China’s latest population data reveals that despite the implementation of the "two-child policy", the gender imbalance is a continuing social problem. There are 33.6 million more men than women in this country of 1.4 billion people, and among those born in the 1980's, the ratio of unmarried men to women indicates a severe gender imbalance. As of 2017, the market for silicone dolls was very large, and with a yearly growth rate of about 30%, the number of factories and suppliers is also steadily on the rise. Manufacturers hope to make dolls lifelike enough to cure loneliness among the country's huge unmarried population.
As China economy rapidly diversifies, sexual subcultures are diversifying alongside. Among these, the diversification in the use of silicone sex dolls is apparent through the proliferation of DollMates groups on Chinese social media. In these groups, "Mates" exchange photos of the dolls, tips on how to use them, the defects of different brands, how to wash them, dress them and care for them.
The DollMates market in China is segmented into three main groups: those who buy silicone dolls purely for sexual use, those who buy them because they want a life partner - someone to love and take care of without the economic and mental pressure of human-to-human relationships - and those who buy them to dress them up and take pictures for use on social media.
Another interesting aspect is the emerging market of second-hand dolls. The high cost of the dolls, coupled with the immediate indifference of many buyers who purchase them out of curiosity but then fail to relate to or find pleasure in them, has led to a thriving market of buying and selling previously-owned dolls. DollMates, many of whom were born in the 80s, have mastered the art of buying second-hand dolls, and have developed the best techniques to wash, clean, disinfect and use them without fear of contracting disease.
True silicone doll aficionados typically pass through three emotional and physical stages. The first stage is the purchase of a doll for dedicated sexual use. The second stage is the development of emotional attachment towards their dolls, at which point Mates may begin to use other sex toys for personal fulfillment, as they begin to see the dolls as daughters or sisters or friends who must be spoiled and looked after. In the third stage, dolls lose all sexual association as Mates begin to think of themselves as collectors and become wholly dedicated to their dolls. This final stage, according to those interviewed, is the moment when the line between "doll life" and real life blurs, and the two worlds become indistinguishable from one another.