Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Objectophilia


I recently discovered the online abbreviation YKINMK (standing for Your Kink Is Not My Kink), sometimes expanded to YKINMKBYKIOK (Your Kink Is Not My Kink But Your Kink Is Okay). The latter sounds a generously tolerant note - why not do the thing you do as long as it doesn't frighten the horses? A more recent discussion informed me that the acronym is not quite as amiably tolerant as I assumed, and appears in some quite unsettling contexts. Ah me, such times we live in.

Here's a recycled TLS blog from a few years ago about an unusual sexual preference to which YKINMK seems a likely response. 


Love letters


World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural.

Louis MacNeice’s lines come to mind in any consideration of objectophilia – also known by the German term Objektophilie (OS) – a profoundly strange sexual orientation expressed through an intense physical and emotional relationship with inanimate objects. Media coverage tends to adopt a chortling and prurient tone when reporting cases such as that of a thirty-seven-year-old former soldier named Erika LaBrie, who went through a “commitment ceremony” in 2008, taking as her partner a major Paris landmark and changing her name to Erika La Tour Eiffel. She pictured her spouse as female: “What we have is real and if it's only real to me and it's only real to her then that's fine”.
The objects of OS affection are jaw-droppingly bizarre – an electronic keyboard, the Twin Towers, a length of fencing, a guillotine, a particular bridge, buttons, a roller-coaster, a ferris wheel, a family saloon car. Nothing, it seems, is off-limits. Of particular interest to those of us with a literary bent is the case of Eva K., a woman from the Netherlands who has an intense relationship with words that exceeds any run-of-the-mill logophilia. Writing on an OS website in 2011 she said: “To fall in love with a word, a logo or a name has always been something entirely normal to me. As a young girl I already felt an exceptional, inflationary attraction to the spoken, and most of all to the written word, which no other person around me seemed to understand.”
Much more than a mere liking for a particular word or phrase, hers is a passionate and compensating obsession. She cannot imagine romantic relations with a human being and has never, she says, felt any attraction to others, in this respect seeing herself as an androgynous, asexual being.
Her emotional investment in words is complex and sophisticated, involving what she describes as “the most delicate fine tuning which is comparable to experiencing music or art”. She adds: “During my life there must have been over 50 very special words and names I was madly . . . passionately in love with. I have documented them all . . . Being in love with a word means: All the things one would experience when in love with a person; all emotions associated with adoring feelings of love, romance and erotic sensitivity.
Eva consummates her desire “through the making of graphic creations. I usually design my own artworks with the words, sentences, or names I love”. She is “powerfully attracted” to Russian, Polish, and Latin and, although no linguist, has an affectionate regard for grammar rules and particular lexical items, declinations and conjugations: “It is about specific combinations of letters. The kind of typeface plays a big additional part. In general I do not like words written entirely in CAPITALS, but prefer Capital + lowercases. There are a few typefaces I really love in which my words appear in the most attractive way. In my letter-object-artworks this is the typeface I habitually use.”
OS has been linked to psychological conditions including Asperger Syndrome, sexual trauma, gender dysphoria and synaesthesia. It seems to me that objectophiles in general, and Eva K. in particular, present, in an extreme form, a tendency to be found in many creative artists and writers. There are writers whose fictions – if only in the mildest way – seem to me to take an objectophile perspective on the world. There is Nicholson Baker, for example, with his intense scrutiny of library systems; J. G. Ballard, with his concrete flyovers and eroticized automobiles; William Burroughs. And that’s just the Bs.
In myth Endymion aimed high and fell for the moon (and why OS isn’t known as an Endymion complex is a matter to ponder) and there is no end of erotic objectification in literature – Volpone’s feeling for gold goes beyond the merely miserly.
It’s impossible to make sweeping statements about such a complex condition although research suggests that many objectophiles are female and cheerfully polygamous. Eva K. continues: “My deepest emotions have always been shared with written words, names, and languages. However in the past I have had romantic attractions to public objects from here in the Netherlands and also outside of the Netherlands. Among them was a world-renowned hydraulic flood barrier in Holland who was my love for six years as well as a wonderful floating crane and a few other public buildings that I have shared an objectum-sexual love.”
A scholarly account of the condition is “Love Among the Objectum Sexuals” by Amy Marsh, DHS, ACS, available online in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality (Volume 13, March 1, 2010).
Eva K. concludes: “Words, names, and languages always were my greatest and most passionate loves . . . and will probably remain so as long as I live”.

1 comment:

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