Understanding Devoteeism: The Sexual Attraction to Disability

I Google image searched "Disabled sexuality"...big mistake.

Some people like red-heads. Others like broad shoulders, and muscles growing atop muscles. And some like disabled and atrophying.

No lie, some people find disability sexually attractive. People who favour this fetish see certain aspects of disability, such as amputation, paralysis, and muscle weakness as sexually desirable–and often fantasize about obtaining a disability of their own (more deets on that in another post). Persons who experience this preference are commonly called “Devotees.”

In order to get the down-low on this sexual attraction, I threw every silly query I could think of into Google, sifting through the deep, dark, objectifying sites and seeing some things that can’t be unseen (another time, another post). Then, I found a forum for devotees, and promptly joined it, explaining my disability, my personal curiosity towards devotees, and my intent to blog about devoteeism. Here’s what I learned from the people I corresponded with, and the Internet more generally:

1. Devoteeism Just Is. A large part of the questions I had for devos revolved around the motive for their attraction. I wanted to know if they were attracted to vulnerability, or helping, or control. I wanted to know if they liked the perceived “wrongness of her body”(wording I found in one of the dark crevices of a Devo group on Yahoo). Most accurately, I needed to know: Why the fuck anyone would be attracted to this aspect of a person, so naturally, I asked:

“What is it about disability that’s sexy? And why?”

Some said helping “melted” them, Another told me that the way people with disabilities “did things differently” drew him in. One fella said he saw leg braces like “jewellery” and explained in-depth that the way these feet-helpers moved with his lover’s body had something attractive about it. But eventually, in all the differing replies, fantasies, and chatter about past and present preferences, someone answered my question in a way that screamed sensical:

Screenshot 2014-09-16 18.25.13

Sorry–It’s my first shot with screenshots.

For all of you that don’t have hawk eyes, this person serves me my answer with a side of fries when they say, “If a person happens to have a disability that I find attractive, it does make them as a whole more attractive to me[…] Again though–I’m not really sure why? To me, it’s sort of like if you were to ask a gay guy why he prefers men to women. He knows he does, but maybe not why that’s the case?” (Italics added).

So there it is–the answer to end all answers for skepticism regarding pretty much any sexual preference.Just as most people are unsure of the exact reasons for their sexual tendencies/ desires, fantasies, so too are devotees. Sexual attraction to disability just is. It’s here, it’s fierce, and from what I can tell, it’s not going anywhere.

2. Rainbows Within Rainbows Another thing I was surprised by is the level of diverse attractions that exist within devoteeism. Looking back, it seems obvious that this would be the case, like how some  people prefer blondes–BUT it’s a bit more complicated than that with devoteeism. Many devotees are attracted to specific types of disabilities. This particular attraction is often dived up in subsets–which are (not surprisingly) often hierarchical in nature. The most commonly identified sexual attraction within devoteesim is amputation, specifically of the lower legs. Paralysis–from para (lower paralysis) to quad (upper and lower body paralysis) wheels a close second, and then a bunch of others–MD, MS, CP, SMA, etc etc on and on forever, are lagging behind for the bronze.

At first, this hierarchy annoyed me. Like seriously, you’re going to be choosy about a population that is already pretty small? It’s not enough that the person is preferred disabled, they have to be disabled like so so you can really pop that boner? Come on now, you’re a douche.

And then I calmed the fuck down and remembered that people like whatever they like. Many-a-time, devos would reiterate to me that their attraction is person-centred. Nearly everyone I interacted with explained, “I HAVE TO LIKE THE WOMAN FIRST”–One person actually wrote that, in caps, to be sure I got the message/ shoved ignorance up my butt.

Many of the disability-related-attractions overlap. Some are drawn to muscle spasms–which occur in many physical disabilities (quad, para, MS, CP, etc etc etc etc). Some like “skinny legs” (yep, it’s a thing.) which happen in many many many physical impairments. Then there’s attraction to people in wheelchairs, or walkers, or scooters. But what’s really interesting is that many a devotee are initially attracted to what I call resourcefulness. Many devos like that we figure our lives out differently. It’s a turn on how we make up a new way to put on a shirt, because the usual way just doesn’t work when you have chicken arms. This seems like a logical attraction to me– I’m attracted to people who know how to do things I can’t, like, only all the time. Resourcefulness is hot.

So, while there is quite a hierarchy with devoteeism (which by the way, aligns quite nicely with societal ableism, generally) people’s attractions are often fluid, as is the case with everyone. And like with all groups of people, devotees have some creeps too–the ones who only see disability, or can be attracted to disability without finding the person attractive. These people would be creepy no matter what their fetish was. I did find some pretty bleak stuff–but I think that’s another post.

3. Disability Narratives and Attraction This last point doesn’t stem from direct interaction with devos, but from my observation. Before coming across the forums, I found a site called ParaDevo.org, which is bursting with erotica that depicts men with disabilities–as written and fantasized about by female devotees. I poured over this (all in the name of research, obviously…) and was mostly pleasantly surprised. The porn is written well, and focuses very little on disabilities themselves. By this I mean, I mostly just read stories thinking, “Oh, this is about my life.” I related to the descriptions often–and though I’ve been with disabled people, I’m not attracted to disability. What I mean is, the descriptions were not “devious” or strange, just regular old porn on paper. Things on the site were hierarchical as with the devo forums, with hundreds of Paraplegia writings, and only 4 CP stories, a meager SMA tales. Inline with this, I noticed something else: the more severe the disability being fantasized,  the greater the disability narrative. Meaning, with paralysis pieces, there’d be the odd acknowledgement of floppy legs or skinny caves, but outside of that, the porn was regular: People who wanted to fuck, fucked, and it was great. With disabilities like MD and SMA though, the porn had a different flavor, describing care routines, and emotional moments and sexual awakenings (on the part of the disabled person). It seems like, the idea of “helping a person realize they’re sexy,” and helping the person in general is a big part of the porn describing more severe disabilities. I understand why this is, but it saddens me a little. Not every person with a severe disability gives up on their sexuality, or their dreams, or forgets what their dick looks like. This element of the porn feeds into misconception….

Anyway. I have so much more to share, but I will stop for now. I hope in the in the very least this opens up discussion around sexual attraction to disability–its positives, negatives and neutrals. Happy Tuesday! Oh wow, it’s Wednesday.  There goes that.

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11 Comments

  1. Hi, thanks for writing this post. I’m a devotee, and I’ve been searching around for perspectives of people with disabilities regarding devoteeism. I’ve learned something new (and often painful) from most of these pieces. There isn’t enough out there for me to make a statistical assessment, but I’ve certainly run into quite a lot of not-so-positive views of the attraction, mainly that we are all creeps (it was nice to read your kinder view). I can certainly understand that some people would feel a sense of resentment at someone finding pleasure in what is probably a significant source of pain for them. I also note the behavior of some devotees, writing extremely unpleasant things, harassing people, stealing pictures off Facebook, etc. which is appalling. It reminds me of the situation in the Muslim world where you have a small insane minority grabbing all the attention and giving a pretty bad impression to the rest of the world about a huge and diverse group of people.

    I would like to think that most devotees care about the person first, and see the disability as an added attraction but no substitute for personality, humor, looks, intelligence, etc. which are the foundation of any real relationship. I wonder if the crazies have driven the nicer devotees underground, for fear of being associated with them. That’s how I’ve felt for a long time, although I’ve decided to stop hiding, mainly because I know I’m a gentleman and believe that others will see that too, if they can see past the devotee thing.

    I should say that I’ve never actually approached or ‘hit on’ a PwD. A big part of this is being unsure what the ethics of the situation are. Should I introduce myself as a devotee? Drop it in before asking for her number? The second date? Is it wrong to attend a disability-related event in the hopes of meeting someone I find attractive (in all dimensions)? Is it wrong altogether for devotees to approach a PwD in real life because of their creepy reputation? In that case, is the internet the only option, and how does one play it there?

    Anyway, a lot of questions, not expecting you to have all the answers, but your thoughtful article deserved at least 1 comment!

    • Hi Kieran,
      Thank you for your candidness, your courage to self-identify, and your honesty in bringing up awesome questions. I’m glad you finally feel you can be somewhat open about being a devotee, I hope it at least partially liberating for you.
      It’s saddening to think that a select group of creepy devos might’ve scared the “gentlemen” underground. I think the only tangible way to combat this is to openly talk about devoteeism, what it means, what it doesn’t mean, and (harmful) stigma that is attached to it. Fear seems to be the main motivator behind misconceptions of this seual preference, and I think the best cure for fearr is knowledge (as cliche as that may sound).
      Re: how to approach a PwD as a devo–take comfort and knowing your one of quite a few devos to ask that. The answer is not cut-and-dry, the same way that not every “technique” works on every person when asking them out. My personal instincs say that it is not neccessary to disclose your attraction right away, unless you are asked. I don’t think you should feel you have to hide your attraction, but, in the same way that a person who is attracted to people with red hair doesnt approach a ginger with “Do you want to go for coffee? I’m majorly into reds.” …you shouldn’t feel obligated to disclose. Mention when you are ready, and if you don’t feel ready after a little while, contemplate what’s holding you back.
      As for attending disability events for the disabled people…. I’m not sure this would bode well with PwD. While I don’t think the Internet is your only option, I think attending disability related events because of your attraction is..well..there are other ways to get to know people with disabilities.

      I really, truly, wish I had more to offer, Kieran. Take care.

  2. Thanks for tackling my questions (especially for the advice on etiquette!) I definitely agree that a big part of the problem is that lack of openness and communication about the subject. It can’t help that to many (most?) PwDs, devotees are known simply as a kind of amorphous, faceless, and uncongenial internet presence (heck, that is probably how most devotees are known to themselves, as a group).

    The part of being a devotee that I feel good about and comfortable with (after much soul searching), is believing that people with disabilities are especially attractive. What I don’t feel so good about is where much of the practice and culture of it seems to be, particularly the absence of meaningful interaction with and a disengaged voyeuristic approach to the ‘objects’ of desire.

    When that’s the ‘culture’ or ‘group identity’ (and when you’ve been guilty of some of its vices), it’s hard to stick your hand up and say, “I’m part of that group”. And without people taking that kind of responsibility no real culture or identity worth the name can emerge. The shame of it being that (I think) most devs are quite nice people really and should get along just great with PwDs! I do think that the negative manifestations of the devotee phenomenon are primarily a result of circumstance, stigma (about disability and sexual difference), and (absence of) culture rather than anything inherently wrong with the attraction. And I live in hope that there’s a way for devotees, individually or perhaps even as a group, to express their attraction in a more positive manner.

    Anyway, thank you for a stimulating exchange, and for keeping up a very insightful blog in general. You’ve convinced me to do some writing on this subject. All the best,

  3. Again, thanks for sharing.The connections you make between stigmitized culture around disability and the lack of positive culture around devoteesim are significant. Perhaps the question then becomes, “How does any group which identifies with a certain sexual attraction find positivity? How do they find validity outside the walls of a chatroom?”–The issue, maybe, is that sexual attractions are quite automatically pegged as private and cringe-worthy, no matter what the particular fetish involves.
    It’s for this reason that I hope you do write. The internet is stocked to the rim with garbage on devos. I hope you can write about what is attractive about disability. I hope that you can ask others to see your attraction as just that–nothing more and nothing less. Maybe you could even meet other devos in person, to support each other and keep the attraction (and the change you wish to see around how society views devoteeism) into perspective. Dream big.

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