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Barbie-mania: The World Of Barbie, Sex & Gender Roles

Dr. Lisa Lawless

Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert

Woman with barbie inspired pink hair and lipstick

The Sexual World Of Barbie

In the realm of pop culture, Barbie isn't just a doll. From the sexual niche world of dollification to the uptick in Barbie-themed role-play and sales of pink sex toys, there's a lot to examine. Get ready to explore this as well as the societal and psychological implications evoked by the 2023 "Barbie" film.

The Barbie Movie

Greta Gerwig's "Barbie" brought a cultural moment to the world by addressing Barbie's previously limited representation of femininity and the vastness of womanhood. The movie is a mirror of our evolving society and gender roles and has not gone without controversy and praise.

The new "Barbie" movie delves into the profound question of life's meaning as we seek personal autonomy. It highlights the challenges posed by societal constructs and patriarchal systems where power dynamics favor men.

The film delves deeper than a playful tale of a toy doll's journey but, for many, has been a profound exploration of identity, courage, and belonging for women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and supportive male allies, sparking significant conversations.

In an era where Barbie's cultural footprint is everywhere, it's perhaps unsurprising that elements of its influence are wading into the deep end of our sexual fantasies, kink, and role play. Let's unpack that, shall we?

What Is Barbie Sex?

The film "Barbie" has fueled a pink-infused Barbie-mania phenomenon which is a multi-faceted kink particularly seen with pink sex toys, Barbie porn videos, cam models (camgirls, camguys, etc.), and Barbie sex worker requests.

There has always been sexual interest in Barbie as the doll was inspired by a German doll named Bild Lilli, which was considered a risqué adult novelty for men. In the 1950s, when Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel, gazed upon the doll with her Hollywood glamour looks, she was taken with the doll's platinum locks swept into a ponytail, dramatic eyes, and cherry lips; thus, she was inspired to create Barbie.

Barbie fever is worldwide, which is why that excitement extends to the adult industry and the world of role play, fetishes, and kinks. After all, it influences our personal experiences, societal expectations, and sexual desires.

The Sexual Fetish Of Dollification

When people dress as Barbie during sexual role play, it may qualify as dollification, which refers to the practice of turning oneself or a partner into a 'doll.' Such role play often features a doll who acts as a submissive partner dressed, posed, or treated in a way that mimics an actual doll. 

However, especially in the case of Barbie, she can also take on a dominant role. Furthermore, Barbie sex play can be more of a sexual theme rather than classified as dollification. 

The Barbie doll as a living doll is one form of the dollification fetish and is essentially the Barbie archetype coming to life. Delving deep into the subcultures of personal expression, dollification can involve role play, costumes, and, occasionally, a deep commitment that involves plastic surgery.

Dollification role play, like any other kink or fetish, can be healthy and empowering when practiced consensually and safely.

Sex Workers Reporting Increase In Barbie Requests

Some sex workers have seen a rise in requests for Barbie role play since the "Barbie" film's release. Mostly men, and to a certain extent, couples and women, seem to be clamoring for a "Barbie experience," but not in the way you might think.

What is interesting is that their sessions with sex workers rarely involve actual sexual activity. Instead, clients enjoy costume adornment and engaging in playful fantasy scenarios with their real-life 'Barbie doll.'

In an interview by the Daily Star, Ariel Ganja, a long-term employee at the legal brothel Sheri's Ranch near Las Vegas in Pahrump, Nevada, pulled back the curtain on a common trend, as she has participated in various Barbie-themed sessions.

She mused, "If you're a sex worker that happens to be tall and blonde, there's a good chance you've received requests from clients to participate in Barbie role play and other doll-related kinkiness." She also revealed that most of her Barbie fetishists are men between 40 and 60.

In the case of webcam work, the Barbie theme has become a more popular draw. The iconic childhood doll, decked in pink, is riding a sensual wave as a muse in the world of webcam culture with tempting creativity that focus on the bedroom in the Barbie dream house. 

Barbie's Impact On Sexuality In Childhood

For some, the titillation of Barbie can start in childhood with the awakening of sexual feelings where the Barbie dolls stimulate sexual arousal or associations. Because Barbie was a part of their childhood, it represented societal ideals of beauty, femininity, and even sexual fantasy.

Thus, some individuals may have stumbled upon unexpected emotional and sexual sparks through a sensual curiosity with Barbie dolls through the vivid hues of beauty, femininity, and fantasies they inspire.

Furthermore, Barbie accentuates the societal gender roles where boys are often discouraged from playing with dolls or embracing their feminine side, which can cause repression of these desires early in life.

Later these suppressed desires can emerge as fetishes, this time allowing them to play with real-life Barbies or experience their sexuality with a Barbie theme.

Mainstream Attention Fueling Exploration

Given the massive popularity of Barbie these days, it is no surprise that the Barbie-mania phenomenon has grown from what it has been in the past. When things become more prevalent in our culture, it is often a form of permission to explore these types of kinks without as much fear of judgment. For those that enjoy it, there's something freeing and surprising about it regarding their self-discovery.

Possible Benefits Of Barbie Role Play

Role-playing, in this way, can provide a form of escapism, empowerment, and self-expression. It can be a way to explore one's desires and vulnerabilities. For many, it's not just about escaping the mundane; it's like plugging into a world that has been longed for since childhood.

Roleplaying with Barbie can evoke feelings of nostalgia, helping individuals reconnect with less stressful and simpler times in their lives. It may allow one to momentarily disconnect from real-world challenges, offering an emotional and mental reprieve.

In addition, for those who may have faced judgment for their feminine inclinations in their formative years, utilizing Barbie in a sensual manner may feel therapeutic by moving beyond such past repression. Furthermore, characteristics such as confidence, beauty, and grace can be embraced by emulating or exploring a powerful figure such as Barbie.

For couples that partake in Barbie role play, it can lead to a bonding around their shared fantasies that can increase intimacy and a deeper understanding of one another.

Barbie Sex Concerns

In some cases, because there is always a dark side, Barbie role play may perpetuate the objectification of women being seen as 'playthings,' thus dehumanizing them.

In these cases, it may deepen unrealistic beauty standards, heighten body dissatisfaction, or perpetuate harmful gender norms. In addition, others may struggle to differentiate between their kinks with genuine relationships, possibly undermining real-life emotional connections.

Another area of concern is that some people may have unresolved issues or suppressed memories from childhood, which may cause childhood trauma to resurface when exploring memories of Barbie. This may be triggering for some, and while it may be challenging, it can also act as a catalyst for growth. If this occurs, it may be beneficial to explore such challenges with a qualified therapist.

Whether or not it is a healthy endeavor depends on why one is drawn to incorporating Barbie into one's sexual fantasies and sex life. It is not inherently negative or positive; rather, it is a possibility for fun, playfulness, and self-growth.

Barbie & Gender Roles

The absence of genitals or nipples on the dolls' forms in the movie Barbie isn't an oversight but is intended to apply to the real dolls. It may also acknowledge that gender identity isn't tied to physical attributes alone.

It can serve as a reminder of everyone's struggles for authenticity in a world that often wants us boxed in. In addition, there are many other aspects of gender that the movie explores, such as masculinity and feminine representation.

Barbie & Masculinity

Allan, portrayed by Michael Cera, is a contrasting character with the other Ken dolls and demonstrates a form of masculinity that is authentic and an unintimidated ally to the Barbies. On the other hand, Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, symbolizes the embodiment of the patriarchy. Thus, Allan represents a gentler, empathetic masculinity that supports women's empowerment rather than feeling threatened by it.

As an ally to marginalized people, using our voices against harmful stereotypes while showing support even when we are not personally affected by such oppression is a big part of having emotional intelligence. The film sends a message through Allan's character that men have the potential to be powerful allies to build a safer, more equitable world for all.

Barbie Controversies

Some individuals have expressed discomfort with how males are portrayed and other gender narratives in the movie. Some have suggested that if we flip the script in such a film, women might feel diminished. Yet, isn't that one of the big points of the movie?

In a society where our media narratives often showcase a narrow definition of masculinity while ignoring the rich tapestry of female stories, flipping the script happens all the time and is the norm. Furthermore, Barbie was never marketed as a masculine brand, so having a movie that is primarily embracing femininity seems fitting.

This criticism is filled with irony when those argue that if the gender roles in this movie were swapped, there would be an uproar among women. Which is further underscored by the Bechdel Test when applied to most movies. This simple test highlights the constant gender bias against women in films. For a film to pass the Bechdel test, it needs to have:

  • At least two women with names.
  • A conversation between these women.
  • A dialogue that goes beyond discussing a man.

The majority of films fail this test which demonstrates the scarcity of female representation in the media, so women already live with the script being flipped in most movies.

Thus, the movie "Barbie" makes a poignant and paradoxical mirror to make a point. The irony only deepens when men, who are typically untouched by the discrimination of invisibility and sexual distortion, raise their voices in criticism.

The perceived LGBTQ+ representation and some of its critical reactions also invite us to address homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of bigotry that have also been rampant.

With hate crimes against LGBTQ+ having sharply risen by 70%, bigotry has become emboldened. Only halfway through 2023, state legislatures have introduced more than 540 bills that go against the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Thus, it is no surprise that there is a great deal of controversy, even at the hint of LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Such controversy is not just about a need for understanding or tolerance. It's about the courage to confront the discomfort of such biases and to unearth the false narratives of "the other" that keep us from creating a more empathetic and inclusive world.

The Message For Empowerment

The film is also about evolving our social constructs and asking people to question those things that hold us back from our authentic selves regardless of our gender or sexual orientation, which includes men.

Self-growth isn't just about showing up; it's comprehending where and why we've been absent in harmful behavior that has been going on around us in our relationships and society. It is about forming an earnest desire to understand the struggles of other people and how we may contribute.

In Closing

The Barbie world is a cultural magnifying glass, amplifying discussions of gender, sexuality, identity, and the tension between individual autonomy and societal norms with both admiration and controversy.

Ultimately, it serves as a reflection of society's journey toward the potential for greater understanding, acceptance, and exploration in the bedroom and outside of it. It is a learning opportunity and a way we can check in on our journey to evolve.

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