Note that this is set in the Bastet Universe, as that's the only contemporary setting I currently have.
Janna walked through the showroom, affecting as best she could the disaffected curiosity of her profession, but no previous assignment had ever required she stand in a room of dramatically costumed and decorated naked people. Or "people." Or mannequins. True Companions wasn't that new, but the opening of a βeta shop was already newsworthy. Three different womens' organizations had already announced pickets and protests.
"Sorry," she said to the woman standing beside her. She shook herself. "It's a bit... uncanny."
"They are, when they're off." Carla Dietrich didn't look like a degenerate panderer. In her grey pantsuit and bolo tie, she looked like the sort of woman owned herself and her own business. Janna had interviewed the women who ran the Cathouse, and the men who ran Toys4Boys, and they hadn't seemed all that degenerate, either. There was a huge difference between the disembodied phallic dildos sold at those places— especially Toys4Boys, where the toys were measured in liters— and the whole-bodied companion robots this new business showcased. "In motion, they're difficult to discern from ordinary people, though. As long as the battery lasts." Dietrich smiled, and it reached her eyes. She had the skill. "That's why the tattoo." She pointed to the left hand of each robot, where a distinct triangle tattoo covered both the palm and the back of the hand. A matching tattoo was visible on the back of the neck and the roof of the mouth.
"Is that a legal requirement?"
"Liability. And owners are required not to cover them, for the same reason. No gloves." Janna nodded. She had done her homework and already knew the answer, but it was preferable to get it on tape.
The eight bodies in the front of the showroom were fit and trim, exemplars of physical beauty. Six were white, two black. Two of the white ones were male, and both were prominently well-endowned. "Do you limit or match the race to the buyer?"
"Of course not."
"Isn't that problematic?"
Dietrich shrugged. "We're not here to judge. Problematic relationships between buyers and their toys are between the buyers and their toys. Personally? Better that than with a real human being."
"What's the strangest model you have?"
"The strangest?" Dietrich grinned. "Come into the main showcase." She led the way into the back of the store. There were more robots here standing on short circular plinths. The lighting picked out their features. Janna's eyes took in very short, plump models, ridiculously well-hung models, and on the plinth to her far right, Janna stopped. "What is that?"
"That is the Model R," Dietrich said. Janna approached it. It was enormous, almost seven feet tall, clearly of feminine build with large breasts that dangled with a suggestion of weight and a bit of age, a softly rounded belly, and below that a rather large penis. The skin wasn't any color found in humans, with a suggestive greenish-grey undertone that looked more like tree bark than flesh. "It might not be obvious, but the R does have a vaginal opening there, behind the small scrotum. It's one of our most popular models. A fifth of all revists to our website are to the Model R page, although they don't quite make up a fifth of all sales."
"Meaning there are a lot of men out there who want one but who can't afford one."
Janna nodded, already thinking how she would work that detail into her final story. "How popular is it?"
"The model R makes up eight percent of sales. That puts it third in overall popularity, after the model V, which is second—" she pointed to one of the "shortstack" robots— "and the model B, the standard white female model out in front."
Janna contemplated the Model R. "Third?" she said, unable to believe it. "Why?"
Dietrich smiled. "We sent out a nice young man from the university to find out. He interviewed almost twenty purchasers. Overwhelmingly, model Rs are bought by white men in the lower middle class. There doesn't seem to be a particular age, although they do trend a bit younger with the R." She paused. "As near as we can tell, purchasers of the R are uncomfortable with women." She gestured toward the robot's penis. "That reassures them. It's understandable. Someone with a penis isn't a mystery, at least in their own minds. The shape provides them with a mix of details: feminine, so that in their own minds they're not gay even if they fuck something with a dick, big and soft, a little motherly, so that they feel cared for afterward."
"And that skin color?"
"We're not sure. We wanted to chalk it up to a kind of racism, since we couldn't find a single non-white owner of a Model R, but Model R owners really love their toy, so we're still out about that." Dietrich shrugged. "The most common aspect of Model R owners is they all feel alienated from real women. A lot of them expressed a kind of satisfaction in owning a Model R, a sense that by having this, they had a fully functional, meaningful way to express their desire for a woman-shaped thing without having to interact with real women. Some of them called it 'revenge.'"
"Women, mostly. And the men who like women. They felt wronged by the way women ignored them, and felt that owning a Model R would be a suitable revenge because then no woman would get their 'resources'"— Dietrich made air quotes— "like their time and money. Many said eventually all men would find something in here more attractive than a real woman. I remember one man said, 'Biological women will be left begging for scraps in a world that doesn't want them and never did.'" Dietrich shrugged.
"Well, the real men are still out there."
Dietrich laughed. "That they are! The good ones don't even mind if you bring your own toy." She pointed one, a handsome, broad-shouldered man of superheroic proportions. "The Model S is a best seller, but you wouldn't guess with whom." Janna made a 'go on' gesture. "Married couples."
"I can believe it. I almost want one myself."
"I guess the joke is on them. I hope they really are happy with the Model R. The more time they spend with their optimized sex toy, the less time they'll have to stop people like you and me from running the world, right?"
Janna nodded, smiling back. "Truer words."
"Truer words," Dietrich said.