Do you read buzzy, quick-hit news about China? If the answer is yes, you’ve almost certainly heard about Beijing’s controversial shared sex doll company, Touch. We did a post about it the other day:

Sex Doll Sharing App Launches in Beijing, Prompts Instantaneous Hot Takes

The news immediately spread all across the English-language internet. And how couldn’t it? It hits three key points readers have loved since the beginning of time: 1) weird news, 2) China being weird, and 3) sex. Our own take on it tried to delve a little deeper into the story, but I can aggregate some main talking points from other outlets into a condensed, paraphrased quote of sorts:

Yo this sharing thing is wild right? We got bikes and stools and umbrellas. But now we got SEX DOLLS. You can rent these weird sex dolls, and keep ’em in your home. For sex! There’s Wonder Woman, and a Korean girl, Russian girl… gross! They clean the parts, but still, I mean… classic young Chinese dudes. Here’s a link to our other article about their testicles being too swollen to join the military.

Not a direct quote, per se, but if you peek around at English coverage of the app from the past week, I think you’ll find five or six articles that pretty much match this blurb in structure. So it might not come as a surprise that the company Touch has been ordered to shut down its shared sex doll operation after only four days.

Touch issued a statement on Weibo saying it “sincerely apologized for the negative impact” it generated, that sex is “not vulgar”, and that they hope future products will promote a “healthier and more harmonious sex lifestyle.”

Harmonious is the favorite word of government cultural arbiters. If something needs to go, it’s because it’s not harmonious. If something needs to happen, it’s because it is harmonious. The not-harmonious part of shared sex dolls likely isn’t the hygiene, the business practices, or even the cultural factors. More likely, the overall media attention, from both local and overseas outlets, played the biggest role in the shutdown. China is ever-conscious of its place in the world, and how the rest of the world sees it. When foreign media pick something admittedly weird like this to zero in on, there’s always the chance it can have repercussions for people and businesses on the home front.

It’s likely that media attention, from both local and overseas outlets, played the biggest role in the shutdown

Moreover, English-language social media reactions to the government shutdown have rung out as largely positive. We’re glad the government stepped in to put a stop to that weird shit seems to be the general consensus. But censor someone’s freedom of speech, and that’s downright barbaric. The actions of a police state seem to be forgivable, as long as they line up with Western cultural norms.

Anyway, the shared sex doll phenomenon is over, just as quickly as it started — another swing and a miss in modern China’s Wild West startup economy.