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A Letter From Paul

This is a slightly edited version of the first letter I send to J. in 1995 for inclusion in the original printed edition of OverGround.

Let me introduce myself: I am born in Brussels (Belgium) in 1962 where I'm still living presently, actually no more than half a mile from the place I saw daylight for the first time. I'm single caucasian and French is my mother language.

I graduated in Modern Plastic Art with a speciality in black-and-white photography. I never made it into a working business.

For a living I do TV commercials exclusively for records and mainly for Belgian television but the essential of my professional occupation is being Internet Project Manager. I also happen to be the present editor of OverGround.

Well, that's it for the background. Now for the reasons I am around:

I do not remember exactly at what age I became a devotee, but I clearly remember how I first consciously realized that I was attracted to amputee girls and it was before I was 10. It was at the public swimming pool of my neighbourhood (sounds familiar?). There was a young girl from another school, same age as me, swimming in a one piece red swimsuit, playing and laughing like every other child around. She had her left arm amputated below the elbow. The picture is printed clear as crystal in my memory. There she is on the diving block, swinging her arm and a half above her head for a head first dive, yelling around to make her schoolmates look at her prowess; she eventually dived feet first. I was extremely excited, to say the least. Sometime later, I met her again in some kind of a fancy fair. She wore a nice dress with flowers, as I recall. I couldn't stop staring at her, and I eventually became seated just beside her. As I was a shy boy (still am, shy that is), I couldn't have a single word with her. She didn't wear any prosthesis and was using her stump to accommodate everything she needed to do in a very natural way. She was pretty and full of life. I wasn't sorry for her as she didn't seem to care that much about her impairment. From time to time, but not very often, I saw her in the neighbourhood as we grew up and became adults. I have seen her some years ago, shopping around. She was alone and now has that serious look on her face that makes her even more mysterious and attractive to me. She still was wearing no prosthesis and wasn't doing anything to hide her little arm, on the contrary, which is rare for a woman. I guess she found out that this is more practical for her than wearing a prosthesis. I had never came close enough to have the opportunity to speak to her. Also, if that hypothetical moment would happen, I suspect I would produce nothing more than an incomprehensible "Woouhouhouwooou?".

This makes that I am much more interrested by a woman missing an upper limb, as she was. Nevertheless, women missing other body parts trigger almost as strong interrest, whether wearing a prosthesis or not. The prosthesis in itself doesn't trigger me that much, it's the idea of what is behind it that does, I mean the person as a whole, not specificaly the stump. I notice that I seldom come across a women with a leg amputation walking on crutches. It seems that in our country the wearing of a leg prosthesis is really a must.

It took me a long time to become a man, sexually speaking. I was so afraid that I couldn't perform with an able-bodied girl that it paralysed any move to involve myself in a sexual relationship. That is one of the reasons (there were others contributing, but not relevant to the subject). When that eventually happened in my early 30's (Yup, that's late, I know...) while a little difficult at the beginning, everything worked as it should, and I noticed that I progressively didn't need to fantasise on anything else than the beautiful able-bodied girl I was making love to, to obtain a successful and plentiful arousal. That was quite a reassurance, I can tell you.

Strangely enough, I never felt really bad (and still don't) about being a devotee (although, I know the word only for a few years, now). I was rather amazed by this strange and powerful feeling. The only thing that was really annoying to me was that I couldn't go to a conclusion with a girl for long times; time passing was adding to the problem. But that's sorted out now.

But, then again, I never spoke about my fascination to anyone until recently, not even to my closest friends, not to mention girlfriends or family members. So I assume there was some kind of guilt in my side anyway, but nothing really hurting. Just embarrassment to talk about it.

In my early twenties and for several reasons, I started an analysis, but stopped it after six months or so. I wasn't feeling that good with the analyst (I didn't tell him about my fascination), and furthermore I wasn't feeling sick at all of being some kind of sexually retarded pervert, just bewildered, and therefore didn't see any reason to heal something. And I still don't. So I tried to think of some explanation on my own but couldn't work out something satisfying until I discovered OverGround.

When I read the article Epiphanies on the subject, it was some kind of a revelation to me. The imprinting theory, for sure, is an interesting way to look at it, and I guess that further studies will validate it. I also was very interested when I read there that, being attracted to someone of the other gender, that someone being different from us, the amputation makes him or her even more different. This is certainly true in my case, even regarding able-bodied ladies: I always looked for a girl that was not yet another print out of Elle or Cosmopolitan. She has to have that something different, you know, but not necessarily missing a limb. This theory was coming very close to my personal conclusion and maybe that was what it was implied after all. I tell it to you as a non- authorised opinion. There it is:

The male's penis is often childishly called a "limb". As females notoriously lack this, so to speak, "limb" the lack of one or more actual limb(s) makes the lady even more feminine to us.

Could it be that, for us devotees, the absence of a limb is a reinforcing symbol of the woman's extra-femininity? I read somewhere that we males fantasise on the female's breasts as a symbol of their backside, host of the vagina, to their lips as the symbol of the vagina itself. So, why not for the missing limb as the symbol of an absence of something protruding where we male have a so-called "limb", while this absence is of course everything but a void, and the stump's scar (any scar for that matter: read about the belly button symbology) reinforcing it as the symbol of the vagina which also looks like some kind of a scar?

Here is an excerpt of a song "Celui d'Alice" from famous French artist Pierre Perret:

Que la cicatrice
Si jolie d'Alice
Jamais ne guérisse

Be that Alice's scar
so beautyfull
never heals

As time goes by, I also became more and more interested at the idea of becoming an amputee myself. I haven't come to solid conclusions for that matter either, but have a few clues.

First, there is the sheer curiosity and need to feel what it is like to be an amputee both physically, almost medically, in my flesh and bones and psychologicaly. I have no interest in the technical side of being an amputee, like prosthesis, crutches, and so on. I have tried tying up one of my legs and hopping around in my apartment once, but, nothing's like the real thing, I guess, and I never did it again.

Second, I assume we all need to be recognized in patterns that satisfy our ideal of what is worth to be recognized for. To me, the disabled people in general are true heroes of our days, like firefighters in some other communities, for instance. I mean, those disabled that are making something out of their life despite their impairment. As our society is not really preoccupied with easing the life of the disabled, there is a true and often heroic accomplishment at just living a normal life out there. Interest in disabled people is also quite faint, especially in the media, which mostly dealing with this subject in a shameful way (notoriously different to me was the BBC TV program "From The Edge"). Some months ago, we were flooded with the last summer Olympics reports. I let you guess how many programs were devoted to the Paralympics that followed, which is a scandal, really, but again not our matter.

So, me willing to be an amputee has certainly something to do with my eagerness to be some kind of hero, somebody extra special, at least to belong to a community that I truly admire. Sounds childish and immature, and probably it is, but I always needed to be recognized in some ways, and this qualifies in my patterns. That's certainly the reason why I started to pilot an aeroplane, doing hang-gliding, and was successful and admired in that enterprise.

Now, here lies a huge ambiguity (me being a devotee and a wannabe) that has jumped at my face only while I was preparing this letter. Warning: this is becoming more sexual than I expected at the start!

First, I have to add that, in my patterns of fantasies, there are other elements of a lady's anatomy that are also quite arousing to me: quite petite size, short hair, little breasts (not too little), little backside (ditto), thin legs, shaved pubic area. Yes, that's it: I am aroused to women that are not so feminine after all. Could it be that I am attracted to woman looking like man, or, worse, little boys. Gee! Could it be ultimately that I am an homosexual or a pedophile ignoring himself? Gasp! This could explain the fact that it took me so long to actually go into sexual intercourse with a woman ... Not that easy to admit when you're in your late 30's.

I suspect that my attraction to the shaved pubic area has nothing to do with the matter herein (that is: girls looking like boys) but has more to do with the scar stuff in the part above. Who wrote 'I wanted her shaved because only that way was she naked?'. I think this would fit me better. Notice how this became fashionable this recent years in the adult-oriented media? I heard that it is something that, when freely consented of course, is also quite arousing for the lady. Beep! Got me off the subject again. Sorry about that!

Add to this: me willing to be an amputee. Is this to say that I feel like some kind of a woman inside that needs to be taken tenderly cared for by somebody loving and understanding, to become somebody having the same external symbols as those I identified as being sexy and extra-feminine? The answer is definitely Yes: me too, I feel I also have needs to be cared for, to be understood, and not permanently leading the way. But not in the motherly ways, you know, I definitely hate to be mothered. Sounds like it's coming out of a woman's mouth, doesn't it? And for that matter, I have to confess that I confusingly expect from a woman that she initiate the mating process, for a change, but am sort of destabilized when it happens. On the other hand, I always looked at my involvement in a relationship with a woman in this way: understanding and tender loving care for the lady I am dating and making love to, but not in a fatherly way either. One girl friend of mine left me for that reason, among others: I was maybe a little too tender and to caring, not macho enough, you see, but strangely enough that was the exact same reason that attracted her to me in the first place...

To be truly, deeply, totally, honest with myself, I never felt any sexual attraction to males neither boys, even amputees. I am positive about that. And I am pretty sure that I am not saying that because I would be ashamed to admit that I am an homosexual. I have a few homosexuals in my close relations: one passed away years ago from the big disease with the small name, and I never felt disgusted feelings towards homosexuals, nor any particular attraction for that matter, but I positively have repulsion to mating with somebody of my gender. (no offence for those who do)

On the other hand, the gender that I am attracted to is positively female, whether looking masculine or not. No doubt about that either.

And here comes the cherry on the pie (French expression, I don't know if you get the picture): I am also quite aroused by the fantasy of women making love together, lesbian intercourse, to say the word. I have the intuition that only women can understand the profound libido of the female sexuality and provide each other with satisfying, arousing, tender and loving attentions. I understand that homosexual intercourses are much more frequent among the female gender, and that doesn't qualify those who practice it as lesbians, providing they have satisfying sexual relations with males altogether, which is not, to my knowledge, reversible to males. That is to explain that I am deeply interested, involved in satisfying the woman's libido, sexual needs (and other needs too), and that is one of the main issues in my relations with woman. But being a man I suspect I shall never be able to really understand what being a woman is. Yes, that's it, for me, the same applies for what being an amputee is: as powerful a mystery as being a woman when you are a man (And vice versa, I suppose).

For man, woman is the ultimate unknown, the total strangeness, something that, whatever the science will come up with, will always remain something no man will ever experiment. And again, the reverse is through. And if the attraction to female amputee is an attraction to a powerfull symbol of extra-feminity, the missing "limb", and because feminity is in itself so fascinating, then I suggest that willing to become an amputee is probably an desesperate yet achievable attempt at trying to understand what being a woman means when you're a man.

Am I some kind of 'feminine man', if that exists? I am certainly not the macho type. Is this possible without being an homosexual? I certainly believe the answer is yes. I also suspect that this is explaining why I am a devotee AND a wannabe.

Maybe our world would be much more easy to live in if we could come out of the taboo that we, males, also have some feminine needs, for a change. I come to the conclusion that we could be much more in balance with ourselves if we could express this in our intimate relations with women; that is: not to have to play that macho game all the time. I Believe this latest paragraph applies to the male gender in general, whether devotee and/or wannabe or not.

Paul,

I have developped some of my reflexions in the article "Disability as a Symbol of the Ultimate Other ".

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