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Inside China’s $15bn Sex Toy Market and the Demand for Robot Lovers

Developers seek to end loneliness with gynoid technology.

DS Doll's Yolanda head is the sex doll company's bestseller.

In all the discussions about the growing popularity of sex dolls, far too often the simplest and most direct motivation for creating them is overlooked.

What is clear is the sex doll industry represents big profit potentials, especially in China. Recently, the Chinese sex toy market was estimated at being worth nearly $15 billion. This high figure puts into question another recent estimate, one that claims the global sex toy market takes in $15 billion each year.

But why are so many people willing to part with their hard-earned cash? A representative from DS Doll, one of the leading manufacturers and developers of sex dolls in China, chimed in on what’s causing the high demand: “The reason for the popularity of sex dolls, in all the countries, is the same: To cure loneliness.”

“The reason for the popularity of sex dolls, in all the countries, is the same: To cure loneliness.”

A surplus of men

Part of this demand may be due to China’s one-child policy, which was enacted in 1979 and phased out in 2015. Preference for male children has resulted in a much smaller female population. In fact, it is estimated that men outnumber women in the country by 33 million.

This is why companies like DS Doll are striving to fill the needs of all those men seeking sexual pleasure and companionship—and even beyond that.

Welcome to DS Doll

Established in 2010, and headquartered in Dalian, China, DS Doll sells its products all over the world. However, it is clear that its home country, with that huge market of single men, is its primary focus.

DS Doll obviously takes exceptional pride in its synthetic creations, with its site pointing out that team members consider themselves not just manufacturers but also creators. As the About Us page states: “Our silicone dolls are more than adult sex toys, but works of art. We create beauties and dreams.”

According to DS Doll, its most popular product in China is the 167cm-tall doll with a Yolanda head. Regarding what other countries prefer, a company spokesperson said that “Eastern customers want a doll that looks more lovely and delicate, with a slim body. Western customers like their dolls sexy and charming, with a hot body.”

But there is a something beyond aesthetics that differentiates the markets. “Oriental people prefer a human-type robot. Like robot girls in anime cartoons and movies; they are kind to humans, help humans, and love humans,” the DS Doll rep said.

“But in the West, people don’t want a human-type robot. In their movies and cartoons, these human-type robots are the enemy of mankind: coming to destroy and replace humans.”

Art as well as science

DS Doll is not alone, though in eyeing the multibillion dollar market. Other developers have leapt in trying to make the better love dolls and roboticized sex dolls.

In addition to the company’s craftsmanship, DS Doll is working to stand out from its competitors by pushing the limits of available technology. As we reported previously, DS Doll is creating an animated and realistic doll head. The prototype has not only lifelike expressions but can also answer questions in Chinese. The company expects to sell the doll in 2018 and is also developing a robotic body.

The end goal is to create dolls that can smile, speak, sing, and dance.

Sex dolls being more than sex dolls

The DS Doll team see themselves as helping cure the aforementioned loneliness of Chinese men. They are developing gynoids to meet both sexual and emotional needs.

The DS Doll representative told Future of Sex that “future robots will not only be for sex but to be a humanoid entertainment terminal.”

The same article that mentioned China’s $15 billion sex toy industry also pointed to this non-sexual application. It referenced men who have purchased dolls to satisfy their longing for female companionship and have used them as a form of therapy in getting over a painful divorce.

Companions for the lonely

The situation with China and its surfeit of men, plus forward-thinking companies like DS Doll, could very well result in both technological and social breakthroughs. This approach to creating gynoids that are more than sexual playthings could lead to a form of mainstream acceptance for household androids.

And, hopefully, it will make those who have been vocal about the supposed dangers of gynoids realize that for many, in China as well as in other countries, that it’s not always about sex but simply wanting someone to be with—to no longer be lonely.

Image sources: DS Doll

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