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— And because the bedroom can be a battlefield, Tami and all her RealDoll sisters are built like tanks. Their joints can handle up to 600 pounds of pressure, and the silicone rubber skin can withstand temperatures of up to 400 degrees. (That's important: Because the silicone itself can be cold to the touch, users are encouraged to submerge the dolls in scalding water before sex to raise their body temperature. Once warmed, the silicone retains the heat efficiently.)

All in all, RealDoll seems to be an accommodating partner. She can be stored away from prying eyes in the casket-shaped crate she comes in, and maintenance is a snap. A turkey baster is included with each doll to aid post-coital cleaning.

Few outsiders have been allowed inside McMullen's San Marcos factory. (Although McMullen talked briefly with the Reader when we contacted him by phone, he politely declined to let us visit, saying he was not interested in any local media attention. "It's just a distraction," he says. "I just don't see us getting a whole lot out of it other than a whole lot of people who want to come up here and have a look around.") But Elizabeth Gilbert, a GQ writer, was allowed in and says the plant floor looked "as if someone had set off a bomb at a Lilith Fair. There were piles of hands, piles of feet, piles of heads."

Judging from the frequently asked questions McMullen has posted on the Web site, the people who stop by the site are pretty interesting, too. Consider some of their queries:

Question: What if I don't fit with RealDoll's sex parts?

Answer: RealDoll's vaginal and anal cavities are made snug to accommodate any insertion. The silicone flesh is soft, slippery, and very elastic. Any petroleum or water-based lubricants can be applied to ease entry. RealDoll's oral cavity contains soft silicone tongue and teeth. The oral cavity is as snug as the doll's other entries. All of RealDoll's cavities allow deep insertions.

Question: Can you pull on her nipples hard without fear of tearing them?

Answer: Yes, within reason. RealDoll's nipples can withstand approximately 400 percent elongation before tearing.

Question: How hard are the doll's nipples? Will they show through clothes?

Answer: RealDoll's nipples feel very much like real, erect nipples. They show through clothes.

Question: How flexible is the RealDoll?

Answer: RealDoll's silicone skin is extremely flexible and will sustain almost any reasonable position. There are some positions which are more stressful on both the silicone flesh and the internal joints. RealDoll cannot be "twisted into a pretzel," compressed into a tight fetal position, or squeezed into a small storage area.

Question: What happens when "the honeymoon is over" and I feel that the doll is not for me and wish to return it?

Answer: Although we'd like to fully satisfy all our customers, our firm policy is: ALL SALES ARE FINAL. Question: Do you sell just the head or torso, or any other body part, as separate items?

Answer: No.

Question: Do you have any rejects or used models I can buy for cheap?

Answer: No.

If that's what the window shoppers are like, imagine how weird the actual buyers are, right? But Dr. Goldfoot, the founder of the RealDoll Owners and Lovers club and the editor of the group's Doll Street Journal newsletter, insists he and his fellow "enthusiasts" are "about as vanilla, as regular as they come."

"A lot of [the members] are professionals," he says. "I'm not, personally. I'm actually pretty low income. I spent a big chunk of my savings to get my doll. It's just one of those things. I just knew immediately when I saw the Web site for the first time that I just had to have one. I had to find out what it was like."

Goldfoot -- his nom de whoopee comes from a series of Vincent Price films about a mad scientist who builds gorgeous robots to help him take over the world -- describes himself as an aspiring screenwriter who holds down a "McJob" to pay the bills. In telephone conversation, anyway, the 38-year-old comes across as a thoughtful, well-spoken, and disarmingly reasonable fellow who just happens to have a sex doll in his bedroom named Jenny that he dresses up like a Catholic schoolgirl.

"There was a time probably for every owner when they've wondered, 'Is this really okay? Have I crossed the line into terminal weirdness?' [But] this is actually a pretty harmless and I think pretty ethical way of getting some just basic sex without exploiting anybody," Goldfoot says. "Obviously, qualitatively, the experience of sex with a RealDoll can't be compared to sex with a real woman. But as far as convenience is concerned, it can't be beat."

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