The Disturbing and Legal Japanese Industry of Child-Like Sex Dolls

Child-like sex dolls are openly for sale on numerous Japanese websites, attracting a community of men who fantasize about sex with children.

Much like a real child would, the doll in the photo holds a box of crayons, looking poised to scribble on the studio’s bare walls. She’s standing at first, but just a few clicks into the website’s slideshow, she’s seen seated with her legs spread apart. She wears nothing and her fake vagina is clearly visible for the customer to see.

Online, communities centered around these child-like sex dolls have cropped up in Japan.

Advertisement

Owners frequently post photos of their dolls on social media, their followers offering bits of advice on how to properly clean vaginal sockets after use, or how to retouch a doll’s makeup.

Under the dolls, users leave sexually suggestive comments. “Uncle has candy at his house, come over,” “She’s such a cute elementary school girl,” and “I can’t get enough, her skirt’s ruffles are so cute I get very excited” are just some of the thousands of public exchanges between owners.

Appearing in a video on his YouTube channel, the owner of one such doll discussed the merits of making a child sex doll’s silicone vagina less “deep” to mimic that of a prepubescent child’s. He urged his followers to contact doll makers about this request to make having sex with a child more realistic. 

​The dolls look strikingly similar to children and dressed in clothes that elementary school kids would wear. Photo: Shawn Woody Motoyoshi

While countries like Australia and the United Kingdom—which banned child sex dolls because their governments considered the products to be child abuse material—in Japan, they’re completely legal. Adults can order a doll with a customizable vagina with the same ease of buying a teddy bear online.

Children’s rights activists in Japan fear the child sex dolls’ impact, both on children and customers who buy them.

Critics argue that allowing the dolls to exist—with hardly any restrictions—helps normalize forcible sexual intercourse with children, a crime punishable by at least five years in prison. They also insist that the dolls make a market out of sexualizing minors, which they claim is reflected in Japan’s loose laws on explicit material depicting children.

Advertisement

“I believe there’s a strong value within Japan that it’s acceptable to use children as objects of sex,” Kazuna Kanajiri, the chairman of a nonprofit called People Against Pornography and Sexual Violence, told VICE World News.

She pointed to how even government leaders, such as a 56-year-old politician claiming it was okay to have sex with minors as young as 14, sexualized children. “In the first place, there is little awareness in Japan that sexual acts between adults and children are a crime, which has encouraged an increase in sexual crimes against children and is the reason why people have supported love dolls that look like kids,” Kanajiri said. In Japan, the age of consent is 13, one of the lowest in the world. 

In Japan, it's not just child-like sex dolls that are legal—manga and anime depicting child abuse are too. ​Photo: Shawn Woody Motoyoshi

Though Japan banned the possession of child abuse material in 2014, the last of 38 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to do so, restrictions didn’t include illustrative media. Manga, anime, and dolls are still legal in Japan, with the former two protected largely by the right to freedom of expression. 

But the science on the dolls’ real-world effects—such as whether they lead to more sexual crimes against children, is murky. Some studies argue they could potentially provide people sexually interested in minors with an outlet, thereby making them less likely to act on their desires.

In one 2022 study, researchers found no difference in sexual aggression tendencies between sex doll owners and non-owners after surveying over 130 people from each group. Other papers have suggested from a theoretical standpoint that the dolls could be used as therapy if used under regulated conditions. 

But another paper, also published this year, suggests the contrary. Italian researchers found that sex offenders were less likely than non-offenders to think dolls could be used for treating criminals.

​Child-like sex dolls are illegal in some jurisdictions but allowed in Japan. Photo: Shawn Woody Motoyoshi

Though most research indicates that a majority of doll owners purchase their toys for sexual reasons, some child-like sex doll owners claim that’s not always the case.

Suzuki, who owns a child sex doll among his collection of 20 dolls, said he bought one because adult ones—which can weight up to 35 kilograms—are too heavy to have sex with. The doll, whom he named Virginia, appears to be about six or seven years old and weighs just 13 kilograms.

Suzuki, who spoke on condition of using a pseudonym, said he doesn’t care if child sex dolls were made illegal, so long as the evidence supporting the ban was sound. But he conceded that he’s likely an outlier. “About half of the owners I know want to have sex with children,” he said. “That’s why they buy the dolls.”

Suzuki owns 20 dolls, a collection he's amassed since last year. ​Photo: Shawn Woody Motoyoshi

Akiyoshi Saito, a psychiatric social worker who largely treats people convicted of child sex abuse, said about one in ten of his clients who are formally considered pedophiles have used child-like sex dolls. 

But his clients didn’t feel like the doll was an outlet, as the argument for keeping the dolls legal suggests. “The dolls don’t fully satisfy their desires,” he said.

Experts also claim that proving a causal link between the toys and an increased likelihood of someone committing child abuse is unethical and likely impossible. 

”No research ethics committee is going to warrant such a study due to the high risk involved in it,” John Danaher, a law professor who’s studied the ethical implications of child-like sex dolls, told VICE World News—the risk being actual sexual violence against children.

Advertisement

But, Danaher said, there was plenty of research that shows allowing someone to engage in violent behavior is harmful, even if there are no direct victims. “We habituate and normalize things over time, so if you engage in a facsimile or a representation of an act over time, you’re more likely to engage in that act, so you’re just encouraging that behavior,” he said.

Saito, the social worker, said part of the reason the law doesn’t include child-like sex dolls is because it’s a relatively recent phenomenon.

The issue of child-like sex dolls is a burgeoning problem, with research on them gaining traction only within the past five to 10 years. But some experts theorize that the global market for sex dolls is already a multi-million dollar industry. In Japan, a country globally known for its liberal sale of sex dolls, sellers estimate that about one such toy is sold every 30 seconds. Of the dozens of sex doll websites, an overwhelming majority have pages dedicated to just child-like sex dolls, with some listed as the most popular dolls among customers.

Petitions to ban the sale and manufacture of child-like sex dolls circulate online from time to time, but they’ve been met with tepid support. Politicians who have spoken out about the toys have largely refrained from calling for their ban, citing an individual’s right to freedom of expression.

Despite lukewarm support from lawmakers for regulating the dolls, Kanajiri and other activists see merit in their work to free Japanese society from sexualized depictions of children. Men angered by her advocacy have harassed her by sending used masturbation sleeves to her office. It’s gross, she said, but not enough to silence her.

Follow Hanako Montgomery on Twitter and Instagram.

All photos taken by Shawn Woody Motoyoshi.

Tagged:

worldnews, Child Abuse, world crime

More
like this
I Pretend to Be 13 Years Old to Catch Online Paedophiles
He Abused Kids For 24 Years. Now He Wants Manga Sexualizing Children to be Banned.
How to Have Great Sex if You Deal With Gender Dysphoria
‘Pearl’ Necklaces: The People Getting Jewelry Made From Semen
Mother Arrested for Pimping 9-Year-Old Daughter and Selling Her Sex Tapes
30 Things You Need to Know About Shagging Before Turning 30
A Beginners' Guide to Going on PrEP
Buddhist Priest Arrested for Allegedly Paying for Sex with an Underage Girl