Editors note: This article is a guest post submitted by writer Lucy Bee as part of the Taboo Tab project. To learn more or to read more articles like this, please visit tabootab.com.
I can’t pinpoint the exact point in my life when I became aware that I was a fat girl. I know that I was young, certainly prepubescent, and this realization has followed me around for the rest of my life.
Sometimes I like to pretend that I am just like everyone else, and that my identity as a fat girl is not who I am and doesn’t affect my life. But you know what? It does. It affects me every damn day, in all situations you can imagine, and especially in my sexuality. (If your mind just imploded, yes, fat women have sex too…)
I’m not going to write another piece on how fat kids are often the subject of ridicule and bullying. While useful, these articles are out there for you to find and read and cry about. Well guess what, these children grow up. Sometimes they become thin, sometimes they are average, but other times they grow up and are still fat. “But they are adults now, they make their own choices to be fat, and thus who really cares about their self esteem. I mean, if they can’t learn to just exercise and eat right, they don’t deserve any pity.” (Yes, someone actually said this to me, a visibly fat girl, during a discussion about childhood obesity… they decided to add that they meant ‘overly fat people’, presumably excluding me from their bigotry).
For the record, I don’t want your ‘pity’. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me because of my body type (envy, sure, but not pity). But it would be nice if we could have some type of mature, adult discussion about what it means to be a fat woman in our current culture. That would be appreciated. In particular, I would love to have some open discussion about what it means to f**k a fat girl. In other words, how is sexuality tied into this fat hating culture, and how can sexuality actually be a source of empowerment (and mis-empowerment) for fat women.
And yes, we need to use some uncomfortable language. It has taken me a long time to become okay with using the word ‘fat’ as a descriptor for myself. The word carries so much negativity in our culture and is often the source of shaming and insults. But all of this makes it even more empowering when I proclaim, self confidently, that I’m a fat woman. I’m not advocating for people to walk around and start pointing out fat people. No, this is a self expression, this is about taking your own individuality back. I call myself fat because I am. I also call myself that because it confronts those who use the word negatively.
I went through what I call my “body image depression” when I was about 20. I decided to spend the summer starving myself and taking long bike rides without proper nutrition. Sure, I lost a dress size, but the main outcome was spontaneous fainting spells, pulled muscles and even more body anxiety. After all the starving and exercise I did, my body type didn’t change and the weight loss was nil. I still had wide hips, even bigger thighs, and a soft waist. To make matters worse, I was seriously entering the adult dating world head-first. I began feeding my fragile self esteem with the approval (and disapproval) of others. Disaster ensued.
Somewhere deep down, even in my immature self, I realized that feeding my self esteem with the sexual approval of others was not going to work. Every time someone rejected or disapproved of me, I immediately attributed it to my body type. But my solution turned out to be more destructive: I just sought more sexual approval. Don’t get me wrong, sex is awesome and I am not ashamed that I wanted to have a lot of sexual experiences with different people. But my other reason was to make myself feel better about my body.
If all of these people wanted me sexually then my body must be amazing too, right?
At some point I decided that all of this was bulls**t. I needed to love my body on my own and only accept others that loved it too. Everyone else could just go screw off. I didn’t need them, they didn’t deserve me. While this hard line attitude wasn’t as destructive as before, I still fell into the same pattern. I still sought out some type of reassurance, even if I looked for people that specifically wanted my body type. I thought seeking out people that wanted to f**k a fat girl was the answer. Again, I was headed down a destructive path. Just because someone wanted to f**k a fat girl did not mean that they necessarily wanted to be with me.
One date in particular solidified everything. It was a first date with a stereotypically, heteronormative, gorgeous man. I had to hype myself up, remind myself that even if I was fat I was still worthy of his company. At one point in the date he said that he always had a ‘fetish’ for BBWs (big beautiful women, for all the unenlightened). I remember everything in my head clicking together, as I stared at him, stunned for nearly a minute. No, I’m not a fetish. No, my body type is not some play thing for you and your sexuality alone. I am a person, not just a fat girl to f**k so you can fulfill some fetish. Although everything was going off in my head, I let the date continue. When he offered to bring me to his place, I rejected him. His genuine look of surprise as I walked the other way is an image burned in my mind. I was no longer going to be a fat girl likened to a scooter – fun to ride on your own time, but not someone/thing you want to be caught with in public.
Not long after that incident I came across a quote. I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was essentially: “I don’t want a man that will love me because of my curves. I want a man that will love me without or without my curves.” It was the whole “I want someone who loves me for my brain not my beauty” thing, refashioned for the curvy woman. While I agreed on some level, the idea didn’t stick and eventually I became angry with the whole concept. No, I didn’t want the fetish crowd, the group of people who wanted my body type for their sexual fetishes and nothing else. But why couldn’t I have someone that enjoyed my body type, that enjoyed the curviness and appreciated the way I looked? Couldn’t I have someone who wanted my mind AND my body (even if it was a fat body)?
Hell yes. I could have both, and I realized that getting both was how my sexuality could empower my identity as a fat woman without being destructive. Somehow I had to wade through the fat fetishers and find someone who could like my body AND me. Telling the difference proved much simpler than I imagined. Three years ago, when I discovered people that appreciated the sexuality of my curves AND my intelligence, the fat fetishers stood out like never before. And I noticed the difference in my confidence.
I wasn’t relying on others to boost it for me. Self confidence was built within me. The mere fact that people agreed to f**k me didn’t matter anymore. I didn’t need all of these people’s approval of my body through sex, because most of the time it really was just about sex – it had nothing to do with them or the culture ‘accepting’ fat women just because they were willing to f**k me. It also meant I wasn’t so self-conscious of what I looked like when I was naked. I didn’t care anymore about what I looked like during sex. I could actually just have fun instead of relying on sex for confidence and therefore scripting my every move. I was released from worrying about sex and instead just having some real fun. But I was also very careful to avoid people that fetishized my fatness. I’m a person, first and foremost, and even in my sexual life I need to be treated as one. My sexuality was and still is very empowering, but for a very different reason. My sexuality is a form of expressing who I am, just as conversation, activities, and emotional exchanges are. I needed people that would appreciate the whole package.
I don’t pretend to be ‘fixed’. I don’t pretend that fat hating culture doesn’t still affect me, especially in my sexuality. I quickly learned that simply loving your body and surrounding yourself with people that appreciate it wasn’t going to cut it. Years and years of conditioning had taught me to be self-conscious. I could not just forget this culture of hate surrounding my fatness and I just couldn’t pretend that since I accepted myself the world did too. It was impossible to shrug off the judgments of others, especially the silent judgment. I try to tell the world that I don’t give a f**k, but the reality is I do. I’m still immersed in this culture and I can’t shrug it off. What I can do though is try to be myself in spite of the culture. Fight for fat acceptance when I can, encourage my friends when needed, and ultimately just be confident with who I am.
So fat girls: go out, f**k, be appreciated and live your life in spite of all these ridiculous body expectations. And to those interested: you now know how to f**k a fat girl.
[Contributed by Lucy Bee]