the doll games
shelley and pamela jackson


s doll journal

courting disaster

Excerpt from S Jackson’s doll journal, summer 2000

My first sexual experiences were vicarious: doll on doll.

Everything about dolls was erotic. The muted crunch when their knees were bent, the disturbing feet with their fused or suppressed toes. Those tiny feet and hands that seemed to address our own bodies in unclear but troubling ways, that were just the right size for digging in nostrils or ears or bellybuttons, for scratching between toes. The rubbery globes of their heads. Scalps with too few pores, and those disturbingly visible. We nonchalantly removed their heads to help them get dressed and got to know the flexible neck holes, with their sturdy lips. The poignant stump.

I identified with their hard dumb inexpressiveness. It was how I felt about myself too. We were stiff vessels of feeling. The dolls clacked together when they embraced, their bodies all beak, all shell. (It was how I felt when I had to hug my grandparents.) Their doll hands were stiff as paddles, as if bandaged, the fingers taped together. Or like fins or wings or claws. They could brush each other with their fingertips, or clap a palm against an arm. It was enough. We moved them from one faulty tableau to another, carefully setting their limbs into the approximation of caresses. When they hugged they couldn’t wrap their arms around each other. They seem to be reaching past each other for something on the other side.

The sexuality of dolls is an uncertain thing. What do dolls really want? How strange to identify with something without desires of its own. Maybe this is what sex seemed like to us, a force larger than ourselves that could compel us to indignities. Someday, we too might be forced to love a stinky bear, full of drool-runoff, a coffer of germs. We’d be smashed into him, hurled against his sexless front side, to someone else’s grunts. Oh baby! (Who is he talking to? Some doll.)

Even the gender of dolls is by no means clear: wiped clean of sex, unnavelled, as free of pedigree or progeny as mules. The doll family tree is an alga, a spore, or maybe one of those trees of dyed sponge and balsa wood from a train set. (Of course, everyone knows that dolls have no moms. They’re all foster children.) Between the legs, a scatheless saddle, bland and faceless as a knee. A model of decency that we, stinky and chinked, couldn’t hope to live up to. Even that sex-pot B***** was neatly sewn-up and denippled.

The dolls were unlike us in being perfectly presentable even when they were naked. All the nasty bits had been pared off, and if we should be unsure what the nasty bits were, we could find out by comparing our own bodies to theirs: nipples, hair (anywhere but on the head) and all that stuff between the legs. Theirs was an enviable condition, really—I aspired to it—to be a body made up of the simplest parts, like a Hangman’s body: two legs, two arms, a head, some feet. The smooth saddle between our dolls’ legs told me something: that what was between my own legs was a mess, was extra, unrepresentable. Decent people didn’t consider it worth noticing.

Bodily disproportion was a symptom of decadence in our games. Nothing could have been more sexual than Harvey’s huge head, his tiny feet in their pink Mary Janes, on legs like stems. His huge head was like some giant rose, heavy with perfume. Or swollen with semen, maybe. So bloated with unspent come it dribbled out of his nose and crusted in his ears. His rosebud lips, his penciled curlicue mustachio, his soft whiteness were sexy too, though despised. His delicacy, his ambiguous gender. His dainty nose, his tiny fingers.

Dawn was designed to be sexy, which, in our moral world, made her a figure of fun. She was also a monster, coming apart at her bandaged waist into two halves, like a magician’s assistant, or twisting around impossibly so her bottom half stood sideways while her top faced front. Her body was half bust, half hips. The rest of her was hair and legs. I despised her tiny high-heel feet. Even pulled apart her pieces were blazons of sexuality. All the more so, perhaps, for being separated from the competition.

Our heroes, on the other hand, were narrow-hipped, flat-footed, flat-chested, strait-laced. Models of rectitude, unembarrassed bare-assed, because every part of them was as decent as every other. How to get them laid taxed our ingenuity, therefore. How to bring these unimpeded vessels round, and sail them mild and unsuspecting into the smoke and torpedoes of the fuck act? By what contrivances can the innocent be innocently corrupted? Solve for f. We made our calculations.

That long preliminary to real sex was a kind of formal practise. We worked permutations on the elements we recognized. Kissing, groping, and cunnilingus existed in our world, but fellatio did not, neither did the orgasm; fucking was face-to-face, except for Matron and Sue, our most bestial characters, who were given to making their advances butt-first, skirts over the head. Homosexuality did not exist; cross-dressing was a frequent motif, but more as a device for sneaking characters across gender lines into eroticized spaces like dormitories and dressing rooms than for its own sake. Voyeurism and exhibitionism featured prominently, though nudity played a part in our chastest fantasies too, in the guise of an innocent naturism. I should not leave out of the equation the moral principles that governed who could and could not do what, and under what circumstances, because sex was far from lawless. You could think of our cast of characters as a rudimentary table of the elements. Doll games were like chemistry experiments performed on models (I'm thinking of those snap-together molecular models with the blue and red balls) to find out how things fit together.

How did we get from the innocent utopian nudity of the Kiddles to this? I don’t remember when the dolls started having sex, or how long after that it was that we began to pencil in pubic hair, or whether this was still before I had any pubic hair of my own. I remember wishing our dolls were complete, and setting out to make some that were: homemade flatsies made out of Shrinky Dinks with pubic hair, belly button, breasts. Daddy walked in on one of my Shrinky Dink doll games, and I hurriedly flipped my doll over, only to remember that since she was see-through, her shame showed through.

Our parents wouldn’t buy us B*****, that whore. We had Skipper dolls, Barbie’s kid sister, with the flat feet and the flat chest. At one time that had seemed right and proper to us. Sex and femininity were equally foreign to us. But things changed; we got ideas. We made prosthetic organs out of clay, breasts and penises. They were imperfectly formed stand-ins: breasts like squashed gumballs, too round, too big and too distinct from the narrow wedge-shaped torso, the hard impeccable cylinder. At least they weren’t fused like Barbie’s; at least they weren’t hard and nippleless. When these add-ons got knocked out of shape we’d pull them off, penis and breasts together, squash them up into one ball along with the little bits of rug stuff stuck on them (the crud and dust of closet floors and dirty clothes, the dry neuter stuff of childhood), and start over.

The dolls fucked at great cost to these fixtures. We held them by their carapaces from behind like lobsters and clapped them violently together. Their clay parts were crushed between them and were as likely to come off on their partners as to stay where they were. Captain Pegleg pressed his stiff palm to a clay breast, and left the print of his fingers in the clay. (I wonder if any caress since then has been that tender, that intimate, or that dirty.) Sometimes when Big Josh copped a feel, his hand got stuck in the clay and came off. Fucking was courting disaster, we understood, but worth it. That you might require repairs afterwards seemed entirely fitting, and still does.
We didn’t know how fucking really worked, for example how something that stuck OUT was supposed to fit into something that went UP, but we were satisfied with our approximation. I smacked the dolls together, face to face, knowing it was an exaggeration of the famous bounce, but privately wishing I had it right, that you did fly grunting at each other and get flung off again by the force of your will to return, knocking the roof off. The lovers stand off, pawing the turf (the shag carpet, standing for grass, or maybe the famous fields of rape) looking at each other (serenely, as dolls do, blunt amoral benignity in their eyes). Then accelerate like planes toward impact.

I thrust desire outside myself and stuck it in the dolls, so I could see what it did. Legs stiff as pistons and head askew: that was the original shape of lust. (I still take that position.) Clay breasts stuck with cat hairs and rug fibres, coming off on our thumbs, was the protean batter of sex. We were voyeuristic gods, staging the fall over and over, because we liked to watch. Graphite from a pubic mound marked our sweaty hands. We clamped two plastic torsos together, squashing the soft heads together until the necks gaped. A clay penis was crushed between the hard narrow thighs (matching thighs, cylindrical as pen barrels). At a certain point you couldn't tell which doll it belonged to; both, maybe. Doll sex could flatten a penis or leave it attached to the opposite party, doll sex yanked off breasts or left a permanent stamp on them, like a particularly thorough kind of SM. These soft organs became expendable, raked off by the throes of sex; the lesson seemed to be that sex will burn off the signs of sex, sex can do without these decorations. It will take you back to the hard wand at the core, the sexless baton, vibrant with feeling. I’ve rarely had such acrid senseless sex in real life, desire so absolute and momentary. Or gotten so precisely what I wanted.

Lying in the damp familiar coils of my sheets in my threadbare pajamas, my shoulder turned to spite the spying world, I ran through scenes, a doll in each hand, construing for myself their encounter, what they said and did. The plastic grew moist. (I feel the same intricate, word-charged contentment holding a hard cock; I only stroke it out of courtesy. I would be as happy just holding it and dreaming. Holding two cocks is even better. Maybe banging them together: sex is all doll games, the affectionate anthropomorphizing of objects.) I closed my hand on them: Captain Pegleg with his wooden leg (plastic) and his flesh leg (plastic) wedged between Aina’s rubber legs, his arms rattling secretly around her hard torso. I closed my eyes, turned my head to one side and dreamed I was adored, slept for a while. When I woke up damp and lightly numbed I placed the dolls together under the bed, turned the light off, and took myself in hand.