Disabled Sexuality and Disempowerment Through Fetishization

This is a complicated post on a complicated issue. That’s one of the reasons it’s not marked 101. I’m trying to write this without being judgmental of the fetish community (after all, I belong to the fetish community), but I am addressing devotee culture here, and I do have some pretty harsh things to say about it, because it makes me uncomfortable. And it makes other women with disabilities uncomfortable as well, because it plays into a lot of complex social issues; from bodily autonomy for people with disabilities to inherently unequal power dynamics. You may well disagree with the content in this post, and I invite your discussion in the comments, but I would like to draw your attention to this line in our comments policy: “This is not a space for chasers and devotees to hook up. We discuss sexuality plenty, but we discuss the authentic desires and needs and pleasure of people with disabilities as full humans and from our point of view; not as sex objects for others based only on the specifics of our particular impairments.” I also want to stress that it is not about the judgment of individual lives and sexual practices; it is not my place to tell people what is and is not ok, sexuality wise (or asexuality wise), this is just an attempt at articulation of my feelings, as a disabled individual, about devotee culture. In other words, comments on this post are going to be heavily moderated.

I’d like to start by telling you a story. This happened a few years ago, when I was living in San Francisco. I was attending a play party with a frequent play partner, and we were sitting together while we waited for some space to free up, talking out the specifics of our scene and catching up since we hadn’t seen each other in a while, when someone approached us.

“I really love your body,” he said, staring at me. Considering that I was not wearing fetishwear or really anything which would invite commentary on my body, I was a little surprised. I thought that he was possibly going to ask me to play with him, and I was getting ready to launch into me “I don’t play with people I don’t know and also you are creeping me out” spiel when he added “I would really like to feed you.”

Believe it or not, despite the fact that I’m fat, I hadn’t heard of feeder culture at this point. So I just sort of looked at him blankly, thinking is he asking me out on a date? This is weird.

“I’d like to feed you, and take care of you,” he said. Ok, I was definitely getting creeped out here. “It would be an honor,” he said, “if you would let me take you into immobility.”

At this point, my play partner thankfully intervened and managed to chivvy him off without too much of a fuss. When she came back to me, I looked at her and said “what was that guy talking about?” And she said “you haven’t heard of feeder/feedee fetishes?” And I said “no,” and she explained, and I realized that there were people out there who actually fetishized me for my body type. Not only that, but who fetishized the idea of creating a permanently unequal power dynamic by fattening me to the point where I could not move.

I felt ill.

And this is how I feel when I am confronted by devotee culture. For those of you not familiar, devotees are people who experience sexual attraction to disability. Not to people. To disability. Attractions to specific impairments, even; some people like redheads while others prefer blondes, and evidently some people prefer above the knee amputees while others go for wheelchairs.

As a member of BDSM, kinky, and alternative culture, I don’t really have a problem with fetish culture. I used to have a dear play partner who was a foot fetishist and he liked nothing more than to play with my feet and/or shoes for hours. I was cool with that. Yes, it was objectification of a body part, but it didn’t arouse these feelings of deep emotional distress in me like devotees do. We were fully consenting adults and there was no problematic power dynamic going on there. And devotees are often about a strange form of power play; to some extent, the fetishization of visible disability is about fetishizing power over marginalized bodies. There’s a difference, for me, between, say, a leather fetish or a bathtub duck fetish or a high heel fetish and a fetish for a particular type of body. There are also degrees of power play, and devotee culture, to me, feels like a very unsettling form of power play.

Disability fetishism is not the only form of fetishism which focuses on fetishizing marginalized bodies. For example, racial fetishes are quite widespread. As are fetishes of children and teens. These bodies are already dehumanized in our society and culture; fetishizing them is extremely problematic because it adds to their dehumanization. People in marginalized and oppressed bodies have been on the powerless end of the power dynamic for a very long time. To engage in a fetish which is structured around the dehumanization of disempowered bodies is a problem.

It’s not about the attraction to the disability: It’s about the attraction to perceived helplessness, it’s about the discomfiting power play, it’s about viewing an entire class of people as sex objects. An entire class of people whom, I would note, have historically been abused because people view them as objects. The same problem occurs with things like racial fetishes and the fetishization of children; the fetish is an echoing of a historical problem. Our social power structures already objectify marginalized classes of bodies, so why would people who live in those bodies want to sexually gratify someone by being the object of a fetish?

The problem is not disabled sexuality: It is the sexualization of disability. Which means that if you’re an amputee and you’re running in shorts and you pass a devotee, you are suddenly viewed as a sexual object, instead of a person running. That’s forced sexualization, taking sexuality outside the bedroom and other sanctioned sexual spaces and thrusting it into daily life. And maybe that’s what troubles me. Just as it troubles me that women can’t go out in public without being perceived as sex objects by society at large.

A body is not something you can take on and off. When someone is done with a foot fetish scene, the heels can be put away. When someone is done with the bathtub ducks, they can be put in the closet. When someone is finished with leather play, a pair of jeans can be slipped on. When you are done exploring power play, you emerge from the scene and return to a more equal state. You can’t do that with a marginalized body. When your body is someone’s fetish, you are an object. You are disempowered. All the time. You can’t escape.

I don’t see anything wrong with able bodied and disabled people engaging in sexual activity. I don’t think that’s necessarily inherently inequal or any of my business, really; if sexuality is egalitarian and based in attraction to the whole person, and for people who are interested in it, if power play is carefully negotiated and happens in controlled environments, I think that’s dandy and great for everyone. And perhaps that’s what troubles me so much about devotee culture. I dislike the fact that there are websites with “stimulating images” which are clearly taken from people’s personal lives. Post a casual photo of yourself on Facebook with friends, get ready for a devotee to lift it to wank off to. When I engage in power play, it’s with full awareness, knowledge, consent, and, yes, control, regardless as to which side of the dynamic I’m on. When I engage in fetish play, it is with things which I can put away when I am done. When someone steals something, a part of me, without consent and sexualizes it, that’s not consensual. When someone’s body is the fetish, there is no putting the fetish away. The scene never ends.

I think it’s great to see disability-positive porn, erotica, and other materials celebrating disabled sexuality. But I am not ok with devotee fetish materials, because they strip bodies of agency. They reduce people to their component parts and disabilities instead of viewing them holistically. I am not ok with the idea that sexuality can be forced on people in their daily lives and routine activities, whether those people are sexual or asexual, partnered or not, etc, because people fetishize their bodies. Just as I think that a woman should be able to jog in lightweight, sensible exercise clothing without being hooted at, I think that someone with a disability should be able to go to the bank without wondering if ou is going to be fetishized by someone in line. I think that a Black woman should be able to walk into an office without being viewed as a sex object. I think that a child should be able to play on a playground without being objectified.

I think it’s interesting that devotees tend to focus specifically on disabled women, who are often disempowered by intersecting systems of oppression. Just as other fetishes of types of bodies focus primarily on people who are disempowered. Indeed, disabled women are at higher risk for sexual assault than able-bodied women, which turns this into a particularly thorny issue. For sexual women with disabilities, sexuality can be very empowering, can be a way of taking back power, in fact. To be reduced to a fetish object is to have that all taken away. I’m not asexual, so I can’t speak to that experience, but I imagine it would be extremely upsetting to be the object of a sexual fetish when you are not sexual. And also immensely disempowering, since this is a society in which sexuality is assumed and almost expected, making it hard enough to navigate without thinking about whether or not someone is getting turned on by your leg braces. Whether you are sexual or not, your body is not a sex object, and should not be viewed as one. No matter who you are.

The problem with devotees isn’t that people with disabilities are gross and cannot engage in sexuality. The problem is that people with disabilities are not objects which should be used for sexual arousal. You get off polishing my shoes? Terrific (and please, come over, because I’ve got a serious backlog over here). You get off thinking about disability? No, thank you. I am not my disabilities.

The problem with objectification of marginalized bodies is that it reinforces social and cultural norms. It echoes the idea that people who live in marginalized bodies are public property, and that it is acceptable to treat them as such. It forces people who are living in ordinary bodies into the position of being sexualized against their will.

Some devotees even go as far as to say that they are empowering for people with disabilities because they are attracted to people because of disability, rather than magnanimously overlooking disability. But, actually, that’s not empowering at all. Just like it’s not empowering to be fetishized if you are Asian, or Black, or Latin@. Just like it’s not empowering to be fetishized when you are 12 years old, doing your 12 year old thing.

I dislike the claim that I will “change my mind” once I explore it. My mind is pretty made up here, honestly, and the tone in which this is said carries a degree of force which I am deeply uncomfortable with. Just as I don’t tell straight people that they will love gay sex once they try it, I ask that people not force their sexuality on me. I’m already being used as a sex object against my will every time a devotee gets excited when I use my inhaler in public (and yes, it has happened). Somehow, I don’t think that’s the start of a wonderful relationship.

You can’t “change your mind” when you are living in a marginalized body which is being sexualized, because there is no escaping your body. You can be open minded, experiment in bathtub duck play, decide it’s not your thing, and not do it again. You can’t do that when your body is the object.

27 Comments

  1. That picture stealing thing just honestly makes me shudder.

    A lot of what you’re going over here makes me think of trans chasers. I can’t honestly think of anyone that would fetishize my disabilities (god I hope there isn’t anyone that would make a fetish out of IBS or ADD…) so I feel like I’d be in a better position to tackle this difficult topic in a context I’m more familiar with (i.e. trans folk and trans chaser culture).

    So I guess, for now, I don’t have a lot I can really add or say here. Would you be okay if I linked back to the post when I finish it in the comments? Or is that a bit too off topic?
    .-= genderbitch´s last blog ..The Body Is Not The Only Aspect That Can Be Abled =-.

  2. Thank you for summing up the issues that I, too, have with the devotee thing. The scholar Alison Kafer wrote a really interesting–and troubling–article about devotee culture called “Inseparable” (text here via Google Books), and it’s worth a read if you haven’t seen it. The White-Knighting thing–particularly as it relates to gender and disability–is something that I find extremely problematic.
    (Edited for spelling error, my apologies)

  3. Absolutely ok to link back! I love seeing posts inspired/informed by things I’ve written.

    I think there’s a lot of intersectionality between devotee and chaser communities, in terms of how they operate and the discomfort they can cause (as illustrated by my anecdote at the start of the post). Chasers definitely do things like appropriating images and forcing their sexuality on people who do not want it just as some devotees do. It’s a troubling culture and I feel like sometimes people treat it as an entirely taboo topic, when I think it’s something that we need to be discussing.

  4. “Some devotees even go as far as to say that they are empowering for people with disabilities because they are attracted to people because of disability, rather than magnanimously overlooking disability.”

    Really? I mean really?

    I don’t think anyone has a fetish for my disabilities, but I’ve had it done with my skin color and I know how uncomfortable that makes me. I know it isn’t exactly the same, but it is squicktastic.

  5. “When your body is someone’s fetish, you are an object. You are disempowered. All the time. You can’t escape.”

    This has articulated something I’ve long thought but hadn’t quite put my finger on.

    A close friend came out to me as a devotee, but it wasn’t the same thing at all – I have suggested my friend should find a different term. There are some people, like my friend, who are simply attracted to non-standard body types, in the same way that some of us have a general preference for big bottoms, brown eyes or curly hair, without it being a fetish.

    And it is very difficult to talk about attraction to someone with a visible physical impairment without the two things getting confused. It bugs me when people talk of our lovers “seeing through” our impairments as if all our beauty is on the inside. Bodies with impairments can have their own beauty and I think it must be possible for some people to actually prefer that kind of beauty.

    In the same way, there’s a big difference between someone who wants to “feed” you and someone who happens to prefer a big woman to your fashionably thin counterparts.

    But I suspect the behaviour of these predatory devotees hasn’t got anything to do with our bodies, but rather our perceived helplessness, power dynamics. Which is why we get the kind of crap we get from them. They expect us to be grateful for the attention – any attention – because that’s the role disabled people play in these fantasies.

    We’d all be far better off if they could have a club and take turns in playing the roles that turn them on. In the same way, some people are turned on by the symbolic roles of nurses or nuns, but rarely pursue actual nurses or nuns as potential lovers.

    Apologies for the long comment, too dopey to be concise today.

  6. This is one of the best descriptions of this dynamic and how it feels I’ve ever seen. Thank you!

  7. A few weeks ago, I had a brief email exchange with a quadriplegic lady whose pictures had been used, without her permission, in a video tribute to so-called “quadriplegic goddesses”, all of them displaying quad paraphernalia such as ventilators, sip & puff straws and the like (that is to say, none that could be mistaken for paraplegics), set to schmaltzy music by a Russian girl band. I recognised two people I could actually contact (and two or three others, among them Hilary Lister, Sara Granda and Brooke Ellison), and contacted them both and they both found the whole business of being put on a pedestal and “worshipped” because they were paralysed uncomfortable. This lady, though, clearly wasn’t amused; she found the whole “goddess” concept ridiculous for religious reasons and had stopped working on her website because these so-called devotees kept taking her pictures and reposting them. She also told me she was relieved that this video was not threatening, unlike some “devotee” websites she’d seen.

    The video was published by “amputeeadmirer” which kind of gives an impression of his agenda! Those pictured in the video were mainly young women, some of them pretty and some not (then again, that’s just my opinion) but one was a sad and debilitated looking 8- or 9-year-old girl on a ventilator, in what was obviously a child’s room. The lady I had the exchange with is a C4/5 quad with next to no arm movement and no feeling in most of her body, and I can’t imagine what anyone thinks is sexy about that (you can’t tell from the pictures, but it’s clearly stated on her website) and none of her pictures shows her looking sexy or trying to (they are all several years old, though).

    The term devotee is a misnomer for most of them, because they show absolutely no respect for the women (and it is always women) they fetishise, in this case taking images of them posted quite innocently to show others what the owner’s life is like and using them for purposes completely other than those intended. I posted a comment to roughly this effect to Becky Blitch’s tumblr blog, and Becky responded that the care she receives can be an opportunity for intimacy between her and her “sweeties” as she calls them, but obviously that’s not the same as wanting to do this sort of thing for its own sake, just for the kick of it.

  8. Question: I do know of some trans folk who make things go into a simulation structure. Much like lifestyle Dominance/submission (D/s) roleplay (lifestyle as in long term, interlaced into day to day activities) and ends with a safe word if either person says it (including the day to day activities, which go back to non scene). In the trans woman and fetish person situation, the individual with the fetish has very strict rules about where and when such a fetish can be enacted and safe words can kill the scene at any moment, even though it’s long term.

    I noticed the discomfort with the idea of ongoing fetish scenes, wherein things are 24/7. But if it followed the simulation model, would that eliminate that as an issue? The scene would simply be considered long term (but always have that kill point of the safe word and only be reactivated if all parties approved). It operates well in D/s (but D/s is definitely a different kettle of fish) and I know of some trans women that enjoy this sort of setup (I am not one of them though, due to past abuse from a chaser type) but I can’t say whether a parallel could be drawn to devotees and PWD.

    Would that be or not be viable with devotees? I’ve never faced fetishization (that I know of) regarding my own disabilities, so I’m very lacking on personal experience that I can use to formulate an opinion on that question. All I have are parallels.
    .-= genderbitch´s last blog ..The Body Is Not The Only Aspect That Can Be Abled =-.

  9. I have not had personal experience with any kind of a devotee (thankfully), but from reading your post, meloukhia, I fully agree with you on how terribly exploiting these devotee practices sound. I want give an example of how insidious the Internet can be: one time, I typed the words “disabled women” into a Google search (I was hoping to find info about the experiences of fellow women with disabilities and our position in society). I noticed that like the first two or three websites involved devotees and their pursuit of disabled women (from the brief descriptions); there were actual categories like “amputee,” “brace/wheelchair,” etc. depending on the devotee’s “interest” (which is seemingly an understatement). Another website’s description read that they were selling CDs of pictures of women with disabilities for prices like $9.97.

    Needless to say, I was pretty sickened to see all this, especially when they were the first websites to come up under the heading “disabled women.” Apparently, this devotee subculture has quite a substantial presence on the Internet. As a woman with a disability, it scares me; yet as a feminist also, I’ll speak out against it.

  10. Fetishizing a person’s physical characteristics is troubling when it’s something relatively innocuous. Like I’ve run into men who insist that any woman they date must be a natural redhead. And it’s phrased as both an imperative and a state of being (or at least a defining characteristic) and not a preference or one characteristic among many. It felt really creepy and dehumanizing and I’d always had a difficult time articulating why in the face of insistence that everyone was entitled to declare their preferences.

    The analogy with chasers is apt; I feel the same way about someone being attracted to me because I limp as I do about someone being attracted to me because I’m trans. Hey asshole, I’m up here.

    Este, the same search horrors happen with trans too. It was extremely upsetting when I was more actively looking for information in the early stages of my transition — not that it wasn’t hard to tell the porn from the stuff that was helpful, but there was just so much of it. And yes, my experience was that it was all porn of trans women marketed to straight cis men.

  11. I’m just popping in to say that I am loving all of the comments here. There are some really great thoughts coming up in response to this (and some alarming stories, too), and I’m especially glad to see people bringing in the intersectionality with race and gender identity when it comes to fetishizing marginalized bodies.

  12. Really interesting article. I think what really comes across is the problem of objectification. I mean, one could theorize about a relationship in which someone with a fetish for a certain kind of marginalized body is respectful to the person whose body they are objectifying for sexual purposes. But the sticking point seems to be respect the person–from everything you’ve described the prevailing attitude seems to be that “devotees” think that outside of their fetish, people with the bodies they are fetishizing don’t deserve respect.

    I’d imagine that people who have fetishes for amputated limbs/medical attention for quadriplegics/wheelchair-using but DO respect the people with whatever disability as people first probably don’t hang around the devotee community very much.

    I was interested that you mentioned the devotee community is very much focused on objectifying women–there’s a similar fetishization among able-bodied women for disabled or injured men (Called “wounded man fetish” sometimes, or see “hurt/comfort”.) I don’t know what else to say except that the intersections of oppression can cut in interesting ways, sometimes. I don’t have to tell people on this website about the conflation of able-bodiedness and masculinity–or rather, the lack of one with the lack of the other.

  13. I don’t know if there are devotees for autism, anxiety disorders or IBS, but the idea makes me feel very uncomfortable too.

    I’m not sure if this is too off topic or not appreciated, but it also reminds me a bit of a ‘pledge’ on Change.org, about making friends with an autistic person. That worried me in a similar way, like someone just barging in and marking me as a friend, because I ‘need’ those, when I have no say there, they act more like keepers or carers (with the wrong sort of power imbalance) than friends, and their reasons are pity or that nauseating kind of wanting to be a do-gooder.

    Also something only slightly related: I’ve never had anyone being sexually attracted to me because of autism (as far as I know), but I’ve had someone wanting to friend me on Facebook because I’m autistic, claiming that they had some kind of autistic family member or friend and were also interested and wanted to discuss it, so because it is also one of my interests aside from being autistic and I figured maybe I could be informative even only of my personal situation, I accepted. Then I never heard any kind of discussion and when I checked their profile, they had like 1000 friends, all disabled in various ways, like some kind of weird collection, and hard to describe, but from the various info there I got the feeling that they wanted to come across as Really Good People and really charitable and such and the friends were sort of ‘proof’. And that really disturbed me too, so I deleted that ‘friend’ again immediately. It just makes you feel used.

    Now I want to find out if there are ‘autism fetishists’….

  14. @Norah:

    Yeah that stuff makes me uncomfortable. I tend to refer to it as the Liberal Reputation Points Game(TM) because we’re less important then the points they score for their reputation. It comes back to that lack of respect and objectification thing. Sure it isn’t sexual then but being a “token friend” or a “look how accepting I am!” bit of evidence is just as objectifying as sexual objectification.
    .-= recursiveparadox´s last blog ..The Body Is Not The Only Aspect That Can Be Abled =-.

  15. You’ve articulated concerns I’ve had since learning of the existence of ‘devotees’ but which I couldn’t tease out for myself. I mean, people can’t help what turns them on physically, i.e. body types, but they can sure as hell help their behaviour (taking photos and re-posting them like that is creepy as hell, and so disrespectful to people they claim to honour), and an attraction rooted in an unequal power dynamic seems to me to say a lot about a person’s psychology and how they relate to others. And when you think about the examples in the post and comments where different forms of marginalisation intersect – being not just disabled but also female, or a child – I’m afraid my opinion boils down to ‘No good can come of this’, whether ‘devotees’ (I will not ever use that word without inverted commas) passively consume images of disabled people (because their community is still nurturing attitudes which will negatively impact on how they treat marginalised people in real life) or get into relationships with them.

    Since we got together, my boyfriend has been great re: my chronic health problems and wobbly mobility; he’s all about encouraging me to spread my wings and be more independent, but what if I’d instead hooked up with someone who had a vested interest in keeping me dependent, someone who loved and nurtured my limitations? That could become a very unhealthy relationship very quickly.

  16. ***TRIGGER WARNING***

    Yeah, I’ve been on the receiving end of devotee/chaser culture. When I first came out as a trans woman I was beating the creeps off with a stick. I went full time before I started hormones so I was pretty conspicuous. I’d end up having things like people wanting to touch me in restaurants or trying to sit next to me and “get to know me” all the time. Once I even had one creep stand behind a car in the parking lot and try to masturbate while I was eating a cheeseburger. Really, really, really creepy stuff.

    One thing that I’ve always noticed about chasers is how they always phrase their propositions. It’s never “I find you attractive” or “I find girls attractive” it’s always “I find your kind attractive” or “girls like you turn me on.” It’s so dehumanizing and objectifying. And of course, it’s never “would you like to go out with me?” or even “would you like to have sex with me?” their propositions would *always* be phrased in the form of a demand,”have sex with me,” and get very upset when their desires are not reciprocated.

    They assume you’re there for their pleasure. In some ways I can see how trans chasers might get that idea given the sick way that trans people are portrayed as purely sexual objects in popular media and pornography. Now that I’m visibly neurologically disabled I’m starting to see how much people don’t respect your agency when you’re handicap. I’ve had people just come up to me and start touching me, even kissing me in public without my permission. I just don’t see how they’re getting the message that disabled equals purely sexual object.

    Maybe it has something to do with the desexualization of disabled people. Perhaps, since society sees us as not possessing our own sexuality people extend that to us not possessing our own sexual agency. Perhaps, given the lack of our own sexuality in the eyes of society, devotees feel free to force their own sexuality into this supposed void. Maybe because society sees disabled people, especially people with mental handicaps, as less than fully human devotees just have an easier time objectifying us in their minds. Maybe they just don’t care.

    I care…

    Nowadays I pass as cis but I can no longer pass as TAB so… bye bye chasers, hello devotees! *sigh*

  17. Oh, speak of the DEVIL! No sooner do I finish writing and posting my reply than this guy walks by the student lounge, I have a phonic tic, and the guy doubles back, stares at me and decides to “spend some time with me.” All while being very, very, very creepy. He even called me “crazy” in a quiet turned-on voice…

    I… HATE… ‘DEVOTEES!!!’

  18. I sort of expect there are no devotees for Asperger’s or stuttering or anxiety – at least, I certainly hope there aren’t! I tend to get incredibly freaked out by people expressing sexual interest in me at all, because I’m asexual. Not only am I not interested and never will be, but I also know that “sexual interest” is this incredibly! strong! biological! urge! that I have absolutely no concept or understanding of, and having people aim some really strong urge at me that is utterly alien to me and that people compare in intensity to *hunger* or *thirst* freaks me out. I am not your cheeseburger, okay.

    And that’s just people expressing any kind of sexual interest at all. Fetishes? Please stay on the other side of the planet from me from now on kthxbai.

  19. I am not your cheeseburger, okay.

    OMG, Kaz, I love you.

  20. I do gotta second where Goldfish said about attraction vs. objectification (which I didn’t spot earlier).

    If someone is specifically sexually attracted to the mixture of traits that my body possesses as a trans woman but doesn’t objectify me, sees me as a person, with her own needs, loves, and is aware of power dynamics and avoids harming me through those dynamics (which really is something any lover who is part of a privileged group in relation to me ought to be mindful of) then I really don’t see the problem with that.

    Same if someone is specifically sexually attracted to me for my ADD, my fucked up feet, hell, even as gross as my IBS is, my IBS. If I’m not being objectified it isn’t a problem for me.

    None of this is to say that if you personally feel creeped out by it you shouldn’t. Foot fetishes creep me out. I just don’t think attraction ought to be equated to objectification. It doesn’t invariably follow.

    I’ll go more in depth in my chaser post.
    .-= genderbitch´s last blog ..The Body Is Not The Only Aspect That Can Be Abled =-.

  21. Um, huh, I keep on typing in the wrong name on occasion.

    recursiveparadox = genderbitch.

    Both names are mine, sorry if I confused anyone. I’ve been wicked scattered lately and sometimes the Name field is autofilled.

  22. I don’t even think it’s just non-disabled men who can end up fetishizing disabled women. I’ve gotten similar responses from a couple physically disabled men, in ways that seemed somehow more as if I was being objectified for my impairments, rather than approached as an equal among fellow disabled people. (And I, like others, don’t just mean an innocent preference for disabled people.)

    As a fat woman, if a guy approached me wanting to “feed” me, I think I would cuss him out if I wasn’t reeling from the shock of what was going on. Not only do I find the whole dynamic repulsive, but I find large quantities of food repulsive (probably because eating hurts and I have dysphagia) so… even the thought is doubly revolting. I’ve never heard of the “feeder” thing before, and… BLECH.

  23. Oh and, Kaz — one thing to watch out for can be autism and/or AS support groups offline. I generally avoid them because I don’t like support groups period, but I’ve known a lot of women who avoid them because the moment they come through the door half the men converge on them.

  24. I read Samantha’s, Kaz’s, ang Genderbitch’s comments here, and dread that future day my invisible disabilities become visible. Having already gone throught the phase of my transition where chasers have been attracted to me, and now no longer get pegged as trans, so I was pleased no longer to be objectified as trans.

    But disabilities…I hadn’t even considered that my currently invisible disabilities becoming more visible as I age will likely result in yet another kind of sexual objectifying of my life experience.

    Crap. Thanks all for the education.

  25. Reading this post and the comments remind me of La bohème/Rent – people (women) with TB looked so gorgeous, so pale, so fragile!

    So this isn’t a new thing. Yeah, I got nothing.

  26. I’ve been chewing on this issue for nine years — and getting nowhere — so thank you! for the helpful distinction between objectification and attraction. Bells are ringing! Lights are flashing (but not at seizure-inducing rates)! Warm breezes are blowing by!
    .-= Jesse the K´s last blog ..Find Recipes with Recipe Puppy =-.

  27. Alright, the post is written. As promised I’m linking here in the comments.

    Attraction, Objectification and Sexual Culture
    http://www.harlots-parlour.com/2009/11/attraction-objectification-and-sexual.html