Should I date a devoté?

Long-time lurker, first-time poster. :slight_smile:

Background: I’m a disabled woman in my mid-twenties. Specifically, I’m a high (C4) quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down, due to a snowboarding accident at 14.

If you didn’t know, there’s a substantial population of people out there who are into girls “like me.” These people are called “devoté(é)s.” I know, it’s strange. Not to be into me–I’m relatively attractive–but to be into me BECAUSE I’m disabled. I’ve been aware of this group since I was about 19 (when I started dating, conventionally and online). I’ve always been ambivalent about them in general, and definitely not interested in getting involved with someone who (IMHO) had a screw loose.

However, I’m recently rethinking my position. I’ve had several longer term relationships in a row end with a profession from the guy that, though he loves me and appreciates many of my qualities, he just can’t handle life with a quadriplegic.

Then, two months ago, I met a coworker of my brother’s and we’ve been getting to know each other. Last night, he admitted to me (after several beers) that my disability is a turn-on for him, and he’s known he was a “devoté” since high school, though he’s never actually dated anyone with a disability.

I’m torn. I like this guy. He’s cute, ambitious, kind, funny. But I have weird feelings about dating him. Is it exploitative? Kinky? A match made in heaven?

On the other hand, I’m tired of dating guys who like everything about me BUT my chair. There’s something intriguing to me about being with a person who wouldn’t forever be lamenting all the things I can’t do. (Yes, I can have sex. I can even, theoretically, have babies, though I’ve never tested that).

So I’d be curious to know what open-minded dopers think…

I can’t see a down side.

I guess it depends on what kind of guy he is - can he not only appreciate the chair but also see past it? I don’t have any issues with kink as long as (assuming that’s the kind of relationship you want) the one with the fetish is respectful of the one who’s being fetishized.

There are unhealthy versions of this, like “feeders” who love fat partners and either overtly or covertly encourage weight gain, trying to immobilize their partner. And then of course those who can’t handle the other person having wishes of their own.

I become jaded after years of reading this message board, but I have to say that this is a really interesting question. It is kind of kinky/creepy, but I think that is because I am presupposing a lot of things about why it is a turn on that may not be true.

My aunt married a quadriplegic and though we all thought it was strange at the time it ended up being a very successful marriage. I would give him a chance, but see if he can articulate what it is that he finds attractive about your condition. The more articulate you can encourage him to become the better chance you have of discovering if there is really anything ‘off’ about him.

I say go for it; but proceed with eyes wide open. The ‘devotee’ spectrum is extremely wide and diverse; from the very mild and almost unnoticable to truly psychologically disturbed who display stalker-like behavior. It’s a common trait to have these attractions go unfulfilled; as the devotee is often plagued by high levels of guilt over their attraction to someone else’s ‘misfortune’. I only bring this up because you noted that he’s never actually dated anyone with a disability. Did you talk about why?

That’s part of it, right there. I’m not sure I’m the type of girl who can get down with being “fetishized.” I’m no prude, but in an ironic and unsettling twist on what I’m accustomed to, I find myself wondering if he’d be into me if I weren’t paralyzed? I work fairly hard to compensate for what I can’t do by developing those aspects of my person which still function normally (such as my intellect, drive, and interests). If I date this guy, is that all for naught, since what he’s primarily attracted to is my body?

Ahaha! This must be precisely how those poor supermodels feel… :wink:

But the thing is, all men have ‘fetishes’/preferences. He’s been with non-paraplegic women, so it mustn’t be too strong.

I assume that, like snowflakes, no two devotes are alike. :wink: But what I have seen come out of that community (primarily online, but I’ve also had some weird face-to-face encounters) has been creepy. The emphasis of the attraction, unsurprisingly, seems to be on what the disabled person cannot do. Additionally, the YouTube videos and “fan” fiction I have seen have strong motifs of the humiliation and helplessness of the disabled person (both of which are incredibly offensive to me).

I like this guy, and he seems rather a decent human being, so I’m having a hard time reconciling my previous understanding of devoteism with this nice guy who has a great job, lots of friends, and clearly hasn’t spent his life hunting down and seducing cute girls in power wheelchairs. :wink:

And I did ask him why, if he’s so into girls like me, he’s only ever dated able-bodied chicks. He told me I’m the first quadriplegic woman he’s ever actually met IRL. In a world where he could have whatever flavor suited him on some niche dating site somewhere, I suppose it’s a point in his favor that he said he felt creepy specifically pursuing a woman with a disability.

Where do you draw the line between a fetish and a preference? I’ve tried to figure this out, and I’m not sure I have an answer. The defining difference seems to be that preferences are societally affirmed, while fetishes are frowned upon. If that’s the only difference, I suppose it’s pretty small-minded of me to give this guy crap for being into me because my body doesn’t work like most people’s. I might as well be equally disgusted that he claims to also be into brunettes, of which I am also one. Right?

Yeah, don’t be surprised if he is incapable of actually following through on his attraction to your disability; at least to the point of it allowing a relationship. The “success stories” of devotees and disabled people in relationships are few and far between, in my experience. It is usually the much-milder devotees (for lack of a better term) who end up in relationships, because their attraction to the disability is simply like that of any of quality found in a person.

Another vote for giving it a try. I’ve always felt sort of sorry for people with unusual sexual tastes, because to have a happy partnership they need to find someone who is GGG with respect to their out-of-the-ordinary sexual interests but is also a good match in all the other things we look for in a relationship - emotional and intellectual compatibility, shared values and goals, etc. It’s tough enough to find a suitable mate without adding “must be willing to change my diapers and give me a baby bottle during sex” to the list.

So what if this guy is a devotee, as long as he’s generally a nice guy? He didn’t ask to feel this particular attraction, it’s just something that stems from who knows what aspect of his past or his brain chemistry. It’s incredible luck for both of you if you are compatible in many different dimensions.

ETA: let me state for the record that this is one of those threads we are going to want you to resurrect at some point. When you dump the guy because he’s totally squicking you out, or you set a date for your wedding, or you break up after a big debate on political views – Dopers wanna know, okay?

I have always felt chilled at the notion of being with a devotee who was simply attracted to my disability, or my wheelchair, rather than attracted to anything that I had or characteristic I displayed in spite of such limitations.

You’ve posted a tough question. I’m not an expert and have no experience but here’s my thoughts anyway.

Turn the tables on yourself. Put aside for a minute what he wants. What do you want out of life? A good marriage is when both partners want the same things from life and are willing to work for those goals. Is he just some seemingly nice guy that has a fetish attraction to you? Or, do you find him attractive because he not only likes you but he has goals in life, a strong moral compass, and ambition? If he is ambitious and has goals are you willing to do all you can, including tough sacrifices to help him achieve them? What are your ambitions? What do you strive for? Is he willing to help you achieve the best for you? Emotionally, does he pick you up or bring you down? Does he make you feel better about yourself? Does he treat you with dignity?

I think these are the sorts of questions you have to sort out. It’s not just about him finding his first disabled partner. It’s also about you finding the person that enables you to be everything you can, not just someone that makes himself available. I can’t imagine how tough it is. Hope this helps.

Here’s my two cents. I wouldn’t see anything weird about it if the fact that you are a quadripilegic (sp? two late too care) is just something he likes and he wants to actually get to know you and date the actual you part of you (not just the paralyzed from the neck down part of you).

I am a guy, and there is a physical type of woman that I find more attractive than other physical types, and lo and behold I married a woman of that physical type. Now, the physical type I’m more attracted to than others is fairly conventional, but it seems like the same thing as generally liking quadrabulemics (sp? blah).

He at least respects you enough as a person to be honest about it. I’m not seeing why you shouldn’t give it a try.

To put it another way, would it really be better if he hid his particular interest from you?

You missed my point, I see it as when the fetisher cannot be turned on without the presence of it. He’s dated able-bodied women before and he doesn’t seem to objectify you or your condition.

Especially if part of their kick was from dating someone they saw as inferior.

You seem to be asking for approval for circumstances of the relationship. I don’t think you need anyone’s approval. It’s your life and his, and if it’s what you both want to do it, there’s no reason not to. And on top of that, you’re only talking about dating the guy. Where’s the harm in that?

I’ve heard a lot of stories from people in long relationships about the reason someone was first attracted to another. Most of them are pretty ordinary. Someone was hot looking, or funny, or interested in the same thing as the other, lots of trivial stuff. So he’s attracted to girls in wheelchairs. What a coincidence! You’re in a wheelchair. And you’re tired of guys who aren’t comfortable with you being in a wheelchair. Guess what! He is.

And now I’m wondering what you guys are waiting for. Just do it already.

You are just considering dating him, right?

Go for it. It is just a couple freekin dates. You don’t even have to screw him. This is not a marage proposal.

First of all, thank you so much for NOT saying that you’ve always felt sorry for people with disabilities–I thought that’s where you were headed, and it was refreshing when you went in a totally different direction. :wink: You know what? Thanks EVERYONE for not saying that, or that I’m “really strong.” Bless you all. Love SDMB.

Second, sure–I’ll let everyone know the gritty details of what becomes of this. :slight_smile:

Bahahahahahahahaha! :smiley:

Do you interact well in ways that do not involve his uncommon attraction. Can you have long conversations about all kinds of topics? Do you share many common interests and activities? Are their huge class and background differences between you?

That’s how the two of you are. But what about him? Has he held good jobs for long periods? Does he seem basically stable? Are his relationships with his family mostly good except for a few minor troubles? If there’s something so wrong with his family relationships, has he pretty much built himself a second family, a circle of close and trusted people? Does he really have friends at all? Does he have clear goals about what he wants to become and reasonable plans about how to get there?

If you can answer mostly yes to all these questions, you’ve hit the jackpot. And these are exactly the same questions I would pose to anyone in any sort of relationship. If he is the sort of man who is on a thriving path in his life and has an uncommon preference for your disability, you’ve struck gold. If he is not that much on a thriving path, think about dumping him. I wish you well in considering this decision.

BTW, even if he has a good relationship with his family, they are not likely to accept you. Been through this. Had a long term gf who was blind. Our relationship failure had nothing to do with my family, though they hated her for her disability. Neither of us was on our thriving path at the time we were together. We hadn’t figured that out yet.

BTW, I really hate how the blind are depicted on TV. You don’t push blind people, you lead them. And you never initiate contact with a blind person with your palm, always the back of the hand. and when you are leading a blind person correctly there is a system of foot signals that allow you to negotiate curbs and stairs at almost the same speed as two sighted people. It’s like dancing.