"Oh, so life like!"
This summer, I am beginning by closely reading Humoral Theory besides philosophies regarding contemporary Physics, Biology and Chemistry. Again, I am thinking about key terms. Thus I set a challenge to myself: to pick a few key terms and think through their implications for how we look at the production of bodies, particularly gendered bodies, and how this has in term been exploited in one way or another by State and Capitalist Engines. My initial research produced the following terms, which will each be explored in a series of three posts highlighting one of the three inter-penetrating disciplines of contemporary science: Heat (Physics), Estrogen (Biology), and Silicone (Chemistry).
If it looks like a woman, sounds like a woman, tastes like a woman, feels, smells, and fucks like a woman, it may very well be silicone.
Invading our planet and snatching our bodies, this alien substance is all too human. In fact scientists scan far off moons and planets for silicon (the root material of silicone) in addition to carbon molecules because they theorize life forms could emerge just as well from either material. And with silicon-based computer systems slowly beginning to resemble our carbon-based brain structures and the rapid integration of the two in the form of technological prosthetics, we may soon declare siliconic life-forms alive and well here on Earth.
Selected because of its resemblance and (sometimes) chemical neutrality to human flesh, silicone is widely produced and marketed to be attachments to, replacements for, augmentations of, and sexual partners with our bodies in growing varieties. Women, always already cyborgs, are targeted for silicone regiments to improve their vision (w/contact lenses), make their skin soft and slick (w/ lube), make their faces glisten (w/cosmetics), make their breasts pop (w/implants), and widen their instrumentality in the bedroom (w/sex toys) to the point of a full body replacement in the form of "real dolls," like the one pictured above.
Occupying a dynamic state between liquid and solid, life-like and living, alien and human, cure and poison, silicone changes how we see, hear, taste, touch and smell our materiality and our feminism. In this post, I examine the humoral theory of "like attracting like" to parse five phenomenal ways that we mate with silicone to produce and sell the contemporary woman and how this trans-corporeal partnership has some toxic consequences.
See :: Contact Lenses
What does it mean to see with eyes of silicone? Humanistically, instrumentally, and teleologically it usually means we see through the silicone, let it become invisible/transparent to our senses so that we might see the world "better". This is the manner in which we treat our silicone-based contact lenses which daily cloud and alter our way of seeing and knowing. The silicone sets the world even further at distance by pushing itself as close as possible to our sensory apparatus so as to be considered a part of the eye/I. Yet what can we see of the silicone itself?
As with heat and light, which are themselves contorted at the skin of silicone lenses, this eye-like material is telling in its invisible agency. It reveals to us how we treat things as extensions of our body and even how we treat our own body, as things that exist only by what we know about them or can do with them. Ian Bogost in Alien Phenomenology commented that, "As operators or engineers, we may be abl,e to describe how such objects and assemblages work, but what do they experience? What is their proper phenomenology? In short, what is it like to be a thing?" (Bogost 10).
In this post, I wish to go further in contemplating this simultaneous invisibility/transparency of a body with its stubborn opaqueness/alteration of our vision. Bogost presents us with just such a route in his chapter on "wonder:"
"To wonder is to suspend all trust in one's own logics, be they religion, science, philosophy, custom, or opinion, and to become subsumed entirely in the uniqueness of an object's niative logics--flour granule, firearm, civil justice system, longship, fondant. In Graham Harm's terms, wonder is a sort of allure that real objects use to call at one another through enticement and absorbtion. As he puts it 'Allure merely alludes to the objects without making its inner life directly present.' Wonder describes the particular attitude of allure that can exist between an object and the very concept of objects. If allure is 'the seperation between objects' then wonder is the separation between objects and allure itself. Wonder is a way objects orient" (Bogost 124).
In other words, rather than trying to enlighten ourselves, silicone, stars, women and (m)others, we may be better directed by letting these things become darkened. "Unlike these old methods, which strive to illuminate, wonder hopes to darken, to isolate, to insulate." (Bogost 131). This may require that we pull out our contact lenses and set them at a distance. Without them as part of our body, we may not be able to see or know things as distinctly, but that does not mean that we do not see at all. What we see becomes blurry. The light, no longer distinguished into articulate shapes, bends its spectrum to cover the world in chaotic clouds and each thing with rainbow halos.
At this point we begin to see the angel, or what Martin Heidegger in his later work fantastically called "a god." On our finger, we no longer see our prosthetic iris, we see the god Iris who "through which the mysterious is brought down to earth...When seen in this way, the rainbow daughter of wonder offers not just a road that allows traversal between earth and heaven but also one that demands pause for its own sake. This is not one of those irreconcilable Derridian suspensions either. It's truly simultaneous conditions without differal." (Bogost 121).
Thus how might we say we see silicone? Just as Freud and Lacan may be said in a salvaged way to have usefully described women: these cloudy and indistinct things make the whole world alien and other to us. While humoral theory has inscribed in us a belief that "like attracts like" it also taught a lesson that is much forgotten, that the same substances may also "alter" and "discharge" others (Galen, On the Natural Faculties 43). Framed as the rainbow road between identification or the eye/I, and alienation, silicone and women (as the other), may need that critical distance to inspire in us a way of existing with things and letting them affect us while also letting them live independentally from us. We need wonder and we need to wonder more about silicone.
Hear :: Lube
While lube is tacitly assumed to make things run smoother and quieter, one the tell tale signs of sexual activity is the slap of lubed body on lubed body. What a great angel for all the sometimes silent and sometimes noisy intercourse going on between things all around us, in us, and through us! Existing between flowing and affixing, silicone occupies a state between solid and fluid in a way which troubles our assumptions about materiality and our own bodies.
" Our world is solid, our earth was solid and are heaven was as well, we too are secure, everything is in place around us. The very request for a foundation, for existential or gnoseological foundations implies that one does not dig or lay a foundation in water or on the wind. Bergson is thus right that our metaphysics are metaphysics of the solid... we were afraid of gases and liquids, we understood nothing of Lucretius, our knowledge was not made for the great multiplicities...we were afraid of wind and waters, we are not afraid of disorder and the rarely predictable...Bergson believed that it was necessary to make an effort to go back from solid to the liquid--from space to time. All this is too hastily put: space is dense with flux as well. To go from solid to liquid is only a matter of heat, one must therefore increase the disorder" (Serres, Genesis 107-109).
Our bodies flow with silicone, demonstrating through fluid exchanges and the reduction of frictions at boundary lines the deconstruction and the deterritorialization of the human. The sound of these waves come to us not only through our ears, but resonate through our whole bodies, making us sensually aware of how far our bodies can extend and stretch wider than ever before to become an open systems to a riot of inter-penetrations. These crowds whisper that the human is no definite discrete place. It is a node, a coming together, a meeting ground, a Thing. And yet to exist as as a Thing is to be ever in conflict with every distinguished body. Sex is a conflict. A slamming and stabbing of bodies, with silicone lube as its catalysis and its sounding board. Things bang on the wall of the human to join it and unjoin it limb by limb. "Fuck the Human" cries the crowd in indistinct voices issuing from the drum beats. The world becomes crowded with noise, overwhelms us with the rainbows of silicone, writes Michel Serres:
"The noises of space, the colors of the world are coming toward me. I am plunged here and now in colors and noises to the point of dizziness. Here and now means that a flux of noises and colors is coming at me...the crowd comes at me, the mob knocks me down, disemembers me, cuts me up, I am going to see the open heavens. Knowledge is born of this danger of death....in the beginning is the echo" (Serres, Genesis 65-70).
Forget lubing up for double penetrations, we exist in a material orgy, if we can hear the signs of it and can possibly make ourself receptive of all the points of entry and exit in our bodies. It resonates the call that post-humanism means not the oblideration of the human, but a trans-corpereal moreness, an addition of ANDS, that rides and adds hyphens to words like tiny phallasus's and allows us to make love in the Deluazian sense of the body without organs:
“What does it mean to love somebody?” they ask, “It is always to seize that person in a mass, extract him or her from a group, however small, in which he or she participates, whether it be through the family only or through something else; then to find that person's own packs, the multiplicities he or she encloses within himself or herself which may be of an entirely different nature. To join them to mine, to make them penetrate mine, and for me to penetrate the other person's. Heavenly nuptials, multiplicities of multiplicities. Every love is an exercise in depersonalization on a body without organs yet to be formed” (Deleuze 31).
All things become wet and flowing with silicone, and in doing so become woman. Galen, Ambrose Pare, Elizabeth Grosz speaks of women as watery. They speak of her as volatile. Hers is the rain that covers the skin in sweat and sex (they do not sweat, no, they glisten: we shall see that soon), and hers is flood that washes all the earth in death at the gushing waves of its climax. It is the woman that is shaved and smooth. It is the woman that gets wet. It is women that hold the fluid and give it forth as new life. Yes, but...
If you are dry and hot, too masculine, too barren, like the prostitutes of Jean-Baptiste Parent-Duchatelet and Aristotle and Lucretius, full of excess heat and unruly movement (she is too active, too intense, too in control to conceive; no child could come of this woman for she hardly is a woman), still do not worry! We will make you wet and passive! We have silicone lube. We will make you wet. We will make you a woman. We will make you penetrable even if the friction and lack of consent would hold us back. Hold still and give way. Let go. Let go of yourself. Let this moment wash over you like waves, coming in and out, in and out.
Flow is violent. It may have a pleasant, sensual sound, but it will also hurts us. You may speak on behalf of "greater powers" that are so much bigger than us that we are already consumed in them. You may speak on behalf of "intimate partners" that are so close that they are already inside us. Yet do not think that over-mining and under-mining us means that we will always consent to your intrusions. Our friction may be our last lines of resistance. Lube may make it hurt less, but sometimes we want it to hurt. Our ontology, our selves, will become our refusal. This is the crucial difference between Flow and Ontology. Volatile Bodies, as Grosz writes, echo our material feminism because while all bodies wash away, while one exists as body, as a discrete thing, one will fight to the death to remain a thing in itself and for itself.
All there is is Flow? Fuck that. I am me. I am a body. I am a woman. Hear me. "I am louder than God's revolver and twice as shiny" (MCR, NaNaNa). We may use the weapon of lubricated flow to our own benefit, slipping through your fingers as you grab at body parts, slipping, sliding past. Now, hear the sound of our escape, hear us saying "no," hear the sound of silicone.
Taste :: Cosmetics
Taste has everything to do with appearances. Getting all done up and putting on make-up, literally smearing your face with silicone, is often presented as having to do with insecurity (fear and lacking in the self) and desire (to fill that void). As I will present however, drawing on the third chapter of the Democracy of Things, Levi R Bryant, this assemblage of face and silicone is about an expression of taste, not desire; an actualization of a kind of existence which we pass through but which already present in the virtual being of our silcone bodies.
It may seem to be the simplest explanation for cosmetics for women that they feel an insecurity, a lack, when they look at themselves in the mirror, and desire to attain some fulfillment either in being raised to the dignity of some sort of goddess or else in beautifying seek such fulfillment in a sexual partner. Lacanian Psychoanalysis would gesture to the woman at the mirror (stage) as that split subject, the looker and the reflection, which feels a sense of alienation from her objective existence. It would see the cosmetics as exactly that set of fantasies and appearances which come into play to cover over this essential lack. The self and the other, in this case, would be seen as the Thing, that divine reality which appears as the ineffable excess of the appearances. Slajov Zizek argues, from the Sublime Object of Ideology onward through his work, up to an including the Paralax View, that all of this, the whole game of appearances, including the sense of a hidden objective reality (the Real), is only a symbolic illusion perpetuated by the emptiness of the subject. The woman, the subject, creates all, desires all, and will consume all in an inevitable return to the nothingness which defines her. All reality is cosmetic, a fantasy of appearances, and all cosmetics is desire. This is the consequences of what we say when we reduce cosmetics to a signifier of insecurity. We reduce silicone and the woman to nothing.
It may be better to say that "one is not born a woman, but becomes one" (Simone de Beauvoir). In the manner of existence ventured by Henri Bergson and taken up by his intellectual successors Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, we might say that all things, woman and silicone, are only things which we can become; that we never are. Like our idea of flow, we can see intensities of matter-energy, passing through the state which we label woman and silcone cosmetics, noting their coming together as a "becoming beautiful" which is a motion of perpetually moving/changing molecules and masses, that as soon as they meet, begin to pass away in the form of sweat, smudges, etc. The silicone flows into the body, through the skin, through the lips, through the molecular structures of the flesh, any passage possible, joining with it. In this sense, our bodies taste the silicone in ways which our tongues only sense a portion. The silicone will flow through the body, eventually passing out. Of course, silicone is also an effective ingredient in many enemas, flushing our systems as it moves through us. Here the application of cosmetics may also be called desire, but not one of lacking, but of flows, surges, and exuberant excess. Objects, really one kind of object (matter-energy) may be said to create all, desire all, and consume all in a perpetual becoming. All reality is again cosmetic, an appearance of individuality which is no more than an expression of a monad. This however likewise reduces the silicone and the woman to a mere appearance in the monolithic flow of multiplicities. Neither body, nor their assemblage is given the dignity of discrete ontology; they only appear to exist.
Let's now begin again from the other side, by assuming first the ontology of the woman and the cosmetics, then move to consider the logical place of appearances and change in relation to them. This is the crux of Bryant's third chapter where he proposes Virtual Being as the extant set of qualities that bodies posses which exceeds their actualization. What this means is that,
"As I look at the mug under the warm light of my desktop lamp, it is now a very dark, deep, flat blue. Now I open the shade of my office window, allowing sunlight to stream in. The mug becomes brilliant, bright, shiny blue. Sharing a romantic moment with my coffee mug by candlelight, the colors are deep and rich as they were under my office light, but now the blue flickers and dances in response to the shifting intensity of the candle flame. And finally I blow out the candle and the mug become black...These qualities of the mug are entirely real and the mug is all these colors" (Bryant 90).
In place of Bryant's mug and light, we are considering woman and silicone cosmetics, but the relationship is comparable in many key respects. The cosmetics when they are applied need not be said to cover up the woman's beauty, but to make her body appear in a new light by highlighting this, covering that, and adjusting the way it shines or darkens. The silicone brings out qualities in the woman that were Virtually, really, there, we just didn't seem them. Likewise, the silicone when brought into relationship with the woman suddenly stands tall and exhibits more of its qualities. Such as the shine it becomes on the lips, silicone moves from solid or liquid and becomes like light itself. Applied under the eyes, the silicone takes on a subtle, tan colored mellowness.
Once again, all these qualities which suddenly appear in the woman and the silicone are qualities that were always there, not simply added to altered. Bryant distinguishes Virtual Being from Potential Being, which he notes is an easy by problematic conflation to make. Let us take an extreme example: elf ears. These silicone prosthetics are used by movie makers and cos-players, attaching to the ears in order to make them pointed. Now the results are both Virtual and Potential. The woman had virtual elfin qualities which have not appeared until seen under the light of elfin ears. The woman however was not a pointed ear elf, only potentially one, until the ears were applied. The elfin aspects of the woman existed before the ears (virtually). The elf did not exist before the ears (only potentially).
Another way to look at this is in terms of work and change. Ontologically, there is no work done on the potential elf to make it exist. It does not and/or it does. The woman and the silicone which does exist requires work to make the elfin qualities appear or else to change into an elf. "In contrast to the process of realization or a movement from the possible to the real, the process of actualization [of the virtual] is a creative process within substances that requires work. Moreover local manifestations produced in the process of actualization is something new and shares no resemblance to the singularities which it actualizes" (Bryant 118).
What does this have to do with taste? Taste is the inclination of a body's virtual being towards certain actualizations. Looking in the mirror, at an outfit, or down at the cosmetics, the silicone uses its allure on the woman to affect her imagination to see the potential actualziation of certain qualities by the application of cosmetics. "I want to be fierce today" or "I want to glimmer" are how it may be said or thought, but the ferocity and the vibrancy are not completely alien or merely potentials of either the woman or the silicone, but virtual qualities already in them which need this partnership to appear. Really what is meant is "I want to be SEEN as fierce today" and "I want to APPEAR to glimmer" which are far from implying the covering over of a body with fantasies, are rather the revving up of engines that know they have it in them, but just need a touch of the gas to unleash their power. We may thus say, granted the nebulous contingencies of aesthetic tastes, women and silicone do not simply appear beautiful, they really are.
["Real Breasts" are silicone prosthetics that adheres to the skin]
Touch :: Breast Implants
Not all touch is a good touch. Not all intimacy is free from violence. Not all relationships are free from abuse. All things and relationships may equally exist, but they are not all the same and we need not value them all equally. At a certain point we need to react to our feelings and make difficult choices.
While trusted above all the others, sight does not tell the whole story and may deceive us about our close relationships with other bodies. For so many women, the way we relate to our selves and the way we relate to silicone is by touch. These bodies become feelings, not sights, and with such intimate knowledge, we may need to speak up and say "this doesn't feel right" even when things look fine. Even doctors, which primarily depend on sight to declare our bodies harmony or violence, may totally miss and misconstrue for us the workings of our bodies.
"He showed you by a trick what our inwards would look like if they were visible... But in the real world our inwards are invisible. They are not colored shapes at all, they are feelings. The warmth in your limbs at this moment, the sweetness of your breath as you draw it in, the comfort in your belly because we breakfasted well, and your hunger for the next meal--these are the reality; all the sponges and tubes that you saw in the dungeon are the lie."
"But if I cut a man open I should see them in him," replied John.
"A man cut open...is, so far, not a man: and if you did not sew him up speedily you would be seeing not organs, but death. I am not denying that death is ugly: but the giant made you believe that life is ugly....You cannot go on seeing through' things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it... If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To see through' all things is the same as not to see."(CS Lewis, the Pilgrim's Regress 20)
My hair may be composed of keratin proteins, hydrogen, salt, and sugar. My finger bones may be made of calcium phosphate. My leg may be made of steel. My breasts may be made of silicone.
Proteins, water, salt, sugar, calcium, steel, and silicone are all things which we take from the world and claim for our own bodies. You may also say they give themselves to us or that we give ourselves to them. It is a contact and an occupation of such diverse bodies that contrary to the neo-liberal ideal of diversity in which everyone just gets along in some homogeneous white wet dream do not exist together without conflict and violence. There is no absolute distinction between a touch and a strike, only between intensities, and a full range of intense interactions to exist for bodies to continue to transform. As the producer, I bend the silicone to my will when I take it and place it in my chest, close to my blood filled heart and breath filled lungs; when I call it to myself. Likewise, as the product and parasite, silicone bends my body into mounds and peeks, and if (or when) they burst, they may bend me over with any number of illnesses.
"The producer plays the contents, the parasite, the position...the parasite always beats the producer. The producer, always attentive to the game of the things themselves, supposes that other does not cheat" (Serres, Parasites, 38).
In the Naked Truth About Breast Implants: From Harm to Healing, Dr. Susan E Kolb, MD, FACS, a plastic surgeon and holistic healer, presents her extensive research and experiences with the toxicity of silicone and saline breast implants. While silicone has the reputation of being bio-chemically neutral with the human body, Kolb questions how much this information reflects biased research based an an financial desire from silicone producers, researchers, and doctors as well as a rampant desire among patients to see what they want to see in silicone: safe servants and silent partners; what Michel Serres calls "fine but loyal" (38).
In Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self, Stacy Alaimo likewise looks as toxicity and chemical sensitivity which comes from our interaction with all the materials that we touch (and by touching take into our bodies) on a daily basis. Like Kolb, Alaimo addresses how potential financial and technological gain, as well as racist practices, brought about a wide-spread denial of the chemical dangers of silicon dust in the mines in West-Virginia on the miners who would daily be breathing it in. Even after hundreds of African-American miners began dying, safety equipment was still not issued and information about the toxicity of the relationship between silicon and human lungs, as well as the death of the miners, were covered over.
Silicone implants and silicon dust need not touch us in such violent ways, both authors claim. The crux is that they may or will, if we do not become more conscious and cautious in our dealing with them. While some of her research on silicone's toxicity is contentious and based on non-reproduced research (a staple for scientific date to be regarded as authoritative), Kolb also draws on a wide variety of studies that show that over time the membrane that holds the silicone has an increased likelihood of deteriorating. What may start as a 5% chance of rupture can become over 60% after seven years. The result being free-floating silicone migrating throughout the body and finding its way among organs, nervous systems, immune systems, and muscle; thus causing any number of complications. Given better membranes and the replacement of implants after so many years to decrease the likelihood of rupture could greatly improve the safe relationship between human and breast implant. Likewise, Alaimo's research gestures to how the miner's could have been given breathing masks and water-based mining tools that would flush and filter the silicon dust away from human lungs; allowing the humans to work with the silicon without threat of a toxic death.
Aliamo's term trans-corperality is extremely useful in considering out intimate relationships with silicone (or silicon). The "trans" or betweeness, notes that even in Deleuze and Guattari's vision of making love, where bodies are intermingled and the distinction between self and other blurs, where the one becomes the other, there remains up to a certain point at which there are still discrete things: self and other. Without this alienation, this divide (like the membrane of a silicone implant) we cannot know one another, exist together, or work together to form as specific assemblage. The silicone in the implant joins with us as our breasts. The silicone floating around my organs and coating my kidneys may become my death; also it is no longer an implant but something else. These divides may not be impermeable or perpetual (they break down and leak) but it is also foolish to think like the neo-liberal dream that diverse bodies together will always exist together without some destroying others. We need to anticipate conflict and let that guide our decisions, which may mean having safe-guards for the things we value, like our human bodies.
Where and whether we make these safe-guards however depend on our politics and capitalism regarding bodies, in other words, lives depend on our material feminism. Kolb, whether or not her own benefits as a surgeon who exclusively removes implants may influence her decision to convince women who have them of their dangers, nonetheless gestures to the many ways that financial benefits for companies and individuals can dictate what decisions and risks are taken on our bodies. Just like the allure of money may allow not adequately tested or puncture-proof breast implants to be put into women's bodies, so too may an interest for profit dictate which women can receive the safe-implants or implants at all.
In Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law Dean Spade draws attention to the systematic forces and statistics that maintain a majority of trans persons well below the poverty line and on the streets, away from adequate safety or healthcare. In Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category, David Valentine gestures to how many trans persons use prostitution to gain the money to afford silicone implants in their chest, butt, lips, etc. and to afford hormone treatments. Making national news back in September 2011, in Arizona, two transgender women robbed $45K from a Walmart with the expressed purpose of afforded the prohibitively expensive procedures (including implants) that go along with many transition processes. Back in 2009 a series of calls to the ER and poison control made headlines in the New York Times reporting a dangerous in crease of illegal silicone injections directly into the body without any sort of casing to either maintain shape or control possibly toxic or deadly migration through the body. In March 2012, a transgender woman was arrested in New Jersey for injecting non-medical grade silicone into transgender patients that quickly hardened and caused dangerous complications for their health.
From toxic migrations in the body to toxic socio-economic power systems, silicone touches our bodies in life giving and deadly ways. As such, our trans-corporeal relationships and our material feminism cannot be simply ontological, they must attend to ethical imperatives for direct action and systematic change to improve the number of livable lives and non-compulsive, toxic embodiments that see so many women (and their silicone) abruptly into grave.
Smell :: Sex Toys
Silicone smells. Silicone sex toys smells (of) you. Among the dildos on the market, there are at least two different types of silicone: "realistic" and "medical grade." The former is soft and usually shaped to recreate parts of the human body (penis, vagina, anus, breasts). The latter is hard, coming in usually more abstract shapes, but also easier to clean. Cleaning sex toys has a double purpose: one to prevent infection, the transmission of fluids, or bacteria growth but also to help remove smell. The softer, more flesh like silicones are more sticky and porous, also like flesh, and as a result will collect fluid, musks, and other scents then hold on to them. Like our noses, they breath in our scents, they smell (as an action) before they smell (as a quality). As a result of porousness flushing them of these is difficult, so over time of regular use their scent will not only be strongly silicone, but also have traces of their user's scent combined. In this way, silicone becomes all the more human (while potentially all the more toxic); hence the appeal of the harder silicones.
According to the Federal Government, sex toys don't exist. Anything you buy that you might expect to be used in the bedroom, from the usual suspects, dildos and vibes, to the more eclectic instruments, are not approved by the Health Department for insertion into the body or for bodily insertion in the toy. They are strictly novelty devices. Like cotton swabs, they often come with notices that state in legal language instructing users NOT to place in any orifice. Of course we do anyway, but what we often miss is that without State approval there is also no State regulation of what these toys are made of or if they really are safe in anyway for our health. If you did get sick, the companies would just shrug their arms as say "well, we didn't tell you could or should use our product in that way." The result of increased customer awareness of these dangers spark a number of sex toy producers and stores that boast missions to only sell "safe" products:
"TULIP Toy Gallery, is the choice destination for intimate apparel, medically-safe toys, books, fetish, accessories and videos. Through its boutique retail locations and MYTULIP.com, Tulip aims to provide a comfortable, educational, boutique environment for both men and women to purchase toys and erotica. The cornerstone of TULIP is education. Our company motto is we don't sell anything we wouldn't put into our bodies, and we mean that. It is important feature of Tulip to educate all of our customers about the health aspects and materials of the products we sell." (MyTulip.com)
Having attended three such Tulip sessions during their annual visit to my undergraduate's LGBTQ alliance groups, the differences between soft and hard silicones are stressed. This does not however dissuade everyone from purchasing the more "life like" silicone sex toys, and a cursory visit to various stores or websites will demonstrate the rapid increase in colors and molds available that effectively offer the buyer a greater variety and realism in their silicone sex partners. Famous porn stars have had casts made, allowing producers to make silicone duplicates of their butt, penis, vagina, and in some cases their whole body. A few kits are also on the market which allow penis molds to be made at home, so a silicone replacement can be made of someone you know personally. Then again, some companies such as Real Doll, offer full body, silicone men, women, and trans/inter-sexed persons with customizable options that range from skin, hair, and eye color to the dimensions of various parts of the body (including some interchangeable parts). Recent additional options include the choice to make certain parts of the face bigger (eyes) or smaller (mouth) so as to give the prosthetic woman (exclusively) a more Anime look.
If there was or is a fear by some men and women their (potential) partner's need for them may diminish because of the purchase of a hand-held sex toy, these Real Dolls play upon this anxiety even further. The film Lars and the Real Girl acts out such a scenario, which has been recorded in some real life accounts in newspapers, of persons keeping a Real Doll as an exclusive sexual and romantic partner. One selling point in fact is the ability to dress these dolls up in clothes one buys from the store, so as to enhance the "reality" of the doll's humanity, allowing them to appear ready for any various day to day activity. As technology develops, these Real Dolls may improve in their abilities, and with the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as is now found in many devices such as the iPod, the dream of the android sex partner becomes all the more actualized. Several films and rock albums already predict its development, including the movie Serenity with the loyal sex droid at the beck and call of Mr. Universe, and the My Chemical Romance song "FTWWW" (standing for 'Fuck the Whole Wide World') which records the pleas of one such android seducer as they bark temptations to their clients.
Any number of comments may be expressed for and against this development. On one hand this seems to encourage and embody the treatment of humans (especially women) as sexual objects. On the other hand, these silicone proxies actually allow for this objectification to be directed at non-human objects, potentially freeing human women from becoming the target. Of course, few discuss whether or not the production and use of these silicone sex slaves is an ethical treatment of silicone for its own sake. We might, in fact, try to take this position. In becoming a proxy for humans, and increasingly resembling them in quality, reputation, and function, silicone is forgotten as a thing in and of itself. The beauty, reality, and life of the silicone as silicone, in this or any shape, is covered over by the insistence on its humanity. Fucking them and perhaps fucking them over, we incorporate silicone into the human, and like many others who have been regarded first as non or sub human then incorporated, are pressed and ironed out into the shape of the dominants visions of the norm, the correct, and the beautiful. Past, current, and potential lives of silicone are literally going extinct in the process.
Soon to be extinct... but perhaps not yet. Not so long as silicone stinks. It may smell like us, but with an odor of its own, and with the potential for toxicity that pushes many away from using, selling or producing it, silicone may yet fight off becoming human. The smell and toxicity of silicone literally functions like a defense mechanism, keeping it alive from its human predators.