So many things the Eiffel Tower stands for, so many versions of love for so many kinds of lovers. What good romantic doesn’t dream of getting married beneath it? In 2007, standing on the second platform, shivering as the wind whipped through the iron supports, Erika Eiffel did just that. “Peering over the edge,” she later wrote, “I contemplated my existence, then looked back over my shoulder to the pale brown truss reflecting…” In that truss was the symbol of her love. That day, in an unofficial commitment ceremony, Erika married the Eiffel Tower.
The love the Eiffel Tower symbolizes for Erika is a different kind of love. Erika is an objectum-sexual. The term comes from Eija-Riitta Eklöf Berliner-Mauer, who married the Berlin wall in 1979 and wanted a way to describe her love. Those who are objectum-sexuals consider it their sexual orientation: they feel love and desire for objects, not people. They feel connected to these objects—anything from a monument to a fence—and are intimate with them emotionally and, for some, physically. As “D.” from Berlin writes: “I love my darling for exactly what he is, for all his features, his soul and his character, which is so different from a human’s. There is something so special and sublime about him which a human could never have.”
Erika first came out about her sexuality in 2000, while living in Japan. When she moved back to San Francisco in 2003, to compete for the US Archery Team, her OS (as she refers to objectum-sexuality) was not received well and she returned to the closet. But in 2007 Erika married the Eiffel Tower. The Tower has been dubbed the “Sheppardess of Bridges,” and for Erika, who loves mainly bridges, the marriage was “a measure to illustrate my love for Bridges and a commitment to what I am; an objectum-sexual.”
Erika was also the subject of a British documentary about objectum-sexuals, which she now denounces as “exploitative and sensationalized.” In an effort to foster a community and generate awareness of objectum-sexuality, Erika founded Objectum-Sexual Internationale in 2008. She was kind enough to answer my questions about her sexuality by email.
Indy: What makes objectum-sexuality different from other sexual orientations? What is the same?
Erika: Well, one of the major differences is the evident lack of reciprocity that people expect to “see” from couples in love.
I do not form relationships for what I can get out of them. To me, the give-and-take mentality is the reason for the failure of many relationships. I am quite content to give, and that is what I do. My love for an object is not just a kiss and a hug. I go to the extent to honour the object and care for the object to a degree that the object clearly reflects the doting I pour upon them.
One could argue that just because something makes one happy doesn’t mean you should do it. But when personal happiness neither harms nor deprives anyone, then I will stand to defend my contentment. I have had a very fulfilling life and continue to always strive to better myself. My objects have been a guiding light in my life…I have become a three-time world champion and learned 4 languages just to honour the love I have for my beloved objects over the years.
We are not all cut from the same mould. I accept that I am different but not harmful different. There is a difference. ;)
In your experience, what are some of the misconceptions about objectum-sexuality?
One of the greatest misconceptions: objectum-sexual (OS) people have little regard for discretion and openly display affection with their object loves.
This has indeed been more evident among those OS people exhibiting Asperger’s Syndrome because they cannot sense the need for discretion. But even so, there is no reason to raise a flag. All orientations have those who are rather open with PDA. However, those OS people with social conditioning are very unlikely to jeopardize their relationships with displays of affection that would only serve to draw unnecessary attention and potentially put their relationship at risk.
I was made to look as though I was consummating with the Eiffel Tower in front of tourists all via narration and fancy editing. But the reality is, I am not sexual in any way with the Eiffel Tower. [But] no matter how sincere I am in explaining OS, some folks cannot get past the sex part. No good story seems to sell without it.
[Another] misconception is that we all have Asperger’s Syndrome or are victims of sexual trauma and therefore we are social recluses and sit alone at home pining away after some landmark object. Many people in the OS community have normal social lives. You hear less of them because of their unwillingness to brave the media. It is a huge price tag to pay to come out if you have anything to lose. I paid the price and lost a lot. Only when I get the reaction from newfound OS people and see the shackles fall off as they come to the realization they are not alone do I realize the worth of the price I have paid.
How is your perception of objects different from that of someone who is not an objectum-sexual?
Mainstream people look at objects for their practical purpose and naturally there stands no other reason for them to connect on a more intimate level. [But] people do connect intimately with objects. Many people have feelings for heirlooms, autos, works they have created, and more. Some people sense when objects are troubled and need some TLC. Consider life without some of the objects around. In this way people come to realize they actually have a connection.
What was it like for you as a teenager, coming to know and understand your sexuality?
I have always been OS. At no point in my life can I ever say that I did not connect to objects. All of my significant relationships have always been with objects. The only problem was not having a name to put with my condition to love them. When I tried to explain to people how I felt, it was never enough.
[When] I was 14, other girls were taking fancy to boys and I was enamored [of] a Bridge. I was discovering that I had deeper feelings for objects and that I was sensing more than just keenness but a distinct connection. It was natural for me but the only thing that was not natural was when my mother discovered me sleeping with an object in my bed post-puberty and she went off the deep end. It was cute when I was a little girl, yet when I became a teenager, it warranted a trip straight to hell. Only then did I start to question. For so long I was confused as to the reason I was deemed a criminal for something that felt so natural, did not hurt anyone, and made such a positive impact in my life.
What characteristics do you find most attractive in objects?
Aesthetic characteristics include parallel lines and panels, trapezoid or rectangular, flat, rigid, and sound. My object loves are resilient, enduring, and possess a unique complexity.
What are your emotional relationships with your lovers like? How do you communicate with them?
There is an immense amount of emotion involved in my relationships with objects. Communication with an object is not so apparent as it is between people because I don’t speak to my objects unless it is just an auto response from being human. I pick up energy sensations and temperature exchange with the object. Communication is a resonance between entities. An ability to connect and pass information. For me, I simply use different channels. I do as a human does and the object does as an object does… Just as a mute man will learn to talk to a blind woman.
What are your physical relationships like?
I get called a fetishist the instant someone finds out I have a physical relationship with an object. I am asexual in that I do not have sexual feelings for humans but I am not a fetishist in any way for the intimacy I share with my love!
I prefer to say that I am intimate with objects I love because the intimacy I share with the object cannot be defined by human standards. If my relationship was weighed by [its] sexual aspect, surely I would have no relationship at all. What people seem to overlook is that I am not in the relationship for sexual give and take. It transcends this. I am in a very deep, yet high relationship with an object.
Deep and high. Antonyms, yet the space between the meaning of these words is filled to the brim with deep spiritual and high emotional feelings. Sex has nothing to do with how I relate to objects. Sexuality, as I mentioned, when defined correctly, should indicate the intention, not the action. This is where people get confused when I tell them I am objectum-sexual. They just visualize me with an object.
Are there any relationships that have been particularly meaningful for you?
All of my relationships have led me on amazing paths and I have had a very rich life driven by these objects. One of the most significant is my love of the Japanese Sword. [It was] purely a spiritual relationship; I moved to Japan and embarked on a journey that I could fill volumes with.
Valentine’s Day is coming up. Do you have any plans?
I will just answer yes to this one…
Marguerite Preston B’11 loves all fourteen floors.