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A Particular Perspective

'I remember her distinctly ... in a crocodile with twenty or thirty other girls, all dressed in the blue uniform of the local convent school, and no different, except that she had only one leg, and used a pair of aluminium elbow-crutches. I was six at the time, but I knew immediately that she and other women like her would hold some deep fascination for me. Decades later, I'm just as interested, but no nearer to understanding why.'

Anyone who has read Forum, or ten years ago, Penthouse, may recognize this as one of many letters from people, mostly men, who share this fascination. Perhaps you may have skipped over such items, dismissing them as those really weird ones ... maybe you've latched on to the phrase 'lost a leg' and you're reading avidly.

Whichever, you're now thinking about one of the most persistent, least investigated and understood, and many ways most unique of all sexual preferences ... often known as 'amputee fetishism'. It isn't, strictly, a fetish. 'Monopede mania' has nice alliteration but the use of the word mania carries connotations that sen shudders down the spine of anyone, particularly one of these guys. For none of them could ever be called manic. Indeed, the exhibition of this most private of fantasies is generally held back by a wall of guilt so strong that no-one, not even a spouse or lover is aware of their particular leanings.

Perhaps this is natural, you might argue ... after all, it's not very nice to stare at disabled people, is it, Johnny? And finding a person attractive inevitably leads to a good deal of long limpid looks. So someone who finds amputees attractive, yet who is subject to much the same conditioning as the rest of us,is pretty well certain to be wracked by guilt, horrified at his ill-mannered libido, and virtually dead certain that discovery would definitely mean ostracism, and maybe even the State Home for the Very Very Confused.

The result is that he's so shy about this that he'll never discuss it with anyone who doesn't share his interest, with the corollary that he actually has no real idea what people will think.

But, speaking as one who does not share this interest, what would you do if someone were to remark, quite casually, 'I'd like to meet a girl with one leg', in exactly the same tone as he might admit to preferring brunettes?

Would you snap to your feet outraged? Surely you aren't so intolerant, or lacking in curiosity ... after all, you know this person quite well, so why's he saying this?

You probably wouldn't laugh,or draw the attention of others to his revelation, because he's obviously talking to you, not the others. Or would you? The mere possibility will seal his mouth forever, but it's all in his head ... he doesn't know how you'll react, and he'd rather stay silent, despite a deep desire to talk about his preferences.

The problem is that even though the subject had a constant trickly of coverage traceable back to the '20's when London Life first started carrying correspondence and occasional short stories in a a series which extended for more than 20 years, retiring in the War, reviving in the Canadian magazine, Bizarre in th '50's, re-emerging in Penthouse in the '70's and now mostly found in the letters pages in Forum, precious little is known about the amputee-admirer, another common appellation.

Still less is known in a demographic or behavioural sense about society's attitude to him, nor about the people who are the subject of his 'hobby' ... and it's not a hobby either, nor is it a passion, nor possession, nor any of the other terms used.

This is one characteristic that sets it apart ... almost nobody talks about it, or makes any serious investigation of it. For example, Krafft-Ebbing makes only one reference to it, does so in the same breath as half a dozen other fetishes, one of which is bondage. Well, isn't it much the same sort of thing, on different? ... in a word, No.

Now, B & D is a very common fetish, which has received enormous attention, and in all those years there hasn't been one report that even mentions amputees, which rather suggests that bondage enthusiasts have nil interest ... not very little, but NIL. If they did, as a population, then one would expect a Normal distribution of preferences ranging from passing to passionate.

Conversely, in the one proper poll taken of people who have a non-platonic interest in amputees, the interest indicated in B & D was considerably less marked that in the general population; from which it is reasonably safe to conclude that liking amputees is not a form of bondage-fetish, even though it might appear so at first.

A behaviourist argument which has been put forward suggests that it is the result of an impression ... that the person saw an amputee at some crucial period during which the 'trigger' of one's sexual preferences is programmed. That one fails because a significant number of these people report that they were aware of their interest 'on first sight' (as witness the quotation above, which is a genuine recollection), and those, a large fraction, state that the event occurred well before puberty.

Unless 'impression' is something which can take place more-or-less anytime, in which case it can't be given the significance accorded by its proponents, we can't accept that theory.

Quite simply, the years 4--8 aren't psychologically interesting ... just an extended period of growth and learning, with no obvious hormonal changes: certainly nothing like puberty, during which such major changes are taking place that 'impression' in one way or another is not only plausible but virtually certain.

There's a rather complicated Jungian theory to do with the the Animus/Anima, Mother/Father, Introvert/Extravert polarities which holds that the complex...

[Strong Extravert Demanding Mother]
[Passive Introvert Accepting Father]
[Introvert child]
[Fear of Anima]

...can lead to an interest in amputees, on the basis that males are attracted to the physical embodiments of their Animae, and that the above complex can produce an anima which altered in some way makes her less threatening. The theory holds in some cases, a one-legged anima is the result, and as proposed, a devotee is attracted to any girl who is a reflection of his anima.

As I said, complicated isn't it? And in my opinion, not terribly convincing, not least because many, possibly even most, devotees are perfectly capable of having a completely normal relationship with able-bodied women. So where does that leave the anima? Does it mean that sometimes my anima is an amputee, and sometimes she isn't? And if so, what makes her change?

There isn't much else left, except genetics, and that's getting suspiciously close to a kind of scientifically-derived theory of predesination, and I won't pursue that line, for the simple reason that it's impossible to prove one way or the other, without the complete rule book of the human genome, and we haven't got that yet.

This isn't to say that the amputee-fantasy is completely different from all other sexual diversities in all respects. In fact, apart from the obscurity of its psychogenesis, and the lack of attention accorded to it, it would appear that the activities and images employed in the practice of B & D and the fantasy-liefe of devotees are remarkably similar.

In fact, most of the 'action' for these individuals consists of fantasising, some of which results in amateurish short stories or crude sketches. Apart from the one-legged women featured in such material, these are not discernibly different from the cheaply-printed porn-literature of the'50's and '60's.

Professionally-written stories are much rarer, and seldom see print, often being circulated as umpteenth-generation photocopies. There is at least one source of 'amputee-material' from which photographs can be obtained, and very occasionally amputees are shown in films, but apart from these few, that's it. In other words, not just less attention than other fetishes, but conspicuously less.

This is perhaps most marked by the behaviour of those ladies who offer to 'make your fantasies come true'. Not this one, they won't. They don't even want to talk about it! Yet they'll do almost anything else you ask, by all reports.

With this evident lack of acceptance by people at large it's even more surprising to learn that of the married members of the survey, more than half the wives and girlfriends knew about this interest and over 25% had on occasions played 'Let's pretend'.

What's that? Doesn't sound like they minded overmuch, does it? Knowing about it is one thing - participation quite another, and suggests that, in fact, people don't find the confession particularly revolting.

And why should they? After all, misfortunes happen,and if someone should lose a limb, it's pretty unfair to file them under 'shop-soiled' and deprive them of a sex-life as a result. What is so off-the-map about someone admitting that this event has not reduced their attractiveness? Is is any worse to confess that it is the colour of their hair, than to admit particular body-shapes can turn one on?

For the kind of people who think that they know all the answers, then perhaps it is. Those who can accept that they aren't always right may be able to accept that that others aren't always wrong. In which case the response must be: 'No, it's not wrong ... different, yes, but not wrong.'

Notes and references

... It isn't, strictly, a fetish ...
The relationship between devotion and fetishism is explored in Is Devotion A Fetish?

... London Life ...
The history of this magazine is described in London Life: 1920--1950

... on first sight ...
A series of memoirs of this experience, which is shared by many devotees is given in Epiphanies.

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