Men in love with sex dolls: Subculture of 'iDollators' revealed in new documentary Silicone Soul

Men in love with sex dolls: Subculture of 'iDollators' revealed in new documentary Silicone Soul

The staff at John & Tony's Steakhouse in West Chicago know the couple well: There's 54-year-old John – Awesome man with a big, partially toothless smile who works in truck deliveries – and his wife, Jackie, a petite, dark haired beauty in a wheelchair whose favorite dish is bacon-wrapped dates.

John's doting love. John & Tony's, John and Tony's, and their Valentine's Day – Valentine's Day.

Because Jackie is no normal suburban wife; she does not walk, talk, laugh or even eat her beloved dates. Instead, she's a life-sized doll that's jester on the Jerry Springer show years ago, but he treats her like she's a human princess, gazing adoringly at and chatting away to his silent bride (as strangers look on, aghast.)

John and Jackie are the stars of new documentary Soul, which chronicles the lives of men who fall in love with dolls – as well as other doll enthusiasts uses dolls for photography and friendship.

In addition to John – who purchased Jackie for $ 7,000 – the film follows a man named 'Davecat' in Detroit who's married to doll Sidore and owns another, Elena, with whom he's involved (they're polyamorous, he says). There's a New Jersey husband going by the pseudonym of 'Ben' who keeps several dolls in the basement as surrogates for his severely ill wife. Melody Gilbert, who was wholly unacquainted with the phenomenon before embarking upon this project – although it was fascinated immediately.

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New documentary Silicone Soul features Chicago John, who lives in a trailer in a retirement community, and his wife, Jackie - a sex doll on the Jerry Springer show

New documentary Silicone Soul features Chicago John, who lives in a trailer in a retirement community, and his wife, Jackie - a sex doll on the Jerry Springer show

New documentary Silicone Soul features Chicago John, who lives in a trailer in a retirement community, and his wife, Jackie – a sex doll on the Jerry Springer show

Detroit man 'Davecat' says he is married to one of his dolls, Sidore, but they are involved in a polyamorous relationship with another silicone doll, Elena; he believes he is a pioneer in 'synthetic' love and believes he'd be shooting himself in the foot 'by dating' organic 'women

Detroit man 'Davecat' says he is married to one of his dolls, Sidore, but they are involved in a polyamorous relationship with another silicone doll, Elena; he believes he is a pioneer in 'synthetic' love and believes he'd be shooting himself in the foot 'by dating' organic 'women

Detroit man 'Davecat' says he is married to one of his dolls, Sidore, but they are involved in a polyamorous relationship with another silicone doll, Elena; he believes he is a pioneer in 'synthetic' love and believes he'd be shooting himself in the foot 'by dating' organic 'women

Abyss Creations in California has been selling anatomically-correct silicone sex dolls for years, and is therefore behind RealBotix, which is developing robot companions

Abyss Creations in California has been selling anatomically-correct silicone sex dolls for years, and is therefore behind RealBotix, which is developing robot companions

Abyss Creations in California has been selling anatomically-correct silicone sex dolls for years, and is therefore behind RealBotix, which is developing robot companions

The life-sized dolls can be customized and are shipped to customers in massive wooden boxes; they are for thousands of dollars and thousands more must be replaced

The life-sized dolls can be customized and are shipped to customers in massive wooden boxes; they are for thousands of dollars and thousands more must be replaced

The life-sized dolls can be customized and are shipped to customers in massive wooden boxes; they are for thousands of dollars and thousands more must be replaced

'I'm really interested in subcultures,' Gilbert tells DailyMail.com. 'I'm interested in subcultures to find out more. I think the easy thing to do would be to sensationalize this story; I'm not interested in that. That's easy. It's harder to dig deeper, spend time and find out what really drives these folks.

'And what I saw – and this takes time to explain, it takes a lot of compassion and understanding for why people are doing so, especially in this day and age in our society.'

Gilbert was actually contacted several years ago by Long Island Professor and psychoanalyst Danielle Knafo, who stumbled upon the subculture when his patient was unorthodox living arrangement.

'Initially, I did not know,' she says of the patient. He / she is in the first place; he had had two failed marriages and now the love of his life – and, as he said it, it was a little too perfect, in my eyes.

'Then eventually, like in the fourth session, he revealed to me that what a doll. I was taken aback; I tried to … stay cool, 'she tells DailyMail.com.

She adds: "You know how men call women" dolls "- at first, he was using that, and I thought," Okay, she's a doll to him "- and then I realized. I looked at him and said, "You mean a real doll?" And he goes, "Yeah, yeah."

'I had a lot of mixed emotions. You know, I'm a feminist, and suddenly that's the way to go with a doll – and all those thoughts about objectifying women and blah, blah, blah went through my head. But little by little, I got to know him and his own story, the pain involved in his relationships … I developed sympathy and started understanding the appeal of this child of relationship. '

She started looking for a case study to further educate herself about the existence of what's known as iDollators, or people attracted to dolls.

While jokes and jibes about blow-up dolls are rampant in popular culture, search female stand-ins were for years about the only alternative available. Modern advancements in technology, however, have extended to sexual surrogates, with businesses such as California-based Abyss Creations. Churning out customized, anatomically-correct, lifelike female dolls.

There's a waiting list at the Abyss factory in California; creator Matt McMullan describes the process in the film creating the mold, skeleton and more customized parts of the country.

Their hearings are heard, 'Dr Knafo tells DailyMail.com. '' I think … some of them are normal, are they abnormal?

'But I did develop relationships with a few of them, and they opened up to their relationships. In the beginning, I thought they were socially challenged loners, had difficulties with relationships – but what I discovered, over the years: Some of them were relationships. They have a relationship in addition to a human relationship. So it's not easy to just peg them as one thing. '

Matt McMullan, of Abyss Creations and RealBotix, which teaches the doll-making process in the documentary, which involves creating the mold, skeleton and customized parts

Matt McMullan, of Abyss Creations and RealBotix, which teaches the doll-making process in the documentary, which involves creating the mold, skeleton and customized parts

Matt McMullan, of Abyss Creations and RealBotix, which teaches the doll-making process in the documentary, which involves creating the mold, skeleton and customized parts

John's 'wife,' Jackie, sits on the porch outside of their small home; he takes great pride in dressing and often takes her on trips to the zoo or the couple's favorite restaurant

John's 'wife,' Jackie, sits on the porch outside of their small home; he takes great pride in dressing and often takes her on trips to the zoo or the couple's favorite restaurant

John's 'wife,' Jackie, sits on the porch outside of their small home; he takes great pride in dressing and often takes her on trips to the zoo or the couple's favorite restaurant

The reactions of friends, relative and strangers vary; Jackie in a wheelchair - asking about the doll and questioning his sincerity. John on a trip to the zoo

The reactions of friends, relative and strangers vary; Jackie in a wheelchair - asking about the doll and questioning his sincerity. John on a trip to the zoo

The reactions of friends, relative and strangers vary; Jackie in a wheelchair – asking about the doll and questioning his sincerity. John on a trip to the zoo

RealBotix and other companies are working on artificial intelligence to make sex dolls even more realistic

RealBotix and other companies are working on artificial intelligence to make sex dolls even more realistic

Sex dolls have evolved from blow-up dolls to anatomically correct, life-sized figures, and the technology - and their popularity - continues to advance

Sex dolls have evolved from blow-up dolls to anatomically correct, life-sized figures, and the technology - and their popularity - continues to advance

Real sex toys are fine-tuning and artificial intelligence to make dolls even more realistic

In the case of John, he'd been married before – and what actually alerted to the existence of such dolls by his stepson. The marriage disintegrated, however, and John ordered Jackie; the anatomically-correct silicone doll costs him $ 7,000 brand new, and Jackie occasionally replaces his body due to wear and tear that cost thousands more.

'I worked my way to pay for you,' he says in the film. 'She was something I wanted; she was someone I wanted. She was everything I wanted. '

He says: 'I was married to a flesh-and-blood person for eight years, and it was not working out … Now I'm with Jackie, and we're happy – and it's weird, but it's good weird. Weird does not necessarily mean bad. '

He takes great pride in dressing Jackie, though his long-suffering niece, who tries desperately to incorporate the unusual couple into family life and even invited them to an awkward Thanksgiving dinner, complains that he 'dresses her kind of like my grandmother'. Where he lives and travels to the zoo and to their favorite restaurant.

'Real dolls do not cheat,' he says in the film. 'They do not lie. They do not steal … She keeps me honest. She keeps me happy. [I’m] trying to learn the zen from her. She's just so calm and so collected and so much more than me.

'We're married like any other married couple, he adds, while conceding that a marriage is not legal.

'We communicate more or less; she has her own body, but we share the same brain, 'he says in the film. 'She has her own private spaces in here. She knows everything about me; I do not know everything about her. She has places in my head that she develops that are subconscious to me … so that way, she can surprise me. '

The reactions to Jackie run the gamut, to put it mildly. In footage from one of John's trips with his wife to the zoo, long-time staff rave about his friendly demeanor, while strangers gape and question. Ambivalent or supportive reactions often come from perhaps unlikely places; a boss at John & Tony's, for example, speaks highly of his unconventional regulars.

'I grew up on the east side of Detroit, and I was the white guy in the neighborhood,' the restaurateur says in the film. 'So I know what it's like … [It] does not make you bad, just different. He's a gentle person; he does not bother anyone. '

That's a point hammered home by Davecat, the articulate Detroit 'husband' of Sidore's dolls have active presences that he engineers.

'I would describe myself, essentially, as a synthetic activist and a person who wants to be happy,' he says in the film. He's been with Sidore for nearly 20 years; for their tenth anniversary, he purchased the "Synthetic love lasts forever."

While Sidore is his wife, he says, the couple are involved in 'hierarchical polyamory' with another doll, Elena: 'Basically, that means, like, we're all in love with each other,' he says in the film. 'It's all equal, but Sidore always wants to be my wife.'

For all his protests, however, Davecat is clearly aware – keenly – that his paramours are dolls; he takes them apart and explains the mechanics in the film, as well as the eye-brow raising the question of cleaning Sidore and Elena.

Gilbert, though he's going to put a bed sheet on the floor before he goes. "There are special tools," he says, attempting to cover the issue at an awkward exchange with Gilbert works to 'clean that area out' with 'a flower with a syringe.'

He says in the film: 'A large part of it is self-deception. It's like, "Right, okay, you can not really love me because she's not really a she, she's an it." On the other hand, she does not love me because I've created a personality for her – and that gives your own sort of spirit, ideas … likes, dislikes, etc. '

For some iDollators, Dr Knafo tells DailyMail.com, the physical aspect of the relationship.

'Eventually, some of them stop having sex with the dolls, just like in a marriage,' she says.

Across the board, however, they realize that their companions are not capable of mutual feelings, according to Dr Knafo.

'On one level, they know they're not real; they'll show you the mechanics, how they work, their heads, theirs, 'she tells DailyMail.com. 'But on another level, when they're talking about the dolls, they're real people, real humans.

'They are in this between-between-reality and reality – the reality are the same as they are.'

She adds: "These guys, some of them spend almost all their waking hours preoccupied with these dolls in some way – whether it's dressing them or creating stories for them or creating blogs. A lot of them have blogs and twitter accounts – so they're speaking through these dolls like ventriloquists. They're like their alter egos. '

John says in the movie: 'I was married to a flesh-and-blood person for eight years, and it did not work out. Now I'm with Jackie, and we're happy, and it's weird, but it Good weird. Weird doesn't necessarily mean bad¿

John says in the movie: 'I was married to a flesh-and-blood person for eight years, and it did not work out. Now I'm with Jackie, and we're happy, and it's weird, but it Good weird. Weird doesn't necessarily mean bad¿

John says in the movie: 'I'm married to a flesh-and-blood person for eight years, and it did not work out … Now I'm with Jackie, and we're happy – and it's weird, but it's good weird. Weird does not necessarily mean bad '

Silicone Soul profiles John, Davecat and other iDollators - as a New Jersey man whose wife is ill and who lives with their dolls

Silicone Soul profiles John, Davecat and other iDollators - as a New Jersey man whose wife is ill and who lives with their dolls

Silicone Soul profiles John, Davecat and other iDollators – as a New Jersey man whose wife is ill and who lives with their dolls

Danielle Knafo about making the film. Director Melody Gilbert - who does not own a doll herself - what's unacquainted with the subculture?

Danielle Knafo about making the film. Director Melody Gilbert - who does not own a doll herself - what's unacquainted with the subculture?

Long Island psychoanalyst Dr Danielle Knafo first became aware of the iDollator subculture several years ago

Long Island psychoanalyst Dr Danielle Knafo first became aware of the iDollator subculture several years ago

Director Melody Gilbert, left, What was the case for a documentary by Long Island professor and psychoanalyst Danielle Knafo, right, who became acquainted with the subculture when one found a relationship with a silicone doll

Perhaps most interesting in the movie is 'Ben,' who remains committed to a relationship with his wife, Marina and Tasha. Ben remains a 'very sexual' person, Dr Knafo says – so the couple came up with real dolls as a solution.

'People are judgmental, and unless you're kind of in our shoes, I guess it's difficult to understand,' Ben's wife says in the film. 'But you know, here I have a husband who continues to be faithful, and I do not have to worry about him.

She adds: 'That's why I say it's a win-win, as long as he's happy and he's safe. He's not doing anything wrong. I'm fine with it. I really am. '

She requested that she take a little time before she 'meet' the dolls, however – but eventually started helping her husband to dress and style them. Marina, in particular, hasten helpful through her personal struggles.

'My wife was very critically ill; we almost lost her, he says in the film. 'She was in a bad shape … Marina got me through. I just held her at night and talked to her, and we got through that whole thing together.

'That's how she became very special … that's how she got so deep into me.'

For others looking for Davecat, however, the all of dolls has trumped the need for human women altogether.

Davecat says in the film 'Being in the foot,' Davecat says in the film. 'There's so many expectations that she would have to uphold.'

He adds: 'At any point in the relationship, you could just be like,' Yeah, you're weird, get away from me. "Obviously, she has the right to do that, but if that's an option, then obviously I would not want an intimate relationship.

'The car may crash, so I'm not going to get into the car:' That's how I think about it these days. '

According to Dr Knafo, Davecat is very much in love with this doll; he considers himself a pioneer in this kind of relationship – and that is just the beginning. The way we would think of taste – somebody who prefers blondes or redheads – then wants to prefer an inimate object. '

Abyss Creation's McMullan is therefore behind RealBotix, which has engineered more robot-like products with programmable memory and personality – and conversational capabilities.

'The interesting thing is … they're putting' AI in these dolls, which is, in effect, turning them into robots – but some [of the men] Do not want that, 'Dr Knafo says of emerging technology. 'They do not want a doll who speaks; they do not answer that they can control. '

She adds that 'technology and humanity is developing to the point where many people in artificial intelligence are predicting that we'll be marrying robots within 40 years.'

Gilbert's assumptions and her worldview, however, the varying rationales and existences of iDollator's really challenged director. She spent significant time with her case studies, working hard to earn the trust of a subculture that is, understandably, wary of openly telling her stories.

'It's a movie about companionship and relationships and love and secrets, and all that kind of things – that's what I'm trying to do,' she tells DailyMail.com. 'Because you know what? It's easy to make a movie about sex dolls. A lot of people are doing that right now. That's not what I'm doing … '

She adds: 'It's hard to imagine that a documentary about sex dolls would be about creating empathy.'

After I've read that I've come to say that I've come to say that I've come to a great deal, I think that's about it and spent time with people, because you first hear about it, it's a little shocking. And … John, with his wife Jackie, I mean, it's so clear to me that he has so much love to give. '

It's just getting out of the way, it's coming out in Paris, and it's opening in Paris.

'I do not advocate this; This is not an advocacy film, she tells DailyMail.com. 'I'm not saying this is the way to go, this is right or wrong or you should not; I'm just showing this in the world. Not only that, it's growing, and we're going to deal with that. '

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