With the creation of this website, I come to the realization that my professional career as a sexologist is likely to be bookended by inquiry into two rather unusual sexual orientations: Objectum Sexuality (OS) and Spectrosexuality (aka Spiritu-Intimacy).
How it started: As a newly minted sexologist (DHS, 2008) I stumbled onto a little known sexual orientation that had been previously consigned to a category of paraphilia. A desire for statues was known as Pygmalionism and any other erotic use of objects was also likely to be classed as a fetish, sometimes based on the type of object. However I found that Objectum Sexuals have full blown, complex emotional, romantic, sexual, and/or spiritual relationships with an array of object lovers. Some Objectum Sexuals are monogamous, some are not. Some detect gender or feel that an object’s gender is important, others do not. And what looks to us like “solo sex” is partner sex to them. If a beloved object is junked or destroyed, they grieve. If they have to negotiate access to a beloved public object and fail, they may experience frustration, anger, and unrequited love. There’s so much more that can be said.
You can download my 2010 article, Love Among the Objectum Sexuals, below. It was based on a non-scientific survey of English-speaking members of OS Internationale. In the article I propose that object personification synesthesia may play a role in the OS person’s detection and emotional response to object personalities. I also refer to OS as an orientation, not a paraphilia. The article has been widely read and I’ve had some media attention as a result.
Nearly ten years later, three English researchers published in Nature Scientific Reports. They refer to OS as an orientation and better yet, confirm that there is a connection to synesthesia (as well as autism). They refer to my survey and article on page one. You can download their article below.
I do so love the vindication the English study brings. I’ve felt for many years that my association with OS has made me an outsider in my field.
How It’s Going: Like OS, Spectrosexuality/Spiritu-intimacy is unusual, Human-spirit sexual encounters and energy intimacies have been labeled as “spectrophilia.” And while there are certainly people who get their kicks and their kinks this way, many people have found themselves in deeper, devotional relationships with spirit beings. Others have been baffled, embarrassed, or worse. Some encounters are a one time thing, never to repeat. Other people report being courted and pursued by spirits, and these relationships can last many years. Some encounters and relationships may be explicitly sexual and erotic, but deep emotional and/or devotional connections sans sex also exist.
I claim this as a full-blown, queer orientation for those who want go in that direction. And I recognize that others will simply enfold these episodes or relationships into other orientations and partner choices that already exist for them. There is no one right way to approach this. Better to acknowledge the full range of variety and behaviors and beings involved.
As I did with OS, I conducted a non-scientific survey from a group of neopagans who already reported some kind of preternatural/supernatural intimacy. This was not a random sample, and was mostly useful from a preliminary, qualitative data perspective. It taught me a little about the lay of the land, though it did not reveal the entire landscape.
Unlike my work with the OS community, this time I am researching from within this realm of spiritu-intimacy. I’ve written personally about my own experiences in my Lady of the Lake blog. So I am definitely “out” now and have the usual concerns about the impact on my professional life, personal life, and so on.
As a sexologist and sexuality counselor, I care about the kind of care people will get and the kinds of respect and justice that will be accorded to them. Many people are ashamed, afraid, and uncertain when they’ve had intimacy with spirits, deities, demons, ‘the fae,” and others. Everyone who has experienced this could use more reassurance and information.
A Basic Clinical Approach
Just for starters, I propose two things. The first is an enfolding of these clients and their spectrosexual/spiritu-intimacy experiences into your framework of counseling competencies and ethics, and approach them as you would other spiritual and religious beliefs. Acknowledge what the clients feel, think, and experience without trying to stamp their accounts with your own sense of “reality.” You can download one such competency document below. (It is meant to augment the American Counseling Association counseling competencies, also below).
The second thing is to train in and adopt therapy/counseling models which will enable you to work well with such clients. I have already mentioned Dr. Gina Ogden’s “Four-Wheel Dimension of Sexual Experience” (aka “4-D Wheel” — formerly known as the “ISIS Wheel”), below. This is because 4-D Wheel work is flexible enough to accommodate spiritual experiences of all kinds. Dr. Daniel Foor’s Animist Psychology training could also inform your clinical approach.
As always, do not rely on your clients to educate you.
And so there you have it, for now. Much, much more to come.