What is Devoteeism?

When most people first hear about disability devoteeism, it sounds disturbing.  We tend to see people with disabilities in the same category as young children and the very old.  They need protecting, they are frail and unable to compete in the regular workings of society.  So someone wanting to have sex with them?  It sounds sick and wrong.

The problem is not with the attraction, the problem is with the view that society has.  Adults who have physical disabilities are just that, adults.  They have the same sexual feelings and desires as anyone else and they have the maturity to consent to sex if they want to.

There are other reasons why some might find it taboo.  How could we biologically and evolutionary have such a desire? Human sexuality is very complex and science has not yet pinned it down.  Rather than seeing it as an attraction to something broken, see it as an attraction to something different (different, but just as valid).  While for some people those with physical disabilities appear grotesque or disturbing, for devotees they do not.

In calling it a fetish, devoteeism gets criticized for fixating on the disability and not seeing the human being.  This is a grave misunderstanding.  In fact, my experience has led me to believe that devotees are better able to see the person behind the disability.  Because the disability is not frightening or strange to us it doesn’t act as a barrier dividing “us” from “them.” We are more likely to see a person with a disability as a complete person because we know that disability is just another part of life.

Not only myself, but other devotees I have spoken to, have reinforced again and again the idea that while they might be initially drawn to paralyzed legs or amputated stumps, that is just the initial attraction, which we all experience when we see someone we find appealing.  Devotees are still looking to connect on other levels too, to find someone that they can get along with and have things in common with as well as the physical attraction.  Does objectification happen?  Sure.  That is not unique, it happens where ever there are humans.

A few creepy people give us all a bad reputation.  There are devotees who stalk people, who take pictures without the subject knowing.  However, that is very rare. I also think that some of that creepy behavior happens because the devotee has been so marginalized and dehumanized that they break. If they weren’t constantly shamed for what they find attractive, they may not resort to that kind of behavior.

Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t make it bad or wrong. 

Many devotees, both male and female, are filled with guilt and shame because of their preferences.  They worry that maybe they are benefiting from someone else’s pain. Yet, they didn’t cause the pain.  

Most of the disabled people I know, who have trouble getting people to see them as equals and as viable romantic partners, are glad to hear that there are people who find their bodies ideal.  It makes me think, there really can be “someone for everyone.”

For all the curiosity out there about where devoteeism comes from, there is not yet an answer.  Theories have been put forth occasionally, but none that ring true to the real life experiences of devotees.

For some, this attraction is just a preference and they can be happy with an able-bodied partner and leave the dev feelings for fantasy alone.  Others find it to be an important factor in looking for a life partner.  I often compare it to homosexuality because I think that it is a full sexuality in the same way.  There are some who are bi and some who are fully on the dev end of the spectrum.  Also similarly, no one knows what causes homosexuality or where it comes from.

When I wrote (W)hole, my intention was to give a voice to devotees, who are often misunderstood and villain-ized.  People don’t choose to be sexual “deviants.”  Many times they don’t want to be.  The people who have sexual preferences outside of what is generally considered to be the norm are not inhuman, they are not monstrous, they are not victims of abuse, they are not all that different from anyone else.

For another perspective and answers to FAQs about devs, check out this page: http://www.paradevo.net/faq.html