When a Man Is Interested In you Because You Arean Amputee

. . . . . The Woman's Perspective

by Lynn Brancato

Lynn Brancato is probably the first, if not the only woman ever to writeseriously about men who are interested in female amputees. In 1994, thefull version of this article appeared in The Proceedings of the 1993 AnnualMeeting of the Society for Disability Studies. Lynn has kindly condensedthat article for presentation here.

  I am a woman who has experienced many things; being comatose,awakening to a state of total paralysis, slowly regaining lost body functions,and having my left leg amputated and my right leg braced. According tothe medical profession, I should have died or spent the rest of my life in avegetative state, but here I am, very much alive and thriving.

  My disability occurred twenty years ago when I was a single parentliving in New York State. After a recuperation period lasting almost twoyears, my daughters and I took up residence in Manhattan. It was there Ilearned about men who were particularly drawn to me because I was nowone-legged. To say the least, I found that both curious and unsettling.

  I first found out about these interested men when a man my oldestdaughter thought had been staring at us approached me in a hospitalcafeteria. He was very congenial. We exchanged phone numbers andagreed to meet a few days later.

  When he arrived at our apartment, he was carrying a large envelopefull of printed material which, after some pleasantries, he proceeded toshare with me as he told about men who were attracted to femaleamputees.

  I was flabbergasted! To learn that my trauma, pain, and presentsituation made me an object of desire was appalling. However, as he talkedI became more and more intrigued. What causes this interest? Whywasn't I told of it by the rehabilitation professionals who were treating me?Who else knows about this interest? Why didn't any of my femaleamputee acquaintances mention it? Did they know? Should I welcome orbe repelled by men exhibiting this interest? Had I already encounteredsuch men?

  Over the years I have met a number of "interested" men, formed someopinions about them and their attraction, and discussed my thoughts withprofessionals in the fields of rehabilitation and psychiatry and with anumber of women who are also amputees. Although reactions differ, it isclear that very little is known about this phenomenon.

  The specific term applied to this interest is amelotasis; the men arereferred to as amelotatists. For the sake of both clarity and brevity, I shallrefer to the men who are attracted to female amputees as AMTs.

  Few women amputees whom I have met, regardless of the reasons fortheir amputation(s), want to dwell on the fact that they are amputees. Theabsent limb(s) is a given, a fact of life--something to recognize, adjust to,and accept as they go on with their lives.

  For AMTs, the desire to become involved with an amputee in a social orromantic way is, and has been, a burning issue in their lives, often sincechildhood. However, the availability of female amputees is notcommensurate with the demand. To compound matters, the AMT'sinterest is seldom shared by the woman and at times his intensity is suchthat he gives the impression of being socially inept. As one womanobserved, "The more insecure and vulnerable he feels, the more obnoxioushe acts."

  To complicate matters further, a number of women absolutely rejectany advances made by men who seem interested in them because of theirdisability. Their feelings were well stated by one rather vocal woman--awheelchair user--who, upon learning of this interest, exclaimed, "I wouldn'twant a man who wanted me because of my disability." This emphaticstatement was countered by a woman, born without limbs, who confided,"Thank goodness there are men who are attracted to amputees. Otherwise,no one would want me." It is little wonder that the AMT often surroundshis interest with a veil of secrecy.

  Therefore, the problem is double-edged. The question is not whetherthere are men interested in women who are amputees, but rather, howsuch men express their interest and pursue their quest. Similarly, theissue is now whether there are women with fewer than four limbs who arepursued by men fascinated with them, but rather, how these womenrespond to such attention.

  In the process of interviewing the women for this study it becameapparent that their relationships with men varied in almost predictableways due to a number of factors, three of which appear to be particularlysignificant: Age at Onset, Obviousness of the Disability, and Self-Esteem.

  Women born without limbs or who became amputees at a young agehave had different life experiences than those who became amputees laterin life. The former seemed more comfortable with their bodies and self-images.

  Those who became amputees during their serious dating years or earlyin their marriages seemed to have the most difficulty adjusting andrelating to males. However, a number of these women were involved inlasting relationships at the time of the interview, which reinforced theimportance of time in the healing process. Many of those who becameamputees later in life expressed the feeling that the amputation renderedthem less desirable, physically and sexually. Most who were single hadmale friends, but did not date. This, of course, is a generalization to whichthere are notable exceptions.

  The ability of an amputee to appear to be someone without a disabilityhas a definite impact on relationships with others. The relative importanceto the woman of appearing as she is--different--with a disability--is anindividual matter and critical to her concept of self. Of course, for theamputee who is able to "pass," there is always the question of when andhow to indicate her limblessness to others.

  Going a step further (no pun intended), one woman stated that she didnot like to associate with other female amputees because she felt that shelost her uniqueness in the presence of other amputees. She thoroughlyenjoys being different and receiving special attention.

  The above, quite obviously, indicates a great deal about the women'sconcept of self, that it, their feelings of self worth. Over and over again, thewomen indicated that, unless or until they felt good about themselves,they were unable to have meaningful relationships with others,particularly men. Accepting themselves, their bodies, and their alteredcapacities, was crucial to their getting on with their lives. Some were ableto accomplish this shortly after their disability; for others, it took years; afew had not achieved, and may never achieve, this acceptance.

  Thus, as the men pursue their interest, it is the women who must decidehow to respond. For this reason, it is so crucial that we, the women, sharewhat we know and have experienced with each other in order to informand enlighten ourselves. For instance, I would certainly want to know if aman is married or in a committed relationship, if he is involved withseveral women, known for his conquests, uses different names, has areputation, etc. The men freely exchange information about the women intheir lives; why don't we exchange information about the men?

  AMTs have perfected "lines" in order to make contact with womenamputees. These lines differ little from those used by men since arrangedmarriages ceased to be in vogue. My concern is that women, with andwithout disabilities, fall for these lines. In our consumer-oriented society,the best advice is still caveat emptor--let the buyer beware.

  The dilemma for both parties in AMT/amputee liaisons involvesseparating the interest (attraction) from the relationship. Being marriedto your fantasy is one thing; making a life together, building on thatfantasy, is quite another matter. Thus, the interest may be a sufficientcatalyst to draw two people together, but it is not enough to serve as thefoundation for something that will stand the test of time.

  The good news for a woman who is an amputee may be that there aremen in this predominantly two-handed, two-legged world who will findher attractive, exciting, and desirable, and that her most attractiveattribute to him will not change over time. The key, of course, iscommitment, as evidenced by the behavior of each to the other, as well asto those outside the relationship. If an AMT has come to terms with hisinterest, it is not likely to be a problem. However, if the interest hasbecome an obsession, there will be trouble. Certainly, women need to knowthat the attraction exists and that it may be expressed in varying degrees.Likewise, AMTs need to know that the attraction, in and of itself, is not adisease and, depending on how it is expressed, will be accepted.

  I asked each of the women interviewed what they would tell anotherwoman amputee about AMTs. As expected, the responses varied based onindividual experience. The predominant sentiment, however, was thatwhatever their introduction to an AMT, the feeling of being desired andaccepted allowed for the natural evolution of relationships.   Please note that more often the question is "Should I tell?" or "When isthe right time to tell?" rather than "what to tell" another woman who is anamputee. Those interviewed reported that in their contacts with otherwomen amputees they relied on personal intuition, which most agreed, isnot infallible.

  While most of the women interviewed felt they should have been toldabout the interest earlier, none agreed about the best time to be told. Themajority felt that the physical or occupational therapists or the nurseswho worked so closely with them during the early stages of theirrehabilitation, especially those with "feelings," should provide theinformation. Interestingly, no one expected physicians to know about theinterest or to assume responsibility for informing them about it.

  This interest, while unusual, is not a perversion. However, there aremen who carry the pursuit of women amputees to extremes and wouldbenefit from professional help. Information about experiences with thesemen should be shared woman to woman. In addition, while fantasies arean essential, healthy part of romance and sexuality, for both males andfemales, dwelling in a fantasy world is symptomatic of more seriousproblems.

  The significant point is that AMTs seem not to have a choice about theirinterest in women amputees; most do not understand why they areattracted. What AMTs do have is a choice about how to control, direct, anddeal with their interest. For the women, choice is a different matter--theycan choose whether or not to become the objects of such attention, to insiston being respected as persons in their own right, or to experience somecombination of the two. This is not to say that a woman amputee shouldcategorically accept or reject any male's advances--how does she know if heis an AMT or not, and what difference does that make? A woman can, andshould, decide what is right for her and act accordingly. As one woman putit, "People have the right to choose anyone they want to go out with . . . Aslong as everyone knows the rules of the game and how it's played, go for it.You have to like yourself to like someone else. You have to know whatmakes you happy."

  This line of thinking is continually expressed in the literature, bothpopular and professional. Therefore, I will close with a few lines from GoodHousekeeping:   "Ever notice that some of the most appealing women are notnecessarily great beauties? It isn't their figures or faces that attract, buttheir positive outlook and sense of self. They obviously feel at ease withwho they are and how they look . . . Confidence comes from within, andyou don't have to change your body or your wardrobe to feel good aboutyourself. What you may have to change, however is your attitude. Whenyou value your strengths and appreciate yourself as you are, it shows.You radiate a glow, an energy, that others respond to . . . And that's thekind of beauty that lasts." (Good Housekeeping's Beauty Place, 1992, p.32)

  The way in which a woman chooses to react to a man who finds herattractive because of her disability or, for that matter, for anycharacteristic or quality, is her decision. The insights shared by those of uswho have lived "the amputee experience" should help her make the rightdecision. Pretending that AMTs do not exist, or that there is somethingprurient in their interest, not only denies reality, but also eliminates possi-bilities for romance and mutual self-fulfillment.

      I am glad I experienced two-leggedness, as well as good health andvitality, the first thirty-five years of my life. In that state I participated insports, "ran after" two very active children, and was able to do all sorts ofthings without extra thought, planning, and encumbrances. I did it all!And I enjoyed what I did! I know the difference between being two-leggedand being one-legged. After the amputation of my left leg and theparalysis of my right leg from the knee down, my pace is slower, but I getaround well. Crutches, a peg leg, as well as a cosmetically correctprosthesis, a brace, and "sneakers" are essential aids. However, having aloving and lovable husband with whom to share my joys and frustrationsmakes a big difference.

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