Erika Eiffel is an objectophile. She’s also the current head of Objectum Sexuality Internationale, an organization of individuals with objectophilia.
Objectophilia, or objectum sexuality, as she describes it, is “the inclination to develop significant relationships with objects.”
Eiffel, for example, is married to the Eiffel Tower. She was even the center of the much disputed, on-the-nose entitled documentary, “Married to The Eiffel Tower.” Other objectophiles have intimate relationships with buttons, sound equipment, statues, clocks, trains and countless more inanimate objects.
Many people form bonds with beloved, sentimental items. Childhood toys, family heirlooms, computers and cell phones that store our memories, our work, and our social networks.
This level of attachment is normal. But to be in love with and talk to an object? To be sexually and emotionally attracted? That's different. That’s unnatural, untenable and according to society, ripe for ridicule.
But that level of infatuation describes exactly what it means to be an objectophile. Objectum sexuality (OS) individuals, unlike many in our material-obsessed world, don't merely love objects — they’re in love with them.
According to Eiffel and others, a relationship between a human and an object operates very similarly to human on human relationships. But of course, it's complicated.
Many OS people know they’re attracted to items from a young age. Others become infatuated later in life by an object they see or use frequently.
Some people are monogamists; some are polygamists. Some like multiple types of objects. Others, only chairs or a certain brand of chair or their specific chair.
For some people, a chair will give off indications of a gender. For others, gender remains absent and irrelevant. Some people talk to their desired objects vocally, others through a mental link and still others don't talk to them at all.
Reciprocal attachment is another a point of contention, with some believing that the objects love them back and others who feel nothing in return.
When the object of desire is destroyed, damaged or otherwise malfunctioning, this can cause anxiety and heartbreak in their human lovers. In 2001 for example, a woman by the name Sandy K felt that her partner, the Twin Towers, had perished alongside the other 2,753 souls extinguished on 9/11.
Otherwise, relationships develop in the same time-honored fashion all relationships develop: courtship, commitment, frustrations and occasionally a painful period of letting go.
But why are these things attractive in the first place?
According to one of the few academic papers on the subject, written by sexologist Amy Marsh, many OS respondents found their partners appealing for the same reason you find your boo attractive. They enjoy their form, their feel, their dermal (or in this case their metal or otherwise) deep attributes. In lieu of a better word, they're sexy.
Now, if their attraction stopped here, it would be considered a mere fetish, but it doesn't. “Fetishists use objects as a means to an end based on a habitual psychosexual response to enhance their sexual arousal” Eiffel explains. Object Sexuals, on the other hand, have full-blown relationships with deep emotional ties that often last for years.
All this brings up the tantalizing question: “How do objects and people do the dirty?” It's a question many OS people despise due to its private nature and that even those asking wouldn't divulge that kind of information.
“I may not understand how a 6’10” and 5’2” pair make it work, but I would never ask.” Eiffel jokes.
Still, the logistics of physical intimacy an important question, and the answer, it seems again, is that it depends.
One respondent’s method (who has a relationship with fisheye buttons) is depicted in Marsh’s paper this way: “He masturbates once or twice, almost every day, accompanied by the fish-eye buttons, which are sewn to straps.”
Still, in some cases, sex is all but absent from the relationship. Other times intimacy is accomplished through other avenues such as daydreams or above the waist altercations like cuddling and kissing.
There are many theories concerning the root reasons behind this phenomenon. Some people think, simply, that this is a rare mental disorder yet to be diagnosed. Others, like Marsh and Eiffel, remain unsure, but in many cases point to animism, high functioning autism, Asperger's, object synesthesia and to a far lesser degree, sexual trauma as potential catalysts.
“Due to inherent social disabilities, some people with [Asbergers] find relationships with objects more suitable than those with people.” Eiffel explains, “The other camp is those who are animist.”
Animists are people who believe that all things possess a soul and therefore a sentient personality.
“Synesthesia,” she continued, “can also be attributed to many who are OS. Cross-sensory perception may be the reason some OS people pick up different signals from objects that others do not and react accordingly. Though rare, trauma has resulted in people developing relationships with objects rather than people. However, OS people generally do not consider their inclination a choice.”
As you might imagine, this unmapped landscape of love is regularly shunned, made the punchline of jokes and unfairly reported on in the press. Unfortunately, this leads many OS people to bury their sexuality for fear of being an outcast — something no one should have to deal with.
Now if this is confusing to you, you’re not alone. The hundreds of YouTube comments on the subject are proof enough of that and to be a little muddled isn't a sin.
But for anyone who still believes, after hearing Mrs. Eiffel’s perspective, that this sexuality is somehow immoral or distasteful, she has this to say:
“Naturally it is difficult for others to wrap their head around [this] because our way of happiness if so foreign and odd compared to what most know and define as happiness. We offend their sensibilities with our different kind of happiness. That is where the biggest struggle arises for OS people. Not that we are OS but that everyone is always trying to tell us how we are supposed to be happy. Defining how we should live and love based on their own definitions. Isn’t that the root of most of the world’s problems? Trying to tell others what or who to believe in? OS people are harmless, to themselves and to others.”