The huge growth of the sex doll industry in recent years means that today’s adult dolls receive more media attention than ever.
This is great news as it opens sex dolls to a bigger audience, and in many ways the taboo on sex dolls in the media is being lifted, but there remains some stigma and unfair coverage on the topic.
A new term that has become widely used in the British media over the past few months when discussing sex dolls is ‘digisexuals’.
But what does this term mean and is its use fair?
What is a digisexual?
The term ‘digisexual’ is a very new one - it was coined by Canadian academics in a paper published in late 2017 and is only now starting to catch on in the mainstream media. It is defined by its creators, professors Neil McArthur and Markie Twist, as people who “prefer sexual experiences that use [technologies], who don’t necessarily feel the need to involve a human partner, and who define their sexual identity in terms of their use of these technologies”. In other words, digisexuals are people whose sexual identity primarily comes from technology rather than humans.
The ‘technology’ most commonly cited in this definition is sex dolls, but the term also covers a wide range of tech including online porn, sexting and even dating apps such as Tinder. However, while the latter examples mark what the researchers call the ‘first wave’ of digisexuality, it’s the ‘second wave’ - sex dolls - that has seen the term attract the most attention.
The professors believe that increasingly more people will begin to identify as digisexuals as technology becomes more and more realistic. Indeed, they acknowledged that sex dolls are already sophisticated enough to provide a viable alternative to sexual experiences with humans.
They also acknowledged that sex doll owners can form an “intense connection” with their models which can lead to them preferring sex with their dolls to with humans.
How is the term being used?
The creators of the term were positive about the rise of digisexuality, saying that sex dolls could be used for therapeutic purposes by rebuilding the confidence of people who had suffered sexual trauma, and could also be used to counter loneliness.
However, media outlets in the UK and USA have generally given the term a negative connotation which was not present in its original use.
In the UK, tabloids have unfairly interpreted the academics’ predictions about digisexuals as a “warning” for the future, ignoring the study’s original intentions.
The academics stated the importance of avoiding discrimination for digisexuals - and say we should learn from the struggle for acceptance suffered by people with other sexual identities such as bisexuality and asexuality.
“People in those communities have struggled for years just to achieve recognition,” said professor McArthur. “I would like to think we are not just condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past.
“Naming an identity is so powerful for anyone who is in a stigmatized minority. I felt like this was finally a case where we could get out in front of the stigma, and give people recognition right from the start.”
The negative coverage of the term makes even less sense when there is a persuasive argument that the majority of people today meet the definition of digisexuals.
As the New York Times argued last week, “In a culture permeated with online pornography, sexting and Tinder swiping, isn’t everyone a closet digisexual?” Following that logic, those that criticise or discriminate against digisexuals are also likely to be persecuting themselves.
It is unsurprising, therefore, that some have claimed that the broadness of the term will cause confusion and it needs to be narrowed in order to be widely accepted as a sexual identity.
However, the origin of the term is a potentially very positive development for sex doll owners and enthusiasts, as it could lead to the birth of an online community that celebrates common interests and sexual identities.
After all, people using sex dolls and other sexual technology are simply making use of technology for their own pleasure - and that is something positive that should be celebrated and explored further rather than surrounded by taboo.