For years there has been a group of people with a particular paraphilia and are called “devotees”. It is one of the most particular sexual attractions.
Attraction to disability is a sexualised interest in the appearance, sensation and experience of disability. It may extend from normal human sexuality into a type of sexual fetishism.
Our curiosity (and perhaps many of you asking about it), has led us to look for and tell the true stories of some of these men. I met many men with this passion/attraction, but in this article we will be talking about one of them – a charismatic and intelligent man who has asked us to keep his anonymity.
Why is he and others like him hiding under anonymity? Because people judge. They tend to put a label before trying to get to know someone better. And because most of us around are pointing to men like him and saying that they are not “normal.” But we wonder; what is the normality?
We respect his decision to preserve anonymity and we thank him for his readiness to tell his story for our magazine.
Anonymous: To commence this narrative about my life as a devotee, it might be a good idea to first describe myself a bit. I cannot think of myself without mentioning my hobbies as they are passions of mine and could be said to be an important way of how I relate with and interpret the world. I am very much into literature, films and video games. Being an introvert, I relish any time I can have for myself to engage with these activities. I also enjoy travelling and exploring new places a lot. With that said, I don’t wish to give the impression that I am a lone wolf. I enjoy the company of others, most especially those with similar interests or perspective on life. I don’t think there is anything better than engaging in a deep conversation with someone and getting to really know one another.
But this is about me being a devotee. All narratives have a beginning but I am afraid the waters are somewhat murky here. I don’t think I can pinpoint an exact moment or age which started it all. However, I can safely say that the attraction for disabled women started at quite an early age, most probably around 7 to 8 years old. At first I did not pay it much attention and with sexuality still being in the distant horizon, it was not much of an issue. Things started to change when the teenage years crept in. Hormones began acting up for everyone and, naturally, the (boy) friends I kept company with talked more and more about girls. I started to notice that my attraction for non-disabled girls was nowhere near as strong as for disabled ones (by this point paraplegic women had become the ones I felt attracted to the most) but, obviously, it was not something I could share.
An oppressive sense of isolation began building up. Since being a teen, I have always felt to be somewhat of a misfit and that I don’t belong. It is only quite recently that I came to realise that this may have its roots in being a devotee although perhaps not entirely. Having to constantly hide one’s sexuality and putting up a mask certainly builds a wall separating one’s self from others.
A few years into my teens, the internet arrived. As we all can now recognize, this phenomenon changed a lot of facets of our lives to the point of being irrevocable in some instances. Both devotees and the disabled have been caught in its wake. In my case, the internet brought the first contact and, consequently, awareness of others who are attracted to the disabled. I also discovered that there was a label for us, the aforementioned devotees. I will come to the connotations associated with such a label later. At first this was somewhat of a relief as I recognized that I was not actually alone in the world with this ‘condition’. Nevertheless, there wasn’t, and still isn’t, any feeling of community or system of support between devotees. Most of the interaction is centred around the hoarding and trading of material (photos, videos etc). Thus, my loneliness wasn’t really dispersed.
Besides contact with other devotees, the internet also brought interaction with the disabled. The latter started becoming more and more aware of our existence and the reactions were not positive to say the least. This instilled a strong sense of guilt in me. I mean it was in the back of my mind quite early on that I found an unwanted situation (i.e. disability) attractive and how this did not make any logical sense. But seeing the strong dislike, sometimes downright hate, expressed towards us exacerbated this a lot. I eventually realized that a lot of factors contributed to the generally negative associations with devos.
Most notably is the behavior by an alarming number of devos. I am referring to what is now probably common knowledge which amongst others include: the invasion of privacy, harassment and, perhaps worst of all, assuming a fake identity by pretending to be someone disabled. I can understand what can lead to such acts. The loneliness and sexual frustration are terrible for most of us; feelings which are underestimated and unarticulated in my opinion after having to suffer from them everyday. Yet, these behaviors cannot be condoned and they have done so much damage to the relationship between the two communities.
I myself tried contacting disabled women quite a number of times especially these last couple of years using a blank fake profile. The majority simply ignored me as could be expected unfortunately while about three responded positively and with whom I had quite deep and honest conversations. It is actually beautiful and liberating to establish such a contact, to remove this heavy mask and be able to talk freely.
From my end, I don’t just see an attractive woman in a wheelchair as a sexual object. I am interested in the person, her story. Still, it is very difficult to approach someone disabled and talk about this, how what they dislike about their body actually attracts you. Trying to satisfy my sexual desires is even more difficult and I see it as impossible at the moment. Unfortunately, there is the added burden to all this that talk about sex and one’s sexuality is often rigid and full of norms and rules. My personal opinion is that such an intimate facet of being as one’s sexuality shouldn’t be so tightly bound to conformation. This does a lot of harm to many individuals who we are unaware of when such matters which are so private are subjected to an entirely public discourse. But to continue on this would be digressing.
I can only hope that the channels of communication between devotees and disabled continue opening more. It is only through honest communication that we may make some sense of this mess, to realise that we share a common ground in that we both are in a situation which we did not ask for and aim to help each other on the long road towards acceptance.