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Depression in women
But the data and research around sexuality paint a wholly different picture. His thinness alone earned him a much higher standing. Over time our Boston rendezvous turned into weekends at his apartment. I would go from being a charmingly eccentric bohemian to being a monstrously crass bother.
Three years ago, I weighed just over pounds and wore a size 30 or 32, depending on the cut of the clothing. Many men who are attracted to fat women find ways to express that desire while sheltering themselves from judgment and stigma including secret sexual relationships with fat women, too afraid or disgusted to elevate those encounters to full-fledged relationships. My first love went to art school, and early in our courtship he invited me to a student show of his photography.
The findings in A Billion Wicked Thoughts point to the idea that fat bodies may be among the most widely desired, but that desire may be repressed, possibly due to pervasive stigma. Culture tells us bodies like mine are impossible to love. Of course, not all fat people have lived these sex and relationship horror stories. Later in my 20s, after briefly dating a friend of a friend, I decided to return to dating apps. Not chubby or fluffy or husky or curvy — fat. People who internalize anti-fat stereotypes — including the pervasive cultural belief that fat people are categorically unattractive or unlovable — are more likely to binge eat, as are survivors of sexual assault.
He said: I love my women fat. My risk-taking resolution ebbed from my broad, soft body. As these little fissures opened into wounds, I dressed them by retelling the story of our relationship. His love letters landed like a blow, knocking the wind out of me.
Usually bigger girls are better at pleasing their men though. I started researching jobs, and he started looking for apartments. So I broke both of our hearts. In retrospect, I worried for my bodily safety, as if only violence could develop an appetite for a body as soft as mine.
I had learned that I was undesirable to almost everyone. But thin people are frequently attracted to other thin people without garnering suspicion of fetishism. I told myself he was too gentle to do what he knew needed to be done and dump me. In the years since my first breakup, I had struggled to accept interest where I found it.
I do not lie awake at night, longing for a thinner body or some life that lies pounds out of reach. Desiring fat people is something deviant to be hidden, to find shame in, to closet. But I also faced messages like these, tinged with entitlement to my fat body — a body that they expected was theirs for the taking simply because of the size of it. Because this was uncharted territory, I assumed it was also unexplored.
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To be clear, there are attractions to fatness that take such specific forms that they are undeniably fetishistic. But many fat people have felt fetishism thrust upon them without their consent. Maybe he had taken pity on me, doing a charitable deed by showing affection to a pitiable fat girl. This is among the greatest triumphs of anti-fatness: It stops us before we start.
We lived two states away from each other and on the weekends would meet in the middle in Boston, spending long days together. Worse still, some tell stories about working up the courage to share their experiences of sexual assault only to be categorically disbelieved. For years, my body took center stage in my dating life. This beautiful life belonged to someone else, and he deserved someone better. Fat acceptance spaces frequently include heartbreaking stories of people whose partners kept their relationships secret.
He wrote me letters nearly every day, and I responded like clockwork. I was on Bumble for less than a day when I matched with someone. After all, in our cultural scripts, a fat partner is a failure at best, a shameful, pathological fetish at worst. It echoed the concerns from family and friends, dangling the promise of a loving, healthy relationship at a lower weight: I just want you to find someone.
They found that regardless of gender and sexual orientation, porn searches for fat bodies ificantly outpaced searches for thin bodies. For me, the size of my body is a simple fact. He had started testosterone shortly before we met, and the double-exposed photos seemed to show his body as a specter as the hormones took root. You say such nice things about me. I had never seen fat women who dated. Fat fetishism has deep roots for many fat people, especially fat women. Big girl usually means a big mouth too. But I had never seen a fat woman in love — not in life, not in the media.
Despite being surrounded by women of all sizes, viewers opted instead to drive their desire into safe, siloed, and one-sided experiences, away from the prying eyes of the world around them. But many of us have become so acculturated to them that we come to describe the vast majority of fat attraction as fat fetishism. He put the letters up around his bedroom mirror.
Such a pretty face
So I did. Then, on top of all that, messages like these. I do not struggle with self-esteem or negative body image. How could he love me if it meant loving this? Messages that received my body like tissue: plentiful, accessible, disposable, trash. I shrank from their touch, recoiling from their hands like hot iron, believing their interest to be impossible or pathological.
This was the informal first step of my screening process. Over time, I came to experience any attraction as untrustworthy, as if danger lurked nearby.
Someone easier, prettier, cooler, and, of course, someone thinner. I had never seen fat women who asserted themselves, whose partners respected them.
Desire for a body like mine meant my partners were irrational, stupid, or reed to settling for less than they wanted. Some fat people happily engage with these fetishes and find fulfillment or paid work in their role. I told myself the best thing I could do for him was leave. They get trapped, too.
Those messages also land hard with people who date us, love us, marry us, sleep with us. I said hello. But when fetishism is brought up with respect to fat attraction, it gathers like a storm cloud. Everywhere I looked, bodies were openly critiqued and ranked, and mine steadily landed near the bottom of the scale — 2, 3, 4. When attraction to fat people is discussed, fetishism is never far behind. Dates constantly commented on my size, a knee-jerk reaction to their discomfort with their own desire. It had always been impossible, too beautiful and tender to be true.