Hopelessly devoteed to you

This is a article from the Yourable website by Lara Masters, TV presenter and wheelchair-user. Reproduced here in case the original disappears.

“'Devotees' don't co-operate by perpetrating the insidious social myth that being sexually attracted to people with disabilities is somehow morally wrong...”

In my last column, I rallied the "devotee" troops and called for all those people who fancy a bit of "wheelchair totty" in particular, to email me their stories and tell me about their feelings. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with British slang, "totty" means "hot stuff".)

As a wheelchair user, perhaps you would expect me to shun all "wheelchair fanciers" and in the past I would have, but an email from a Youreable reader (which I published in my last column) has converted me to a "devotee" sympathiser and I'm now fascinated and eager to learn more.

My fear about people with a sexual proclivity towards disabled people was that they were aroused by someone who is perceived as suffering and by the fact that there is physical dependency - but not in the same way as in S&M fetishism because the disabled person isn't choosing the subservient role.

I dismissed the whole subject as distasteful but now I'm readjusting my views. Here's another email on the subject:

"Dear Lara. You have helped me deal with some feelings that I really have never faced with your open and broadminded attitude about personal matters.

"This relates to the feelings of desire towards handicapped ladies, I have had these feelings all my life and have never really addressed them. This is probably due to being very careful about sharing thoughts with others and on one occasion in particular, bringing about a very negative response.

"I know very clearly how these feelings began. When I was 7 years old, I had a very deep case of "puppy love" for a little girl in my class at school. Things were not nearly as open in those days and all I could do was think about this girl. I don't recall ever speaking to her but I was surely "in love".

"That summer, polio was the fear of everyone and school was late opening. When we went back, there was "my love" but now in a wheelchair and wearing braces. For some reason that I have never understood the feelings for her were even greater and I thought about her endlessly. I imagined somehow being able to help her and be her friend. We moved after that year and I never saw her again but those feelings were embossed in me and time has done nothing to lessen those thoughts.

"Through school, college, the army and for years thereafter I never shared these thoughts with anyone and was afraid to approach anyone who was disabled in any way. Finally I did have an exchange of letters with a lady and I mentioned these feelings. She responded with a scathing reply and called me about all the negative things one could think of including calling me a "pervert".

"This immediately backed me away from sharing these thoughts with anyone until now. I do have a couple of penpals but I could never mention that they might be extra appealing due to some handicap, even feeling this way makes guilt a part of my thinking.

"When you said you'd been with your resident "pervert" for years, I really had a laugh and thought what a nice sense of humour you have.

"I will be a lot less hesitant about things from now on as I have never felt that I would be unfair or in any way try and take advantage of anyone and always treat ladies like they are up on a pedestal. I think now that if the pedestal happens to have a ramp up to it, it's alright to say "hello" to the person on it.

"My feelings haven't been detected by friends and I'm very careful to keep them private and there's nothing in my personality that is a clue at all. You being so open has made me feel better about the dreaded word…"devotee". I guess if I'm totally honest, I do fall into that category even though it sound so sinister. Your sense of humour has made me feel that I could get this off my chest and I thank you for it."

I thought this was quite beautiful and moving. I'd never thought of the guilt and loneliness that comes with a fetish like this, which is generally seen as socially abhorrent.

I wonder if this tendency to be suspicious of people who find people with disabilities especially attractive isn't rooted somewhere in the fact that society doesn't see disabled people as sexual and at some level, even us disabled people believe this too.

Therefore "devotees" aren't welcomed because we're conditioned to believe there's something psychologically wrong with them as they don't co-operate by perpetrating the insidious social myth that being sexually attracted to people with disabilities is somehow morally wrong.

Final thought

I reiterate the conclusion in my last column that there's nothing "wrong" with any sexual perversions as long as the participants are consenting and no one is being hurt (unless they want to be!)

As the letter demonstrates, many sexual inclinations come from innocent childhood experiences and people should not be condemned for them.

I think we need to be more open-minded about sex generally and then these feelings wouldn't fester and distort and cause so much unhappiness.

If there's no harmful intent then no one should feel badly about their sexual feelings. I think we as a society should feel appalled that we're so intolerant.

Our closed-minded attitude forces people to feel they're somnehow "bad" just because they have unconventional sexual tendencies.

We all need to address this and try to be more accepting of others and their differences whether it's a disability, a sexual preference or indeed any other kind of diversity.

As the old saying goes: "Variety is the spice of life!" So, let's get spicy!