The long-running war between the sexes is often interrupted by brief ceasefires, usually to enable fraternizing with the enemy, but some of us are ready to stop the fighting and go home -- alone. Same-sex marriage has brought partisan politics to a boil, and now no-sex marriage is coming at us from Europe.
Eija-Riita Eklof-Mauer, a Swedish lass of indeterminate age, is carrying the torch for what you might call a very substantial lover. Soon after she married him nearly 18 years ago he was set upon by a horde of vengeance-seekers, armed with hammers and chisels, and soon the lover was gone with the wind. The bride had fallen in love with the Berlin Wall. She legally changed her name to Eklof-Mauer, because "Mauer" means "wall" in German, and now she's a young widow. "With the emotional bonds, deep love, good memories together with him . . . the only way to survive is to block this terrible event," she wrote in her diary of the day the wall dividing East and West finally fell.
As my columnist-colleague Dave Barry would say, "I am not making this up." The Widow Eklof-Mauer suffers a bizarre sexual obsession with a scientific name, called "objectophilia." She is scientifically called an "objectumsexual." Not everyone with the obsession has a thing for buildings, but many do. Some objectophilians are hung up on cars, laptops, musical instruments and even toy trains. They can even feel arousal, which is sad because this kind of love is necessarily unrequited. But unrequited love, as we all know, can be the most magnificent obsession of all. Literature is full of it.
Another young woman, identified in the academic literature only as Sandy K., is a widow, too. Her "husband" was the World Trade Center. She regarded the Twin Towers as male, sexy and extremely desirable, and it doesn't require the diagnostic skill of a sex therapist to figure out the why and wherefore of her fantasy. Her sad story is told by Spiegel Online, the authoritative German newsmagazine. "When it comes to love," she says, "I am only attracted to objects. I couldn't imagine a love affair with a human being."
Though buildings seem particularly seductive, objectumsexuals can focus their affections on almost any inanimate object (which many women will say includes their human husbands). Joachim A. is 41 and like many men before him was attracted at an early age to toy trains. He was only 12 when he fell hard "into an emotionally and physically very complex and deep relationship [with toy trains], which lasted for years." He had a brief flirtation with a Hammond organ (I'm not making this up, either), briefly going off the miniature rails. He's particularly susceptible to the seduction of the inner workings of mechanical objects, and repairing machines has sometimes led him down a path not of tiny crossties, but of primroses. "A love affair," he told Spiegel Online, "could very well begin with a broken radiator."
It's tempting to laugh, but surely it's only a matter of time, and not much of it, before objectumsexuals will demand government recognition of their sexual inclinations. Karl Rove will see them as an exploitable voting bloc. But surely they'll have to find something cleverer and catchier to call themselves in their mania for heavy metal, bricks, mortar and shiny things if they want to make a mark on the political culture. The word "gay" is taken, but they could call themselves "cheerfuls" or "convivials." Or maybe "glees."
Objectophiles, in fact, come in both heterosexual and homosexual persuasions. One male objectumsexual dotes on his laptop, a Macintosh (naturally), and it's definitely male. "I'm living in a homosexual relationship, so to speak," he says. Doro B., a lesbian, fell for her metal processing machine at work and "immediately sensed a female presence." She grooves on its "sweet feminine hum."
But if the "glees" or "cheerfuls" don't yet have government recognition, they have a growing body of academic literature, and some of the news is ominous. Volkmar Sigusch, a professor and former director of the Institute for Sexual Science at Germany's Frankfurt University, sees objectophilia as evidence of a general cultural drift into asexuality. "More and more people either openly declare or can be seen to live without any intimate or trusting relationship with another person," he says. But the professor notes that objectophiles aren't hurting anyone. "They're not abusing or traumatizing other people. Who else can you say that about?" And they keep their toys snugly in the closet. If you don't ask, they won't tell.