“Being a pedophile is like living with a mask on,” Shin Takagi told me, before lighting another cigarette in the midst of a Tokyo cafe. Takagi’s mask was off today. He spoke freely and people were noticing. In a sea of black business suits, Takagi sported a red Hawaiian-print shirt—daring them to look.
People like Takagi who struggle with pedophilic impulses but have never acted on them have been the subject of much media attention. With a paucity of reliable scientific data about their circumstances and no known medical or psychiatric cure, many of these individuals rely strictly on self-control to avoid acting on their urges. Takagi believes there is another option.
Struggling to reconcile his attraction to children with a conviction that they should be protected, Takagi founded Trottla, a company that produces life-like child sex dolls. For more than a decade, Trottla has shipped anatomically-correct imitations of girls as young as five to clients around the world.
“We should accept that there is no way to change someone’s fetishes,” Takagi insisted. “I am helping people express their desires, legally and ethically. It’s not worth living if you have to live with repressed desire.”
Several treatments for pedophilia exist, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and chemical castration, and other interventions intended to suppress urges. A meta-analysis conducted by the Mayo Clinic recently concluded that the treatments “do not change the pedophile’s basic sexual orientation toward children.” In addition, among people who have actually molested children, the study cites recidivism rates ranging from 10 percent to 50 percent. Takagi believes other methods of harm-reduction are warranted, and suggests his products could help.