Friday, August 28, 2015


I think this is a wonderful counterpoint to the inspiration porn that occupies so much of the limited scope our media affords the disabled. She speaks with a rawness that most actors work their whole lives to imitate, but hers is no act. I think the curative norms in our culture extend to how we examine and react to things like disability in society. We try to see triumph over tragedy and think it will somehow inspire us to re-characterize whole categories of people in our mind.

Her voice bleeds authentic notes and quivers with a vulnerability that primetime prefers whispered or implied. She is not here with a handful of sugar and sunshine telling us everything will be fine. Everything may be fine, ultimately, but sometimes it hurts, and she doesn't want to hide that.

It is rare that we confront moments like grief in our society, and leave it unadorned by good sentiment. The sad truth of loss is that no matter what we say or do, no matter how hard we try to adjust, loss hurts, and nothing in the world can take that away. Confrontation itself is a process that we engage in and change, and yet in so many ways it happens apart from us. Grief doesn't wait. It doesn't care that you missed the bus, your feet are cold, and the snow won't stop, it's here screaming at you and it demands your attention.

And what are we to do?

There is nothing in our confrontation that will make it hurt any less, because pain is its essence. Pain is the consequence of love lost. The love of family and friends may ground you, but in the end, sometimes, all you can do is hurt and keep going on.

There is, of course another side to this story. There is life after disability, and it can fulfill. However for some us, perhaps oversaturated with stories of triumph and themes that makes us feel good, it is good to gaze more closely on the uncomfortable circumstances which came before it, and the feeling of love and loss which we may come to terms with but will never leave our hearts.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Defining Devotees, Pretenders, and Wannabes/Transabled

Definitions are not to be taken lightly. Linguists will tell you that while words may exhibit a great deal of variance based only on context, there are some aspects which seem to be entirely intrinsic. The study of these is called Semantics, and it is a bit of a slippery fish.

Let's suppose you are trying to come up with a definition of dogs which would allow you to distinguish every dog from everything else in the universe. The following definition certainly seems reasonable, “A dog is a quadrupedal land mammal with fur and a tail; it barks, eats meat, and lives with people.” However, the Basenji doesn't bark, the Mexican Hairless is of course hairless, and furthermore some dogs are wild. This goes on and on to what some see as ridiculous lengths until we end up asking what is common to a picture of a pipe, the word 'pipe', and a pipe itself.

This might seem too abstract and theoretical to ever apply to any of our lives, so let's look at an historical example. Race relations as we know them in the United States owe their legacy to a Swiss Biologist named Carl Linnaeus whose most enduring contributions to science were his works in Taxonomy and the creation of binomial nomenclature (L. canis lupus etc.) Taxonomy, you may recall from Biology when you were made to memorize, by whatever cheeky mnemonic, the following categories: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.

It's an old idea which ultimately stretches back to Aristotle's concept of “categories”. So taken was Linnaeus with Taxonomy that he set out to categorize everything in the natural world up to and including humans. While he certainly did a great deal to advance our understanding of and ability to talk about the natural world, in some ways he was blithely naïve.

Regrettably, Linnaeus did end up classifying people according to their skin color which naturally paved the way for more than two hundred years of heartache and bloodshed, whose ill effects are still being felt to this day. So, while I am certainly no Linneaus, I still feel a measure of trepidation as I approach this task.

Here, I will do my best to describe as accurately as possible my community and its various sub-groups with which I am not as familiar. While I certainly care about doing this right, I am limited in many ways. There is a strikingly spare amount of empirical data available about devotees and so I have little to rely on save for my own observations which naturally taint any effort toward objectivity.

That being said...

There appear to be three primary categories people in this community tend to fall into. The main categories provided here have been created by these people, and are frequently listed in this order, to describe and distinguish themselves from others both in and outside of their community. There are though, a number of people who occupy more than one category, or all three.

It is wise though to treat these not as rules of human behavior, but rather a simple guide to some of the more common forms. There are quite likely more varieties than those described below. One key concept stressed in this entry is that human behavior is rarely so neatly compartmentalized. There are absolutely cases of overlap between the three main categories, and even within each category between its sub-varieties; thus the situation is potentially much more complex than what is presented here. Each person in any of these categories has a different life story and thus a different set of circumstances from which they approach these issues and thus the subject of dis/ability in general. It is dangerously reductive to suggest that we could understand an individual's current situation, development, etc. based on these labels alone.

Devotees (D) People identifying as devotees have an attraction which is in some way connected to disability. There are devotees representing many different ages, races, income levels, national origins, genders, sexual orientations, and even states of dis/ability. However, one of the only stable and unifying points found in research regarding devotees is that something around 90-95% of them are men.

Currently amputee devotees seem to be the most common form, though this likely changes as disability does in society (i.e. during the polio epidemic of the 1950's) Some devotees are attracted to or by one specific disability (i.e. right above the knee amputees), a handful of seemingly unrelated disabilities (i.e. quadriplegia, blindness, and cerebral palsy), or sometimes to or by a certain class of disabilities (i.e. mobility impairments). Some though may be specifically attracted to or by the assistive devices involved, and thus the presence of a disability in their partner is of lesser or sometimes no importance. Thus pretenders and wannabes/transabled people end up abused in many of the same ways. Some even prefer able bodied partners who pretend to have a disability. This is an important distinction to draw.

Naturally there are those who may share varying types of attractions. For example it is not uncommon to find some devotees who are attracted to people with disabilities as well as certain assistive devices involved. These attractions though are not always in equal proportion, and this point must be stressed.

Some devotees, for example, are only attracted to people with disabilities, and some are only attracted to people who use assistive devices (for any reason). Some though are attracted to people with disabilities, and people without disabilities; they can function sexually without the presence disability or assistive devices, though they may prefer or enjoy them from time to time.

In Psychology there is a concept called “paraphilia” which, in the DSM: IV at least, originally refers to a disorder whereby a person must have a given non-human object present in order to achieve orgasm. This has been somewhat revised with the inclusion of a paraphilia called “partialism” referring to a paraphilic focus on a certain body part (conventionally, big breasts, though in devotees this can be understood as being attracted to the disability itself regardless of the person involved) The general name for the paraphilias associated with devotees are “abasiophilia” and “acromotomophilia”, though there has been very little research into these. Generally speaking, once a person has a acquired a paraphilia (any paraphilia) or a psychologically significant kinky attraction, they do not go away, and there are few proven methods of eliminating these desires.

As has been implied, not all devotees are paraphiliacs, though some are. This is a phenomenon we can see repeated in BDSM culture as well. Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy have talked about “kinky” sex existing on a continuum instead of a binary “you-are-or-you-aren't” mode of being. Some people enjoy sex accompanied by elaborate scenarios with lots of whips, knots and leather, and some people may enjoy the thrills of riding a fast paced roller coaster, and having “vanilla” sex afterward. In either case , to hear Easton and Hardy tell it, these people are playing with the same emotional “energy”, even though each may think the other to be weird.

[Note: Just to clarify any speculations which may arise, there is no known limit on the number of paraphilias one person may have. However; in one text I found, which had a heavy diagnostic emphasis, the authors had found one documented case of a man who reported having nine paraphilias. It's the largest number I, or the authors of that text, have been able find.]

Pretenders (P) – Pretenders, as the name implies, pretend that they have some sort of disability or disabilities. The population for pretenders is just as wide as that of devotees, though they have been studied even less and there is relatively nothing empirical to draw from. Pretenders here are distinguished from people who pretend to have a disability in order to qualify for benefits from the government, insurance companies, to avoid armed service, etc. Pretenders find that they are driven to pretend not by any financial, legal, or other outside incentive, but by the act itself.

As with devotees, it appears that amputee pretenders are more common, though there are those who pretend they have many other types of disabilities. Pretending, it must be noted, can be done in the absence of assistive devices (supposing they are even necessary to simulate the given disability), though generally it seems that the more important a device is for someone with a given disability to accomplish ADL (Activities of Daily Living) the more important it will be to the pretender.

Some pretenders are very secretive and will only pretend unobserved in some safe isolated space, usually the home, though others enjoy going out in public. Some only go out in public to relatively deserted places or at night when they are sure they will not be seen, though others enjoy going out in public during regular business hours and interacting with others, some even going so far as to take full vacations simulating their given disability. I have known a few who sought mental health counseling and were encouraged to periodically go out on pretending trips far away from home, as the practitioner felt it was easily analogous to cross dressing, for which a similar “treatment” is often advised.

There are debates among pretenders who do venture outside the home about how to behave in public. Some believe it is appropriate to use adapted bathroom stalls, hotel rooms, ramps, and even accept discounts etc. though others do not. This is part of a larger discussion about to how present one's self when in public so as to avoid defaming the disabled by acting too rude or helpless etc. It is hard to draw a consensus here, though what I have seen from those who have regular internet access and are brave enough to talk about it, most agree care should be taken to avoid rudeness etc. Opinions though do differ, often fervently, on whether or not to use bathroom stalls, and other services which may cause the pretender to interfere in the life of someone with a disability.

As with devotees there are many reasons pretenders find themselves wanting to pretend. There are pretenders who are simply fascinated with the given assistive devices. For example I have known some groups of pretenders who enjoyed toying with and customizing wheelchairs the same way some people enjoy toying with and customizing cars. Some I've known enjoy toying with both in the same manner. In some ways it appears as a fascination with alternate forms of mobility which has merely found its focus.

It is not uncommon though to hear other pretenders describing their pretending as similar to cross dressing. This is said speculatively by pretenders who have no history of cross dressing, though it is also said by pretenders who have been life long members of the transgender/transsexual/transvestite /etc. community. Pretenders who cross dress have sometimes described their pretending as an extension of their cross dressing.

For some it may have a sexual dimension. If we understand that transvestite pretenders see their pretending as an extension of their crossdressing, then we may infer that perhaps for some pretenders who have a sexual dimension to their pretending it could be understood as similar to transvestic fetishists who are aroused by wearing clothing of another sex. Again, there are many overlaps between these three groups, and so we can understand that the devotee who is attracted not so much to the person with a disability as the assistive devices involved, may find enjoyment merely in various types of interaction with a given device, and thus also be a pretender, potentially at least.

There does exist a certain category of paraphilias which involves arousal associated with certain conditions being applied to the self. Autogynophilia involves feelings of arousal of having the genitalia of the opposite sex. This specifically applies to male identified people, and is curiously more often discussed than its female counterpart. It is likely then that there are also pretenders who are aroused at the idea of being disabled, and pretending for them may sometimes be an extension of that. However, just because a pretender is aroused at the idea of being disabled, and pretends to aid in this arousal, we still can not claim that every act of pretending is taken toward this end. This is one of the more frustrating aspects of classifying mental events based only on things like behavior and stated desire. Perhaps we will one day see neuroscience shed some light on this matter.

Pretending is not limited to simply how one acts in real life. As social networking has reared its head certain forms of pretending have become more common.

When anyone creates a facebook profile and uploads a picture of themselves, it is unavoidably a picture from their past; this is the nature of the medium. Sometimes the gap between the time the photo was taken and the present becomes excessively long, and the question of representation and reality is raised. The postmodern philosopher Jean Baudrillard wrote at length about such counterfeits, and their implications, before the internet was a whisper of what we know now. Without delving too deep though, my point is that Devotees, pretenders, and wannabes/transabled people find themselves amidst a world of false, or at least misleading appearances, and this leads to a number of quandries and abuses.

The most common abuse we find is that of devotees who will create fake profiles on social networking sites, presenting themselves as disabled (often with the aid of stolen photos), to gain the trust of disabled people, steal their photos, and perpetuate the cycle of abuse. This is problematic and widespread, though there is a problem here of how to classify this behavior and its perpetrators. Is it pretending?

The definition of pretending I have been working with is this, “Pretenders are driven to pretend not by any outside incentive, but by the act itself.” Pretending thus is autotelic, to use a technical term. It is an act performed as an end in itself. The devotee who creates a deliberately fake profile to lure the disabled into their gaze is thus not a pretender, but rather a coercive devotee.

Devoteeism, like literally every other sexual kink, thought, and emotional state, hurts no other person until it is in some way acted upon. While there is ample room for argument about how devotees may act upon their feelings, there is none here. This is just as coercive and damaging as a voyeur or exhibitionist.

Wannabes/Transabled (W/T) – There are two words in contemporary parlance to describe this group of people. Originally, they were called wannabes, though eventually Sean from felt that this did not adequately describe his condition, and thus he created his website. Here I must digress slightly...

I have seen the claim raised that the used of the prefix “trans-” by the transabled amounts to “cultural appropriation” of the larger trans* community. In many ways this is based on a poor understanding of the situation, though I can't say I blame transpeople for the misunderstanding. You'd have to be a dedicated reader of to catch Sean brining this up, but he is a longstanding member of the trans* community. He enjoys cross-dressing, and insofar as he created the term to clarify his situation, and he is to some degree a gender variant individual, it makes these already flimsy claims of appropriation more difficult to advance.

Getting back on topic though, people identifying as Transabled are indistinguishable from wannabes. What is different is not their pathology but rather how they articulate their feelings. “Wannabe” is a crude and simplistic term coined long ago and it in many ways misses the mark, yet despite this you will still find some people who prefer this term to Transabled.

There is an interesting phenomenon called Capgras' Delusion which has led to a lot of interesting speculation as of late. The patient, usually suffering from a traumatic brain injury damaging the section of the brain which maps their body, will find themselves utterly disavowing a certain body part. Specifically, there was one case where a man with this delusion swore that his left arm was not his own, but was some sort of counterfeit and demanded that it be removed.

It is here that the famous neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran found something of interest. We know that “errors” and “deformations” of all sorts occur as a child is being produced in the womb. These occur everywhere. The are genetic “errors” like Fragile X Syndrome, and “deformations” of the central nervous system like Spina Bifida. There are also similar “errors” in the development of the brain, and it would seem ridiculous to suggest that the area of the brain which maps the body would be somehow specially immune to the vicissitudes of human development.

The condition described by just such a congenital disorder is Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), and I'm sure you can imagine how controversial the issue is. This is especially true considering that BIID it arises in the context created by the previous three categories.

I would argue that not every person who experiences feelings of desiring a disability has BIID, even if they think they do. What is different about BIID as I understand it, is that unlike the other categories it is a bit easier to point to. Perhaps it can only be confirmed if an autopsy is done, though it is still something which has a more easily verifiable physical presence as opposed to feelings or memories which may exist only as a synaptic neurochemical current traversing the brain. However, because so little is known about BIID, I will avoid saying anymore.

* * *

What's really tragic is that despite the length of this piece and the tedious detail I've rendered the subject in, there is still more to cover. I have written about the three common categories and touched on some of the possible overlaps to give you an idea of how much more complex it may be. I have made a venn diagram which should help explain the other possible categories, though it must be understood that even this is shortsighted.

D = Devotee, P = Pretender, W/T = Wannabe/Transabled

I say these are possible categories because I haven't personally seen people who I would identify as hailing from certain overlapping categories, and more importantly I haven't met anyone who self identifies with many of them either. Also, the notion of someone being both a pretender and transabled gets very tricky. Transsexual people have often claimed that they do not cross dress, but rather dress to match their true selves. It's not hard to see how such an argument could arise with transabled people.

Devotees, Pretenders, and Wannabes do not exist in a vacuum, there are many other overlaps with other fetish communities. I have run across devotee furry art before, and devotee-pretenders who were also interested in robot porn. If you scan through most devotee porn vendors' back catalogs you'll find plenty of instances of models fulfilling what can only be fan requests for plenty of other fetishes, some relatively common, some quite obscure.

Often when considering any of these categories and the people who inhabit them, there are attempts to understand why they feel and act the way they do. People in these categories often undergo a similar, and sometimes more distressing version of that experience. There are many common theories, such as a deeper unconscious need for, or attraction to, the special attention surrounding disability, or some level of excitement derived from playing with an imbalanced power dynamic. These rarely prove effective because too often there is a belief that one or two of these can explain away the whole of DPW/T behavior, though, as has been covered, when looking at human behavior, especially an individual, there is frequently a plurality of causes.

Regarding causes and motivations, if I desire to write truly then I may only speak for myself. I have been to multiple mental health professionals employing a variety of approaches in an attempt to understand myself. One of the most prominent common threads held by all of them has been a focus less on causes and cures, and more on how to accept yourself as you are, and live a healthy and fulfilling life. Perhaps others could benefit from adopting such a strategy.

Monday, April 30, 2012


Very recently a dev/pretender friend alerted me to a rather interesting website which shares the goals of this blog. “Disability Trolls” is authored by a self defense instructor who is unique in that he focuses on more than just the physical aspects of self defense. Erik Kondo emphasizes those aspects of self-defense which are all too often overlooked in the digital age. It is a necessary task, though not always an easy one.

Just two days ago I was writing about the problems of sexual assault, the need for men to take an active role in preventing that, and the particular issues that arise when we look at this within the context of devoteeism. Erik does a fantastic job of explaining how people can keep themselves safe. For a long time I felt like I was the only one taking active steps to counter the effects of coercive devoteeism. Interestingly, the entry where I discussed this receives most of the traffic of everything I've written to date. I can't be sure of who is reading my writing, but given the massive and consistent increase in traffic I had immediately after being listed on, I assume most of them are devotees.

It's quite invigorating to see that, in regards to Facebook, what he's saying is nearly a carbon copy of what I've been telling people for a long time now. The principles of staying safe online aren't horrendously complex (though Facebook seems aggressively intent on changing that), so on some level this is to be expected, though it does make me smile to finally hear someone echoing in earnest what I have been saying all along.

Erik has a very thorough understanding of self-defense, especially at the physical level. He runs a non-profit teaching self-defense which is admirable in itself, but also a number websites and blogs exploring these concepts specifically as they relate to the disabled. However, anyone able bodied or not can stand to learn something from listening to him speak and reading what he has written. When it comes to his "5D's” the guy really knows his stuff.

He approaches the issue of devoteeism from the perspective not only of a self defense instructor, but of an inveterate wheelchair user as well, specifically, that of a paraplegic. Just as my devoteeism gives me a certain perspective on devotees and disability, so does his disability influence what he encounters and how he interprets it. Everybody operates within some kind of context.

This isn't just me being pedantic, it's actually quite relevant if you look at how he conceptualizes the issue. Here is a quote from the first article on his site.

“A Disability Troll is a general term the describe people on the internet who are actively searching and “trolling” for people with disabilities on the internet. Trolls come in many forms:

  1. Wheelchair Pretenders – People who pretend to have a disability. The most common Pretender is someone who deceives people into thinking they are a wheelchair user. Pretending to be an amputee is also common.
  2. Devotees – People that are attracted to people with disabilities specifically because of the existence of the disability.
  3. Disability Fetish – People who have an unusual sexual attraction to actual or pretend disability.
  4. Disability Stalkers – People who actively seek out and stalk people with disabilities.”

What is really commendable on his part is how he tries to distinguish between sub-groups. It's practically charitable to see anybody actually taking the time to explain that we're not all one and the same. There are a diversity of experiences within our community, and it is very refreshing to see someone attempting to tease them out a bit.

Despite this, I don't think Psychology or Human Sexuality have been a persistent area of study throughout his career. He doesn't seem to be familiar with paraphilias as a word or on a layman's level. Even technical terms like “abasiophilia” and “apotemnophilia” have evaded his apprehension. We can learn a lot by examining how he uses and doesn't use words. To begin, there is the little double entendre he employs with “troll”. He juxtaposes “troll”, a word referring to monstrous beings of Scandanavian folklore, and the internet slang term for a willfully disruptive person, with “trolling” which means to fish with a baited line trailed behind a slowly moving boat. It's a great way to catch red herring.

You'll notice that items three through four are actually written and titled very generically to apply to really any disability, which follows how the phenomena has been observed to occur according to both official academic sources and informal evaluations by devotees themselves. However, his first term is titled, “Wheelchair Pretender”, not something like “Disability Pretender” as we might expect. People interested in amputation, who anyone could tell you are by far the most common through every facet of Devotees, Pretenders, and Wannabes, are an afterthought.

It is worthy to note that his entire site, “Disability Trolls”, is written to suggest that it covers the subject in a general sense. However, if you'll read through all of the elements listed, you'll find they all involve people in wheelchairs, almost exclusively due to spinal injuries. Indeed, his experience has led him to believe that, “The most common Pretender is someone who deceives people into thinking he is a wheelchair user.” He operates very clearly within the context of a paraplegic, and this has certainly shaped his understanding. In a similar way, you'll find out a lot about my proclivities as a devotee by examining what I link to, and thus I too am no stranger to such a bias.

What bothers me though is that Erik attempts to act in many ways as an expert on devotees when he is anything but. He has no knowledge of what John Money, Alison Kafer, or V.S. Ramachandran have written about us, nor their reputation as researchers and theorists. Overall, he is sparsely informed on devotees, and even then only a specific subset, and while this is bad in itself, it regrettably impairs his work in advocacy and prevention as well.

“Devotee Trolls” focuses almost exclusively on what happens on Facebook. As someone who has been doing the exact same kind of work he has I can assure you this problem stretches much farther than just one web 2.0 destination. He doesn't seem to have familiarity with negotiating Yahoo's byzantine network of links to submit a takedown request, or chasing down a photographer so they can make the request as well, or what a pain it is to try and explain to someone in Eastern Europe with only Google Translate at your side why their photos haven't been taken down, and how to stay safe in the future.

He doesn't know how horrible it feels as a devotee to have to let someone know that everyone commenting on their vlog has ulterior motives. He doesn't know how horrible it is to have someone hate you anyway. Furthermore though, he doesn't have the kind of understanding of this condition that comes with growing up alone and afraid, knowing you are different, knowing you must hide, knowing you are stuck feeling this way and that you must find a way to live with yourself that neither harms others nor yourself. 

In a better world, he wouldn't make these mistakes. He wouldn't make these mistakes because he wouldn't know about us. He wouldn't have to do the work that we do. He wouldn't have to write everything he has written, and neither would I. We should not have to write anything, because this problem should not exist. This is an absolutely preventable problem, and it starts not with the victims, but the perpetrators.

As I've pointed out before, coercive devotees who steal and take pictures know their actions to be improper. Despite this, they manage to inure their negative feelings and convince themselves that what they are doing is in no way wrong or harmful. I don't want to retread old ground by reiterating everything I've already said about Jackson Katz and the problems of coercion. This is in part because it would be redundant, but also because it would obscure a newer point of grave importance to devotees the world over.

First, we must retreat a bit a consider how Erik Kondo, or anyone in his situation, has come to write about devotees.
Overwhelmingly these narratives of devoteeism as only coercive arise from negative experiences, either direct, anecdotal, or observed. When devotees are discussed in disabled circles it is almost always the result of, or quickly accompanied by, one or more stories of devotees abusing people with disabilities, either online, or in person, or by lying to them in a relationship. This is how we arrive.

Thus, it becomes very easy to conclude that all devotees are predatory and coercive. Reasoning in droves with swiftness and ease they absolutely do reach and preach this conclusion to the detriment of the rest of us. This is one of the more frequently vexing aspects of discussing devotees at all.

It is wrong though to blame the disabled for doing so. Given the greater likelihood for physical and sexual assault the disabled face, they are only acting in their best interests. It is, of course, vital that we seek to correct these distortions, though if you've ever tried doing this, you can understand what a difficult endeavor it proves to be. Indeed, we have a pre-existing stigma placed on us, and this phenomena only works to create and reinforce false notions of devoteeism as unavoidably coercive.

When a coercive devotee steals a photograph, or sends someone a lewd message they harm the disabled. I've also argued that they end up harming themselves in the process. They also end up harming the rest of us. Those of us who do not act coercively must live with the burden they have created. Much of the stigma and oppression we face is a direct result of their selfish actions.

The utility of a single stolen photograph produces more harm for a greater number of people than the fleeting happiness it produces for the devotee who stole it. We, devotees opposed to sexual exploitation, are also victimized by their actions, and as such it is not merely through a duty to others, but to ourselves as well, that we ought to work, as Erik has done, to end these predatory practices.

Indeed, there are safe spaces of healthy, non-abusive, consensual devoteeism and we ought to work to ensure those grow. I've talked at length before about the ParaDevo boards commitment to railroading anything even suggestive of coercion, and of course the ParaDev blog which nurtures a community of devotee fiction (no pictures) which allows devotees to express their sexuality without involving people with disabilities. 

There is hope. I believe that we can peacefully coexist with the disabled online and off. However, before this can occur, we must change our thoughts and actions on the issue of coercion in our communities. It is not enough that we merely cultivate and nurture communities of healthy deovteeism, but we must also work actively in opposition to coercive devoteeism. We can not afford to turn a blind eye to these failings in ourselves, nor in others.

If you are currently engaged in coercive practices, I want to let you know that you don't have to. What you're doing is bad, but you can change. There is a way out, and there is no shame in speaking to someone if you feel you need help. This means putting others needs before your own pleasures. It may not be as “fun” as what you have come to know; though sometimes the most painful person to have to lie to is yourself.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

I had the idea for this blog, name and all, jumping around in my head for a year or more before I finally got down to actually committing my thoughts to writing. As such, it's genesis is a bit more complicated than other blogs. There were a number of sources that lit a fire in me, most prominently my own experiences. One source which has informed me more than others though has been the work of Jackson Katz.

Our world has many problems, but one of the more prominent issues I can decisively point toward is the lack of familiarity the man on the street has with Jackson Katz's oeuvre. His work focuses on prevention of rape and violence against women. Generally I find most people I know would agree that these are certainly problems and that the world would be a better place if their incidence were as low as possible. However many will head for the hills when they hear that he is a feminist.

Feminism has a particularly nasty reputation due to the distortion of its image in the media (for example, bra burning never happened), and the tendency for a saddening number of people to frame it, unfairly, in terms roughly derived from particular sub groups of Second Wave and/or Radical Feminists. A coworker of mine once remarked, “I'll tell ya what feminism says. It says sex is bad and men should go away.” Generally, I find many people I talk to who react negatively to feminism have a view somewhat similar to this.

This isn't true for a number of reasons. For the same reason it is wrong to declare that all devotees are rapists, it is wrong to declare sex negativity and misandry as foundational elements of feminist theory. In fact the field is so diverse that use of the word 'feminism' is eschewed in many circumstances for the more appropriate “feminisms”, whose pluralization alludes to the diverse array of perspectives held on the issue.

What though is “the issue”?

Well, that's difficult to summarize. If you study racism, you'll find that there are different definitions of “racism”, and as such there are different definitions of what exactly “anti-racism” is, and how we ought to appropriately respond to it. Personally, I have always loved the work of bell hooks (she prefers to spell it with all lower case letters). She is a very prominent writer in the feminist movement, comparable in notoriety and respect to the likes of Audre Lord and Andrea Dworkin to name but a few.

She has the unique ability to write with a professional level of precision without becoming over-encumbered by the pretentious magniloquence that marks so much academic writing. What's more, she is conscious of this phenomena. One of her most accessible books is, Feminism Is For Everybody which I recommend to absolutely everyone. Years before that she wrote a very influential, and yet still quite accessible, text called Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center, and yet in Feminism Is For Everyone she rightly points out that the academic tone of her previous work rendered it inaccessible to people who didn't have a similar educational background or reading ability. She linked this primarily to classist tendencies, though this being a dev blog I can't help but consider how, in the context of verbal learning disabilities, it is to some degree ableist as well.

I bring bell up for many reasons. One is because, like Jackson Katz, I hope more people expose themselves to her ideas. Of particular interest to me is her definition of Feminism. 

“Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. This was a definition of feminism I offered in Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center more than 10 years ago. It was my hope at the time that it would become a common definition everyone would use. I liked this definition because it did not imply that men were the enemy. By naming sexism as the problem it went directly to the heart of the matter. Practically, it is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systematic institutionalized sexism. As a definition it is open ended. To understand feminism it implies one has to necessarily understand sexism.”

See? It's nice and simple like that, unlike other pretentious wind bags. This is the first paragraph of
Feminism Is For Everyone, and the entire book is just the same. It cuts right to the heart of the matter in smooth, simple, unadulterated language. Not only is feminism for everyone, but so is that book, and more importantly the ideas it communicates.

Often I meet people who seem to be, or are, afraid of feminism on many of the grounds my co-worker was, yet bell's work happily sidesteps these. She does this at the very fundamental level of feminism's definition, however she also takes it on much more explicitly. In Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center she devotes an entire chapter to the subject titled, “Men: Comrades in the Struggle”, and later on in Feminism is for Everybody she has another chapter dedicated to the issue called “Feminist Masculinity” which deals with much of the same material.

My reason for bringing all of this up is that April is Sexual AssaultAwareness Month (SAAM), and I feel it is appropriate that I address the issue before the month is out. By no means is it a “fun” topic to cover. I would much rather write about how “normal” devotees are, instead of focus on how our communities perpetuate abuse and assault through direct action or merely turning a blind eye. Yet the issue of sexual assault relates to much of what I have written about since this blog's inception.

To begin with, I ought to define my terms. One definition of sexual assault which I found to be particularly interesting reads, “Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. It can happen in different situations, by a stranger, in an isolate place, on a date, or in the home by someone you know. Sexual assault and abuse is any kind of sexual activity that is unwanted.” I particularly like that last part, hence the added emphasis.

The only problem I have with this definition is that it is open ended enough to include merely feeling attracted to someone as sexual assault, if we are going to go so far as to define sexual attention as something like, “seeing someone and feeling aroused”, this becomes problematic because arousal isn't always an intentional process. Sorting out the finer points of this definition is another blog for another time, and perhaps one day I'll get to that, though for now it is a suitable definition for discussing the troubling situation of devotees and the disabled.

 Many, many, many devs have tried to assert that, “...we're fucking normal.” However, by focusing on the issues of the very real stigmas faced by devs (and more generally every sexual minority), we often end up, whether intentionally or not, ignoring or minimizing the issue of sexual assault/abuse of the disabled in the Devotee/Pretender/Wannabe (DPW) community. Noted devotee and pretender ParaGirl regularly hosted stolen pictures on her blog until her now infamous interview with New Mobility after which a reader pointed out she was indeed engaging in abusive behavior by hosting stolen photos in her photo stream on her blog.

To her credit she quickly took the pictures down with no fuss. What is interesting to note is that in the past Cathy has made use of “we women” language suggesting that she is certainly no opponent to this issue of sexual assault and abuse. This seems to suggest that she and likely other devs would rather turn a blind eye to issue facing our community.

I've been authoring his blog since late January, and despite getting on the front page of DevGuide (the site for devs online), and reaching close to 10,000 views there still is little said in our community of this. Picture stealing is the dirty secret most devs would rather ignore. This is wrong. This is sexual abuse. There is no way around this.

I've talked about this before, and the answers are the same. Despite what some may say, it absolutely does harm the disabled, though that is not where it ends. This harms their friends, their families, and in many ways it arguably harms devotees as well.

Jackson Katz rightly points out a common fallacy in our thinking about issues of rape and sexual assault. We often characterize these issues as “women's issues”, when in fact men are responsible for between 97 and 99 percent of rape and sexual assault (yet, most men do not rape). By branding them as women's issues, the onus is in many ways tacitly placed on women to care about, and fix the problem. To a degree, this seems like an unexamined ideological relic from the time when it was believed that women invited rape by dressing or acting in a promiscuous manner.

Rape and sexual assault are men's issues. In this same fashion we may understand the sexual assault that is picture stealing and trading as a devotee issue. It is our failing, and we ought to be doing more to put a stop to it. 

This is slightly different from Katz's approach because this crosses sex and gender lines. While gay devs are in the minority there are gay male devs who have stolen and traded pictures without the model or photographer's consent, and, as we have seen with ParaCathy, lesbians are not by their gender, sex, or orientation immune from doing the same. That being said, one of the more consistent points in both the academic and amateur work available on devoteeism points to an overwhelmingly heterosexual male population. Indeed, such appears to be true of all paraphilias according to official sources. 

Regardless, we ought to do something. Jackson Katz has put together a fantastic list to help those of us asking, “What is to be done?” While his focus is on men's roles in ender gender violence, I encourage you as you read this to substitute the word “devotee” for “men” and “people with disabilities” for “women” (or appropriate derivations thereof). 


  1. Approach gender violence as a MEN'S issue involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. View men not only as perpetrators or possible offenders, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers
  2. If  a brother, friend, classmate, or teammate is abusing his female partner -- or is disrespectful or abusive to girls and women in general -- don't look the other way. If you feel comfortable doing so, try to talk to him about it. Urge him to seek help. Or if you don't know what to do, consult a friend, a parent, a professor, or a counselor. DON'T REMAIN SILENT.
  3. Have the courage to look inward. Question your own attitudes. Don't be defensive when something you do or say ends up hurting someone else. Try hard to understand how your own attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetuate sexism and violence, and work toward changing them.
  4. If you suspect that a woman close to you is being abused or has been sexually assaulted, gently ask if you can help.
  5. If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive to women, or have been in the past, seek professional help NOW.
  6. Be an ally to women who are working to end all forms of gender violence. Support the work of campus-based women's centers. Attend "Take Back the Night" rallies and other public events. Raise money for community-based rape crisis centers and battered women's shelters. If you belong to a team or fraternity, or another student group, organize a fundraiser.
  7. Recognize and speak out against homophobia and gay-bashing. Discrimination and violence against lesbians and gays are wrong in and of themselves. This abuse also has direct links to sexism (eg. the sexual orientation of men who speak out against sexism is often questioned, a conscious or unconscious strategy intended to silence them. This is a key reason few men do so).
  8. Attend programs, take courses, watch films, and read articles and books about multicultural masculinities, gender inequality, and the root causes of gender violence.  Educate yourself and others about how larger social forces affect the conflicts between individual men and women.
  9. Don't fund sexism. Refuse to purchase any magazine, rent any video, subscribe to any Web site, or buy any music that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner. Protest sexism in the media.
  10. Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men in ways that don't involve degrading or abusing girls and women. Volunteer to work with gender violence prevention programs, including anti-sexist men's programs. Lead by example.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vox Dei

This is a companion piece to my last entry.

Thomas Aquinas was an interesting guy. He wrote during the eleventh century, a time when not only the ability, but the opportunity, to read or write were still quite rare compared to anything we have known in the past century. Despite this he still managed to pen a vast twenty two volume work, Summa Theologica, exploring his ideas. A lot of his concepts were copied very closely from Aristotle and reinterpreted in theological terms, though I don't think that makes them any less relevant.

Indeed he is frequently regarded as one of the more important Christian philosophers. He was made a saint in 1323, but that's far from where his honor ends. In 1567 the Roman Catholic Church liked him so much that they gave him a fancy title, “Angelic Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church”, which gave his writing a special authority in all matters Roman Catholic.

Central to Aquinas's thought is the notion of rationality. He believed that the architect of the universe was a supremely rational being. As such, the very fabric of the universe, or rather existence itself, was based in rational terms. Thus, Aquinas felt it was up to humans to use the natural light of reason to discover what he called the “Natural Law” and discern between “good” and “evil”.

Now, Atheists have done a lot of work to separate the notions of rationality and theism, even painting theism as inherently irrational, yet despite this you will still find people who believe. Regardless of your perspective on whether or not there is a god, or no god, or thousands of gods who are really just emanations of Brahman, I argue that it is important to consider theological arguments if only because they are still so influential on so many others.

For Aristotle, “the good” was that which all things strive after, for Aquinas, it was slightly different. “Good” is an end, and all things which humans have a natural inclination to are thusly “good”. This desire for the good was one of many natural inclinations people have including a natural drive for intercourse, and the preservation of human life (the two do pair rather well together).

Again, Summa Theologica, is a vast work spanning twenty two volumes, so my distillation of Aquinas is a little simplistic to say the least. However, if we are to conclude that it is rational to treat others fairly, equally, and with a general respect for their inherent dignity as humans, it does seem to apply, in a Thomist sense, that these are more than just “good” ideas. Indeed, while planning this entry I came across Martin Luther King using this exact argument in his famous “Letter From A Birmingham Jail”.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

This is Article I of the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 after WWII. While it was the first document of its nature to gain such global recognition and participation, it wasn't the first time ideas such as these had been put forth. In the late 1700's these very same Enlightement ideals were at heart of both the American and French Revolutions.

“Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.”

This is Article I of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, which was penned when the rebels in France overthrew King Louis XVI and prepared to recreate their government on just terms.

Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights.”

This is Article IV.

If we are to accept these as just principles, then we must accept their full consequences. This often stretches further than we would like to imagine. That is the problem of dealing in absolutes like “all human beings”.

This extends naturally to the disabled, and as devotees, if we wish to be treated equally, as every other marginalized and oppressed group does, then we ought to act in accordance with such a maxim. This means taking care to ensure that our actions do not bring harm to the disabled, their families, or anyone else for that matter. I've spent a great deal of time focusing on just this point.

Though such a powerful idea stretches even further.

ENDA is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The basic idea is that it will prevent discrimination in hiring and employment for LGBTQ people. It's a fairly basic, even “good”, idea. It is one which, matches quite well with much of what we've already read (providing that we control for the blatant sexism from Aquinas up through the French Revolution) That being said, it has never managed to pass.

In 2010 ENDA looked like it had a chance of
finally passing and there was a lot of buzz about it not only in LGBTQ circles, but in the media at large. This cause célèbre was so great that arch conservatives decided the best way to combat the horror of gay, lesbian, bi, and trans* people being able to work without being fired based on their orientation and/or identity was to start lying about it.

One of the more notable efforts came from the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC). This was their take on the issue,

In the next few weeks, President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and their homosexual and transgender allies will attempt to ram through the so-called Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
What you may not know is that ENDA normalizes and provides special federal protection for 30+ bizarre sexual orientations listed by the American Psychiatric Association – the so-called “Dirty 30.” These 30+ fetishes include behaviors that are felonies or misdemeanors in most states.
ENDA’s “Dirty 30” includes such bizarre criminal acts as incest, pedophilia, prostitution, beastiality, and cross-dressingIf we don’t act today, Obama and Pelosi will normalize these disorders by federal law on April 21!
In a moment of candor, liberal Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) openly admitted on the House floor that the “Dirty 30” would be covered by federal law. In fact, he wants the Dirty 30 to be given special protection! In his own words: “all of these philias and fetishes and isms that were put forward--need not live in fear because of who they are.”

Of course none of this was true of ENDA or the American Psychological Association who they slavishly reference. It is worth noting that the TVC has such a strong record of providing blatantly false information as tried and true fact, that they have been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Of course they habitually maintain that as a matter of faith, and thus, supposedly, natural law, people ought to be allowed to continue biased employment. Puzzling.

This is an explosive issue on its own, but becomes particularly relevant to devotees when we examine the “Dirty 30” that has the TVC in such an uproar.

Here is what their PDF on the so-called “Dirty 30” has to say.

What Is A ‘Sexual Orientation’?

"Paraphilias"(formerly called sexual deviations) listed in the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision
(Washington: American Psychiatric Association, 2000). This list includes both
paraphilias coded by the APA and paraphilias (not otherwise specified – NOS).
This is not a complete list of paraphilias, but only a sample.* These are deviant
sexual orientations or sexual attractions that are still considered abnormal.

1. Apotemnophilia - sexual arousal associated with the stump(s) of an
amputee ”

Yup, number one on the list is good ol' apotemnophilia. Amp devs. They somehow forgot about abasiophilia, and I'm not sure why. Maybe they thought it would be redundant to list two philias which link sex and disability. Or perhaps they thought it was realistic to expect the “filthiest” of Democrats to support amp devs, but laughable that they would consider anyone else. It doesn't really matter though.

What's happening here is devotees are being used as a pawn by the right to advance their homophobic agendas. What is lost in the fracas over Gay and Trans* rights is how we are being used, framed, defamed, and abused. As the right attempts to pin us to the LGBTQ movement in the hopes that our “dirtiness” would delegitimize them, we are disowned by “normal” society. Following naturally from there, the LGBTQ movement disowns us because we are seen as delegitmizing and in doing so pushes us down as well.

In the end you find both groups arguing, though not so explicitly, that we don't deserve this same protection which everyone else does. This isn't based on any process of rational thought, but rather the mechanisms of politics, power, and popular appeal. Our rights are sacrificed and forgotten, and in doing so they work to betray the universality of human rights that has been proposed for well over two hundred years across the world.

The idea of human rights is that they apply to all humans. The problem with bills like ENDA is one of strategy. It provides but a pinprick in a canopy of oppression. I will concede it is a fitting and necessary pinprick, but still one which accomplishes just an iota of the grand project of human rights.

In the end we will waste more energy by trying to pass legislation which enforces human rights for one group at a time. Why ought we support a bill that does not solve the entire problem, but only a portion of it? Why ought we accept as legitimate governance which does not act in line with the ideals which it claims to uphold? Why would we stand idle in the face of such flagrant hypocrisy?

...though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Vox Populi

This past week I was happy to discover that a new dev blog had popped up adding another perspective on the dev phenomenon. Normalsane, authored by 'letskeepshitreal' seeks, as practically every devotee writing about devotees has, to correct and clarify the many misconceptions about us. The core message can be succinctly summarized in this quote, “...we're fucking normal.”

With frustrated enthusiasm and brash wit 'letskeepshitreal' sums up what we, and literally every other marginalized group everywhere, have been saying since time immemorial. We deviate yes, but in a harmless way. Everyone says it, and still no one seems to care.

See, the interesting thing about devotees, is that we're indistinguishable from everyone else. We walk among you. You might already know us and have no idea at all. We're your friends, family, co-workers, retail clerks, doctors and lawyers. You can't identify us if you're a Psychiatrist or a Judge, or a cop, or even a person with a disability. There is nothing special about how we look, or walk, or don't walk even (I know of at least one dev with MS). We love and fuck like everyone else, that's why so many marriages last until we decide to do something few people ever truly do, we are honest about ourselves.

However, this doesn't just apply to devotees, it applies to thousands of other marginalized groups. The crux of it is this: If we are to accept that this argument we make on our own behalf is valid, then we must extend that to other groups as well. We're talking about something bigger than just ourselves.

It is not enough that we as devotees argue merely on our own behalf, surely that will never get us anywhere, there simply aren't enough of us to do anything substantial, and more importantly, it represents poor reasoning. You can argue on behalf until you're blue in the face, but it won't matter until you take a step to something larger, and more important.

Devotees are just one subset of a larger oppressed and maligned group. Perverts. We don't hurt other people, we act in line with consent, we love our families, and pay our taxes. It is for this reason that I speak of “coercive devotees”, in order to clarify the weakened or more often absent distinction between devotees who are merely perverts, and those who act like creeps. Those of us who are merely perverted, kinky, exotic, or whatever word you like, all face varying levels of discrimination. Much of what I've written here on the past months can be easily applied to other groups.

We do have our own unique social issues, for instance I have never seen quite as much fuss raised over casters as I have over devs, but the uniting principle among us is one of ostracism, and an imposition to silence. We are told, without explicit instruction, to be quiet or be shunned. The world would prefer to imagine we do not exist, unless it wants to laugh at us, a phenomena I've written about before.

If we as devotees, seek to one day move beyond this, we must work for a more sex and kink positive culture. There is no other option. Working alone as devs is both ignorant and inefficient. As devs we ought to see the common bond we have in other pervs and work to build alliances. This involves encountering our own prejudices and surely is not an easy task, but a necessary one if we desire not only our own liberation, but fair and equal treatment for all.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Few Words About

This is a companion piece to yesterday's blog about Chairem's shady history

Devotees for some reason, more than other pervs, seem to have latched on to Yahoo! Groups as a way of congregating and sharing materials. I'm not sure who came first or why, but there are plenty of them, in English, Spanish, some German, a few I think were in Czech or Polish but I'm a bit fuzzy on that.

There were attempts at a Google group once as I recall, and for a while in the late 90's, when Geocities web rings were still the hip happening thing, there was a decently successful group run through, I think, the Excite! search engine etc. though I might be getting that wrong. It could have been Lycos or AltaVista or another one nobody remembers or cares about.

Somehow all of them managed to be less embarrassing than this...

In any case, for over a decade now, probably longer, the Yahoo groups have played a pretty big role in supporting the dev community. There have been too many to count that came and went over the years with just as many themes. Some were dedicated to particular athletes and models, or discussion, or picture trading, or a selection of three or four disabilities, and many combinations thereof. Predictably though the most common groups centered around trading pictures.

For a long time small groups would spring up where some guy would post a smattering of his favorites. A few even achieved some slight degree of longevity, eventually though someone else would come along and create a new group with new favorites and so on and so forth. It went like this for a while leading to a very disjointed network of groups hosting clippings from magazines, brochures, encyclopedias, and of course stolen and candid pictures as well. You'll remember, this was before social networking was even a shadow of the beast we know today.

At one point whose date I can't recall, though I'm sure this was at least on or after 2001, things began to change, and a structure emerged amdist the chaos. “Ordo Ab Chao” as they say.

There was, and still is, a group called 'aestheticalparaplegicgirls' or APG for short. The name is kind of silly. Never in my lifetime have I heard someone append an '-al' to the end of 'aesthetic' to render it adjectival. However, the purpose of language is to effectively communicate an idea which that name, despite its quirky interpretation of grammar and overall clunkiness, does just fine.

Most groups prior to this had been open to the public, or merely required you to register so spammers and other undesirables could be screened out. This had a new catch. To join APG you were required to first submit to the group owner via email three new pictures of disabled women. They couldn't be 'old' pictures which had been in circulation before. Additionally the women had to be sufficiently attractive, though this was left to the moderator's discretion.

The group, though drawing smaller membership than others before it, was a success and soon the mod began creating new groups to keep up the flow. APG2 came, and then APG3, and it went on up into at least the 40's as I recall. Most groups containing around twenty or so pictures. What I found most interesting about these was the utter absence of pictures stolen from existing dev porn vendors. Oh sure there were plenty of lifted vacation pics from someone's personal website and other ethically vacuous “prizes”, but these groups, even the clones dedicated to sharing video clips, never seemed to cotton to the idea of stealing from someone who was selling. Though with everyone else it never seemed to matter.

I don't know if they are still making new groups, the format seems largely defunct at this point. I stopped paying attention years ago and finally left once I realized there was something more important than myself, but I gather that devs have moved on to other web 2.0 destinations. However, these groups are still operating.

Now the problems with this are obvious. It continues and encourages a pattern of coercion and exploitation of disabled women by devotees (men and women alike). It does more than that though. In a very literal way it treats them as currency, reducing them to their physical attractiveness. They are treated as an abstraction, a means to an end and not an end in themselves, and thus robbed of their humanity in the service or chasing yet another twinkling of ephemeral bliss.

This same quasi-Kantian horror I have been complaining about since this blog's inception is wrought into something greater than itself not only in terms of its ability to produce content, and thus exploitation, but also in that it exaggerates the negative aspects of the relationship between devotees and disabled women. In a nutshell, APG is a feminist's nightmare. Through it, men become very literal literal hunters, and women, or their representation, very literal prey.

The same way deer are prized for their antlers these women are prized for their bodies (albeit here through a somewhat different set of values than the dominant culture). A whole economy was generated around these women as expressed through various media. Three pictures earned you access to three groups showcasing twenty more pictures apiece. Ten pictures or one sufficiently long video clip earned you access to three groups with a few video clips. It is worth highlighting the fact that candid and stolen material was held in equal regard to others. There was no distinction.

At this point it would be expected of me to point out, as I have before, that there exist plenty of websites where disabled men and women will gladly share of themselves what they care to for a nominal fee. They do, and it is generally agreed upon that these are preferable in terms of ethics, consistency, and quality, to networks which trade all sorts of media including stolen or candid pictures. However, that paints far too rosy a picture of the status quo.
In 2007, not long after Madonna Long made her departure from Chairem official and founded Roll Modelz emails like these began being posted to the first APG's utterly desolate message board, and thus forwarded to anybody who hadn't opted out of receiving emails from the group.

Oct. 22, 2007

Funny story about Rob by the way, he had been posting in dev groups on Yahoo for years and was that rare open minded person with a disability who didn't care what devotees thought. He finally started modeling for Roll Modelz and put out two videos before someone recognized him and told them he was a pretender.

Jun. 3, 2008

Even Shannon, from tried advertising like this. 

 Dec. 4, 2007

When Madonna, Zaria, Kim Barreda, and others tried producing 'Chloe' their magazine for disabled women, they used the same account to advertise in the same way.

Feb. 5, 2009

Madonna is an intelligent businesswoman, and took the right step, as practically every other dev vendor has, of setting up a promotional group on Yahoo. Hers was called 'meetdisabledmodels'. It served as a hub for announcements about upcoming Roll Modelz releases, sales, and new models.

It's not uncommon for models and agencies to release promotional material solely through their Yahoo group. ParaPrincess releases exclusive video previews that way, Shannon posts periodic update photos through hers, and Candi used Yahoo and YouTube before settling into Facebook as well. In fact you'll quite often see different vendors advertising on each other's pages.

The problem though comes when you advertise on dev pages like APG.

It makes good sense to advertise to your target demographic where they will see your ads. Most devotees convene in groups centered at least in part around trading pictures etc. However, when these groups are exploitive, mechanistically so in regards to APG it is difficult to justify drawing a profit from groups like these without soiling one's hands. The devotees, whose presence you rely on for effective advertising, have congregated for the sole purpose of consumption, coercive, exploitive, and otherwise. They would not be there if it were not for the given media present, and they draw no distinction between that which was obtained with the model or photographer's consent, and that which wasn't. What does it say of a vendor who refuses to distinguish between groups which make this distinction?

Advertising in these groups has the subtle effect of tacitly condoning their activities. If instead Roll Modelz, Shannon's Den and every other vendor were to publicly decry this coercion
and refuse to advertise in these places it would send a very different message. Moreover, by placing itself alongside these images stolen and otherwise, it embeds itself within the stream of coercive devoteeism. These sites are just another hub for yet more images distinguishable in practical terms only by their price. 

Pay sites are often referred to in arguments over devoteeism as proof that the exotic attraction to non-standard bodies is not inherently coercive. The problem is that, in the case of these two vendors, it isn't. It recalls Foucault's rejected thesis in his History of Sexuality:Vol. 1 speaking of all manner of repressed sexuality in the Victorian era (a large part of which was LGBTQ sexuality), “If it truly was necessary to make room for illegitimate sexualities, it was reasoned, let them take their infernal mischief elsewhere: to a place where they could be reintegrated, if not in the circuits of production, at least in those of profit.”

Devotees have a knack for seeking out their desired content online. I've seen TV shows and movies in over five different languages get passed around; obscure stuff, hidden or forgotten and dredged up again. More to the point, they already have their own networks devised for keeping each other abreast of every new development on the web including those in the Yahoo groups.

Even then these networks still catalog coercive groups. What I think we're missing here is an opportunity to recreate devoteeism, or at least take that which is healthy and respectful, and separate it from that which is not. Individual vendors, and agencies have an opportunity to help change the face of devoteeism in a real way instead of simply offering lip service to notions of change.

It's not likely to put a dent in profits either. One of the best examples of a dev porn agency, and indeed one of the most well known outside of devotee circles, is Gimps Gone Wild (GGW). I don't keep extensive records or anything, I've just been milling through an inbox bloated with nearly a decade of unread emails. However in this meager record and my own naturally flawed memory I can not find evidence of GGW or their now defunct non-nude counterpart Enabling Elegance advertising outside of their own space. Neither can I find evidence of Candi, Leah, or most of the other individual vendors doing it.

So, while it's hard to accept that Roll Modelz may be helping encourage and profiting from coercive devotees, one out of three massive agencies (all disabled owned and operated), plus the majority of individual vendors, do not take advantage of these. Chairem has been exploitive under past management, Roll Modelz hasn't thought through their advertising, but by and large exploitation among vendors is the exception, not the rule. There are problems in the devotee community and we ought to bring them to light and try to find practical solutions, but thankfully most of them seem simple enough. Generating the will to implement them is another story.