People Who Love Objects, Part III
“I feel...noticed by my lover. Feel his present [sic]. I communicate seldom in speaking words. I communicate in minds and with touchings. Touchings at special hot spots... I feel a short flash of energie [sic] during the touching. If I´m stroke [sic] the metal skin of my lover, first it feels cold but more and more I feel a warm floating.” Survey respondent from Germany
Sexology is a rich mix, consisting of data on human sexual behavior, clinical practice, history, anthropology, psychology, sociology, human rights, erotology, entrepreneurism, anatomy and physiology, education, medicine, law, politics - just about anything can be simmered in a sexological stew. Pondering Objectum Sexuality has allowed me to conceptually toss some really interesting ingredients together. In this three-part column, Iʻm offering you a few choice morsels, even as the main course continues to cook. Academically, this is rather premature. However, there has been so much sensationalized coverage and ignorant public commentary that I reckon most researchers are avoiding Objectum Sexuality as a freak show unworthy of their attentive inquiry or they simply toss it into “paraphilias” and have done with it. A pity, because this topic has many intriguing aspects. Itʻs time to bring them into play.
So letʻs take a closer look at the “ingredients” (so far) in our main dish of Objectum Sexuality.
Daddy, That Dresser is Leering at Me!
Earlier this week, I unearthed a reference to “object-personification synesthesia” in an article called “When ʻ3ʻ is a Jerk and ʻEʻ is a King: Personifying Inanimate Objects in Synesthesia,” (Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience in 2007). This article describes two experiments concerning a teenage girl who experiences objects “as having rich and detailed personalities.” She apparently disliked some objects so much that she asked her father to remove them from her bedroom.
What I want to know is, has she ever had a crush on an object?
Discovering a link to synesthesia, or determining that object personification synesthesia is a possible cause of OS, does not diminish the nature of this kind of attraction. It simply gives us a way to understand or explore the neurological mechanisms that may be involved and expands our opportunities for inquiry. Ultimately, why one person loves one bridge and not another is just as mysterious as the attractions and dislikes of people for other people.
Married to the Bells
Literary or historical references are so sparse, theyʻre simply “seasonings” added for flavor. Examples include the myth of Pygmalion and his love for a statue as well as the Hunchback of Notre Dameʻs passionate love of cathedral bells. Victor Hugo writes most explicitly: “Claude Frollo had made him the bell ringer of Notre-Dame, and to give the great bell in marriage to Quasimodo was to give Juliet to Romeo.”
Animism and Quantum Physics
Many people have held the belief that everything, even inanimate objects, contains a soul or spiritual essence. This belief can be found in modern utterances, such as the Bioneers motto, “itʻs all alive, itʻs all connected.” It rubs up against certain findings of quantum physics. Years ago, halfway through The Dancing Wu Li Masters, I called the author, Gary Zukav, in great excitement. Sub-atomic particles make decisions? Communicate over immeasurable distances? Wow! He listened for a little while, then gently referred me to an organization of science-minded artists.
Though a detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this column, I want you to know that Objectum Sexuals and Object-Personification Synesthetes are experientially located somewhere in the middle of all this. If we wanted, the rest of us could consider these people as having special, wonderful gifts, which might even turn out to be an ability to experience another facet of the nature of reality.
Marginalized Sexual Minorities
Then there are all the issues associated with being marginalized and misunderstood: lack of acceptance, a dearth of informed medical and mental health care providers, discrimination, and so on.
In addition to the above challenges faced by people who identify as part of a sexual (or emotional) minority, there are the special circumstances experienced by a community beginning to emerge from obscurity and advocating for itself. This includes tension between those who want to “come out” and express themselves in a burst of no-holds barred glory (once called “letting the freak flag fly”—nowadays called posting a YouTube video), and those who advocate a more moderate and decorous emergence into (or alongside) the mainstream.
Within the OS community, “sexual minority issues” are not just limited to OS. Among the twenty-one people who took my survey, I heard from two transgender men; one “pre-op gender neuter” person; at least two or three people who consider themselves asexual; and several who are gay, bisexual, or polyamorous.
Autism, Aspergerʻs Syndrome, and Other Neurological Factors
Autism spectrum conditions are another important consideration among the people I surveyed. Most of you have heard about Autism, and most probably have some idea what it is. Some of you may have also heard of Aspergerʻs Syndrome (AS), which is often compared to “high functioning Autism.” Some experts distinguish between the two by saying AS people are generally more interested in social interaction than people diagnosed with Autism. While Aspies want to have successful relationships with friends, lovers, co-workers, and bosses, they typically have difficulties with many of the basic rules of social interactions as well as the emotional nuances of human relationships. AS people often struggle with how to conduct a conversation that doesnʻt develop into a monologue about their favorite topics; how to read body language; how to dress or move in a way that attracts others; and very importantly, they often have difficulty in shifting their attention away from their all-consuming special interest passions and back toward interactions with the people in their lives.
A couple of years ago, I did some student research into Aspergerʻs Syndrome and sexuality issues—surveying about 100 people. Most were either diagnosed or self-identified as having AS. The survey also included a few “neurotypical” partners. As a result of this research, I feel that for many AS people, the intellectual pursuit of their special interest is equally or more pleasurable than sex or emotional intimacy. It takes a lot to pry them from it, even temporarily. (I get this way while writing!) I initially came to my inquiry into Objectum Sexuality with a bit of an assumption that object relationships were the “special interest squared”—a way to combine intellectual perseveration with sex. Now I understand that this explanation is inadequate. It might be partially true for some, but itʻs not the whole story.
In my OS survey, five people had a diagnosis of Aspergerʻs Syndrome, one a diagnosis of Autism, and four identified as being on the Autism spectrum even though they did not have a diagnosis, for whatever reason. Three people said theyʻd been told they might be on the Aspergerʻs or Autism spectrum, or said they had “some symptoms” but didnʻt feel they were pronounced enough to merit a diagnosis.
There were other neurological complexities: six people reported sensory integration problems, which means that certain sounds, fabrics, colors, types of touch, smells, etc. can disrupt a personʻs functioning and processing of other sensory information. Three people said they had attention deficit disorders. One had executive function issues. One person reported Touretteʻs Syndrome. Another reported an unspecified pervasive developmental disorder. (Autism is also classified as a pervasive developmental disorder.)