Ladies? Who wants a ride? via Wikicommons. Dating is hard for everybody, but dating with cerebral palsy is harder.
Not that I have much to complain about. I'm not, what the media likes to call, “confined to a wheelchair.” I walk with a cane like Dr. House and though I'm no Hugh Laurie, I think I'm pretty decent looking. Sure, I use a mobility scooter to get around on the street, but people have cars, right?
Yeah, if you were a woman who decided to try dating men with disabilities tomorrow, but wanted to ease into it—I'm practically training wheels.
But the fact that I'm physically higher functioning than a lot of other guys with disabilities doesn't seem to move my dating life past anything more than sporadic. I'm intimately familiar with what comedy band Garfunkel and Oates call, “The Fade Away,” where you think things are going well and then suddenly, radio silence. Some girls sell themselves as open-minded, assuring me that the disability doesn't matter. They hang around longer, trying to reconcile their words with the reality in front of them, before eventually being overwhelmed by their temptation for able-bodied human beings.
Perhaps I have some massive character flaw I am unaware of that has nothing to do with my disability, but if Paul Bernardo can find Karla Homolka, (and I'm a few thousand rungs below that) I wonder what else about me could be considered so unworkable?
If it is the disability, I don't blame them. I have yet to meet a woman with a disability who I'm truly sexually attracted to. I know that you can't help who you like. Still, given the reality of my situation, I knew it was time to change my strategy if I wanted to get laid on the regular. That's when I heard about "devotees"—people with a sexual fetish for disability.
At an estimated 50,000 strong, this underground internet community sounded like pay dirt to me. Suddenly, what could be my biggest obstacle to a healthy sex life turned into my biggest asset towards one. Finally, I was at the top of the natural selection pecking order. Forget women dating me in spite of my disability, now they would date me because of it. Now, cerebral palsy wouldn't just be an attractive quality—it would be necessary for orgasm.
Open the floodgates! I had to find these women. It didn't matter how long it took, I was exactly what they were looking for… or at least, I thought I was, until I talked to a devotee named Sharon:
“I still have an attraction to men who are successful and accomplished despite any disability, and also an attraction to men in wheelchairs… but the sexual connection and arousal only seems to kick in when an amputation is included in the picture.”
Unfortunately, Sharon isn't the only one. Most devotees are only into amputees and, to pour salt in my already gaping wounds, female devotees are rare. Most of them are men, ashamed of their kink and hiding behind computer screens.
Take “Mark.” He's a man living a double life. On one hand, he’s a professional artist, with an able-bodied wife and a couple of kids, living in a Toronto suburb, and on the other, he’s playing out a fantasy by the light of his monitor, sneaking around and looking at photos of female amputees. His only other interaction comes anonymously with the other devotees online. Mark says if he had more courage he would’ve married an amputee in the first place, but the able-bodied route is easier and avoids the social stigma.
“Able-bodied women are perfect creatures. I don't hate them, but amputee women are even more beautiful. The most sexually pleasurable parts about being a devotee that I just can't get with able-bodied women is watching them walk or move around and touch their cute soft stumps. For me, their stumps are the same as their breasts, but missing a limb doesn't take away anything from that individual. It's a giant sexual symbol to me. Less is more.”
In case you were wondering, Mark's wife knows his secret and she's disgusted by it—far removed from the understanding and compassion he thought he'd get by admitting it—not that she needs to be concerned. He says the repression instilled in him by his upbringing in communist China and his love for their children virtually guarantees that his devoteeism will stay in the closet. It’s highly unlikely that Mark will leave his wife for an amputee.
A screenshot from one of the internet's many devotee forums.
So, I wish them luck, but where does that leave me? For a while it looked like I wouldn't be able to convince these women to sleep with me unless I lost a limb. They were all so specific about their requirements (single-leg above the knee being the most desirable) that I put my hopes of ever finding a female cerebral palsy devotee on the shelf for a few years. I was even told by a Toronto devotee calling herself Brystal that I wasn't disabled enough.
It seemed I was doomed to slog it out in “normal” dating society for my entire life, until I read this:
“I have a strong desire to be with men with all types of disabilities, but I mostly gravitate towards severe C.P. and quadriplegics. But, my passions involve travel, sports, my bike, overseas disaster aid and a whole lot of other things made difficult, if not impossible, when you can't walk. I've always dated able-bodied men as a result. I would feel guilty fucking a disabled guy. I would see an 'expiration date' on our relationship. Would it be wrong for me to seek out disabled guys just for sex?”
That's a self-described 23-year-old female devotee writing in to Dan Savage for advice. Of course, if you're me, the answer to her question is simple: yes, where can I sign up? Unfortunately, Savage Love contributors are always anonymous, but reading that gave me hope and renewed my search for the Holy Grail—a cerebral palsy devotee.
At this point you're probably asking, “Wouldn't you be concerned about being exploited?” Don't worry, a woman named France warned me about this.
France is a double above the knee amputee from Montreal who also didn't date much and saw the same opportunity in the devotee scene I did. Initially weary that she’d be treated like a piece of meat, valued only for her amputation, she thought she could weed out the guys who asked too many direct questions about her stumps: “Where are they? How smooth are they? How did you get them?” She thought, as do I, that devotees could care about her whole self even if the initial spark was physical.
At first it worked and she started a long-term relationship with a devotee boyfriend, but after a while she began to feel like his dirty little secret. He was too concerned about the potential consequences of being out as a devotee, which forced France into the closet with him.
“I’m not someone who wants to hide, I want to be like everyone else, I want to be sexually active, I want to have relationships, give back to society and get out there,” she said. It was this treatment that made France swear off devotees for good. “How could a devotee accept all of you [as a person] when he doesn't fully accept his own choices?” she asked. “For many devotees they see us as being only half of what they want us to be. Meaning, they often see the disability first, and then the person. The disability is attractive, but quickly becomes mundane with time.”
Still, I remained undeterred. Now, no amount of warning would keep me from my search. Instead, I joined a number of devotee message boards asking if they knew of a twentysomething female c.p. devotee who lived in Toronto. Responses came fast, there was such a person. Her name was Sarah, she was 28, and worked as an accountant for a construction company. Though they didn't know where she lived, the moderator told me she had already told her about me, so I might as well make her acquaintance via Facebook.
We exchanged photos. She was certainly entrancing and a little more probing than most girls. Then she told me the origin of her fetish for dudes like me: “A kid in my class had c.p. and just watching him walk made me excited, it's hard to explain.” So, what is it about cerebral palsy that turns her all the way on?
“I like struggling,” she said. “I like to watch a guy with c.p. struggle to physically accomplish something.”
“Like those days when I'm trying to put on my shoe and I try and I try, but I just can't quite get it?” I asked, making sure to take my time before adding, “But I'll never ask you for help because I need nothing from nobody and then finally with… one…last…push and grimace, it slips in? That kind of struggle?”
“Mmmm… yes, tell me more,” her immediate response.
From then on, it seemed we were off to the races. Apparently, I had achieved my goal and finally found what I was searching for from the very beginning… sort of.
“I'm from Florida,” she said. “But, I have always wanted to move.”
And I've always wanted to get away from the Canadian winter! Hopefully I'll be able to struggle for Sarah in the very near future.
Aaron would like to thank Kent Cadogan Loftsgard for his help with this article. You should follow Aaron on Twitter: @broverman
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