Am I Being Fetishized?

About the Author: Ash Shepard is a writer who uses her platform to talk about the most hard hitting subjects that have to do with disability, sex, and everything in between. Her captions and beautiful images on her platform never fail to inspire. To read more incredible pieces from Ash or see some awesome photos of this 'aesthetic queen' make sure to check out her instagram here.

Dating in this era is trash. There. I said it. And having a disability on top of that makes it that much more frustrating. I’ve had my fair share of experiences, some good, & some down right terrible. But one thing I found is that there is a community of those that are attracted to people with disabilities. I’m not one to kink shame, but…huh? Before I explain, let me give a few key details about myself.

I have been wheelchair bound since the age of 11, I am 31 now. I am an incomplete paraplegic which causes me to have limited mobility. I haven’t always been confident in my body but due to there not being resources out there about how to navigate fashion, sex and dating, I had to figure it out on my own. I now promote disabled-body positivity and openly speak about my dating and/or sexual experiences (often hilarious) for those who want to educate themselves or those that need someone to relate to.

So, like most of us, I use dating apps. In particular I started using OKcupid a few years ago. I didn’t realize it at first but there is a way for users to find your profile by searching keywords. I had gotten to a point where I’d rather put it out there that I use a wheelchair in my bio and include photos of me in it so they will be aware. Literally was tired of my time being wasted. But then I started getting messages from people that were only interested in my wheelchair. I could not figure out how they were finding me. So I did my research and found that these people are from a fetish community called Disability Devotees. They are people who are attracted to your disability, be it amputation, muscle atrophy, or even your assistive devices, for example a wheelchair. 

Now, I was a little conflicted at first. Because on one hand you have people that are hesitant or uncomfortable with the idea of dating someone with a disability, but then you have this group of abled bodied (not always) people who are attracted to you and want to date you BECAUSE of your disability. I think what it all boiled down to for me is that it’s one thing to find my disability interesting, but it’s another thing to find it sexually arousing. It’s a preference based on sexual attraction and not based on who I am as a person. My wheelchair is an extension of me, it is not who I am. There is also a sense of power some of them like. The ableist idea that we are helpless. And that is just not a connection I would want to subscribe to. 

Some people are okay with being fetishized, I’m unfortunately just not one of them. You deserve to feel special and loved for who you are fully. Not objectified or dehumanized. I want us to have fun and enjoy our dating experiences, but don’t ever feel obligated to engage with anything that makes you uncomfortable. Needless to say, I am no longer on OKcupid and If I feel like someone is possibly fetishizing me because of my disability, I respectfully end the interaction. 

So be aware, ask questions, and if it doesn’t feel or sound right? NEXT!

Photo by @brandonhicks

Have Fun & Stay Safe, Babes!

For more information on Disability Devotees: