A black girl helping a blind man cross the road

Turned on by disability?

A devotee is a person who is sexually aroused and attracted to disability or body disfigurement.

Three years ago, I stumbled upon a post on one of the spinal injury support groups I am in. It was a long text by one of the group’s members, a disabled woman. She started off with a disclaimer: ‘Everyone has their own sexual preferences, that is fine, I am not here to judge anyone,’ she wrote. She then proceeded to talk about her latest relationship and how she had found out that she was dating a devotee after she found hundreds of pornography videos in his phone of actors portraying themselves as disabled women.  

It was the first time I had seen or heard this word. Curious to understand its meaning so I could relate it to the story, I opened a new tab and googled the word ‘devotee’. At first, the search results didn’t yield any kind of revelation as to how a devotee related to sexuality. A more refined search was suggested by google, ‘devotee disabled’.

What was meant to be a quick search turned into two or three hours of interesting, surprising and disturbing content about a world I never knew existed. A world where disabled people are desired, wanted but also greatly objectified.

We all have a type right? Some like short women with big bums, others like dark men who are built like sticks. That’s just preference, no one really knows why we like the things we like, it just happens. But where do we draw the line between what is acceptable or not when it comes to sexual preference? Does the line exist in the first place?

Disabled or not, we all yearn for meaningful physical and emotional connections. We are built as social beings and we thrive holistically when we feel like we have individuals in our lives that want and accept us unconditionally. As disabled people, we have a greater yearning for these connections because society has already led us to believe that our bodies are not attractive or sexy. This is coupled with our own issues of low self-esteem where we always expect to face rejection. 

There are a lot of mixed feelings in the disabled community about devotees. For most of us, our disabilities represent a part of our lives that cause pain and struggle. To devotees, our struggles and amputated limbs are extremely attractive and sexually arousing. Does that sound right? Well, some disabled people think it is okay and just a normal preference like having a thing for women with curled hair. They say that as long as the said devotees respect them and treat them with dignity, it shouldn’t matter if they like them just because they are blind, deaf, autistic, and so on.

Other disabled people are skeptical and a little creeped out by the fact that a person would find sexual gratification in seeing their flaccid legs wobble about when they are transferring from a wheelchair to the bed. When does a preference become a fetish? I once read a story written by a female devotee and she described how she felt less attracted to her boyfriend once he started getting better and no longer needed his wheelchair to move around. She would request him to sit in his wheelchair first before they got intimate. To achieve gratification, she had to see him in that perspective.

For some devotees, it is imperative that the disability is visible, and that it significantly affects the disabled person’s life. I have seen confessions of people who have expressed their fetishes for disfigured faces and abnormal physiques, burn victims, and heavily scared people.

Is devotism a genuine sexual preference  or is it a need to feel powerful and get a sense of exceptionalism? Popular perception of disabled people is that we are weak and vulnerable. Some devotees might come into our lives looking to ‘save us from the despair of disability’. They get a sense of fulfillment when we need them to help us with basic routines. Feeling more powerful than us makes them feel really good about themselves.

There are lots of groups on the internet of people who openly describe themselves as devotees and lovers of disabled people. Some of them, however, prefer to keep their sexual preferences to themselves because of the obvious stigma that follows anyone who says that they are turned on by disability. Like all things, I believe there are pros and cons to devotees. On one hand, it would be an added bonus to find a person who likes you as a person but is also physically attracted to you. On the flip side, it is wrong to view any person; disabled or not, as an object with which to fulfill your sexual fantasies. That is just messed up.


What do you think? When does a preference become a fetish?

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