The traditional way of defining disability devoteeism does a disservice both to devs and people with disabilities. In its simplest explanation disability devoteeism is a sexual attraction to physical disability.
The idea that there are people out there who are specifically turned on by a physical disability usually hits people pretty hard. The first reaction is often a negative one. Is it a fetish? Is it a kink? Is it born of a desire to control? Are they taking advantage of people? What messed up thing happened to these people that they think a disability is attractive?
But if you start to unpack that, it actually is weird that society has such an incredibly dark and negative perception of disability that the idea of it being attractive is so disturbing. Why does it have to be messed up to think disability is beautiful?
There was a post that went viral on Facebook that so perfectly defined for me what devoteeism is and I’m going to share it with you now. I don’t know if this person has any idea that devotees exist. I don’t know if that was one of the things they witnessed. But the description is still spot on. This was posted by Michelle E. Woody on Facebook and she said it was shared with her by a friend…
Through an unusual turn of events, I’ve been working in the porn industry for the past few years (To be clear: I make porn, but I don’t star in it).
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned by being around literally hundreds of thousands of candid horny people is that no matter what you look like, you are *someone’s* type.
I don’t mean “someone will put up with you.”
I mean “someone out there is *specifically* attracted to the way that you look. They go out of their way to find people who look *just* like you.”
Are you fat and pale? Someone is into it. Really into it. And for a lot of those people, it’s not a domination/humiliation thing. Their brain is just hard-wired to find you attractive. They look at you the way you look at beautiful people.
Are you skin and bones? Someone is into it. Really into it. Weird teeth? Too hairy? Goofy nose? Conventionally ugly? Someone is into it. I promise.
And the number of *someones* is usually higher than you’d expect, and contains a larger number of conventionally attractive people than you’d expect.
There it is: our brains are hard-wired to find you attractive. We see you the way you see beautiful people. Because you are beautiful.
If it were a fetish, then it would be centered only on objectifying (fetishizing) one part of the person. A foot fetish, where the person with the fetish only cares about looking at the beautiful foot and not the person connected to it (Not being a foot fetishist myself I am making an assumption here). Fetishes are often about objects, such as a fetish for balloons or cars. A devotee is not turned on by just the empty wheelchair or unused cane, though seeing those things may spark a fantasy imagining the person who uses them.
A devotee is not only interested in your disability, rather they appreciate it as a part of the package that is you.
A devotee just defines hotness differently from the rest of society. According to society to be hot as a man you should be tall, chiseled, well cut with muscles, tan, with a big smile and straight teeth. That’s what makes a straight woman or gay man get all tingly with excitement and a desire to find out more about this person. Maybe a quick daydream about running their hands over that chiseled chest.
Those are not the same physical qualities that a devotee gets tingly from. Devs are particularly drawn to physical differences. A man who is hot to me might be someone who uses a wheelchair and has a big smile and straight teeth! And as with almost any attraction in the world, confidence goes a long way. A highlevel quadriplegic powerchair user who seems comfortable in his skin and secure with who he is is nearly irresistible to me. No need to be demure, you are hot!
Who am I to be explaining this?
I am a straight female devotee. I’ve been attracted to men with physical disabilities my entire life. Yes, this was present in my earliest memories. No, there has never been an explanation as to what would cause me to find it a turn on.
Ten years ago I published a novel about what it was like in my head. I struggled with years of self-loathing and fear that my attractions made me a bad person. I wrote a novel about what it would be like for me, exactly as I was, to meet the paraplegic man of my dreams.
Once it was published I began to meet other devotees. Dozens of other devotees (“There are dozens of us!”). I have spent the last ten years talking to other devs, talking to people with disabilities, dating men with disabilities, writing more books, and becoming the face of devoteeism. I am a well-known dev and I am the one who is willing to be completely honest and transparent about everything I think and feel. I have been digging deep and exploring devoteeism and all its positives and negatives for a decade.
I’ve been so lucky to be able to meet and date a wide variety of men with disabilities as well as become friends with many people, both male and female, who have physical disabilities. (I have a policy of always being upfront immediately about being a dev. I’ll admit it is easier to be a straight female dev than it is to be a straight male dev. And I’ll get into that in further detail in another article.) Things I thought would be an issue in moving my sex life from fantasy to reality were actually not. I’m not particularly turned on by catheters but they are a reality of life for many people that I find hot. Not a big deal. In no way detracts from the enormous amount of sexiness going on.
I’ve begun to see common threads present in all devotees. I’ve started to see what makes us tick. And I want to share those insights with the rest of the world because I think there is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding and misconceptions.
Here are some things that I have found:
Though many try to make it pathological, very few devs are able to point to any particular experience that turned them into a dev. All the devs that I have spoken to have had it from such a young age that there are no memories of a pre-dev state. This is unlike many kinks,which can be discovered in exploration. Or a fetish that developed from a trauma. A dev knows they are turned on by physical disability before they ever meet a person with a disability. Some try to come up with an explanation and may point to a neighborhood child who used crutches or something like that. Those stories always sound pretty weak to me.
What devotees find attractive about disability is hard to pin-point. Some of it is an appreciation of unusual movement or a different shape to the body: the way a manual wheelchair glides, the way the upper and lower bodies of a paraplegic move separately, the rub of a quadriplegic’s head against a headrest, the turn of a blind person’s head towards a sound, the grace of a proficient signer, the empty space where a limb would be expected. Part of it is an appreciation of problem-solving, an admiration of work-arounds, using a crutch to pull something closer, popping a wheelie to get over a curb, arranging furniture so you know where it is and won’t bump into it if you can’t see it. Part of it is a fascination with what is in and out of a person’s control, a foot you don’t realize is crooked on its plate, a spasm, a soft paralyzed belly, a sound you haven’t heard, an expression you can’t see.
What it is not is a desire for a partner they can dominate. In fact, devotees see people with disabilities as powerful and in control, able to tackle challenges that most people have never had to face.
The power dynamics between devs and people with disabilities is not what you would expect. As the quote says, we look at you the way you look at beautiful people. The people with the power in the situation are the ones with the disabilities. They are the super models that devs are trying to be worthy of.
There is some very bad behavior out there
If that’s the case, why are there “bad devs” and why do many — especially women — have bad experiences with devotees?
None of this is meant to forgive the bad behavior that has led to devs having a bad name. Devs — especially straight male devs, I’m sorry to say — have a lot to learn about consent and centering other people. And isn’t that true of all straight males?
Many (of course not all) of them have these same issues that are so noticeable with devs. This is a subject that needs a deeper exploration, so you can read more about that here.
Dating a devotee is not a guarantee of success
If you have a physical disability then perhaps you’ve thought bagging a dev is not a bad idea. Someone who sees you as supermodel hot? Someone who doesn’t have to “look past” that part of you? Okay, let’s do it. But unless what you’re looking for is a “friends with benefits” situation, you are still going to have to piece together the other parts of the relationship puzzle.
Having someone who finds you the height of hotness is great. But there’s still the emotional and practical compatibilities to consider. Just because someone is a dev does not mean they are going to want to date you. (Though generally speaking you may need to be watching for that one because devs are starved for potential partners and may try very hard to ignore red flags that you two aren’t compatible. Of course because of ableist society people with disabilities are also often feeling starved of potential partners. So that combination can be a disaster. Something to be cognizant of.)
Apart from that, simply having a physical disability doesn’t mean you will be the height of attractiveness to all devs. There are other aspects of physical attractiveness too that devs are not oblivious to, such as hygiene or age differences. Your total package may not be what is attractive to one particular dev, but odds are it will be what is attractive to a dev out there. You have a higher chance of finding someone who appreciates — not just accepts or puts up with — the whole package of you if you are open to dating devs.
Why? Because devs don’t have the messaging of ableist society that you aren’t supposed to appreciate the beauty in disability.
Now, that doesn’t mean that only devs will love and appreciate the whole package of you. There are certainly people out there that have escaped the oppressive conditioning of ableism (and I know some of them!). So it’s not like devotees are your only option. It’s just an option worth considering.
Dating a devotee is not a guarantee of failure
It’s hard for me to see people rule out devotees all together and refuse to consider one. It makes it scary for devotees to come out of the closet and be honest about what they most love about your body. It makes it so we only hear about the ones who are doing bad things while the nice devs are terrified to make themselves known lest they be accused of being like those other ones.
We can make very excellent partners (most of my exes have no complaints…). Not everyone is worth giving consideration to, of course. But if someone approaches you in a kind way and you have lots in common and you have fun together and you make each other laugh…would you throw that away because they find your disability hot?