Monday, November 08, 2010

Hopelessly Devoted

(This may be an uncomfortable read for some. Adult Advisory. Strong images, no strong language.)


And ick again.

I've read about them on blogs written primarily by women with disabilities. In fact I'd never heard of them until my foray into disability blogdom. Devotees. Men, mostly, who fetishize disability, turning people with difference into fantasy creatures. Popping erections at the idea of a body that moves differently, that has been shaped by disability.

These folks exist in other worlds too. I've twice been very much desired by a 'chubby chaser'. Men who love fat men or women. While it is nice to feel attractive, its odd to the point of disgust, to realize that you, the you that exists within the body, is not necessary, not much even wanted as part of the ritual of seduction.

I was shopping, buying two specialty tee shirts as gifts for friends when I noticed him, he couldn't have been more than 22 or 23 years old. At first I thought he was a handsome young man. Handsome in that casual way that only the young can manage. Fair hair, blue eyes, bursting with youth and sexuality. I saw him, dismissed him and went back to my shopping. But then I notice he kept moving in the store so I was always in his sight.

I'm used to being stared at, but this was somehow different. It was more purposeful, more intense than stares of curiosity or hostility. Now I began to feel uncomfortable. My first thought is about my safety. I am alone here. Joe bores of shopping and often steps outside to people watch. I so wish he was with me. I want his 'ability' to deflect my sense of momentary vulnerability. I quicken my pace. I've chosen one shirt, now I look for the other, quickly checking sizes and styles. Normally I love doing this. I love imagining the gift given and received. I take my time to get what's exactly right. By now though, I'm thinking just about getting a shirt and getting out of there.

He is closer now. I see he's sweating a bit. I see his hand reaching deep into his pocket. Oh, my. I see movement.

I've worked with offenders long enough to know what I'm seeing. I feel slightly sick. Is it my weight? Is it my disability. Is it both? He has fetishized me. I know, just know, by how he is moving, that he is going to try and brush by me. I quickly scan my environment. I am partly blocking the aisle. There is room for most people, certainly someone his size to step by me. In fact it looks like he could vault over me if he chose to. He is closing in. His voice is deeper than I expect from such a young man, he says 'excuse me' and then brushes by, his groin presses against the back of my chair, then moving around the handle, my shoulder.

I'm not going to describe what his body feels like as it slides along my back, my shoulder. I know it all looks innocent. A young man passing an old guy in a wheelchair. I know that, should I protest, I will not be believed. I say nothing.

I have the other shirt. Joe is coming back in through the door. I reach for my gloves which I had set on the counter beside me. They are gone. I need my gloves. I must have my gloves. My gloves give me movement. I know he has them. He is still there. He seems to be feeding off of my upset as we search for my gloves. I panic, knowing he's enjoying it but I can't stop. I am immobilized without my gloves.

The clerk comes to help. We don't find them. She tells me that she has gloves that may work for me and goes in search of them. They are perfect. They fit well. I am so grateful. He stays watching, wandering, until we are nearly ready to leave. he then rushes out to his truck. It's a light blue pick up. By the time I've pushed myself to the car, he has moved his vehicle. I feel his eyes on me as I transfer into the car.

I don't look.

I don't have to.

I know what he's doing.


My disability makes me prone to depersonalization by many. I wasn't prepared for it to make me vulnerable to objectification too.


theknapper said...

Oh Dave,abuse can have so many forms and can be so covert. Something big happenned to you. I think saying it outloud makes it real and will speak to countless experiences.
Hope you were able to brush his energy off of you.Take care.

Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry this happened to you Dave

Laerke said...

I used to live in a country, where there weren't many black people.
I had (well, still have) a great friend there - a good-looking, bigbusted black lady.

She sadly quite oftens has experiences like that with men, who mostly sees women looking (slightly - I'm not saying she looks or dresses like a porn actress) like her in seedy movies...

Andrea S. said...

Sorry this happened to you. I wish I knew what more to say. He had no right to make you feel vulnerable like that.

Anonymous said...

I'm not trying to lessen this as clearly, this unwanted sexual attention, should never have happened. I'm also sorry it did. However, I think you'd be shocked at how many times this happens to women. Just yesterday, I took in a very popular football game and couldn't believe how some men used the large crowds as their opportunity to brush up against both breasts and butt, one even saying something like "was it good for you?". Like seriously, how delusional are these people to think that we want it just because they do. Scary stuff for sure. We value you so much here, Dave, that we'd certainly offer to do security detail for you if it wouldn't impede upon your freedom!

Natalie said...

Dave, that is horrible. I am sorry that it happened to you. I am sorry that it happens to anybody. I'm mad that the man robbed you of your feelings of safety and enjoyment when doing something you love.

wendy said...

I'm just so sorry, Dave. Truly.

clairesmum said...

i am sad that this man crossed your path and caused pain. i am glad that you can put words to the experience in a way that so clearly captures the feelings that you felt - as a previous commenter noted, women experience this routinely.
and yes, I DO believe you when you describe what happened!
i hope you are able to surround yourself with love and beauty, to help counteract this darkness.

Liz said...

Ew. I'm so sorry that happened to you. And, like one other responder, there's a part of me that wants to say "welcome to what it feels like to be a woman." The words you used -- this idea that it's how you look, not who you are, that arouses this person -- the moment of being brushed against, the knowledge of being followed through a store; that's all pretty common for girls and women. But I am so, so sorry you experienced it; it shouldn't happen at all. Period.

WeeJen said...

Oh Dave! I'm really sorry you've had to deal with that! :( Give Joe a hug and remember that you are loved for who you are, by people the world over! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Nathan Dawthorne said...

Curious; do you think if you had said something like fuk off or, no means no, or even called out for Joe you could have changed the situation? Just wondering what you think you could have done to stop it.

J. said...

I am sorry this happened to you. I am also angry this happened to you.

I am angry about all the things that go into making this kind of behaviour run of the mill every day stuff for so many in our world - especially women and vulnerable children. I am angry that you, someone I respect and care about, was used in this way. I am angry that the guy "got away with it." In saying that, I am not angry at you for how you responded, I want to make that clear - but I am so very angry that this kind of thing happens so often and so easily and so invisibly.

Sadie said...

I'm so sorry someone violated you like that. Take care of yourself, now, and I hope the week brings you good things to help heal you.

J. said...

Nathan, I get what you are saying and there is validity in your point - after all, Dave is one of the primary people who taught me about actively preventing and getting out of situations of sexual abuse - BUT it is important to remember that it isn't Dave's 'fault' that the guy used him in this way. He should have stopped himself. That guy in the store may not be able to help what arouses him but he is in full control of what he does with those feelings once they begin.

The reasons why people don't try to stop someone else's behaviour with their words are many and complex and deeply personal. Yes, it is good and sometimes even works when a target speaks up - but it is not the target's "own fault" if they cannot or do not speak up.

Moose said...

Dave, I'm very sorry this happened to you. Sexual abuse (and that's what this is) happens to more people than we realize, and affects everyone around them. Not all people who have an attraction to people with disabilities (or fat people, or other usually marginalized people) are like this. This guy was a sex offender, pure and simple.

I just read this article. I hope it lightens your day even a little bit.

Nathan Dawthorne said...


Not really trying to make a point per se, I'm really just curious. I'm not sure what I would do in the same situation and if there was anything anyone could have done at all.
Appologies if it sounded like I was blaming Dave - wasn't the intention.
What would have stopped this guy from thinking he could do this in the first place? What in SOCIETY needs to change?

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I just want to say sorry that this happened to you. Sexual abuse is horrible. This was so public, this guy so brazen. I wonder how long it will take for this to escalate. He already had to nerve to touch you when it was not wanted and to steal your gloves. What will he do to the next person he fixates on? Would this have been caught on the store's surveillance camera?


Anonymous said...

I hope you report the incident -
(yes,absolutely have store security check video tape asap before the store "writes" over it for the day)because all I can think of is ESCALATION. That guy is on a one way path to the next victim...and seems to like vulnerable targets. People who take items to remember the incident are usually very very dangerous beings.
It is, was,and never will be your fault - but it is now your issue. How you deal with it is up to YOU alone,with no judgement for your choice - and as many many victims will say, the road to reporting it is not smooth. God bless you Dave. I am so sorry this happened to you. I pray you are as strong an advocate for yourself as you are for all the others you speak for.

ivanova said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you. That is awful. This is a big deal. I don't think you have any obligation to do anything particular (report it, not report it, anything.) Take care of yourself.

Obviously, I don't know anything about whether this guy has a fetish about big people or people with disabilities or not. All I know is you are awesome and he is a horrible, messed up sexual abuser.

Rachel said...

Gentle ((hugs)) if and when you want one.

For each of us who tells one of our stories, another who hasn't found the voice gets to know zie's not alone (or wrong, or crazy, or over-reacting, or undeserving).

Sending love and respect.

Anonymous said...

Dave I am trying to think of what is the appropriate thing to say to someone who has been a victim of such abuseu. I don't know if I this is right but I am horrified for you. Take care

Anonymous said...

What a predator that young man was/is....such an awful situation to be part of and am honestly sorry that you had to endure such an experience.....I am angered to read that this happened to you and am on the same page as Natalie when she says..."I am mad that the man robbed you of your felling of safety and enjoyment while doing something you love" Thanks for having the courage to share such an awful experience are truly a remarkable man

Kristin said...

I am so sorry this happened to you Dave.

Baba Yaga said...

It's a very unpleasant feeling to be the 'object; of someone's interest - and to be entirely uninteresting to him.

I tend to think that people can't help their attractions, but they can certainly help what they do about them, and with them. I'm sorry this one didn't bother to help it.

& more sorry that you are probably right, no-one'd believe it enough to give him an incentive to help it, since human respect isn't enough incentive.

The Untoward Lady said...

Dave, I'm so sorry you were put through this. I want you to know that you have every right to identify what happened to you as rape because that's what it is. I know that might be obvious and, to some, melodramatic but I wish someone had take a moment to tell me that following some of my encounters.

I remember one time in particular. I was in a fast food restaurant with my parents and my father's cousin. We were sitting outside when a bald man comes in and notices that I'm transsexual. He circles our table and winks at me. He gets his food and he retreats behind a parked car where he masturbates to me.

They didn't notice but I did.

I wasn't alone. I could have asked for help. I was anything but powerless. But I felt powerless, I felt like I couldn't do anything. I was too afraid to do anything but slowly finish my hamburger and try to make myself as small as possible.

... another time a man engaged me regarding my neurological symptoms and threatened me sexually like this man threatened you. Even so, I could do nothing but politely respond to him.

Something about these encounters paralyzes us but it's not our fault.

Have strength, Dave.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry.

Fetish communities are deeply uncomfortable for me, but this goes beyond that to sexual assault.

Anonymous said...

Also (and for others who commented here about assault as well)- it's okay if you are upset, even for a long time. Nothing about this or how you feel is your fault.

(I don't mean to imply that you don't already know this, I just want to acknowledge that what happened could be a big deal.)

Dave Hingsburger said...

Thank you all so much. I was so nervous about publishing this post. I wrote it several weeks ago, just after this happened, and it has been waiting in 'draft' for me to have the courage to push the 'publish' button. I don't know what I was afraid of ... but I had decided that what happened needed to be talked about. That you so much for your support and kindness in your responses.

Lene Andersen said...


I'm so sorry this happened.

Cynthia F. said...

Thank you so much for having the courage to publish this, Dave. A similar thing happened to me in a bookstore when I was maybe 11 or 12 years old, my parents were a few aisles away, all I could think to do was run to the clerk and ask her to find them. I remember feeling dirty and tainted and "why me" for months after, and refusing to be alone with any adult but my mother.

Years later, same bookstore, I was in an aisle with a little girl, maybe 5, whose mom stepped away for a moment. A guy whose intent I recognize immediately makes a beeline for her. I stand up, say "I'm right here" and look him in the eye and he stops and goes away. Mom hears me and comes running back. Clerk hears my tone and also heads over. The little one keeps reading and doesn't notice a thing. Closure!

I hope knowing the ways in which your work and your interventions have helped prevent others' abuse is some comfort during what I know can be a dark time.

Anonymous said...

Been considering this for a few days.

One of our Daughters had a Stalker during her Teenage Years and although it eventually ended without too much physical injury to her it left us all aware of such things and the probable dangers of seemingly power crazed individuals.

Some may have seen my posts over time about a certain visitor with almost extreme attitudes, hopefully none sexual, toward me but nonetheless prone to degrading yet copying almost my every endevour.
At times, just quietly I have wondered about my safety when he has been around

Seems he has at last been deterred in that we went away for a couple of weeks and during that time a Brother who found him roaming our back yard and a Neighbour who had words with him seems to have for a time at least stopped his intrusions into my life.

But I do still wonder each day if today he will turn up

Damn it I thought only young People had stalkers but I am 59 and should be far past such events.

Perhaps I should attempt a post of my own experiences that may be of some small help to others who find themselves in similar situations and not know such does definitely happen.

Elizabeth McClung said...

I am sorry this happened, and that society thinks objectification for anyone is okay.

After email conversation with devotees and wannabees (those who use wheelchairs for erotic use in public), I was told there is a spiral effect, much like porn addicts, in which almost any risk, any behavoir is self excused becasue the person is no longer in control. These particular devotees will often park at places like malls, and libraries directly across from the wheelchair spots in order to get a 'hit' (a transfer, something which is erotic to them).

When you wrote about him putting his hand in his pocket, my assumption was that he was getting a cell phone as taking pictures or movies secretly for erotic reply, posting or exchanging on 'member-only' website (which usually require 2-3 'original' photos/movies of an experience like yours in order to join).

Because the clothes are on, the police don't consider it sexual. Not even when you know your picture may be sold or traded for cash.

The whole thing angers me because it demonstrates the attitude that what happens to people with disabilities isn't abuse, until someone has sex with them (then it is called, 'disgusting').

AlohaWolf said...

Being a larger man myself - I am familiar with being treated as a fetish object - the worst offenders make it the most debasing thing I can think of.

Most of the people with I would - "play around with" like big guys, however they treat me like a human first.