Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

So girth does matter!

“”The Great Wall of China’s attractive, but he’s too thick – my husband is sexier.”

So says Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer, whose surname translates to English as “Berlin Wall.”

The Telegraph resurrected Frau Berliner-Mauer’s fascinating case of objectum-sexual in a news of the weird article: Woman “married” to Berlin Wall for 29 years. Overall, this is an article worthy of The Onion, but apparently the Wall’s spouse widow occasionally makes the rounds discussing her fetish.

Having recently polished off Mary Roach’s Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (I’ll review this marvelous book soon – I promise!), my scientific-spidey sense was set off by this article and the condition known as objectophilia.

Insatiably curious bonobo that I am, I brachiated around a bit in Google and found this thread (WARNING – no graphic photos but proceed with caution) I am OBJECTUM-SEXUAL with the very first post originating from Frau Berliner-Mauer who also provides a link to her home page. She thus exposes this psychological condition to the harsh prurient light of day. Another woman has come out and discussed her relationship with the Eiffel Tower, which is the subject of a documentary to be broadcast in the UK tomorrow (June 4).

Human sexuality is — to the least — complex, but one wonders what sort of neural-behavioral crosstalk has been affected so that someone is sexually aroused by an object? Those with objectophilia believe in animism, that is, inanimate objects have feelings and are able to communicate. I am reminded here of Paul Bloom’s hypothesis that belief in the supernatural — and possibly by extension, animism — is an accident of cognitive function (see Is God an Accident?). Is such a cognitive accident responsible for lusting after a kitchen appliance or an imposing architectural feature?

Shoe festishists are pretty mundane compared to some of those who are classified as having objectum-sexual. Although the veracity of the aforementioned thread’s content is up for grabs, objectum-sexual is a real condition. The love objects mentioned in the thread are rather varied: hockey sticks, a laminated wood floor, a piccolo, and a toaster (maybe) among them.

Maybe my Bosch dishwasher really is flirting with me!

**A pant-hoot to Ms. Myxomycetes for calling the Telegraph article to my attention.

Comments

  1. #1 JimFiore
    June 3, 2008

    The Berlin Wall ain’t got nothing on a nuclear powered pan-sexual roto-plooker. Just ask Joe.

    (semi-obscure Zappa reference)

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    June 3, 2008

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to refer to Frau Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer as the widow of the Berlin Wall?

    And where does this categorization leave those with other paraphilias, such as George III’s fondness for sex with trees, or promiscuous bicycle-seat sniffers, or (hypothetically) someone with an attraction to Ann Coulter?

  3. #3 Doc Bushwell
    June 3, 2008

    Jim: So might one acquire said pan-sexual roto-plooker from Eden Toys or Babeland? A friend of mine wants to know.

    [yep, I caught the Zappa reference. A collection of his works resides in my household. Vinyls.]

    Pierce: Ah, yes! “Widow” indeed is the more accurate term. My mistake. I have made the correction. Thanks!

    Did the hapless arsenical and porphyric George prefer elms over oaks? Beeches over birches? I’m not sure but I think the term for an attraction to Ann Coulter is known as mysophilia.

  4. #4 moreth
    June 3, 2008

    I am still shaking my head… ‘Whatever blows your hair.’

    I don’t get the Ann Coulter ref – I suspect I don’t want to. (Oh, damn, why did I have to go looking?)

  5. #5 JimFiore
    June 3, 2008

    The Coulter thing would probably also involve coprophilia and emetophilia (or at least it would help).

  6. #6 Doc Bushwell
    June 3, 2008

    Re:moreth: ‘Whatever blows your hair.’

    Trichophilia!

  7. #7 Gwidhiel
    June 4, 2008

    Wow … this is a new one for me! And while it does bring to mind the universal human anthropomorphizing tendency that might well be the basis for religiosity, I think that’s probably not what’s going on here … not exactly, anyway.

    The Independent Article you linked to suggests that at least 50% of the people who report romantic feelings for inanimate objects have Asperger’s Syndrome — and not everyone who has Asperger’s has been diagnosed (especially adults) so it might well be a higher percentage. My 7-year-old godson is a very intelligent, articulate oddbody with Asperger’s. Over the years I have observed him having crushes on various objects, and I suspect he will always be so inclined. He *is* sociable, but he finds it difficult to connect to people, especially when he doesn’t know them well (he needs to know them quite well, in fact). He just doesn’t know what to do with himself, or what to make of the things that people (adults or children) say to him. One of the differences between people with Asperger’s and those with full-blown autism seems to be that people with Asperger’s *are* capable of imagining things. Imagining a personal relationship with an inanimate structure perhaps serves the need for socializing that people with Asperger’s feel (interesting to note that all of the objects of affection were complex and/or in some way significant — no one seems to have fallen in love with, say, a spoon (except the dish)).

  8. #8 Doc Bushwell
    June 4, 2008

    Gwidhiel: Many thanks for the insightful comment! You offer excellent points on the social needs of those with Asperger’s and that a population of these individuals will transfer that need to objects.

    while it does bring to mind the universal human anthropomorphizing tendency that might well be the basis for religiosity, I think that’s probably not what’s going on here … not exactly, anyway.

    Yep, you’re right that this is not a precise equivalent. What made me think of Bloom’s work (and I strongly suspect you’re familiar with it) is the fundamental property of the human brain to imagine what is not physically present. At a very reductionist level — and I admittedly am prone to this due to my interest in neuropharmacology — I wonder if there might be some overlap of neural networks involved with what gives rise to dualism and those which result in animism? Could transference of emotions to objects be caused by genetic or epigenetic conditions or childhood trauma (and hence “re-wiring” as the brain develops) to some common elements of neural architecture?

    To imagine some sort of Venn overlap of Bloom’s proposed basis of dualism with animism at a cellular network or even molecular level is crazy-ass speculation on my part, I realize, given the complexity of the brain and neural plasticity. But hey, what’s a chimp refuge for if not lots of screeching and hooting postulates?

    except the dish…

    Ha! Yes, the objects seem pretty grand for the most part. However, I can’t help but think that there’s someone out there who harbors a hot n’ heavy thing for a set of silver Reed and Barton spoons.

    Thanks again and nice to see you here!

  9. #9 Gwidhiel
    June 4, 2008

    I’m glad I found your blog — lots of good reads!

    wonder if there might be some overlap of neural networks involved with what gives rise to dualism and those which result in animism?

    That seems quite plausible to me.

    Could transference of emotions to objects be caused by genetic or epigenetic conditions or childhood trauma (and hence “re-wiring” as the brain develops) to some common elements of neural architecture?

    Hm … as far as highly heritable conditions like autism are concerned, I’m inclined to think that’s possible. But as the result of trauma (referring to the Independent article re the Eiffel Tower woman who’d been sexually abused as a child) … I’m more skeptical. I don’t know enough about neuroscience (celluar or otherwise) to speculate with any intelligence about how malleable such systems could be. It’s an interesting possibility!

  10. #10 Pierce R. Butler
    June 5, 2008

    Doctor B: I’m not sure whether to thank you or curse you, but that “mysophilia” [etc] link really makes me feel boringly normal, square, and vanilla.

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