The emergence of sex dolls in public spaces

COVID-19 is a devastating virus that has changed the social and cultural landscape of how people can safely interact with each other. The political response to it has been to reduce human contact through the practice of self-isolation, quarantine and social distancing. While only temporary measures to save lives and hold back the spread of the virus, they have shut people away from each other, allowing a retreat from public places and instilling a certain fear of contact and closeness.

Cue a Brave New World where people are absent from public spaces and a disturbing trend has emerged to fill them. We are starting to see a new phenomenon: empty spaces being filled with sex dolls.

Why would a sex doll be seen as a suitable replacement for an absent woman?

In South Korea, FC Seoul decided to place sex dolls in its stands amidst the absence of supporters. The team put lifeless pornographic dolls in its stadium to give it ‘atmosphere’ while they were playing a closed match. Some of the dolls held up promotional material for the companies that make them. The club was eventually fined $81,000 and apologised for the mistake but why would anyone think this was acceptable? South Korea is a country where tens of thousands of women marched on the streets with banners that said ‘my life is not your porn’ but here again, they are subjected to a new type of debasement.

In the US, restaurants have taken to seating sex dolls at their tables, to make them feel a little more full. Says Paula Starr Melehes owner of a South Caroline restaurant, “Instead of using scary, yellow tape or roping off the empty tables, I thought, ‘We’re going to make this restaurant look full. They (the sex dolls) are very humorous, and they have nice faces. The ladies have pretty makeup on, and the wigs were gifts from different people.”

In San Diego, the restaurant Born and Raised in San Diego recently reopened its doors to customers with sex dollsinside so that male customers could have some ‘company’. Explains Realdoll CEO and Founder Matt McMullen “I read how some restaurants were placing giant stuffed animals or even mannequins in seats to create the appealing illusion of fullness while still keeping things safe. And my girls are a hell of a lot better looking than stuffed animals and mannequins. So until things get back to, um, normal in the sex doll industry, I’m renting them out to select establishments. And because some of them have AI features, they can even make conversation with solo diners who are eager to get out of the house, but still feel skittish about dating.”

Let us be clear, sex dolls are 3D pornography. They are pornographic representations of women and putting them into public spaces is a form of sexual harassment of women, and a child safeguarding issue.


sex dolls restaurant

As companies try to normalise their sex dolls in public spaces, they are effectively ushering in a new form of public pornography and providing yet another barrier to women’s safe enjoyment of the public sphere. Women and sex dolls gets collapsed in the minds of the companies that produce them. And for the male users, sex doll and woman are seen as one and alike.

‘The covid pandemic has led to a new form of technological misogyny –  a growing trend to bring pornography out from the private sphere and into the public space in the form of sex dolls.’

These are important issues that need to be addressed and be taken seriously. What makes people think that a sex doll can be a suitable replacement for an absent woman? This is the shape of things to come if not addressed here and now with robust anti-sex doll and robot regulation.

Find out more about our work on our website, sign our petition, or join us for our first International Workshop on July 4th.

We urgently need to debate the growing normalisation of sex dolls and sex robots and build a feminist response to this attack on what it means to be a woman!

Join us on July 4th 2020 for our first international workshop [online]

Sex Tech, Robots & AI: A feminist Response

9:00 – 14:30 (British Summer Time)


Professor Sheila Jeffreys, author and activist,
Caitlin Roper, PhD candidate and campaigns manager Collective Shout,
Dr Sasha Rakoff, Not Buying It!,
Raquel Rosario Sanchez, FiLiA 
Jo Bartosch, Click Off,
Kate Davis, CASR
Professor Kathleen Richardson, CASR

Register HERE