Where Do Our Sex Dolls Go After We Die?

Life-size sex dolls are slowly making their way into popular culture: In Houston, Texas, a sex doll company called KinkySdollS recently attempted to open the first sex-robot “brothel” in the United States, where curious customers could test and rent a variety of models before purchasing. Texan lawmakers pushed back on the proposal, though such brothels already exist in Toronto, Paris, Moscow, Germany, and other European cities. A company called Realbotix is now combining programmable A.I. with sex robots, promising users they can “be the first to never be lonely again.”

Yet, there’s one issue sex-doll owners have yet to fully resolve: what to do with their synthetic companions after they’ve died.

For the most part, options are limited. I reached out to funeral homes all across the country, and not one said they would consider hosting a funeral service for a life-size doll, no matter the price. “I’m an old-school, traditional funeral director,” one man, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “Money does not excite me.” New Orleans-based Charbonnet Funeral Home, which made national news in 2014 for posing embalmed corpses in lifelike scenarios during wakes, said it would also reject requests for sex-doll burials.

One option is to do nothing, thus leaving the doll behind for unsuspecting next of kin. Will and trust attorney Mario Correa advises against this and suggests owners treat their dolls like any other tangible personal property or family heirloom, such as jewelry or fine china. “Let’s say you fail to specify someone. Then [the doll] goes into what’s called a residuary estate, and it will go to whoever is the remainder beneficiary,” he says. “By not being clear about certain properties, especially a special asset in a family, that could create problems.” Those issues include, but are not limited to, confusion, embarrassment, and family infighting.

The inheritor of a doll may want to resell it (after all, the dolls can retail for upward of $8,000), but hawking one is more complicated than you might assume. On the marketplace site at the Doll Forum, an online space for doll enthusiasts, sellers have to disclose information such as when and where the doll was purchased, what its body specifications are, if it’s had any repairs or has any damage, and of course, if the previous owner had sex with it. Unless someone wrote out all these details and included them in the will, it’d be nearly impossible for someone unfamiliar with the doll to sort out.

Though most doll museums are unlikely to accept sex dolls, iDollators might have better luck donating to sex museums, which sometimes display doll exhibits. A representative for the Muse Foundation, a private foundation affiliated with the Museum of Sex in New York City, tells me Muse is always willing to consider donations, though the decision to accept them is, ultimately, “entirely up to the foundation’s discretion.”

Some companies, such as Chinese company Doll Sweet Dolls, accept used dolls for recycling or resale. The problem, a representative for the company says, is that the international shipping costs are quite pricey. They haven’t received a single shipment from the United States for recycling or resale to date.“If you sent it to a recycling facility, it would just end up in a landfill.”

Recycling stateside is just as complicated. “Things that are made out of four different materials are difficult or impossible to recycle,” says Robert Reed, the public relations manager for San Francisco-based recycling facility Recology. While most hard plastics, metals, and even some silicones are eligible for recycling, Chris Fu at Eco USA, a silicone recycling facility, says that the average consumer doesn’t have enough knowledge about the materials used to make dolls and robots to know how to sort them in the first place.“If you sent it to a recycling facility, it would just end up in a landfill,” Fu says.

With few formal options, most sex-doll owners are falling back on their communities to help them plan for after their death. A New Jersey-based iDollator, who goes by the sobriquet TJ Foxx, has had to confront death more than he’d like. His (human) wife, who has battled various health conditions throughout their marriage, has been dealing with complications from past cancer treatments and is often in and out of the hospital. To cope, both emotionally and sexually, Foxx purchased his first doll, a fiery brunette with piercing green eyes and bold eyebrows called Tasha, whom he refers to as his “silicone soulmate.”“This isn’t really a toy, a sex toy,” he says. “This is something a lot more than that… She’s crazy about me, and I’m crazy about her.”

He’s listed the dolls in his estate, along with the phone numbers of some of his closest friends, who are also iDollators he met in online doll forums and at doll conventions. In case of death, those confidants will come to the house, clear everything out before the kids might stumble across them, and “make sure the girls are well-cared for.”

Foxx, as well as many others in the doll community, are often willing to open their homes and serve as the designated caregivers for their friends’ dolls. But taking in a doll isn’t a responsibility they take lightly.“Dying, in so many ways, is about losing control.”

In Arizona, a woman who goes by the moniker Hollywu lives with her “placebo partner,” Rari, a bubbly doll whose Twitter feed is filled with empowering messages. Hollywu first got Rari in 2016 after seeing Marwencol, a documentary about a man named Mark Hogancamp who coped with the aftermath of a traumatic physical assault by creating his own 1:6-scale world using dolls. As someone with bipolar disorder, decades of suicidal ideation, and social anxiety, Hollywu says she was inspired to follow Hogancamp’s lead and create a synthetic reality of her own, a decision she feels improved her happiness and health.

Hollywu says she’d never leave Rari behind without a strategic plan in place. Though they haven’t met in person, she says Foxx, whom she first interacted with through the doll forum, is “like family” and is the one person she trusts whole-heartedly with caring for Rari. “He would take good care of her,” she says.Inevitably, the designated caregivers will die too. When that day comes, the iDollators I spoke with hope their dolls will be passed on to people with similar outlooks. That is to say, people who view dolls as more than just sex toys.

Crossing off logistical tasks, like drafting a will, is a good start. But when it comes to dying, end-of-life specialist Michelle Acciavatti says it’s also imperative that iDollators make peace with letting go. Acciavatti—who helps guide people through all aspects of the death process, from providing counseling to planning at-home or green burials through her company Ending Well in Vermont—says she’d happily work with someone who’s worried about leaving behind a synthetic lover. “They are valid relationships, and their attachments shouldn’t be treated any differently,” she says.

Acciavatti says a majority of her clients fear abandoning their spouses, children, or even objects like houses. Sex dolls are no different. “Dying, in so many ways, is about losing control,” she says. “So, part of what I try to do, and I hope that I do well, is help people make peace with the fact that there are things they can’t control anymore. What they can control is who they are to themselves.”

Foxx, and Hollywu hope stigmas against human-Synthetik relationships will dissipate as A.I. and robots become more prevalent. And there’s a chance that, eventually, there will be more formally accepted ways of retiring them when we pass. In the meantime, though, it’s up to each owner to develop a plan for their own doll. Or not. One Redditor says that while he, too, enjoys the company of his silicone lover, he’s not going to lose sleep worrying about what becomes of her when he dies. “When you are dead,” he says, “you don’t care what happens to your doll.”