It’s no mistake that when I began looking for articles to guide my writing about body size-based desexualization that the top Google results for “sexualized fat bodies” came up with a database of stories called “Embarrassing Fat Bodies.” With a begrudging sigh, I realized that I wasn’t surprised that this result led the pack. The reason I’m writing about body size on desexy is the fact that our culture views fatness as something to be embarrassed of and something that is inherently not sexual. While body size norms and expectations in the U.S. vary across different ethnic and cultural communities, fat people and their bodies are generally viewed upon with disdain. But where does this disdain turn into desexualization?
The root of desexualization of fat bodies is anchored in discrimination against fat or overweight people. According to personal correspondence with Ragen Chastain, creator of the blog “Dances with Fat,” weightism or sizeism “occurs any time we treat someone differently because of their body size, or draw a conclusion from their size other than what size their body is and what our own prejudices about that body size are” (Weaver). This difference can be illustrated through not believing that fat bodies can be sexual. A post by Jessica on “This is Thin Privilege” details her experience of talking about sex with her friends. Jessica connects the experience of her friend being uncomfortable hearing about Jessica’s sexual encounters with the larger societal perpetuation of weightism and sizeism:
She has no problem listening to any of our (thin) friends talk about their guy experiences (in graphic detail). I can’t help thinking maybe she is just like the good portion of society who finds fat people having sex totally hilarious or totally disgusting…I’m trying to understand where she’s coming from, but she sometimes makes me feel completely desexualized, like sex does not exist for me, like all the sexual experiences are totally invalid…I guess thin privilege is being able to talk about your sexual experiences without fear of laughter or disgust from your peers. (Jessica)
Outside of the complete disregard for fat sexuality and sensuality exists an entirely different struggle when it comes to body size: the depersonalized fetishization of fat women. The majority of discourse around fat desexualization is told from the point of view of female-identified people. When I entered the search “fat men sexual,” I was inundated with articles on how big-bellied men make better lovers. I got a completely different result for “fat women sexual.” I found websites for fat fetishists, fat porn, and a Wikipedia page entitled “hogging,” which explains how groups of men target fat women for sex. XOJane blogger, Marianne, discusses this fetishization in their “How to Have Sex While Fat: A Short Guide to Sexy Fun for Fatties and the People who F#&@ Them”: “If someone comes along and is then only sexually attracted to their fat, well, it comes across as creepy…Being attracted to fat bodies is awesome. But if your lover thinks they are a stand in for just ANY OLD FAT BODY, that’s depersonalizing and not sexy” (Marianne).
What is evident around the desexualization of fat bodies (and what will become clear throughout the experiences that desexy explores) is that desexualization and sexual objectification often go hand in hand.
Fat people are not the only people desexualized on the basis of body size. In an upcoming personal interview with Maria+, a survivor of bulimia and anorexia, I will be exploring how the sexualization of thin bodies and people with eating disorders also contributes to body size-based experiences of desexualization.
+ Name has been changed.
Jessica. “Desexualization.” This is Thin Privilege. Tumblr, Inc., 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
Kucerovsky, Tomas. “Wrong Century.” 2005. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.
Marianne. “How to Have Sex While Fat: A Short Guide to Sexy Fun for Fatties and the People who F#&@ Them.” XOJane. Say Media, Inc., 8 Mar. 2013. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
Weaver, Rheyanne. “Sizeism/Weightism: How to Cope With It, and How It Affects Mental Health.” EmpowHER. HER, Inc. 9 Feb. 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.