“Shared Girlfriends” are NOT part of the Sharing Economy

A few days ago Taqu launched a “shared girlfriends” project that attracted lots of attention, but was eventually fined and forced into suspension. Although we are in fact witnessing the dawn of the sharing economy era, it doesn’t mean that the concept applies to everything. Many are jumping on the bandwagon and slapping on the “sharing economy” tag to everything, when in reality, these pseudo-sharing products are really just your average rent service.

On September 14th, Taqu launched the long-sought-after “shared girlfriends” project for otakus. However, these so-called “girlfriends” aren’t real people, but blow-up dolls. They are “sharable” in name, but are really just products that are part of a rent service. Consumers would need to download an app, register their real names, and then proceed to pay an expensive 8,000-yuan deposit before they can really access the service. Although you’ll receive a silicone doll worth quite a fortune with the service, the deposit alone can already buy you your own blow-up doll. Even the sharable BMW service recently allowed you to drive a BMW worth about 300,000 yuan for just 999 yuan in deposit. The costs for renting one of these dolls can be calculated on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Customers can also customize their “shared girlfriends”, such as changing their eyes, hair styles, and so on.

Ms. Zheng, a representative of the project, explained that the original intent was to allow more people to experience and enhance their sex lives at a lower cost, and that’s why the company brought these expensive dolls to the market. On the first day of the project’s launch, many were supportive of the project, while more were despised with it and disagreed with the so-called “shared girlfriends” concept. Most thought that the company just wanted to jump on the bandwagon of the current buzzword of sharing economy, and folks online even thought that it was very disrespectful to women.

After the project was launched, the Beijing Sanlitun Area police found their way to Taqu’s headquarters, and requested for the project manager’s presence down at the station for further investigation. After investigating, Taqu was fined on the grounds of “disrupting social order with vulgar activities”, and the project manager was asked to write a self-reflective letter and a guarantee. Also, Taqu was asked to remove the dolls from Beijing immediately. On September 18th, Taqu released an apology statement on the company’s official website and announced the suspension of the “shared girlfriends” project.

In China, “sex” is a very sensitive topic. China’s law regime strictly prohibits prostitution. On the surface, “shared girlfriends” may seem like just an adult toy and nothing more. But when they become leasable, are they not an offer of sexual service disguised as an adult toy? Although they truly are just objects stuffed with silicone, but the two cases are similar in nature; like an edge ball in table tennis. The physical silicone dolls themselves aren’t obscene. But when they can be leased, they become suspects of disseminating pornographic materials for profit.

Sexual culture in China is still very different from ones in foreign countries. Many believe that people have become quite open about the topic of sex recently. But truth be told, “sex” is still a topic of taboo for the most part. Many even hold obsolete beliefs about sex still. Furthermore, sex education isn’t very widespread in China, and many parents even advise against the inclusion of sex education at school. Thus, the question becomes, how can “shared girlfriends” ever succeed in such an environment?

On the same day “shared girlfriends” was released, Taqu received over 2,000 orders. Although there truly is market demand, it’s still not an absolute necessity. It only solves the physical needs of certain groups of single men. As a “sharable” product, these silicone dolls aren’t a necessity for everyone. It also costs quite a fortune compared to other products within the sharing economy: 298 yuan for a day; 698 yuan for three days; and 1298 yuan for a week. To be blunt, that’s enough for one to buy an “exclusive girlfriend”.

Furthermore, the concept of sharing involves the use, occupying, or enjoyment of something jointly with another or others. That being said, are you willing to use a “shared girlfriend” that’s been used by another? Although Taqu did guarantee that key body parts will be replaced after each customer use and that they will be run through a five-part professional cleaning and disinfecting procedure. But would you really be willing to risk an infection just to try out this “shared girlfriend”? Thus, this is not part of the sharing economy. It’s just a rental service for silicone dolls.


This article originally appeared in Feng and was translated by Pandaily.

Click here to read the original Chinese article.