Maria+ identifies as “female, white, upper middle class, straight, cisgender, and an American citizen.” Maria is also a survivor of bulimia and anorexia.
This is her story.
Tell me about a period of time or a particular experience where you felt desexualized.
I developed my first eating disorder when I was eleven, and showed symptoms of eating disorder behavior at age 8. I was bullied extensively in middle school, which lead to the development of a binge eating disorder. In high school, I became obsessed with going to the gym and developed a form of bulimia known as Exercise Bulimia, in which I would eat a lot of “nothing” then exercise it all off (with “nothing” being non-fat, no sugar, low calorie foods, such as 10 calorie sugar free Jell-O). I was once sent home after spending nearly 6 hours in my gym. In college, I developed my worst and most severe eating disorder: anorexia. I lost around thirty pounds in a matter of months. I was living off of less than 500 calories a day. At the end of my freshman year, I was sent to a treatment facility and spent the summer receiving help and recovering.
During the beginning of my anorexic period, I was repeatedly hooking up with a guy that had started as a friend but quickly turned romantic…sexual. He never really complimented me or said nice things about me, but I just took it as his style. One night, when we were laying in bed together, he looked over at me and told me that I needed to lose weight.
I hadn’t had anything to eat that day.
A few days later I told him that I wasn’t eating. He encouraged this behavior. But a few weeks later, he told me that he didn’t find me attractive and didn’t want to do anything sexual with me because I was “fucked up” because of my eating disorder. He told a bunch of other guys and none of them would even come near me. Many of them had expressed interest in me in the past. However, since learning about my eating disorder, they desexualized me. Eating disorders are extremely stigmatized disorders making those who suffer feel more isolated.
Tell me about a positive experience you had of feeling sexual.
Since going to treatment, I have learned to accept my body as it is. And since coming to this realization, I have become more confident in my sexuality and in myself as a whole. I have been dating my current boyfriend for a year now. He accepted me as I am, eating disorder and all. He has enabled me to feel sexual without the fear of b eing judged for my disorder. He compliments me constantly, not only on my looks and my body, but also my mind and my personality. For such a long time I had a fear of being seen without clothes on. However, since coming to terms with my disorder, and having the backing, support, and love of my boyfriend, I am now able to be comfortable with and without clothes on.
+ Name has been changed.
Anonymous. Personal interview. 5 Nov. 2014.