‘Shadow’ Trade in Child Sex Dolls Should be Banned, Say Profs

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Illustration by Rachel Caiano via Flickr

Last October, Miguel Ruiz, a 41-year-old Florida resident who worked for Disney World in Orlando, was arrested after a police search of his home found child pornography, and revealed that he had created life-size child “dolls” in the size and stature of children by fashioning them out of swimming or pool noodles (i.e. buoyant foam tubes)—even dressing them in children’s clothes.

Ruiz was not arrested for the possession of these dolls but for his possession of the child pornography.

That illustrates a worrying gap in U.S. law. Under existing law, life-like child sex dolls are not considered a form of child pornography, making it difficult to successfully prosecute those who produce, distribute, receive, and possess with the intent to distribute child sex dolls and child sex robots.

The arrest of Ruiz highlighted a shadowy industry that is increasingly transnational.

Companies in Japan, China and Hong Kong are manufacturing and shipping these realistic child sex dolls to customers around the globe. Buyers can even custom-order child sex dolls with predesigned facial features and expressions. They can request certain facial expressions, such as happy, sad or afraid.

Even more disconcerting, they can request dolls to resemble children in provided photographs. The ultimate goal of manufacturers is to make the child sex dolls look and feel as realistic as possible.

Such dolls that have been confiscated at the borders in other countries—the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, to name a few—that contain anatomically correct body parts and orifices (mouth, vagina, and anus) which can be used to accommodate an adult male penis.

They are far from toys.

Although not yet reported in the media, there’s a strong likelihood that child sex dolls and robots capable of moving, speaking, and performing sexual activities have already been—or are close to being—created. Adult sex dolls with these capabilities are already on the market (and sold all over the world).

Specifically, adult sex robots can both move and speak, and can be positioned for the user to perform a variety of sex acts on them. These robots have artificial intelligence and have programmable personalities; for example, one programmable personality for an adult sex robot by True Companion is “Frigid Farrah,” which rejects all sexual advances, thus encouraging the user to rape the robot.

Given that child sex dolls and robots are of a smaller weight and size, it is likely that development with these enhanced capabilities is further along in the child versions than in the adult sex dolls and robots.

While real children are not involved in the sex acts performed by owners of these child sex dolls and robots, their use still causes harm.

One Wales-based organization, the Specialist Treatment Organization for the Prevention of Sexual Offending (StopSO) argues that such adult toys have potential therapeutic effects by deterring offending by pedophiles. Similar claims by the self-identified pedophilic child sex-doll manufacturer, Shin Takagi, maintain that child sex dolls and robots are an alternative to offending and minimize the risk of harm to children in our society

Scientific evidence contradicts these claims as nonsensical and irrational [see also: R. Karl Hanson, Guy Bourgon, Lesley Helmus, and Shannon Hodgson, A Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of Treatment for Sex Offenders: Risk, Need, and Responsivity (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Public Safety Canada, 2009), 195-197].

Enabling offenders to act upon their impulses to rape and abuse an anthropomorphic child sex doll or robot simply reinforces, rather than reduces, these urges, associated thoughts and behaviors. Committing sex acts on child sex dolls and robots normalizes sexual assault; it does not supplant or inhibit it.

Moreover, as with most child pornography, the user becomes desensitized and will need a higher level to reach gratification. Once the child sex dolls become insufficient to satisfy the pedophile’s urges, he or she s likely to seek out children in order to once again receive the same amount of satiety.

It is imperative that child sex dolls and robots be banned outright by U.S. law. This would require the creation of a new law to criminalize the production, distribution, receipt, possession, and possession with the intent to distribute child sex dolls and robots.

The introduction of a bill Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots (CREEPER) in December 2017 by Republican Daniel Donovan Jr. is a step in the right direction.

Lauren Shapiro

Lauren R. Shapiro

However, the bill only prohibits the distribution and importation of child sex dolls. Child sex robots should also be criminalized. Legislation is also needed to criminalize the manufacture and possession of both child sex dolls and child sex robots.

Marie-Helen Maras

Marie-Helen Maras


Without these additional prohibitions, criminals will find ways to evade criminal sanction by, for example, creating these child sex dolls and child sex robots themselves (for example, using a 3D printer).

(Readers seeking more information can contact the authors for access to their recent article, entitled “Child Sex Dolls and Robots: More Than Just an Uncanny Valley,” in the Journal of Internet Law (December 2017 issue), which reviews the scientific literature and illustrates the dangers and adverse impacts of child sex dolls and robots.)

Marie Helen Maras, Ph.D., is an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Lauren R. Shapiro, Ph.D., is an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Readers’ comments are welcomed.

8 thoughts on “‘Shadow’ Trade in Child Sex Dolls Should be Banned, Say Profs

  1. I’m still pondering how it is that a “foam pool noodle” can be fashioned into something I would find even passingly attractive.

  2. Don’t you find it scary and unconstitutional criminalizing thinking and free speech, no mater how vile.
    There is no real data to support any of these “suppositions”. Perhaps the owners of these small dolls have bad backs. But then again perhaps all women who buy small vibrators are imagining underage boys and should be sentenced to 10 years of prison. While ransacking these homes of these female pedophiles I am sure we can find one or two naked child photos that are not innocent dirty children playing in the shower but child porn.

  3. Women like this are convincing me more and more that feminism has to be opposed. Attacking men for masturbating with inanimate objects is going too far. It reveals not a desire to safeguard children, but to attack men for their desires, and control their sexuality. Women are doing to men what they have claimed men have done to them. It’s time for more than a mere backlash against feminism. Men need to destroy it.

  4. Some, or should I say most, people in the fields of criminal justice and social work put people into groups; and to hell with anything else they haven’t thought of, like: individual qualities, intentions, knowledge, reasons, skills, etc… Those things are irrelevant. They won’t say it outright because it will be some type of “cause”; but these people think their goal in life is to control other people. They believe they have a special status to do so (which allows them to fail on their own actions while you can’t); however, they placate on this by taking a “hard-line” belief on the causes that they are threatened by or even addicted to. … the criminal justice people may not get it, but people think of all kinds of things during sexual situations (whatever the situations may be).
    [this post has been condensed for space]

    • The writers of this article have taken it upon themselves to do exactly what they don’t want you to think in the first place. In a rebuttal to StopSO and Takagi, these women imply two things: [1] assume that the only sexual experience pedophiles have is to rape/abuse children… seriously? [2] grant rights of children to the sex doll because it allegedly looks like a child, and [3] therefore, accuse the pedophile of rape/abuse of the sex doll. The problem with this logic is that you can fill in the blanks for where it says “sex doll” with “wife” or “girlfriend” or “honey” or “boy” or “pillow” or “hand”… the criminal justice people may not get it, but people think of all kinds of things during sexual situations (whatever the situations may be).

  5. I have no interest in having sex with inanimate objects, but I would probably start doing so as an act of civil disobedience if it ever became illegal and dare the authorities to imprison me. I feel I would have a moral obligation to defy the law as a form of activism to defend the right of privacy!

  6. Your arguments amount to theoretical “thought crimes”. What individuals or consenting adults do in their own time behind closed doors is none of your business. It’s not your business if two same-sex partners are intimate, it’s not your business if partners engage in consensual BDSM, it’s not your business what kinky pornographic material (featuring consensual performers) a person views in their own time, and it’s not your business what masturbation aids they use.
    Child pornography is society’s problem because it involves actual children, and the protection of those real children is paramount. Beyond that, where no actual child is even involved, it’s not anybody else’s business.

    You cite an article about “self-identified pedophilic child sex-doll manufacturer” Shin Takagi. He clearly is *not* running around molesting actual children. Since he’s undoubtedly had more than enough time with the dolls to meet whatever arbitrary threshold you may set to “require a higher level of gratification”, where does he fit into this theory that the dolls encourage offending against real children?

    Your arguments amount to theoretical and highly debatable “thought crime”, and at this time the available concrete evidence is nowhere near sufficient to justify the intrusion into a person’s private bedroom, in which no actual person is being harmed in any way.

  7. The problem with so many lawmakers and law enforcers is that they have a poor understanding of science and human behavior. For starters, the burden to prove causality is very hard. How long did it take for scientists to prove that tobacco causes cancer, heart disease and emphysema? Even if it can be proven that the use of child sex dolls causes pedophilia, that still does not mean that it causes people to become child sexual predators which are two different things. Even if there are cases like this, it still does not prove that having sex with a doll causes this behavior. Perhaps there should be a law banning any kinds of movies, TV programs, games, books and podcasts that depict violence? Suggestions that there should be laws banning child sex dolls are just as absurd. There are just as many arguments floating around that fictional accounts of violence foster violent thinking which leads to people becoming violent.It takes a real enormous leap of faith to suggest that a law should be made based on unscientific assumptions.[this post has been condensed and edited]

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