Feb. 2020 Update: A team of UK researchers have published a peer-reviewed study in Dec. 2019, which provides strong evidence that my 2010 hypothesis about OS links to autism and synesthesia are correct. Link to PDF of 2019 study: Simner et al. OS-Autism:Synesthesia Nature 2019
Link to PDF of my 2010 survey article: LOVE AMONG THE OBJECTUM SEXUALS
Earlier this year Denham Hitchcock from Australia’s Channel 7 Sunday Night interviewed me for the “Object Love” segment, which aired May 19, 2019 (right after the full moon in Scorpio, please note!). Unfortunately I haven’t seen it yet as the link on this page doesn’t load or play for me, for some reason. But I am looking forward to watching it someday soon.
I had a wonderful time the day we filmed and enjoyed meeting Denham, Karen Willing the producer, and the sound and light guys. They flew into SFO the night before, drove three hours to Lake County the next morning, shoved furniture around (good thing I vacuumed under the couch!), and filled the living room and kitchen with cases of equipment. I made breakfast for them too. (Denham kept urging the others to eat, claiming that I was “a feeder.” I wonder if his new mother-in-law is one of those too?) It was all rather thrilling and good fun! Afterwards, I realized I’d be perfectly happy if I could only be trailed by a handsome reporter and a fabulous production crew for the rest of my life… (That’s a joke, folks. Mostly I live like a hermit with several cats.)
Because I’ve learned a thing or two since 2009, when I coped with the bizarre aftermath of appearances on Good Morning America (Apr.) and Tyra Banks (Oct.), as well as National Geographic Taboo, Google now helps me track where I show up in international media. I’ve turned up in the strangest places, mostly thanks to stories about Objectum Sexuality (O.S.). My 2009 article, “Love Among the Objectum Sexuals,” published in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, still seems to be the “go to” place for journalists who are interested in this topic. I get several inquiries a year. And there are many more who write a story or cite me in a study without ever getting in touch. That’s okay.
I do this partly because it’s a challenge for journalists to turn a complicated issue into reasonable soundbites and there are always mistakes. For example, I’ve been called a psychologist when I’m actually a sexologist. (I’ve also been called a “whack job of a sexologist” which gives me weird Lorena Bobbitt vibes, but whatever…)
This recent coverage, with subsequent spin-off articles, has produced its share of hyperbole and error.
(1) I’m not comfortable with this article’s claim that I’m “the world’s foremost expert on the condition known as object love.” I think the people who are Objectum Sexuals are the true experts. I just helped compile and organize some data. It is true though that I published the first sexological article based on a survey (see link above). But other academics have also written about O.S. They just don’t come up as quickly on the search engines, I guess.
(2) My survey was of 21 English-speaking members of Objectum-Sexuality Internationale. Not dozens, as the above article claimed. It’s the qualitative data that really mattered. Looking back, I should have approached this inquiry as a cultural anthropology type of study, but then, I’m not a cultural anthropologist.
(3) Object personification synesthesia–cause or correlation? I’m rather happy that this article leads with object personification synesthesia instead of objectum sexuality, actually. It makes for a refreshing change. However… it leaps ahead with an assumption of causality which has not yet been proven. [See Feb. 2020 update above.]
In 2009 I proposed this form of synesthesia as a plausible and possible explanation for some people who are affectionately, romantically, and/or sexually oriented towards objects.
The synesthesia explanation seems plausible from a sexological view because human beings have erotic responses to just about anything and everything. It is plausible from a psychological view because if some people sense personalities in objects and have emotional responses to some of them, then it’s logical to assume that some of those emotional responses may involve love and sexual attraction.
In addition, synesthesia (in all its myriad forms) is higher among people who are autistic. And since a certain number of the O.S. people I surveyed were either diagnosed as autistic or felt they had significant autistic traits, it seemed logical to wonder if there was a correlation, or even possibly a causal relationship. I did do another, shorter survey and a fair number (don’t remember it now) of O.S. folks reported other kinds of synesthesia-like experiences.
However, I’ve always said “this needs more study.” And I have never, ever claimed to be an expert in object personification synesthesia, as this article claims for me.
(4) As a sexologist, I don’t view O.S. as a “disorder” or as pathological in any way. I view it as a legitimate sexual and/or affectionate/romantic orientation that seems rather rare (but could be more common than we realize). This article calls O.S. a “bizarre relationship disorder.” Sigh.
(5) Media has been a curse as well as a blessing to O.S. people. On the one hand, it is very good that people who love objects know there are others like them. That’s the good that media does.
But when media reports include distortions, hyperbole, and inflated assertions, this deters legitimate researchers. No one, except eccentrics like me, will want to tie their present and future career to something that is a laughing stock among their colleagues. Yet without ethical, intellectual inquiry into this topic, there’s a danger that media could also inflame persecution of O.S. people. Such persecution could include hate crimes, discrimination, deliberate destruction of someone’s object love, even development of so-called “conversion” therapies (which are known to be unethical as well as cruel), and so on.
(6) My focus on O.S. has always been to foster a kind of “cultural competency” among helping professionals. O.S. people have the same needs as other people do. They need their relationships and preferences to be accepted and honored. If they are grieving over the loss of an object or the loss of a relationship with an object, they need that loss to be acknowledged and tenderly held. They do not need to be told they are crazy or traumatized, unless their history does in fact contain co-morbid mental health conditions or actual trauma. In that case, you treat the trauma or the disorder, NOT the sexual or affectionate orientation.
Please see my free course for clinicians, on this page and spend a couple of hours with a more useful perspective on Objectum Sexuality.