for buyers with definitely unwholesome interests. Takagi himself states that they have a “threapeutic” function, and that in combination with other aids such as cognitive therapy or chemical castration they can potentially give socially dangerous pedophiles an outlet to let their instincts loose in a safe way. You can imagine the ensuing chaos.
As it often happens when journalists tackle sex-related topics and even more when the “mysterious” Japanese culture is involved, the matter is actually quite different from the way the news was reported – at least because it isn’t no news at all. In fact, Trottla opened no less than eleven years ago: the only reason it took so long to became a trending subject is because Roc Morin, a reporter specializing in bizarre subcultures, was the only journalist to make the effort of picking up the phone and arrange a meeting to visit Takagi’s factory. Most media just rehashed his information as they were first-hand, often “forgetting” some of them to leverage the scandal angle for clickbaiting purposes.
Among them there are the challenging yet not entirely baseless statements of the artisan, such as: «Some people maintain what I do is sick, but dolls are not human beings. They have no human rights and surely they are no victims. They can attack me, but I don’t feel the need to justify myself: I suppose most of my critics have mental problems. If you think my dolls are immoral, should we also remove every nude sculpture in the world, such as the David, just because they feature genitals?» Or: «My dolls have no sexual function because they reproduce children, and children don’t have sex. I can refuse repairing one that has been used as a sex toy, but I cannot be responsible for how my clients use them. On the other hand, I respect my buyers’ characteristics: for example I don’t do deliveries to Israel because the local religion forbids idolatry.»
There has been also no mention of Trottla being an allegedly shady business. Word is that a big part of the founder’s income is from lawsuits for “unauthorized usage” of the photos he publishes on the public company website, while fans forums are full of the complaints of clients who spent over $8,000 for a doll yet are still waiting for delivery after two years, or who got broken items, or much lower quality than shown in the catalogs. Those who emailed Takagi to complain only got very improbable excuses, while potential new customers are welcomed with maximum care.
The astute reporters’ oversight is also apparent from how none of them seems to have thought of googling the subject, or they would have discovered that there are many other pedo-dolls manufacturers: all of them in Japan, and for very good reason. In fact, the Land of the Rising Sun isn’t so alien and crazy as it is often portrayed by the media, but it sure has a very peculiar culture that sees this sort of erotic toys under an entirely different light.
The Nipponese obsession for prepubescent bodies has two origins. The former is strictly anagraphical in nature: in the society with the highest average age on the planet, youth assumes an “exotic” appeal and becomes especially arousing. The latter is the limited diffusion of Christianity and Catholic guilt – which along with a certain national pragmatism – makes the most extreme sexual fantasies to be accepted as an entirely reasonable pastime, since they are indeed just fantasies.
The local industry has recognized and fostered since the Seventies lolicon, short for ‘Lolita complex’ which indicates the morbid attraction of adults towards minors. The immense production of imagery, mangas, CGI videos, absurd sex toys and explicitly pedophiliac videogames leaves few doubts about how the market feeds with no hypocrisy on this national mania. As a matter of fact, what really baffles a foreign observer is the way lolicon imagery spilled into daily life, taking hold of sectors such as fashion or advertising.
The damage is however limited in the case of Japan, mostly because it is a very repressed society. Spontaneous human relations are so awkward that the country actually has a serious demographic issue of thirty years old (and more) virgins, not to mention the ever growing phenomenon of host clubs, where attractive young women pay absurd sums just to have some form of face-to-face interaction with boys – usually limited to chaste talk. Statistics prove that in such a context the risk of child abuse fantasies being acted upon is almost nil – but what would happen in the West?
The outrage about the dolls mostly derives from the awareness that introducing such objects into our own society would have a hugely destabilizing impact. Who cares if Trottla and its competitors’ products are already being exported all over the world (and please don’t remind me of the scary Dollfie saga!): our talented journalists would never notice such an insignificant detail.
The heart of the matter is that our culture, still founded on sexual obscurantism, made all sexuality a minefield – which indeed more and more frequently explodes in chilling episodes of violence against women, minorities and children alike.
There is no doubt that sexualizing minors is repugnant, no matter the nation where that happens. If however the Japanese intellectual honesty partially defuses the phenomenon, the hypocrisy of the West – and of the United States in particular – makes the issue even more dangerous. We are talking about a culture that has no qualms about demonstrations of rare morbidity such as baby pageants but grows outraged if it is mocked by Miley Cyrus acting as a porny infant, that sells little girls lingerie without batting an eyelid and then becomes all flustered if somebody points out that the same girls watch adult videos well before being of age.
Adding to such a schizoid soup an object that materializes the unhealthy obsessions of those who cannot serenely experience sex between adults is the catalyst making the brew explosive. Especially if habit has indoctrined us to put hand to pitchforks, turn our brain off and work ourselves up as soon as anyone speaks the word ‘pedophilia’ which – a bit like ‘Hitler’ – seems to be a magic spell capable of instantly killing any rational discussion.
My biggest vice is however an unending passion for rationality and knowledge, so I decided to do something crazy and incredibly revolutionary. Instead of randomly pontificating as many colleagues and keyboard avengers do, I asked for the opinion of someone who actually studies these subjects. Professor Fabrizio Quattrini, teacher of Paraphilia and Deviance Clinic at L’Aquila university, is a psychologist from the Italian Institute of Scientific Sexology who recently published a book about the concrete analysis of uncommon sexualities. Our little talk was unsurprisingly much more grounded and enlightning than anything you’ll read elsewhere. Here it is.
A key concept in your book is that every unusual sexual interest can present itself with different intensities, from an innocuous occasional fantasy to a pathological and potentially dangerous obsession. Before talking about the dolls I’d like to ask you what is the actual size of the pedophilic phenomenon compared to its common perception and its representation by the media. In other words: do we know a statistical figure about how many people are attracted by minors, and how many among them are a concrete danger to our children?
Among the various so-called atypical sexual interests, the pedophilic behavior is a distress where a person (usually male, but women are not excluded) lives a particular affective-erotic feeling towards prepubescent children. The level of pedophilic attraction may range from intense fantasies to actual and recurrent behaviors. An adult pedophile can put into practice simple attentions and niceties towards the minor up to gaining an affective contact, which sometimes grows into erotical-sexual intimacy. A person with pedophilic disorder may be convinced that the child finds actual pleasure from those attentions and behaviors.
Recent scientific literature sees the highest prevalence of pedophilic behavior in 3 to 5% of the male population, and in 2% of the female one.
The catalogs of these dollmakers are also striking for the absence of male subjects. Do the data about pedophilia reflect this exclusive interest towards girls?
Generally speaking a person with pedophilic fantasies and behavior might not be especially discerning about the gender of the child. This is because the interest isn’t necessarily directed towards a sexual approach of the genital kind, but towards the idea of immaturity, frailty and ease of manipulation of a prepubescent minor. There are however pedophiles who display a special predilection for one gender, and the female one seems preferred.
Talking about this, one hypotesis about the reasons behind the development of a pedophilic behavior points to having been abused as a child as a cause, later reenacted as adults in what is known as the ‘abused-abuser cycle’. Male children seem to be more psychologically and emotionally vulnerable to abuse compared to females, and this would explain the prevalence of male abusers in the long run. Most females seem react by developing a tendency to mistreat and ignore their children when they grow up instead of perpetrating the sexual abuse cycle. The very preference towards female victims by male pedophiles seems to confirm the prevalence of male abusers within the general population.
I was taken aback by Takagi’s theory about his dolls aiding pedophiles not to molest real children. Is that the actual effect they would have on the categories you described? Which factors may make the same doll a deterrent for one person and an instigation for another?
Honestly, Takagi’s hypotesis might be somewhat true. The possibility for a pedophile to vent his urges and sexual desires using an artificial substitute such as the dolls in question might draw him off acting against real minors. It is however important to remind the various characters of those with a pedophilic disorder, for some might use these simulacra as tests before unleashing their sexual urges on a flesh and blood minor. Thus the doll might not represent a therapeutic aid, but a “school” for honing abusive thoughts and strategies.
The factors that make a doll a deterrent or an inspiration aren’t easy to define. I believe that, besides the emotional and characterial differences and excluding particular psychiatric conditions, a pedophile who bought a doll like Takagi’s would experience unhealthy thoughts too freely, and that surely couldn’t be defined as therapeutic.
Come to think of it, I have a doubt. For someone attracted by minors, isn’t this sort of simulacrum even better than a real child? After all a doll doesn’t just prevent the risk of ending up in jail, but doesn’t even have the natural refusal reactions of a real person and I suppose that would make easier for the abuser to realize his fantasies without undue “distractions” to disturb him.
It may certainly be so. Personally, I do not believe however that a human being can be satisfied by a simple object unless he was dependent on the object itself – which would constitute a dysfunctional form of sexual response anyway. Using a prepubescent doll would keep the pedophile safe from the law, but at the same time it would plunge him in the vortex of a stron disfunctionality. In my opinion this could lead the person to suddenly put into practice with flesh-and-blood minors those behaviors he had anonymously performed with the doll until then. The subject could for example book the first flight to one of those Eastern countries where underage prostitution appears concrete and accessible.
When interviewed, Trottla founder is always extremely diplomatic but also very ambivalent. On one hand he admits his attraction to little girls but on the other he denies beyond any plausibility that his creation may be used for sexual purposes; he first maintains that the dolls are imbued with a kami (a sort of Shinto spirit) due to their human-like shape, then that they are beyond criticism since they are but objects unworthy even of a name; he is proud of sculpting realistic genitals, yet he stresses that they cannot be penetrated «because children don’t have sex ». From a psychologist’s point of view are these statements just marketing-oriented hypocrisy, or they reveal any special mental process?
Someone like Takagi, who decides to market an “object” born out of his personal wish to freely experience a pedophilic high in private, definitely suggests a marketing strategy. Conversely, manufacturing such realistic yet “impenetrable” dolls denotes a character trait that not only confirms his sexual attraction towards prepubescent girls, but also a certain obsession and “addiction” for everything infantile.
The debate around this news is a sort of preview of a theme that’s going to become more and more important in the future. In fact, technological progress ensures that the first androids to reach the market –twenty years or so from now – will perform sexual functions: undoubtedly for vanilla practices, but also as “safe” surrogates for those harboring disturbing tendencies such as pedophilia, violent misoginy or pathological sadism. There already is a committee against sexbots, trying to prevent the creation of erotic androids.
What kind of effect do you think the introduction of these “superdolls” will have for psychology and sexology, but also for society in general? Pornobots will cause more issues or advantages, for example in the field of sexual assistance?
This is a very interesting topic, opening the door to new therapeutic trends in psychosexology. Clearly we must not confuse the possible use of technology for sexual wellness or for solving erotic and sexual dysfunctions, with sex abuse and violence. In fact, for delicate areas such as sexual assistance to disabled persons – and for sexual dysfunctions in general – I’d see any helping tool as a great resource allowing both the professional and the patient to create better therapies learning from experience. Should the same high-tech tools were used to satisfy urges feeding an inner distress, or dysfunctional expressions of sexuality no matter how egosyntonic, I couldn’t see them as anything but dangerous. They would embody sex addiction. While we are on this subject, I wish to remind that to be able to talk of acceptable erotic well-being, addiction and pathology aren’t contemplated even in the most extreme sexual expressions such as BDSM.
Let’s part with a mental experiment. During my online research for this article I stumbled on a forum where somebody wrote verbatim: «My neighbour just received a Trottla doll by post. What should I do? Must I report him, and to whom?». Besides the intrusiveness of this person, what shocked me were the responses: dozens of messages calling for lynching or at least for jail.
My question for you is therefore this: let’s imagine you are the father of a nine-years old girl, and that you learn that your neighbor owns one of these dolls. How would you react?
I am used not to judge others. Your provocation is interesting, but I stand my ground with teaching my daughter respect for others, no matter how different. In this particular case I would keep an educational stance: giving her a sex education that includes paying attintion to possible external dangers. This mustn’t cause fear or terrorisms, but confidence and autonomy: the idea being to promote trust in her caregivers, giving her the means to hold a useful and constructive dialog and to prevent any hazard.