Identity

'We Sell a Lot of Dicks': Inside a Factory Making Male Sex Dolls for Women

The creators of the Vajankle are now making nearly life sized, meticulously crafted sex dolls for women. We spent a day watching the magic happen.

by Mitchell Sunderland
Feb 2 2016, 6:10pm

Photos by Amy Lombard

In the reception of an office outside downtown Los Angeles, a woman-like figure sits at an old desktop computer; her desk is next to a shelf stuffed with wigs and statues of butts. Although, at first glance, she might pass for a human, she's actually a manikin (a.k.a. a sex doll) placed at the entrance of Sinthetics—the company behind last summer's viral sex toy sensation "the Vajankle."

"It's an awful expensive thing to fuck," says Bronwen Keller, the owner of Sinthetics.

Photos by Amy Lombard

After working for Sinthetics for a few years, Bronwen and her husband, Matt, bought the company last year. They look like a perfect match. When I arrive at the office, they're both drinking Arizona iced teas and eating subs. Matt wears cargo shorts. He styles his thinning hair in a Mohawk, and Bronwen has a string of glitter sewn into hers.

Sinthetics is perhaps best known for the Vajankle—a silicone foot with a vagina built into the ankle—so Bronwen shows me one signed by Ron Jeremy. The story behind the surprise viral hit is fairly straightforward, she tells me: After a customer requested an ankle to fuck, Sinthetics produced a few Vajankles. According to Bronwen, a Redditor posted about the object, creating a viral avalanche.

In 2016, Sinthetics wants to further revolutionize sex with manikins marketed towards women. The Kellers first started designing male manikins for gay customers, according to Bronwen. "The gay market felt underrepresented," she explains. Then a woman purchased a doll, and Sinthetics decided to produce silicone men specifically for women. Now they'll see if women can surpass the stigmas surrounding sex dolls. They see the risk as worth it. But they're also creating the manikins for more personal reasons: "This is a passion project," Bronwen says.

Matt designs each manikin based on clients' custom orders. Like most people in sex industries, Matt did not originally intend to go into this specific career path. He went to school for industrial design. For nearly a decade, he worked in the "Halloween industry," designing life-size scary decorations, which he loved doing. "We started out high-end," Matt explains. Then, according to him, his employer began outsourcing to China and selling to Wal-Mart. Matt's handmade art had been turned into mass-produced pieces of shit, so he quit.

A friend recommended him to a sex doll company. He took the job and fell in love with making high quality, build-to-order statues for clients to love and fuck. "We've had clients who have said it has saved their lives," Matt says. One time, he says, a client had received a terminal diagnosis for an illness and bought a doll for his last few months of life. Ten years later, he's still alive. "He's bought another doll and plans to be buried with both," Matt says. "Sometimes [customers] buy it [because] or they're super lonely or have Asperger's," Bronwen adds.

The customer service aspect prompted her love affair with the job. "We really got into it because of the people," Bronwen says. Excited, she tells me about how consumers take photos of their manikins and organize photo contests online. She first got into the job when Matt, then her boyfriend, needed a secretary to answer his emails. Now she runs the business side with him.

During my visit, Bronwen gushes about Matt's artistry. Walking around the office, she smiles as she shows me the silicon men he's currently creating. In a grey, cement space reminiscent of a Renaissance artist guild, manikins hang from chains attached to the ceiling. "This one is a surfer dude," she says while pointing at one man. "He will be freckled." She runs her finger down another silicon male's vein.

The veins look realistic because Matt uses penis and feet cast for bodies and spends hours studying the human anatomy. One time, Bronwen recalls, he struggled to master the exact distance between the ball sack and the taint. "Matt is very OCD," she says. "He just sees the flaws." He read textbook after textbook, but no scientist had described the proper distance, so he went to a sex store, pulled out a porn rag, and found the perfect example.

The dicks come from clients' custom orders. Bronwen mails potential customers tiny sample silicon balls and silicon hearts so they can understand what they will feel when they fuck the manikin. "[There's] no way to explain inwards by email," Bronwen says. Some customers have requested manikins with small penises, but, so far, poorly endowed men have refused to let Matt cast their dicks.

"We're looking for smaller packages," Bronwen says.

The couple has altered their product for women. Matt builds gay customers silicone men that weigh 108 pounds and stand at 5'9", but Bronwen says female buyers need smaller dolls. "Imagine a very heavy man you have to carry and clean," she says. "A crushing stigma [surrounds sex dolls]... Nobody is gonna call her girlfriend and ask her to help her move a doll."

Although many see the products developed by Sinthetics and other similar companies as creepy sex dolls for bald fat men to fuck, Matt and Bronwen insist that people actually build relationships with the objects. In their marketing, Sinthetics has started calling their products "manikins" instead of sex dolls in order to combat the negative image.

Matt says he's unsure if women will buy the dolls like gay and straight men do, but the companies' previous risks have paid off in dividends: Matt never expected Vajankles to become a big seller, for example. In their office, I see container after container filled with penises that can be attached to manikins.

"We sell a lot of dicks," Bronwen says.

The dicks come in different sizes and finishes. Holding up a bag of huge penises, Bronwen says one dick is modeled after Matt's cock, but she won't tell me which one.

"For realism," Matt says, he creates balls to go inside the ball sack, so customers can squeeze the testes. He still hasn't figured out how to create realistic foreskin that slides up and down the shaft, but he notes that penises have always been difficult to create. When Matt makes a penis mold, he needs his model to keep an erection for nearly an hour. This is already nearly impossible, but when you throw in that the silicone is cold and the room is hot, it takes an Olympian to keep a boner that long.

Like a Greek artist, Matt works long hours in a separate all-white room airbrushing male dolls for female clients. To give the men a "rugged" look, he says he needs to paint multiple layers on the manikins. On the weekends, a girl spends hours hand-sewing body hair into the dolls. Thanks to men's hairy bodies, the male dolls have proved more complicated than female manikins built for men.

Matt has broken the creation process down to a science, though, so his three employees can help expedite production of the silicone statues, which can take up to six months. Bronwen sees the time it takes to make the manikins as proof of their superior product. "A lot of the mid-range manufacturers think they're high end, which is cute because they're not," Bronwen says. Matt agrees.

"They're manufactures," he says. "We are artists."