Did a Woman Married to the Eiffel Tower Divorce the Monument for a Fence?

The concept of people "marrying" inanimate objects often creates a stir on social media.

Published July 15, 2023

 (Twitter user @PicturesFoIder)
Image courtesy of Twitter user @PicturesFoIder

In 2023, a story went viral on Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, and TikTok claiming that a woman who was married to the Eiffel Tower got a divorce from the monument to pursue her new love: a fence. 

The rumor circulated, in part, due to a post by the Instagram account ComedySlam on June 7, 2023. The post contained a meme (the image that is at the top of this article) and a video that showed the woman hugging and kissing what appeared to be the Eiffel Tower and then touching and straddling a red fence.

The Instagram post's caption read:

American woman had, in 2007, come out about being attracted to inanimate objects. She had famously 'married' the Eiffel Tower that year, in what was described as a commitment ceremony that took place in Paris, France. 

However, Erika LaBrie, who is 50 years old now, is now bored of her relationship with Eiffel Tower and is now attracted to a fence, which she wants to get better acquainted with. The woman characterises herself as an objectum sexual, which is a phrase for someone who is drawn romantically or sexually to inanimate items.

Erika Eiffel (née LaBrie — she changed her last name after a commitment ceremony) is a real person, and the claim that she came out as being attracted to inanimate objects and held a commitment ceremony for herself and the Eiffel Tower in 2007 is true, based on various news reports from that time and her own public statements

However, the claim that she "divorced" the monument for another inanimate object — a fence — appeared to be made up from whole cloth, based on real documentary footage that was erroneously captioned in social media posts.

An American competitive archer, Eiffel first gained media attention in 2008. Among the stories about her was a profile by The Independent published in May 2008, which read:

On first meeting, Erika La Tour Eiffel appears extraordinarily ordinary. An ex-US Army soldier, the 36-year-old lives in San Francisco. She is also a former world champion in archery – propelled to success, she believes, by her love for Lance, a bow. She now claims to be married to the Eiffel Tower, following a ceremony with friends last year in Paris, at which she promised eternal love to the iron monument and changed her name legally to reflect the bond.

'There is a huge problem with being in love with a public object," she says sadly. "The issue of intimacy – or rather lack of it – is forever present.'

However, it is worth underlining that it is not legally possible to marry an inanimate object, either in the U.S or in France, so any such commitment was not officially recognized by the governments of those countries.

Eiffel isn't the only person who has expressed feelings for inanimate objects. For example, in 2016, the artist Tracey Emin announced that she had married a rock. "Objectum sexuality" refers to people that experience emotional, romantic, and/or sexual feelings toward inanimate objects, such as bridges or statues.

Eiffel "married" the Eiffel Tower in a commitment ceremony, which she described as "just a small, informal ceremony," and added "I had vows read in French and then I read a poem to her in English." A commitment ceremony, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is a "ceremony in which two people publicly avow their commitment to each other in a union that is similar to a marriage but without legal status."

As for the claim that her "marriage" to the Eiffel Tower ended and that she was now in love with a fence, that multi-pronged assertion first surfaced online in 2022, when various news websites reported on the video that went viral.

However, there was no evidence of an alleged "divorce" between Erika Eiffel and the Eiffel Tower because of her purported love for a fence.

That story was suspicious for many reasons, foremost among them that her commitment ceremony with the monument was not legally binding, so it was impossible for a court to issue a dissolution of marriage — that is, a divorce.

In a 2014 video published on the TLC UK YouTube channel, Eiffel claimed that, after her commitment ceremony with the Eiffel Tower years earlier, the monument's management wanted "absolutely nothing to do with her." She said she "had to let her go," in reference to the Eiffel Tower, but she did not refer to that step as a "divorce," nor did she share any other details about what happened with her self-described "marriage."

In a Garage magazine article published in 2019, Eiffel spoke of her relationship with the Eiffel Tower ending years before:

Eiffel is nervous to speak, arguing that the media drove her and the Eiffel Tower apart. "Our relationship ended many years ago after the first media sexualized and sensationalized my story to the point I was no longer welcome as I always had been. Though I still visit Paris often and hold Eiffel dear to my heart, I am in a new relationship and quite happy," she says. Eiffel won't disclose details of her new object partner, but she says that her family and friends support the union. "My partner lives with me, so no one can raise a stink that my partner is publicly owned."

Footage in the June 2023 Instagram video and other posts that showed Eiffel talking about her attraction to a fence was originally captured for a 2008 documentary, titled "Married to the Eiffel Tower," produced by Agnieszka Piotrkowska.

At one point in the documentary, Eiffel was seen touching a red fence, saying she's "definitely physically attracted to this fence" and "would like to get to know this fence better." In another part of the documentary, she declared her love for the Eiffel Tower. The footage, which was also featured in the June 2023 Instagram video, showed her hugging its structure, saying "the cold of her steel is flowing into my body and we are reaching equilibrium," and claiming "she [the Eiffel Tower] definitely loves me back."

In 2008, Eiffel founded the Objectùm-Sexuality Internationale (OSI), an organization "designed to offer a support network for objectùm-sexuals (Objektophile) and education for friends and family about objectùm-sexuality (Objektophil), and insight into the "way of accepting, living, and adapting as individuals who are in love with objects." That organization denounced the 2008 documentary on its website, calling it an "exploitative and sensationalized take on [object sexuality]."

The organization's website also stated that Eija-Riitta Eklöf-Berliner-Mauer, married to the Berlin Wall since 1979, found Erika Eiffel in 2006 and the two became friends. With another advocate — Oliver Arndt from Germany — they claimed to have built the largest network of objectum-sexual people from different countries.

We contacted Eiffel via email from OSI's website and she confirmed our findings, underlining that the documentary from 2008 was a poor representation of her story, and providing us with a broader perspective on her relationship with the Eiffel Tower:

The footage is from an old documentary from 2008 that was a poor representation of my story and definitely cannot be taken as factual. The director exploited my story for the sake of shock value.

The truth is, one cannot legally marry an object. My relationship with the Eiffel Tower was solidified with a commitment ceremony in 2007 in the presence of close friends and family but had no legal standing. Nor did I wish it to.  

Frankly I do not need a church or state to validate my relationship.  I was content to legally change my surname to Eiffel as a reflection of my commitment to my partner and also to myself as an OS person.

As for my relationship today... I went through a period of euphoria when I found other OS people nearly 20 years ago and this empowerment gave me a great amount of courage to build a relationship with such a public object...    

I admittedly bit off more than I could chew regarding what I thought my heart wanted.  That being said, our relationship still exists but I do not speak anymore about it and I have come to realise my heart is happier without the public pressure.  Our relationship was always more spiritual and emotional rather than physical which suited me then and suits me today. 

She also refuted the rumors on her alleged relationship with a red fence:

Regarding the fence, I never had a relationship with fences. I only mentioned that I adore them and found them attractive. Media made it seem otherwise. Media has often distorted my story for the sake of clicks... Sadly, they have never grasped the real story I tried to tell when I was an activist trying to raise awareness in the early days.

Aleksandra Wrona is a reporting fellow for Snopes, based in the Warsaw area.