This last weekend’s full moon in Scorpio was one heck of a wild ride. Between deeply grieving over my deceased temple cat and attending Saturday’s sunrise ceremony to honor ancestors of the local Pomo community who were killed in the 1850 massacre, it was already pretty intense. Then I got the news that Australia’s Channel 7 “Sunday Night” was finally going to air their segment on objectum sexuality.
Objectum sexuality is an affectionate, romantic, and/or sexual orientation involving emotional and physical intimacy with beloved objects as partners. This is far beyond using sex toys or having a fetish.
As a sexologist, I was interviewed by the “Sunday Night” crew back in February. I had been wondering when the segment would air so news of the broadcast cheered my weekend. Unfortunately, I still haven’t got a link to the show that works for me here in the U.S. so I have no idea if my lipstick was on straight or–more importantly–if I made much sense.
Now I’m trying process this latest episode in my on-again, off-again “fifteen minutes of fame.” And what comes up for me is this: I’ve written several times about the sexological aspect of objectum sexuality (read my 2009 study here) but I haven’t written about it from an animist (and mystic) perspective.
First let’s talk about animism: the idea of ensouled and conscious matter. Animism is fundamental to many forms of magic. After all, why bother with magical practices if we don’t believe that the objects and spirits we wish to influence will understand and respond to us?
Science now validates this ancient concept, asserting that consciousness appears to be an intrinsic quality of matter. (Here’s a link to a PBS/Nova article on these new findings. It’s possible to find many more.) But for many Westerners, even a scientific validation of consciousness-infused matter will be tough to accept. Westerners are so used to thinking of “things” as inert receptors that we seldom entertain a notion of mutual relationships with “non-living” sentient matter. However, it’s interesting that we’re now seeing such things as legal recognition of the personhood of rivers. May this trend continue, including recognition of our planet as a legal person!
Enter the phenomena of objectum sexuality. But I want to start first with people who actually do detect personalities in various objects. This is known as object personification synesthesia. You can read an entire case study here. In 2009 I proposed object personification synesthesia as a possible explanation or component of objectum sexuality. But this is a hypothesis at present. We need a proper study to confirm or deny causality or correlation. We need to find out if any of the various forms of synesthesia are found among any or many OS people, and if so, is object personification synesthesia one of them? And if that is so, does it have an impact on their partner preferences and erotic desires or is some other factor at play?
It’s an interesting hypothesis, since people with object beloveds feel quite natural about this part of their lives. In the documentary Animism (below), Erika Eiffel said she feels “wired” for these kinds of relationships. When I conducted my 2009 survey with a small number of OS people, their accounts of their relationships, emotions, and “ups and downs” were pretty much what you’d expect from anyone in an intimate relationship. A few people did report instances of trauma and a few had mental health conditions, but these did not appear to cause OS. For some, the recognition of object attraction predated a trauma or condition. Given all that, why not investigate object personification synesthesia, since it is already acknowledged in scientific literature, and see if it helps to explain why objectum sexuals so often describe their attraction to the personalities of their beloved objects? Somebody fund something, please!
Veering back to the connection with animism, many OS people identify as animists. I mentioned the documentary called Animism: People Who Love Objects. Here’s the trailer. (I found it on Netflix several months ago. It might still be there.)
While OS people offer love to their object partners, magical practitioners partner with objects by charging them with ritual significance, power, tasks, or thought forms. Animism is why we hug trees or pray to the sun and moon, why we bless the food we eat or the car we drive. It just doesn’t make sense to me that these are vestigal superstitions, only “myths to live by” which serve no practical purpose. I’d rather explore the common sense benefits of this outlook and to cultivate awareness and good manners along with my magic skills.
More speculatively, does the existence of object personification synesthesia mean that some human beings are gifted with a natural ability to sense forms of non-living consciousness (beyond just having their senses “cross wired”)? Did our ancestors develop rituals to reach non-living beings, based on the perceptions or directions of synesthete shaman? Why have people throughout time and in every culture taken such pains to develop rituals and practices to contact beings (both invisible and non-living)? Why so much work if none of this is real?
Scientific proof of animism will be resisted in capitalist consumer cultures until enough humans have contact with non-living but sentient material beings (and post about it on social media…LOL). “Artificial intelligences” may reveal profound and surprising discoveries, drawing upon not just their programmed capacities for learning, but also from their own innate material sentience. And the relationships of those outliers currently known as objectum sexuals will begin to make more sense to more people. When we reach these tipping points, profound changes are inevitable.
Of course, we have a long way to go. There are numerous cruel people in the world who can’t even accept the personhood and rights of other humans and other living beings. Such people aren’t likely to care about the rights and personhood of a river or a chair. In fact, they’ll probably take extra pleasure in destroying objects when they hear that a “thing” could experience some of what living creatures feel and think. The rest of us will develop rites and rituals for communicating and engaging with non-living sentient beings, from the pill in a medicine bottle to an old car that would rather not be junked. We’ll need to find ways to ask permission and gain consent, cut deals and negotiate courses of action, to forgive or ask forgiveness, to release, transform and transmute…
Oh wait, we’ve already got lots of that stuff lying around! To paraphrase Andy Warhol, in the future we’ll all have fifteen minutes of magic. And marriages to a bridge or car will become just another thing that some people do. No big deal–only awkward when the china pattern IS the groom.
[P.S. in case you’re interested, here’s a fascinating general article about synesthesia and sex–published in the Smithsonian so probably “safe for work”.]