Earlier this week I watched a truly fascinating documentary from 2008 called Married to the Eiffel Tower which ran on Channel 5 in the UK. It focuses on three women, each of whom identify as "objectum-sexuals," which is to say, they form romantic and physical relationships not with humans, but with objects.
Some are in love with the Berlin Wall—one, Eija Riita Berliner-Mauer (anyone who remembers their high school German will quickly deduce the origins of her surname) who was the first objectum-sexual to bring the small group’s amorous pursuits to public knowledge, has married the Wall—another loves the Eiffel Tower, still another is in love with a carnival ride dubbed 1001 Nachts. Their other loves—few object to polyamory in this camp—include a church organ called Paul, the Golden Gate Bridge, an archer's bow named Lance, the World Trade Center, a small bridge in Sweden, a smattering of fences and the Empire State Building.
Married to the Eiffel Tower has gotten a lot of flack in the small objectum-sexual community as a bottom-feeding brand of aren’t-these-folks-weird sensationalism, and I agree that the filmmakers do seem awfully interested in the physical mechanics of these womens’ relationships with buildings. What I found even more gripping though, was the incredible lengths to which the women went—the documentary asserts that all objectum-sexuals are women, though OS websites contradict that—to subjectify their beloved objects. By giving them names, assigning them genders, talking to them and building small effigies to adore when they are apart, the women seem to be denying the very objectness of their objects. Put another way, they don’t see their beloveds as inanimate, but rather as subjects with souls, spirits and personalities with which they are in telepathic contact.
The 1001 Nacht carnival ride is one of the beloved objects in the documentary "Married to the Eiffel Tower."
The flip side of this, and one of the elements that makes these relationships so odd, is that only the lover of the object is able to imbue the object with meaningful personality traits. Take for example the Berlin Wall, a fraught political symbol by any standard, yet one that has captured the hearts of two of the most outspoken objectum sexuals, Berliner-Mauer and Erika La Tour Eiffel (I’ll let you guess which landmark she wed).
Neither of them seems to care one bit about the political or social ramifications of the Wall, instead focusing on it as an object without context. Gone is the bitter history of Germany’s division; all the two women can see is what they want to see. La Tour Eiffel goes so far as to say that she feels she’s a part of the wall: created out of love, but now neglected and scorned. On the website detailing her love affair with the Wall, Berliner-Mauer even writes “We have been together now for many years, spiritually if not physically. Like every married couple, we have our ups and downs. We even made it through the terrible disaster of November 9, 1989, when my husband was subjected to frenzied attacks by a mob." Divorced from social realities, this particular fascination takes on a perverse, eerily solipsistic quality, though I suppose one could level that criticism at the whole notion of being in loving contact with an inanimate object.
Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer with her "husband" the Berlin Wall.
You might take issue with their claims that the objects communicate with them telepathically—the film argues for an experiential cause to the development of objectum sexuality, Asperger’s Syndrome in one case, severe childhood trauma and sexual abuse in another—and you’ll certainly squirm when you see one woman, her hands and face smeared in grease after a lovemaking session with the carnival ride, but the language these women use to describe their attractions to fences, bridges and towers would feel at home in any architecture school seminar.
They talk about the allure of clean lines, perfect geometry and the elegance of a steel curve in the same way students (or design magazine editors) do. In a strange way these women are all wonderful architecture critics; they heap attention on form, consider the heft and line of a structure with a candor and empathy that many critics lack. Granted they do it with the lusty enthusiasm usually reserved for locker-room chatter about shapely thighs and full lips.
Perhaps the most surreal scene in the film, and one of its giddiest moments, has two objectum-sexuals walking down the streets of Manhattan, gazing up at the city’s massive buildings and squealing with hormonal delight at all the strapping skyscrapers. One remarked that a person could go crazy with desire for all the lovely buildings around. Though perhaps not as amorous, their ardor is certainly akin to the sensation many of us have felt, a mixture of awe and glee at what we industrious little humans have built on that small island.
Photo of the Eiffel Tower courtesy of Brooklyn Museum.
Photo of 1001 Nachts courtesy of Carnibiz.
Photo of Eija-Riita Berliner-Mauer courtesy of Sujatha_Fan.