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Thursday, February 13, 2014

SL Letter of the Day: Devoteeeze

Posted by on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Originally posted on July 11, 2011.

I'm a smart, professional woman in my mid-30s who dates the same. I also happen to use a wheelchair; I was diagnosed shortly after my first birthday with a motor neuron disease. I have about as much physical strength as a quadriplegic but I have full sensation. (Boy howdy, do I!) I am careful about who I date because of my physical dependence on the people around me. I am also wary of folks who call themselves "devotees." These are individuals with disability-related fetishes. They gravitate toward amputees, but some are attracted to women in chairs. I'm not sure what about this bothers me so much; I suppose it feels reductionist, and I've spent my adult life becoming more than a girl in a chair.

I'm sure you can see where this is going. I started dating a lovely, successful, witty, beautiful woman a little more than a year ago. As time progressed, it became clear that we were sexually compatible. Things have been great. At the eight-month point, I told my BFF that this might be "the one." At the nine-month point, she confessed to being a devotee. I was crushed. But I trusted her, as I had gotten no icky feelings from her. Then she said that she wanted to try using my chair during sex—except with our roles reversed. Because I try to be GGG, I consented, as long as she agreed to couples therapy, which she did. In therapy, she said she had no idea I was in a chair before we met—which is plausible, as it was a blind date—and she just felt lucky when I showed up in a chair and then didn't know how to tell me. So... we've been working it out.

Until last night. We were out with friends, she asked me to take a picture on her phone, and I found pics of me, from the neck down (clothed, thank god), and pics of my chair. I quickly sent them to myself and then, later, checked them on Google Images. My fears were confirmed: She's been posting these photos, without my consent, to "devotee" websites. I feel sick and heartbroken. I haven't confronted her yet.

What do I do, Dan? In every other way, this woman's a catch, and I really care about her. At the same time, I feel like my trust has been horribly violated. Is it time to DTMFA?

Girl In Massive Pain

My response after the jump...

Yes, GIMP, it's time to DTMFA.

And you gotta dump the motherfucker like you mean it. You can't be a lesbian about this. No "taking a break," no "putting things on hold," no "scheduling an appointment" with your couples counselor. You're dumping her. The end.

Your soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend needs to understand that, as a direct result of her unbelievably selfish actions, she was promptly and unambiguously dumped. It's the only way this motherfucker will ever be able to wrap her head around just how thoroughly she violated you. (It doesn't help that she lies to you—I mean, excuse me, but who sets a friend up on a blind date with someone in a wheelchair without mentioning that fact?) And now, thanks to her, pictures of you are floating around fetish websites. Your soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend destroyed your sense of sexual safety and shat all over the trust that had been placed in her by her dream girl. (That would be you, GIMP.) And for what? A cheap thrill? Bragging rights?

Dump the motherfucker already.

And then, GIMP, after your ex has had some time to wallow in regret (you were the girl of her dreams!) and self-recrimination (how could she have been so fucking stupid!), give her a call. Depending on what you hear—and hopefully you'll hear an extended apology and that she's in therapy—you can make up your mind about whether you wanna TTMFB: "take the motherfucker back."

It sounds like your girlfriend has many good qualities, GIMP, and it sounds like you two clicked. Maybe your girlfriend can be salvaged. Maybe losing you will be the shock she needs to get help. If it is—if she went and got help of her own accord, not because she thought it would win you back (because that wasn't on the table)—then bizarro DTMFA ("date the motherfucker again") might be an option. But you two should start seeing a counselor together if you TTMFB, you should take things four times as slowly this time, and she should get a phone that doesn't have a camera.


Comments (18) RSS

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I recommend also reading the following week's column, in which this letter is revealed to be fake.…

"GIMP's letter appears to have been a fake. There's a disturbed person lurking on the web who pretends to be a woman in a wheelchair, as a number of readers wrote to inform me, and this person has peddled the exact same story before. A fake letter is going to make its way into the column from time to time—there's no way to verify every letter—and as all questions that make the column are just good hypotheticals to every Savage Love reader save one, I try not to get too worked up about the odd fake. But it is a problem when a fake question contributes to the negative public perception of a group of people whose sexual desires are already so stigmatized.

So while the news that GIMP's letter is fake will come as a comfort to everyone who thought my advice for GIMP sucked, it's cold comfort for all the good and decent devotees out there who had to see yet another story about a shitty—and, in this case, completely fictitious—devotee make it into print. My apologies."
Posted by ridia on February 13, 2014 at 4:02 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 2
Can we also stop and talk about people who have a distinct and permanent physical characteristic that also look down on those who may fetishizes said physical characteristic? Whether the trait is a disability, large people, tall people, short people, people with big breasts, big butts, or nice feet, I find it strange that there is a large swath of people with specific traits that denigrate the people who like them in part for that trait.

That being said, there are those who fetishize whatever who will make the person with that trait feel like an object. People who make somebody feel ONLY like an object are douchenuggets. But, people who specifically desire certain traits, but also love the person who has the trait, certainly shouldn't be ruled out, should they?

Also, what a fucking douchenugget spouse. Posting pictures to websites for others to spank it to?? Ugh!
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 13, 2014 at 4:13 PM · Report this
@2 I can speak from my own personal perspective a little bit. As a chubby teenager and a chubby/fat young adult (but still small enough to usually just feel "average") I had this deep fear of dating someone who was attracted to me in part because of my body shape. This was something that always bothered me about my first boyfriend. At the same time, I certainly didn't want someone who hated by body and wanted to be with me in spite of it (kind of my second boyfriend). It was almost like what I wanted was for it to not even be a factor/component in their attraction to me. This fully and completely came from internalized shame and self hatred. Someone desiring my fat body would remind me that I was indeed fat, which I had to try to ignore to actually feel attractive enough to date/fuck. I am not saying that this is the same issue someone in a wheelchair might have, but all I know is that once I got over my self esteem issues and learned how to feel hot and fuckable in the body I've got, this worry went away. Ironically, its also led to a string of partners who have loved my body AND have wide preferences for sexytime body types.
Posted by olechka on February 13, 2014 at 4:29 PM · Report this
Cool advice Dan, but I would have left the latter advice (i.e. TTMFB) in a private email. I'm guessing there's a good chance that this devotee is a fan of your column, in which case she just received a roadmap on how to get back in the LW's life, and her reformation may not be genuine.
Posted by dave1976 on February 13, 2014 at 5:26 PM · Report this
@4: Yes! I realize it is an old, and apparently fake letter. But if current and honest, there is a 0.037% chance that a devotee frequenting devotee website wouldn't instantly know that DAN SAVAGE (R) (TM) had published GIMP's letter. And therefore known exactly how to act to win her back.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on February 13, 2014 at 6:07 PM · Report this
@2 and @3. We all love to think it's our inner person that attracted our partner. Until we're fucking and then we want our bits, pieces, weight, hirsuteness, baldness, strength, softness, whatever to be what really pushes their buttons.

Ideally it is a balance. They see beyond the wheelchair and simply enjoy the person, 95% of the time. But they are either neutral or better yet turned on by the chair.

There's no shortage of lovely personalities out there. There's no lack of porn featuring whatever body types turn you on. But for a partner, we want a lot of overlap between those criteria. As does our partner.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on February 13, 2014 at 6:17 PM · Report this
@2 I've been thinking about this, and I think it largely depends on the disability being fetishized and the attitude of the person who has it. Let's take a simple and unlikely example based on myself. I suffer from migraines regularly. If somebody fetishized that, I would be uncomfortable, because they are sexually attracted to something about me that causes me pain and suffering.

On the other hand, I'm legally blind. If you fetishize that, I'd probably just feel it's weird. And I'd probably not be "blind enough" to be attractive for that anyway. But I'd want to know what about it the person likes. The problem is, a lot of devotees don't just like the aesthetic, but are turned on by the potential or perceived power dynamic. They like the idea of somebody who is more helpless. And that is something I'd run the hell away from (well, walk safely away from, but metaphorically run). If you just find white canes sexy, I guess that'd be fine.

I think it's similar to a potential distinction between just liking the look of somebody who is Asian and viewing them as exotic and foreign or potentially meeker and more submissive or so forth. I'm not an Asian woman, but if I were, I am fairly sure I'd not be at all okay with the latter. But if you just like dark hair, that'd probably be cool.

Basically, I think there are different ways to find something attractive, and some of them are creepy and are likely to cause unhealthy relationships if acted upon.
Posted by uncreative on February 13, 2014 at 6:52 PM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 8
@2 and @3: Could there be a gender component to the opposition to fetishists? As a dude, I have a hard time imagining being put off by anyone who fetishizes any of my attributes, so long as I'm a "person with X" instead of just "X" to them.

My wife has confessed that one of the things she's crazy attracted to in me is my freakishly small hands. Seriously: I'm a pretty big dude that needs to wear women's gloves to get a good fit. Her hand fetish didn't both me at all. In my view, my small hands are now a ticket to a hot and bothered wife, so they're a good thing.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 13, 2014 at 7:34 PM · Report this
@1 thanks for posting that. Much as I like this letter and LOVE the response, I am a bit pissed off at Dan for NOT posting the follow up (that it was a fake.) Or at least a short note about it. Somehow it feels dishonest now, even though the advise is absolutely right on. As a reader, I feel a bit like the "writer": drawn in, then betrayed.
Posted by BG on February 13, 2014 at 8:09 PM · Report this
Why rerun a fake letter, Dan? This really annoys me. I'm not thrilled with the recycling of old material, but I don't normally complain about it. You're a busy man; we get it. But recycling a proven fake? Really, really, really wrong.

Posted by Drunken Housewife on February 13, 2014 at 9:23 PM · Report this
Confluence 11
DTMFA part agreed. But then the TTMFB part tacked on at the end? WTF? Classic Dan Savage. Should have ended with DTMFA. Why is the TTMFB added at the end? Because it's all about *fucking* of course, even at the expense of trust and safety. This woman was totally violated on every level by her partner… but the fucking was there so we have to at least leave the door open a crack. Gay-male-logic at its worst.
Posted by Confluence on February 13, 2014 at 9:51 PM · Report this
@2 I think the problem is that it's hard to tell the difference between someone who likes what you have and someone who views you object that turns them on.

I would imagine that for someone who's spent their spent whole life being defined by the people around them solely by their disability why this would be a turn-off.
Posted by msanonymous on February 13, 2014 at 9:59 PM · Report this
@7 is well worth a read!
Posted by migrationist on February 14, 2014 at 12:04 AM · Report this
@8: Read @7, it's exactly the answer to your question. Imagine if your wife fetishized your tiny hands because they mean that you're weaker and less capable than her and you might have an equivalence. It's the difference between having a thing for Asian women because you find typically Asian facial features aesthetically pleasing and having a thing for Asian women because you think they're less strong-willed than white girls.
Posted by alguna_rubia on February 14, 2014 at 10:28 AM · Report this
I Hate Screen Names 15
@14: But if I were weaker and less capable than my wife, I would rather she like it than she not like it. Again, I suspect there might be gender issues at play.

Where I would start to have a problem is in the potential for sabotage. If my wife liked that I were weaker than her, and thus undermined my efforts to get stronger/healthier, then I'd be pissed. Since there's no way to embiggen my hands, though, I may as well reap some unexpected positive benefits from them.
Posted by I Hate Screen Names on February 14, 2014 at 11:49 AM · Report this
1. Was kinky and didn't immediately fess up? Not a problem.

2. Took photos without LW's knowledge and consent and put them up on the Internet? Problem.

3. There are phones that don't have cameras?
Posted by DRF on February 14, 2014 at 12:41 PM · Report this
Corylea 17
Dan, why would you repost a letter that you KNOW IS A FAKE, given that you said "But it is a problem when a fake question contributes to the negative public perception of a group of people whose sexual desires are already so stigmatized."

Thank heavens ridia posted a link to the follow-up.
Posted by Corylea on February 14, 2014 at 1:04 PM · Report this
To those pissed at the rerunning of a fake letter: in the past, Dan has talked about outsourcing selecting the letters to rerun to a staffer or intern. That applies especially when Dan is away for an extended time, like when he's got a deadline for a book, but it wouldn't surprise me if it is just the standard practice around the office.

So, Dan's staffer or intern committed an oopsy-daisy. Or that's my bet. Tut tut to said staffer or intern, but...human beings aren't perfect. This is the sort of mistake it would be easy to make, since it is a rare thing indeed for Dan to make a big point of a letter being a fake, and the staffer or intern didn't check subsequent columns for a retraction.

So, dear brother and sister readers shouldn't get TOO upset, even though a bit of umbrage is called for, and the staffer or intern ought to be blushing at least a little bit.
Posted by Functional Atheist on February 14, 2014 at 7:44 PM · Report this

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