As the train rattles its way towards Gateshead, I sit daydreaming out of the window. It’s a clear, dry but very cold morning in the UK and a perfect start to my trip to the Northeast of England. I have visited Newcastle before, but never Tyne and Wear, and pictured it to be a place of passion, grit and wit – after all, this part of the world has produced generations of hard-working families; coal miners earning a crust underground, necking pints and worshipping at football stadiums where Toon and Mackem players are considered demigods. ‘Tha’ Toon’ are playing this weekend and I’m here to cover the game for Chap.

I check into my hotel, lay on the bed and start my usual routine the night before a game: looking at form guides, reading training reports and which players look likely to start the game. Soon enough, the mind starts to wander – an act that usually results in watching random YouTube videos until you realise it’s 3am.

Idle Hands

After a few hours of auto-pilot internet browsing, I stumble upon an article about the silicon sex doll industry and its rapid rise (no pun intended). I frown in puzzlement as these are far from the blow-up kind that frequent Stag and Hen do’s all over the world – these are life-size mannequins, fully customisable and apparently, been satisfying millions of people since 1996, who for one reason or another, cannot establish good relationships.

Although not convinced; I’ll admit, it intrigued me. I read on.

I read that in the US, Germany, Russia and even Canada have gone one further and established brothels, especially for sex dolls. How on earth does that work? What do they look like? Wouldn’t it be like a dog humping a corpse?

…Who cleans it out after you’ve finished?

Before my mind argues whether that would be the worst work experience placement ever, the article goes on to claim that there is one in the UK. Better still, it’s right here in Gateshead. Sod the football, I’ve got to find out more about this. What kind of person runs a place like this? What are the dolls like? Time for some research. I sit up and click a banner ad for a sex worker site.

According to the rather helpful search bar, Gateshead has well over 300 females working in the ‘world’s oldest profession’ as an escort or sex worker. I sign up online and give the one at the top of the page a call.

Sex Doll Gead

The Call

[Phone rings]

Millie: Hello?

Me: Hi there. Sorry, bit of a weird one but I got your number off of this website and understand you’re an escort?

Millie: Yes, that’s right [sounding concerned] are you calling for an appointment?

Me: Oh no no no, and that’s not because I didn’t think your profile was nice, I’m… just looking to ask a few questions.

[silence]

Me: Look, it’s about sex dolls – do you know anything about them? Lifesize silicon things? I’ve read this article on them and apparently there is a brothel in the area that has them.

Millie: [sighs] Where ya’ from pet?

Me: London, why?

Millie: Because there is one down there – cannae believe you haven’t heard of it. There’s nothing like that in tha’ Toon, just tha’ normal set-ups. Me, I work for meself if yaw fancy meetin’?

I was weirdly disappointed, well, as weird as a bloke could feel speaking to a prostitute about sex dolls. I asked if she knew anything about this strange fad and she admitted that it isn’t anything that any of her punters have spoken about. She did admit that some of her ‘colleagues’ had spoken of this place locally that had a similar set-up.

Millie: … there is another place roond here tha’ is kinda like that, but it’s oon an industrial estate.

I took down a rough address, the name of the place and hung up. Thanks to it being a premium number (which I completely forgot about) that call had cost me £20.

A Foray Into The Unknown

Fast forward and I’m leaving my hotel and jumping into an Uber, which drops me off amongst rows of metal storage units complete with roller shutter doors. Industrial estates of large warehouses have always made me feel uneasy. Every time I seem to find myself in one – admittedly I could count the times on one hand – they are eerily quiet and this is no different. With mixed feelings of slight reluctance and perseverance I navigate my way to a sign that says ‘LoveDoll’ – like a sexually inquisitive Indiana Jones.

I knocked on the door and was greeted by an Asian lady who strangely resembled some of the dolls that I had seen from their website. “Are you here to collect an order?” she asked wide-eyed. “No, I have only just found out about this place and I was intrigued if I’m totally honest”.

She smiled and took me on a whistle-stop tour of the warehouse, littered with what first looked like naked, human bodies – complete with tits of all sizes – in piles all over the floor. It’s not until you got closer that you realise that they are synthetic, rubberised mannequins.

“A complete doll can cost up to £2,000” she explains as I glance at a box of rubber vaginas. “They are becoming more and more popular and customers can either order from our online catalogue, or even create their own one made to order.”

I was shown into where they kept ‘ready-made stock’ and was encouraged to inspect them. The thing is, when you are surrounded by these dolls for a time, you feel as if you are in a weird limbo where you start to question the difference between reality and fiction. Every doll has perfect skin, pert tits, zero… “faults”.

The owner of the warehouse was recently fined by authorities for having a room where punters could “try before they buy”. I asked if the room was still in operation.

“No, we don’t do that anymore, but the room still exists – we still like our customers to inspect everything so that they are 100% happy before purchasing” she says. “Let me show you”

Meeting Kitty

I was taken to what was clearly a converted prefab builders’ cabin, which had naked, stock dolls stood up in boxes and a metal double-bed frame with a mattress on it, still in its wrapping. The hum of the strip lighting made me feel as though I was part of a human experiment.

“Please, feel free to inspect a doll – I will leave you alone. That one has a vibrating vagina” she giggled.

The door shut and there I was, alone with 5 naked dolls. This morning I was wondering how Newcastle United would shape up in their next Premier League fixture. This evening I was sitting on the edge of a bed staring at a bunch of tits.

I approached “Kitty” – a life-sized Barbie with brown hair. Her boss-eyed green eyes looked through you, but I suppose the aim isn’t to look for feeling. I don’t think anyway.

I felt its hair, which reminded of something out of a fancy-dress shop, and touched ‘her’ skin. It’s soft and feels realistic, yet dead. I held its hand, which very much like its feet, is based on a moveable ‘skeleton’. Except that the fingers and toes looked as though someone has been at them with a hammer.

I looked around, like a potential shop-lifter, before gently cupping the fun-bags. Bloody hell, these feel more realistic than I thought, and they looked…great. I stepped back and looked up and down, hugely relieved that I didn’t find it erotic. Nothing was stirring in my jeans. Thank God.

My eyes scrolled down to her lady parts, which had a strip of faux pubic hair. Which, didn’t feel as synthetic as the hair on her head. Like a tentative teenager exploring his first lover – I slipped a finger inside.

As soon as my two fingers entered, it started to vibrate which caught me by surprise. Although it was pulsating and dry (lube is priced extra at a tenner), it did feel familiar. I gingerly pulled out and quietly left the room.

“What did you think?” said the Asian lady as I walked out onto the warehouse floor. “It was very realistic” I replied in a neutral tone. “That’s lovely” she smiled.

Her smile, the smell of plastic and harsh lighting was beginning to make me feel incredibly uneasy. I take my phone out and order an Uber. “So, do you want to buy? We have a different selection of heads that you can change yourself, and models that have no arms or legs – a compact version”.

My driver had arrived and I scuffled out of the door.

“You alreet pal? You look like you’ve seen something you wish you hadn’t. Did you see tha’ Toon play this afternoon or something?” chuckled my driver.

I wish I did.

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