An inflatable doll reminiscent of a blow-up sex toy was pulled from the shelves of the West Chester University campus bookstore Friday after protests from students and others on social media.
The Sensational Inflatables product bears a cartoon of a woman in her underwear on the package and says "Inflate for an instant date!"
However, the university said social media users had taken the doll out of context. The figures are only 6 inches tall when inflated and were leftover gag gifts from Valentine's Day, said university spokeswoman Loretta MacAlpine. They were not sex toys, she said.
Both male and female versions were sold as novelties, she said, but the male ones sold out.
Critics said the $7.99 doll, which is labeled "the perfect female specimen," and its package promotes rape culture and the objectification of women.
Graduate student Irissa Baxter, who is organizing students to protest "this concept existing on our campus," said the product is inappropriate and insensitive.
"Non-talking, no headaches, disposable or reusable (you choose to dump or not)," reads the front of the package. On the back, pictures instruct the user to punch the package with a fist and "hit hard" to inflate.
"You're literally punching a representation of a woman to get it to work," Baxter said. "The perfect female specimen . . . wouldn't talk [and] you could punch her. That's the idea this is sending."
The doll exists in a world where women are actually objectified, silenced, and punched, said sexologist Jill McDevitt, a former West Chester resident (and former contributor to philly.com). She posted a photo of the doll's package on her Facebook page after a West Chester student sent it to her.
"[T]o have this product sold on a college campus breeds a culture in which this type of behavior toward women is normal, and even cute or funny," she said.
The bookstore issued an apology on Twitter.
"It is a tasteless gift, and unfortunately we did have it briefly on the shelf," MacAlpine said. "There was never any intent to promote anything other than a joke for Valentine's Day."