SATC Week: Paris, Je T'aime: Objectum Sexuality
“Sex and the City,” season 5, Episode 1: "Anchors Away"
During Fleet Week, Carrie has her pick of sailors on shore leave in New York, but ultimately decides that the city itself is her “great love.”
It can be a city, a steam locomotive, an archer’s bow, even the Berlin Wall—the object of one’s affections can literally be an object, as cherished as any person. Just ask Erika Eiffel, one of the 71% of married adults, 1 in 1.41 (71%), who report their marriage has lasted because of deep love. On April 8th, 2010, Erika entered her third year of marriage. We know her spouse as the Eiffel Tower.
Ms. Eiffel is an objectum-sexual, one of a small group of people who love and are attracted to things.
The idea of sincerely loving an object in an emotional and/or physical way has been around for a long time, although it didn’t have a name. For centuries, schoolchildren have been taught the legend of Pygmalion, an ancient Greek sculptor who fell madly in love with a female figure he’d carved from ivory. He loved her so singularly, the myth goes, and prayed so fervently that the goddess Aphrodite eventually took pity on him and made her flesh. They immediately tied the knot.
Not all objectum-sexuals are interested in matrimony—or having material transformed into flesh. Most find objects sexy as objects; there is hardly any talk of wishing they were human, because many objectophiles are not attracted to humans at all. In 2007, Sandy K., a member of Objectùm-Sexuality Internationale (founded by Eiffel), told Spiegel International that “when it comes to love, I am only attracted to objects. I couldn’t imagine a love affair with a human being.”
The term “objectum-sexual” was first coined by Eija-Riita Eklöf Berliner-Mauer, who may be the first self-declared objectum-sexual of modern times. In 1979, she and the Berlin Wall were “wed,” and her last name reflects her part of the commitment: in German, “Berliner-Mauer” means “Berlin-Wall.”
The summer 2009 announcement of 33-year-old Amy Wolfe’s intention to marry an amusement park ride, coupled with the autumn wedding in Japan of a man named Sal900 to the object of his desire, a character in the Nintendo video game Love Plus, drew significant media attention to the issue of objectum sexuality. Many wonder: Is it a fetish, an orientation, or just a three-ring publicity stunt?
Psychologists disagree. Many classify OS as a paraphilia, defined in the DSM-IV as a sexual feeling/behavior that involves non-human or non-consenting sexual partners. By this criterion, objectum sexuality is a mental disorder—in the same category as pedophilia or bestiality. (The DSM-IV-TR Guidebook tempers this diagnosis, cautioning that “a diagnosis of Paraphilia applies only when the behavior is judged to cause clinically significant distress.”)
Others consider it more of an independent orientation—independent of heterosexuality and homosexuality alike. Asked to weigh in on the subject by ABC’s Good Morning America, sexologist Amy Marsh offered the opinion that objectophilia “seems to be qualitatively different from a fetishistic use of objects or from the use of sex toys... A key point for OS people is that they experience and feel emotions for the ‘being’ of an object.” In other words, their attachments are not just a lust for—but an intense love of—a particular thing.
While there are theories as to how objectum sexuality originates in the psyche, e.g. in autism or childhood abuse, objectophiles simply cast themselves in with the 1 in 1.39 (72%) adults who report being in love—regardless of who—or what—they love. Ms. Eiffel had several other loves before her commitment to the Eiffel Tower, including a samurai sword, a bow, and a bridge.
On some level, those who in their own lives cherish something inanimate, something deeply meaningful and evocative, may be able to relate. There are those who treasure a particular spot in nature, or a neighborhood, or like Carrie Bradshaw, an entire city. In “Anchors Away”—the 67th episode of Sex in the City and the first to be shot following the September 11th attacks—Carrie declares her ardor for New York, refusing to define love in “limited terms.” Many viewed the episode as a valentine to a wounded, and beloved, city. The series famously cut two shots of the World Trade Center from the opening credits, out of respect for a traumatized metropolis.
Sandy K. says she was actually in love with the Twin Towers. For years, she had been drawn to them as male, sexual objects. Loss of any love object is painful, as Berliner-Mauer can also attest. In 1989, she had to watch in horror as her spouse of 10 years was torn down piece by piece.