Thursday, May 20, 2010

Agalmatophilia: Love in the Age of Silicon

What is Agalmatophilia?

Agalmatophilia, also called Statuephilia or Pygmalionism after the myth of Pygmalion, is an uncommon sexual fetish or paraphilia. Essentially, it is a form of sexual attraction to statues (usually but not exclusively nudes), and possibly lifelike mannequins and dolls as well. This fetish also crosses over into a transformation fetishism in the form of fantasies about people transformed into any of those objects. For many, the idea of immobility or loss of control is arousing. There are also fantasies about paralysis which sometimes cross over into hypnofetishism and robot fetishism. Statuephilia has a small but highly devoted community. In fact, a number of famous art photographers have extensively featured sexualized life-sized dolls in their work, such as: Hans Bellmer, Bernard Faucon, Helmut Newton, Morton Bartlett, Katan Amano, Kishin Shinoyama, and Ryoichi Yoshida.

Discovering Agalmatophila

Agalmatophilia has been around just as long as sex has: all throughout time. The idea originated with the myth in which Pygmalion, a Greek sculptor, fell in love with a statue that he had carved. According to Ovid, after seeing the Propoetides prostituting themselves, Pygmalion, somewhat of a misogynist, became 'uninterested in women', and his statue was so realistic that he fell in love with it. He offered the statue gifts and eventually prayed to Aphrodite to bring her to life. Aphrodite ended up granting his wish, and the statue soon married Pygmalion, also giving birth to a child. This myth is one the first depictions of a kind of agalmatophilia. It was not until the publication of Richard von Krafft-Ebbing's Psychopathia Sexualis that there was a clinical study conducted on this fetish. Ebbing recorded the case in 1877 of discovering a gardener falling in love with a statue of the Venus de Milo and attempting coitus with it.

An important fantasy for some individuals is being transformed into the preferred object (such as a statue) and experiencing a state of immobility or paralysis. These fantasies may possibly be extended to role-playing in a manner of being transformed into what appears to be a "rubber doll" or a "latex doll." It is particularly common for people to have sexual arousal associated with objects and substances.

Doll Fetishism

Within statuephilia is a branch of the fetish referred to as doll fetishism where individuals become aroused by seeing their partners' unique characteristics minimized and transformed into more uniform doll-like features. The "doll" can be male or female, and usually altered to have the body type of a Barbie. To get that shape for the doll, they put on a desirable wig, breast forms, a tight corset giving the "doll" a small waist, a strap on vagina if male, buttock augmentation pads, and a revealing outfit. To show off the new proportions, the outfit is generally made of tight leather, latex, or spandex. There are virtual worlds which offer unique opportunities for exploring this fetish, where individuals are represented by modifiable avatars. People are able to adorn themselves with fake skin, hair, and costumes, even going so far as to being identified by a number instead of name. There are also some fetish sites that feature videos and animated pictures of individuals achieving orgasm onto or by use of dolls or figurines. There is even a considerable large market targeting people with these desires. The RealDoll is a life-size sex doll manufactured by Abyss Creations in San Marcos, California. It has a PVC skeleton with steel joints and silicone flesh, and is advertised as "the state-of-the-art for life-like human body simulation." Female dolls include realistic openings in their vagina, mouth and anus. Male dolls can include a penis of varying size and flaccidity, based on the buyer's specifications. These dolls are also able to be bended and altered into different poses. A RealDoll is relatively expensive, averaging $5000 and up depending upon what accessories are selected.

Robot Fetishism

Another extension of statuephilia is robot fetishism, sometimes called ASFR or technosexuality. This is a fetishistic attraction to humanoid or non-humanoid robots. This can also be extensive to a fetish involving people achieving orgasm by acting like robots or seeing people dressed in robot costumes. A less common fantasy involves transformation into a robot, however it is still directly related to agalmatophilia. Robot fetishism is sometimes viewed as a form of erotic anthropomorphism and when the idea of transformation or role-playing is involved, it can be thought of as a form of erotic objectification.

By its enthusiasts, robot fetishism is more commonly referred to by the initials ASFR. The initials are based off of the phrase from the now defunct newsgroup Many of these enthusiasts refer to themselves as technosexual or as "ASFRians." For some, robotic appearance, motion, and sound are important for arousal. For others, a completely life-like android that appears to be human is desired. The ability to remove parts of skin or other bodily appendages in order to reveal circuitry is quite pleasing to some, and equally distasteful to others. Some prefer an android to appear human-like and others prefer a more mechanical looking robot with a metallic surface. ASFR is divided into two distinct but sometimes overlapping types of robotic fantasy.

The first of group is simply based off of a desire to have a ready-made android or gynoid partner that is desired for sex, companionship, or any combination of the two. The main distinguishing feature of this type is that the android is a completely artificial "built" and manufactured solely to fulfill the desires of its owner.

The second type of fantasy is referred to as transformation. This involves a human who is either willingly or unwillingly turned into an android. That person can be either oneself or one's partner, or sometimes both. It is usually the process of transformation that is the focus of this fantasy.

Many people in the ASFR community prefer either one or the other. In some cases, this preference is very strong and divisive within the community. People may even be repulsed by the behaviors of the opposite group. In other cases, there is equal appreciation for built and transformation. A recent informal survey of technosexual members found that three fifths prefer built while the remainder prefer transformation or some combination of both. Some ASFRians may not even wish to use synthetic partners at all, and instead would prefer human partners to participate in their fantasies.

This ASFR fetish can only be acted upon in a limited number of ways, primarily through fantasy, involving either self stimulation or sexual role-playing with a partner. ASFR art is therefore very important to aid in the reinforcement of imagination for sexual stimulation. ASFR art content includes science fiction movies, television shows, novels, short stories, illustrations, manipulated photographs, pornographic content, songs and even television commercials. However, recent developments in robotics and can lead to the production of more advanced synthetic partners than the what is capable with mannequins and dolls such as the RealDoll.

Agalmatophilia in the Arts

Agalmatophilia is sometimes featured in the arts, prominently in Luis Buñuel's L'Âge d'or, where the female protagonist sucks a statue's toe, and in Tarsem Singh's thriller The Cell. The film is based on a serial killer named Carl Stargher who drowns his victims, who are all young women, and then bleaches their bodies so that they resemble dolls. He then proceeds to masturbate as he hangs himself above the corpses. Later on, there is a scene which takes place inside his mind. Here, a psychiatrist finds a collection of grotesque, corpse-dolls inside display cases attached to crude machinery that jerks them about in sadomasochistic sexual poses. This grotesque act is a representation of how the killer perceives his victims.

The film Metropolis also explores this fetish. In this film, the mad inventor Rotwang kidnaps the heroine Maria. He's created a robot to be a replacement for a woman he loved, but it needed a soul so he imprints the image of Maria onto his Robot. The scene itself is filled with the trappings of the mad scientist film before there ever was a visualized Dr. Frankenstein's lab. There seems to be a reoccurring theme with mad scientists creating robots or dolls that come to life. There is the Bride of Frankenstein. There are a number of pulp serials full of hypnotized femmes such as Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, and My Living Doll. Around the 60's, however, it seems that the films and shows are starting to drop all the trappings of what is called "The Frankenstein Complex." The robot men and women are no longer trapped by programming gone awry, where they become out of control and wreak havoc on an arrogant humanity. We now see the beginning of artificial beings that are just as "alive" as their organic counterparts.

As we progress into the 70's and 80's, we find more and more instances of "The Pinocchio Syndrome," where benevolent and sometimes not so benevolent artificial creations want to be "real, live" people. Of course we still see the Frankenstein Complex in such creations such as Blade Runner, Westworld, The Stepford Wives, and Star Trek, but now there is an added tone of eroticism. The robot is no longer just an artificial creation meant to carry out the labors of mankind. In Westworld and The Stepford Wives, there is a noted misogynist backlash against women by an ever more emasculated male population, resulting in machine-like control over these individuals. Priss is even cited as "Your Basic Pleasure Model" in Blade Runner. These mechanical counterparts develop evolved thoughts and feelings of their own much as depicted in human beings. Even Austin Powers and The Terminator depict this fantasy in an artistic form.

The Mindset of Doll Fetishists

Pygmalionism & Mind Control have their own followings in such a way that people into them might not ever look at a robot story or picture. But the concepts are quite similar to technosexuality in a lot of respects.

A fascination with control seems to be a constant between the three main areas. There's usually the constant of someone being in control and the constant of someone, or something, being controlled. For many, the control seems to involve a kind of Startup/Shutdown behavior 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. Often in overtly robotic themed Mind-Control media, the presence of transformation stories, turning the free-willed person into the object of desire mentally, and sometimes physically, are very evident. Some are even into the idea of the robot, doll, or mannequin malfunctioning or being severely damaged.

Understanding Agalmatophilia

The fetishisms associated with agalmatophilia are not necessarily misogynistic and objectifying even they may seem to be. Although men who participate in these fetishes outnumber women 10 to 1, there are many women who participate as well. The sexual stimulation results more from a need of control and sexual gratification without emotion from either counterpart. It can be easily misunderstood as a shallow, cruel, and heartless depiction of sexual stimulation, and although this may be true for some, it is not true for all. Some use this as a way of performing derogatory acts without actually harming anyone. Whether this is a good thing or not, it is more of a concern when people perform these acts on actual people. Fetishism is like a sickness for some and just a feeling for others. There is not a good way to describe it because it varies so much in individuals, and it is hard for people to distance themselves from many acts that seem grotesque and cruel. Agalmatophilia is a difficult concept to comprehend, especially when considering the mental states behind these fantasies. However, one should always consider whether the actions harm real individuals or not. In some cases, this is just a derogatory fantasy. For others, this is just sexual gratification that stems from loneliness or the lack of confidence in an ability to find a partner.

Works Cited
Gross, Kenneth. The Dream of the Moving Statue. Cornell University Press. 1992. Print.
Krafft-Ebbing, Richard von. Psychopathia Sexualis, With Special Reference to the Antipathic Sexual Instinct: A Medico-Forensic Study. 1906. Print.
Meghan Laslocky. "Real Dolls: Love in the Age of Silicon.", 11 October 2010. Web. 11 April 2010. .
Scobie A, Taylor J. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences: Vol 11, Issue 1: "Agalmatophilia, the statue syndrome." Wiley Periodicals, Inc. 1975. Print.
"Technosexuality." The Pygmalion Syndrome. Winter Rose. Web. 11 April 2010. .
"Transformation vs. Built Poll", Fembot Central Message Board. Web. 11 April 2010. .


Freddie G. May said...

Since Barbie is an anatomic uncorrect representation of REAL females, I do not see it in the same view of humanity. The differing idea is that it is nothing to do with power over any living being. My activity with them is simply enjoying them as a toy for pure harmless entertainment. There is no transformation of females into the toy. All females are superior to toys.

I find that it provides a path of communication with women that is more than superficial blather. It stimulates interactions of views and opinions about what it does or does not represent in reality or fantasy.

The intimate contact is simply is an elieviation of feelings in a constructive manner that has no harmfil results upon myself or others.

Anonymous said...


I find your article highly offensive. You are completely mischaracterizing doll lovers here, and your ignorance is only overshadowed by your arrogance.

Please visit so that you can get a clue about who and what doll lovers are.

Amanda said...

Dear Anon,

I definitely see your point. I wrote this several years ago during my first year of college, and it was more exploration of a topic I knew nothing about for a class assignment. Now, I do not feel that sexuality can be easily defined and "morally" labeled, but at the time, I had been dealing with past experiences from abusive men that really jaded my view on sexuality.

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