At the front of the Barbie queue: A brief peek into the bizarre world of doll fetishism

In a previous blog I examined agalmatophilia, a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from an attraction to (usually nude) statues, dolls, mannequins and/or other similar body shaped objects. In today’s blog I take a more detailed look at doll fetishism as most of my previous blog on agalmatophilia concentrated on statues being the erotic focus.

Doll fetishism is a type of sexual fetishism where individuals are sexually aroused and attracted to dolls and/or doll-like objects (e.g., figurines). The attraction can take many different forms and can include one or more of the following: (i) actual sexual contact with a doll, (ii) sexual fantasies involving an animate or inanimate doll, (iii) sexual fantasies about two or more dolls having sex with themselves, and (iv) sexual fantasies from thoughts about being transformed or transforming another into a doll (the latter of which is part of a wider set of transformation fetishes that also includes furries and techno-fetishists). There is also a virtual form of doll fetishism where such fantasies can be acted out online and in virtual worlds via self-created doll avatars. In addition, some doll fetish sites feature films and/or animated pictures of humans getting their sexual gratification by use of dolls. Such animated films have some crossover with those into toonophilia (i.e., individuals that derive sexual pleasure from cartoon characters).

In his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) notes that doll fetishism can be a transformation fetish:

“Examples are animal transformation, fantasies, and doll fetish…Doll fetish is a transformation fetish of being transformed into a doll or transforming someone else into a doll. It is often played out as role-play between two or more people. One partner – often the female – is dressed to look like a Barbie doll in shape with bold hair, enhanced breasts small waist, high heels, and a very revealing outfit made from rubber, latex or spandex”.

For doll fetishists, the doll in question can be either male or female (but is more often female). For those into female dolls, there appears to be a preference for those with “Barbie” type figures (long blonde hair, large breasts, ultra-thin waist, shapely bum). For adults who are dressed to look like a doll, there are a number of accessories that might have to be used including blonde wigs, padded bras, tight corsets (to minimize waist size), skimpy dresses (typically latex, leather or spandex), buttock pads, and a strap on vagina if the human is male.

Matteo Bittanti, a media practitioner/theorist who investigates the intersection of art, technology, and popular culture through critical writing noted that:

“In Japanese mythology, the doll is a soul bearer. It is linked to the dream world: it can both reassure and scare us. The doll embodies the perverse exchange between the living and the artificial, the human and the simulation. It subjugates man and traps him into the realm of the fantastic. The doll disguised as fetish, as Marx and Freud realized many years ago, is the manifestation of a pathology”.

Staying on the Japanese theme, an interesting paper by Maryellen Mori (Santa Clara University, US) in the Japan Review examined the writings of the Japanese writer Edogawa Rampo who has written at length on doll-love. She wrote that:

“An essay by Rampo entitled ‘Ningyo’ testifies to the author’s lifelong fascination with dolls and his belief in their supernatural abilities, and it sheds light on some of the underlying reasons for this fascination. It confirms Ranpo’s view of the doll as the ultimate fetish in various senses of this term: an erotic stimulus or partner; an object of veneration imbued with magical powers; and a vehicle for expressing hidden, transgressive desires, particularly cross-gender impulses. The essay begins, ‘Even those who cannot love another human being can love a doll. A person is but a shadow in this transient world, but a doll is immortal…Perhaps [my fondness for dolls] is a kind of escapism. Perhaps I have a slight psychological tendency to necrophilia or fetishism’…He proceeds to elaborate on the uncanny power of dolls, a power that can be traced, it would seem, to their liminal nature: dolls blur the boundary between the animate and the inanimate…The doll functions to lure men away from normative heteroeroticism toward a realm variously portrayed as a primitive, sometimes grisly, domain of infantile eroticism, or on the other hand, a higher spirtual plane characterized by love surpassing the ordinary love of men and women”.

There are also clear sadomasochistic elements for those who wish to transform into a doll (so called “dollification”). In a 2011 paper published in Counselling Australia, Dr. Angela Lewis wrote a paper on ‘age play’ among adults but also included a paragraph on doll fetishes. She wrote that:

“Dollification is about the process of a woman evolving mentally and physically into a ‘living doll‘ and the partners enjoying the process of objectification and transformation. The nature of this interest means it is very much based on a Master/slave/ or Dom/sub relationship. The man is known as the Owner or Dollmaster, as he directs the way the woman transforms into a doll. Accessories include but are not limited to corsets for a tiny waist and accentuated hips, heavy mask-like makeup (if not an actual mask), doll-like wigs, false eyelashes and the use of rubber, vinyl or plastic outfits. The role also requires the woman to have no ability to speak and no free will in how she moves or positions her body, so the Dollmaster acts somewhat like a puppetmaster. The doll also commonly shows no emotion, pain or enjoyment during play and is expected to remain silent”.

In 1996, RealDolls were sold commercially for the first time. RealDolls are life-size sex dolls and made by Californian company Abyss Creations and now sold globally (now costing around $5000 per doll). RealDolls (as you can guess from the name) are incredibly life-like thanks to a PVC skeleton with steel joints and covered in life-like silicone skin. It is advertised as “the state-of-the-art for life-like human body simulation” (and includes three “realistic” orifices – mouth, vagina and anus). The company also makes male dolls to order based on what the customer wants. In 2007, the BBC made a really good television documentary directed by Nick Holt called Guys and Dolls that followed the lives of four men who live with RealDolls. There are now many other varieties of dolls created including Boy Toy and Wicked Real Dolls. In 2001, The Doll Forum (TDF), an online discussion site for individuals who use Real Dolls was created.

A recent 2011 Masters thesis by Meaghen Boiteau (University of Manitoba, Canada) noted the TDF now had 32,000 registered users. Boiteau’s aim was to explore the ways in which members of TDF engage with discourses of gender, sexuality, and relationships in their discussions of their use of Real Dolls. She wrote:

“While the use of Real Dolls is a form of sexual behaviour that is quite distinct from those constructed as ‘normal’ and acceptable within society, this community represents an effort to expand the definitions of accepted sexual behaviour, reflecting the fluid nature of sexuality. Members are quite aware of the fact that their behaviour is not readily accepted as ‘normal’…Real Dolls represent youthful, flawless, images of femininity that require a great deal of work to maintain. Despite the fact that women are tasked with the maintenance of feminine appearance, within The Doll Forum it is the users who are responsible for this performance of femininity… The fact that members of The Doll Forum can represent Real Dolls as feminine expresses the performativity of gender, as gender is made known based upon the various clothing and appearance signifiers, as well as discourses with the forum, that users apply to their Real Dolls”.

There has been little research into doll fetishists but there is a lot of speculation that those into this fetish have a fascination about being in control. One online essay speculates that:

“For many, the control seems to involve a kind of Startup/Shutdown behaviour as well as the immobile and pose-able aspects. The idea is that someone has exerted control over another person’s body or mind, rendering them into an artificial seeming being or object. For others, the idea of stripping a person of their will and/or personality into a mindlessly obedient and programmable “robot” generates the highest forms of arousal”.

I’ll leave you with some interesting observations by Jennie Olofsson from a 2007 Finnish conference paper entitled The doll and the monstrous human being”. Citing from Max Weber’s thinking on fetishes, she concluded:

“Judging the doll as merely a bodily phenomenon, an object or an artefact would be a mistake. Scrutinizing for instance Barbie, one understands how she and, I stress, the doll in general can be said to go beyond being defined as toys and objects. Max Weber for instance, argues for the use of fetish. Everything, he claims, can become a fetish, but what is preferred is human shapes. Fetishes can also be understood as objects with charisma and being fetishised, dolls are standing for ‘a provocation to desire and possession’. Moreover, the doll, I would claim, is certainly not limited by these designations. As the ethymological translation suggests, within the doll, there lays a sense of humanity, or to challenge further, within the human, there lies a sense of dollness”

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK 

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Bittanti, M. Prolegomena: Good luck. Located at:

Boiteau, M. (2011). “I know just what she wants”: Constructing gender, sexuality, and relationships on The Doll Forum. Master of Arts Thesis, Department of Sociology, University of Manitoba, Canada.

Lewis, A. (2011). Ageplay: an adults only game. Counselling Australia, 11(2), 1-9.

Mori, M.T. (2000). Three tales of doll-love by Edogawa Ranpo. Japan Review, 12, 231-246.

Olofsson, J. (2007). The doll and the monstrous human being. Located at:

Rogers, Mary F, 1999. Barbie Culture. London, Thousand Oaks & New Dehli: Sage Publications

Stupid My Cupid (2010). Agalmatophilia: Love in the age of silicon. May 20. Located at:

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. In 2013, he was given the Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 800 research papers, five books, over 150 book chapters, and over 1500 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 3500 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on July 16, 2012, in Case Studies, Compulsion, Obsession, Paraphilia, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. So, how we should see these fetishes?
    Like Mateo Bittani who see it like some sort of psychological disease/mental disorder or as a form of emotional/sexual entertaining or some sort of (wierd for some people) hobby?
    If mental disease means a mental illness that afects both psyhically and psyhollogically and social then we can see that dolling is not a mental disorder because it has no bad or worse effects on both persons. If a person likes it then he or she will do it if not not. Everything is based on likeness and free will and comitment.
    Sorry for any english mistakes.

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