It’s called object sexuality, and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like.
People who identify as object sexual—OS, for short—experience profound emotional or physical connections to objects.
In recent years, a number of object sexuals have come forward to publicly proclaim their love for national monuments, plush animals, and just about everything in between. Perhaps most notably, in 2009, Good Morning America featured the story of Erika Eiffel (née Labrie), an American woman who had a commitment ceremony with the Eiffel Tower.
Psychologists haven’t carried out much research on OS. Amy Marsh, DHS, published a study in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality that found OS to be a legitimate sexual orientation, not a disorder.
“I don’t view it as a disorder, because as a sexologist, I don’t generally diagnose or pathologize adult, consensual sexual behavior,” Marsh tells Urbo. “And because objectum sexuality seems to have the hallmarks of an orientation, though a rare one.”
That sounds unintuitive. How could a person have fulfilling human relationships while experiencing deep emotional connections with objects?
To find out, we spoke with several OS people. We’re keeping their identities anonymous for an obvious reason: People don’t look kindly on OS.
1. They don’t like speaking with reporters.
According to a spokesperson for resource website Objectùm-Sexuality Internationale, media presentations of OS are typically full of jokes, judgments, and misrepresentations. For people who are already experiencing discrimination, that’s incredibly frustrating.
“We are still very shy after media has exploited our contributors and viral media has made freak shows and fake news regarding OS,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to Urbo.
“The first English speaking media to present OS was 10 years ago. Ms. Erika Eiffel, our founder, took part. However, the film pathologized and sexualised OS relationships and made them seem devoid of substance and merely a product of trauma or Asperger’s Syndrome. This raised fears which ended up costing Eiffel her relationship. For this reason, OS people are much more reluctant to tell their stories for fear of the same immense cost.”
For the record, Marsh’s study found that childhood trauma doesn’t appear to be a factor in the development of OS, noting that the orientation wouldn’t be nearly as rare if trauma were a factor.
“[People say] it’s a fetish, that it’s an illness we suffer from, or that these relationships are a stand in for ‘real relationships we can’t get,'” writes Crow, an objectum person who we found through an OS forum, in an email. “None of those things are true.”
“Our object loves are equals, we care about their emotional fulfillment as much as our own,” Crow says. “While it’s highly correlated to neurodivergence, it’s not harmful or an illness of any sort on its own and that’s no excuse to deny it as a genuine orientation.”
Neurodivergence, by the way, refers to atypical neurological development—in other words, Crow says that while OS people might think differently, there’s no reason to assume that they’re broken.
“After 10 years, the media still misses the heart in OS relationships,” the OS Internationale spokesperson writes. “With the new trend in viral videos, the OS topic sadly feeds those hungry for freak shows.”
2. Realizing that you’re able to love objects isn’t easy.
“I didn’t realize I was OS till I was 19, though I’d obviously had some bits and signs of it before then that I just never registered and am looking back on and now processing as OS feelings,” Crow, writes.
“It started when I got curious and looked for cargo ship (human/object) fanfiction and…kept looking. I poked at OS as an idea, looked at videos, perused Objectum Sexuality Internationale’s website a while, all because I was ‘just curious.’ Eventually I said to myself, ‘Wow, I really want a relationship like that…’ and a little lightbulb went off in my head.”
Currently, Crow doesn’t publicly broadcast their orientation. We asked whether they’ve told their family.
“I’ve never come out to my family about it and probably never will unless they find out through some media source,” Crow says. “They’d never receive it well or accept it, they’d laugh and deny my orientation even exists or think it’s some weird kink thing or I just need a better ‘real’ relationship or something. Maybe they’d pity me.”
“My friends, thankfully, have been nothing but supportive of me! They’re all generally very nice and accepting and often equally as strange and queer as me, so I was happy when I got so much positivity after coming out.”
3. Many OS people believe that they can communicate with the objects of their affection.
OS Internationale sees a distinction between people with Asperger’s OS—forms when people with Asperger’s develop strong fixations on objects—and animist OS people, who see objects as sentient.
“Animist OS people rely heavily on strong spiritual-energetic connections to objects,” the spokesperson says.
To OS people, this isn’t such a rare type of connection; after all, most people attach special significance to certain objects throughout their lives.
“If one observes children, they innately perceive personality in the objects around them,” OS Internationale writes. “These animistic interactions with objects are unlearned as children age. However, animist OS people do not unlearn the ability to connect to the things around them.”
To be clear, OS people don’t necessarily think that they can talk to objects directly about, say, world politics. They’re also not in love with every object. Crow tells us that the process isn’t exactly straightforward.
“Every object has something indescribable and unique that attracts me to them. At first, I’d honestly say it’s just the ‘feeling’ or ‘energy’ or ‘spirit,’ whatever you wanna call it, of the object that grabs me first,” Crow says.
“Some stand out to me more, communicate on a frequency I can hear or something, metaphorically. And from there, an individual object could have a million things that attract me to it: Their softness, or angles, or colors, or the way they feel when I touch them, or even just the relationship we have together as object/non-object.”
4. Physical love is often secondary to emotional attachment.
To put it simply, OS isn’t a fetish, and the physical part of the relationship isn’t always the most important component.
“Physical love is a bi-product [sic] of a deeper emotional attraction,” OS Internationale writes. “This falls on a spectrum similar to mainstream relationships. There are some on the end of the spectrum who find the physical love to be more primary to emotional attachment.”
Crow notes that OS, like any orientation, isn’t the same for every person.
“Regardless of the kind of love we feel for objects, it’s about the relationships we have with them and the mutual respect and communication and exchange of feelings that makes an objectum orientation, in my opinion,” they say. “So personally, the emotional part and physical part equally stand out to me, which can still be said of any other person’s experience with other orientations, really.”
“For others I know, the emotional part is all there is to the relationship, with no physical involvement at all. It’s a wide umbrella.”
We asked whether Crow actually sees objects as sentient—can objects really feel? Love? Keep you company?
“I think objects have spirits that hold some level of sentience and ability to emote and communicate,” Crow says. “I believe that they feel things, think, and communicate in very nonhuman ways that have to be learned and carefully adjusted to, but they’ve absolutely shown nothing but a feeling of having that sentience to some degree, at least with the objects I connect with.”
“Some I don’t feel it from, and I just assume I’m not on the wavelength to communicate with that object, so to speak. It’d be kind of overwhelming to feel everything around me that way, I think.”
5. People are remarkably vicious to OS people.
“I’ve been mocked viciously, called a ‘weirdo’ and ‘insane’ and even homophobic for being OS,” Crow says.
“… I’ve also been debased to nothing but sex and had my love oversexualized and mocked, which made me feel absolutely disgusting and terrible. The constant portrayal of OS folk as a sensationalized freaky fetish or as something to be cured makes it nigh impossible for us to have actual discussions about the sexual aspects of being OS, because we’re shamed out of it and too afraid.”
“I’ve also known people who’ve lost their jobs (and feared losing them if outed), who’ve had their object partners sexually harassed as a means of emotionally harassing and abusing them, who’ve had their object partners broken out of hatred, who’ve been called broken and ugly.”
The abuse doesn’t stop there. Crow tells us that they frequently hear ableist, misogynist insults from people who don’t accept the orientation as valid.
6. OS doesn’t prevent people from having more typical relationships with other humans.
Even so, Crow has plenty of healthy human relationships. According to OS Internationale, many animist OS people are perfectly functional members of society, and while they tend to hide their orientation from others, they’re no more broken or damaged than anyone else.
Ultimately, that’s the point that most OS people want to get across to the general public: If they’re not hurting anyone, what’s the problem?
“OS people are harmless to others and themselves,” the OS Internationale spokesperson writes.
And if that’s the case, then why stop them from seeking and experiencing love—as unconventional as that love might seem?
“These relationships are real relationships,” Crow writes. “I get the same ridiculous fuzzy blushing when I look at my object love that I do from looking at a human girl. I love my plush girlfriend and I feel that love back. And it’s not always easy, there’s communication difficulties and you’re not always happy with each other. It’s not some perfect fantasy relationship we use to escape.”