a letter to potential ‘admirers’: what does my fat body mean to you?
I’ve been wanting to write some sort of response to that Village Voice article about fat admirers from last week (beyond my first impressions post), but every time I sit down to write about its many problems, or about representations of fat sexuality in general (and where this article in particular fits in), I draw a blank. So instead of addressing that article in particular, I’d like to share some thoughts with you about my fat body and what it means to be the object of someone’s desire, in the form of a letter.
Dear Potential Sex Partner,
Hi! My name is Margitte, and I’m fat. I am, of course, more than *just* a fat chick. And although my identity as ‘fat’ (a label I deliberately claim for political and personal reasons) is a crucial part of my lived experience, I am positive that the things that are most interesting about me exist at the intersections of my (multiple, mutable) identities. You should know that, too.
I don’t particularly care why or how I caught your eye. You might have a thing for blondes, or people with slightly crooked teeth, or people whose laugh sounds like a thousand dishes breaking. Or maybe it’s because you like my body. I certainly wouldn’t blame you; it’s a pretty kick-ass body.
If it’s my body that has attracted you to me—if it’s my fat, in particular—you’ll have to understand that I might be suspicious at first. This isn’t because I don’t think anyone could possibly desire a fat body: I’ve had lots and lots of sex, with people of all sizes, and I know that I’m pretty dang desirable. But I also know that sometimes, because women like me are taught to feel certain (negative) ways about their fat bodies, fat women are seen as ‘easy targets’. Some (idiotic, nasty, unfeeling) people believe that, because we feel shame about our bodies, we are more likely to 1) be grateful for their sexual attention and 2) have sex with them. These people are predators. If you are this person, kindly go fuck yourself.
If you are attracted to my fat body because you have a sexual preference for fat bodies, cool. But let’s talk about that for a second.
I’m not really interested in the “story” of why you think you have this preference (one man in the VV article says he likes fat women because they’re like giant boobs, while another said he realized he loved fat girls when he sat down next to one on the bus and got a boner). We all have our sexual preferences, kinks, and fetishes. I think that attempts to identify where they come from are usually rooted in ideas about deviant sexuality as wrong and bad and not okay (and yes, if you are a non-fat person who is attracted to fat people, your sexuality is considered deviant). I think these thought exercises are unproductive and usually end up just demonizing non-normative sexuality further.
But I need to know something, and it’s really important: what does my fat body mean to you?
Fat means different things to different people, but the cultural assumptions about fat people [that we are “lazy, unattractive, lacking self-esteem and willpower, [and are] socially inept and intellectually slow” (Blaine & McElroy, 2002, p. 351)] permeate our existence: and these attitudes are hard to escape. But if you, like me, think these things are totally bunk, then kudos to you! You already have a much more likely chance of me returning your interest.
HOWEVER: if, for some reason, my body represents some greater idea for you, or if you think it tells you something about me or my lifestyle or how good I am at oral sex, you may also go fuck yourself. If you like my body because you think it represents some sort of sexually exciting lack of control, some ravenous sexual hunger, I’d really like you to examine for a second where that idea comes from. Because fat people are seen as lacking self-control (a trait that is deeply valued in this society), and because most people spend the large majority of their lives judiciously attending to their bodies so that they align with said ‘controlled body’, fat bodies can sometimes be fetishized as excessive, uncontrollable. And this can be titillating for some people. (Anecdotal side note: the obsessive body builder that exclusively dates fat people? I think this is sorta what’s going on there). But I don’t want the IDEA of my body as a representation of something (like a ‘lack of control’) to be the reason you are attracted to me. If this is the case: well, you know the drill by now.
I think it’s perfectly legitimate to have a sexual preference for fat bodies. If that’s you, cool. Just don’t assume that my body means any one thing in particular. Don’t assume that my fatness predetermines anything about me, or about a potential relationship with me. DO NOT assume that you are doing me any favors by showing interest in me.
If you can do all this—and for the sake of some potentially hot, sexy funtimes, I hope you can—I won’t make any assumptions about you and your interest in my fat body.
I mean, that’s fair, right?
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