Introductory Thing:

SO. In response to a lot of discussion I am seeing around ye olde internets, I am going to try to break down what I’ve been thinking about regarding the whole fat and fetishism (with a dash of feederism) topic.

Thing the First:

Physical attraction is a valid part of a relationship. In fact, while physical attraction is not a wise thing on which to base the ENTIRETY of a relationship that is meant to be a long-term monogamous one, it’s often the catalyst for people getting to know each other in that “hey, I’d like to be naked with you” kind of way.

Physical attraction does not preclude intellectual attraction and attachment. And, in fact, physical and intellectual attraction often inform and complement each other.

If one is looking for a relationship with a sexual component, physical attraction is a good thing (and if you aren’t looking for a relationship with a sexual component, it’s quite possible that’s still a good thing – asexual relationships run the gamut).

Thing the Second:

When people tell me they are skeeved by fat fetishists and they just want someone who wants them for who they are entirely, I’m never quite sure what to do with that. Because, uh, yeah, that’s what most people seem to want. Including people who have genuine, bona fide, psychological fetishes.

You know we use “fetish” colloquially to mean “someone who’s really into things not accepted by the mainstream” right? It seems to me that’s why “kink” has turned into such a popular term in certain communities. It means we don’t have to really consider the idea of fetishes and what they mean in a sexual context. It means we can continue to dismiss them as deviant.

But the thing that really bugs me about this response is that (even while keeping in mind that fetishes are not automatically bad and wrong) not everyone who digs fat is a fetishist in the first place. When someone digs your fat ass, while that is certainly an act of objectification, it’s not necessarily a fetishistic act.

It’s that your fat ass is hot.

While I think it’s totally valid to be uncomfortable with objectification, it makes ME deeply uncomfortable to see discomfort with fetishes and discomfort with objectification conflated in this way. Because it’s damaging both to fetishists AND to people who just think your ass is attractive.

I’m not advocating that you disregard your instincts in any particular moment. I’m advising that you sit down, when you aren’t in the middle of a situation, and figure out your motivations and whether or not it is worth trying to push the edges of your comfort zone a little bit. Our instincts are often good – but they aren’t always pure instinct either. We’re just as culturally constructed as everyone else.

Thing the Third:

I think a lot of the discomfort people feel when being objectified because of *fill in the blank* fat body part springs from specifically sexual internalized self-loathing. Because even when you unpack your body hate and take a ride on the fat acceptance wagon, you are still just as enculturated about what other people should find attractive. It’s completely possible to feel that YES, I AM ATTRACTIVE at the same time as YOU ARE DEVIANT FOR LIKING MY FAT.

Thus, an impossible situation is created.

We flinch back from expressed appreciation of our physicality, while demanding acknowledgement that our physicality is acceptable.

The thing about “acceptable” – I don’t think “acceptable” and “attractive” are the same thing. And if I draw the line and say I’m done once I consider my body acceptable, there’s still a huge mine field waiting for my unwary (though stylishly shod) feet because I’m still going to freak out if someone manages to go against their own cultural programming and find me attractive.

For some people, sex seems to be the way into fat acceptance. Because they feel attractive and other people find them to be attractive and it all flows from there. But some people come at it from a different perspective and it complicates the whole sex thing – in part because we just don’t talk about sex very often or in the ways that we should.

Thing the Fourth:

Objectification is a thing. When it is the only way in which you are looked at, it is a bad thing. When it is a systemic and enculturated way of seeing an entire gender, it’s an extremely bad thing.

But I don’t believe that is all there is to it. Because objectification without cultural reinforcement as the one true way to attain value as a woman can be a lot of fun – and it certainly gets turned around and practiced BY women in ways that just don’t seem as harmful.

This is where some people are going to pretend there aren’t fandoms and image communities dedicated to looking at pictures of people they find desperately attractive. That’s objectification, y’all. And until it leads to people being valued ONLY for their object status (oh, why hallo thar mainstream way of sexually valuing people and calling it romantic), I don’t think it’s a problem. Because physical attraction is one component of being attracted to people and it’s fun to experience.

Thing the Fifth:

I said before that I don’t think fat acceptance and feederism have a lot to do with each other, that they are separate issues. I want to clarify: feederism is neither inherently fat accepting nor inherently fat loathing. It’s a thing. It’s a thing that tends to make a lot of people uncomfortable – and, I will fully admit it makes me uncomfortable because I’ve almost exclusively seen it practiced harmfully – but it’s a thing. There is no automatic barrier at the door of fat acceptance that says you must be this fat accepting to read these blogs or get involved in fat fashion. Similarly, there is no automatic barrier at the door of fat acceptance that says you must not be dieting to read these blogs or get involved in fat fashion. (The sign, in that instance, says “we don’t want to hear about your diet.”)

The natural, if uncomfortable for many people, extension of that is that there is no automatic barrier at the door of fat acceptance that says if you practice feederism you are not allowed. That would be silly. Equally silly is the way the majority of my experience with the feederism community comes from people INSISTING that feederism is what fat acceptance is all about. As though the sexual practice and the political movement are the same. They are not. (This isn’t referring to the most recent crop of comments or the people I’ve talked to – this is more about what’s happened in the history of my blog and the history of the movement in general.)

Concluding Thing:

It is totally okay to find fat people sexually attractive. If you feel discomfort every time someone finds you sexually attractive, that might be a sign that you need to unpack what’s underlying your responses. If you are regarded as a creeper for liking fat bodies, that might be a sign you need to learn some other techniques (p.s., not from cis white hetero stereotypical frat boys, for examp) for expressing that attraction.

Y’all. Seriously.

You know how I’m often harping on how we shouldn’t try to armchair diagnose mental illness? That goes for labeling people’s sexual preferences, too. If you’ve had one 15-minute encounter with a person, you probably don’t know if they are an actual factual fetishist – and even if you do, you don’t know that’s a bad thing. If we’re going to be super radical political fatties, it’s worth considering whether or not our sexual mores are surprisingly – and limitingly – conventional.

You don’t have to like everything or even try everything. But we’ve got to stop being so damn judgmental about the things we don’t do. To borrow a phrase from the kink community: Your kink is not my kink but your kink is okay.


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41 Comments

  1. Katie
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    The thing about “acceptable” – I don’t think “acceptable” and “attractive” are the same thing. And if I draw the line and say I’m done once I consider my body acceptable, there’s still a huge mine field waiting for my unwary (though stylishly shod) feet because I’m still going to freak out if someone manages to go against their own cultural programming and find me attractive.

    God, I just. It’s so fucked up, but I am still (STILL!) hardwired to think this way. Sometimes I wish I could carry you around in my handbag so you could call me on my shit all the time, because I really need to hear it.

  2. Posted May 6, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    THIS!

    Thank you, Marianne, for this post. I have so many complicated thoughts about this stuff and I am so grateful that you are tackling the topic.

    I keep encountering the oversimplification you are talking about…attraction to fat = a fetish = a necessarily evil thing. I want to jump up and down and say no! My partner is attracted to me for my fat and yes, it’s probably describable as a fetish and YES, it’s a good thing for both of us!

    I, like most or all of us, want to be appreciated as a whole person. That seems to be the argument that folks are using so often against portrayals of fat sexuality (Puck and Lauren on Glee, the Village Voice article, etc). Having a partner so deeply attracted to the fat on my body and loving me as a whole person are NOT mutually exclusive!

    • Bagfish
      Posted May 6, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Yes, this exactly. My OH is absolutely enraptured by my fat; after 14 years he still glories in it, but that is not the sum totality of our relationship.

      He loves me for my many parts, my fat being one of them, my brain, sense of humour and smile being just a few of the other reasons (or so he tells me :)

      I think the difference between fetish and just having “a type” is that if it’s someone has a fetish, then that’s *all* that person will be into. The rest of the person being fetishised won’t interest them, and generally that’s not a good way to build a relationship.

      However, when someone gets upset about the fact that a person fancies them because they are fat, I can’t see why it skeeves them so badly. The fact that my OH is turned on by my fat is actually a turn on for me. Because he sees me as sexy, I see myself reflected in that and feel more sexy by proxy. I don’t want to be fancied *despite* my fat, I want to be fancied for it (as I want to be fancied for my humour, brain etc, etc…)

      I don’t know if this makes sense, but I think it’s disrespectful to call the person who fancies me in part because I have a fat body a fetishist. He has a preference for larger bodies, but it’s not like he wants to fuck every fat woman he sees just because they are fat. Physical attraction is only part of the equation.

      • firefey
        Posted May 10, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

        “I think the difference between fetish and just having “a type” is that if it’s someone has a fetish, then that’s *all* that person will be into. The rest of the person being fetishised won’t interest them”

        except… no, it’s not really like that at all in practical terms. when i talk about the intersection of fat and fetish i like to talk about healthy and unhealthy expressions of fetish.

        what you are describing would be unhealthy expressions. the fetishist is only interested in the fat, and not the person. they don’t care about you, just that you have the fat body they crave and need for sexual pleasure.

        healthy fetishism still needs and craves the fat for sexual pleasure but they want to fulfill that craving with someone they like, admire, appriciate and maybe love.

        i like to also draw a paralell between fat fetishists and foot fetishists. being in kink communities and exisitng as a dominant femm woman, i get to deal with a LOT of foot fetishists. and there is a palpable difference between the health and the unhealthy ones. there’s a hilarious video put out by count boogie called something like “foot fetish guys guid to not being creepy.” it appiles here too because the reality is that people want to be wanted and desired, and they want to be seen as people. those are not mutually exclusive.

  3. Posted May 6, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I haven’t seen this issue tackled so eloquently before. As a personal aside, I don’t know if this is simply a grass is greener scenario, but I have always wondered what it would actually be like to be with someone the prefers fat bodies. I seem to end up with people, albeit lovely people, that are whole package/”Eh I don’t care” types. My own spouse consistently tells me that I’m not fat (I am) and that leads me to believe maybe he’s kidding himself/isn’t attracted to fat bodies/not comfortable with said attraction if it exists. W/r/t the discomfort with people being attracted to my body, well perhaps that’s why I end up with the type of people I do.

    Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

  4. Andria
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Fantastic! I’ve had a lot of similar thoughts rolling around in my head lately. I am just now getting wise to the “self acceptance” game and for me, playful sexuality on Tumblr was the catalyst for a whole lot of other positive change. That doesn’t mean that my sole motivation is to be accepted as a sexually desirable individual- I would also like to not feel invisible at parties, art openings, critiques and job interviews. I have felt so overlooked for so long (and blamed my fat body) that it would be nice to feel like I was being taken seriously not just because some people like my thighs in fishnets.

    Even still, my thighs in fishnets have enabled me recently to feel more playful and confident which I’m sure will lead to other areas of self confidence, and that’s what this is about for me. Reclaiming some of the self confidence I know is there, but has been crushed under years of criticism and judgement.

    Anyway, sorry for the small novel- love the blog! <3

  5. Posted May 6, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Beautifully clarified.

    For me, it’s been a long journey and I’ve had the fortune and sometimes tough luck of being on it with the same partner for the past 20 years. The stability of his attraction to me has been really helpful as I’ve sorted this stuff out. He has a preference for fat women, but that’s not the basis of our relationship, just one aspect of it.

  6. Posted May 6, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    “I said before that I don’t think fat acceptance and feederism have a lot to do with each other, that they are separate issues. I want to clarify: feederism is neither inherently fat accepting nor inherently fat loathing. It’s a thing. It’s a thing that tends to make a lot of people uncomfortable – and, I will fully admit it makes me uncomfortable because I’ve almost exclusively seen it practiced harmfully – but it’s a thing. There is no automatic barrier at the door of fat acceptance that says you must be this fat accepting to read these blogs or get involved in fat fashion. Similarly, there is no automatic barrier at the door of fat acceptance that says you must not be dieting to read these blogs or get involved in fat fashion. (The sign, in that instance, says “we don’t want to hear about your diet.”)”

    DING! You win one internets. How would you like it shipped?

  7. Posted May 6, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I actually don’t think my husband prefers fat women (at least not as fat as myself, perhaps?) yet I think he loves me. So I feel I’m in a weird situation. It’s probably just in my head, but I feel like I could be proven worthless at some point (if you are not physically attractive, and I don’t think I am, it’s a culturally inspired trade-off to “make up for it” in intellect, kindness, being hardworking, etc…) b/c of a lack of physical beauty- as you said, it is sort of important, though these things often all go hand in hand. What is there to be done if you feel your partner is not 100% into your body?
    Feederism, fetishes, these things never bothered me, though I’ve seen many get to the point of being insulted over it. Mostly it doesn’t seem harmful. It’s sort of nice to have something set aside for the abundance of fatter women…

  8. Posted May 6, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Just when I think I am feeling cool and hip in my own skin you peel back another layer. Awesome post. Sexuality, attractiveness, turn-ons and turn-offs, etc. can drive us crazy when we start to list them out and measure ourselves against the “norms”. There is no normal is the take away lesson here. Of course the converse isn’t neccessarily true. There IS definitely abnormal but clearly defining abnormal is tricky. It’s kind up to those in the middle of whatever they’re in the middle of ;) .

    “If you feel discomfort every time someone finds you sexually attractive, that might be a sign that you need to unpack what’s underlying your responses.”—great line!

  9. Elusis
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    M, when a dude approaches me via my OK Cupid profile and all he can do is go on about how great my breasts are and how much he loves a big curvy woman and how soft they are and blah blah blah… that is gross. And annoying. And diminishing. The same way it is gross and annoying and diminishing if a dude writes and all he can talk about is how he loves to go down on women. Because that is a dude who is not approaching me as a person, but as an object for his sexual fulfillment, sock masturbation fantasies, whatever. If I were on Fetlife and putting myself out there as someone who liked to be the object of fantasy, fine, but if I’m on a dating site, and I’ve written a dozen paragraphs about who I am and what matters to me, and how much I want to meet someone who has qualities I like and who likes my qualities, then it’s just rude and inappropriate to treat me like a non-person and just a convenient example of Person With Feature X I Fixate On.

    When I say “I am uncomfortable with guys who are too into the BBW/FA thing” or “I hate feeling fetishized by dudes,” that’s what I mean. Not “I am weirded out if someone finds me attractive” (Sometimes I am, but I recognize that’s partly my own shit, but also partly sometimes dudes seeing me as vulnerable/accessible because I’m fat and therefore assuming I’d be easy to get). I’m definitely not saying “people with fetishes are gross.”

    I am saying “a key piece of sexuality for me is CONSENSUAL and when you approach me with your fetish all hanging out and start into your dance before you’ve either gotten to know me or asked if I’m interested, you may as well be walking around flashing your dick at me because that’s how it feels, like I’m being recruited into being a part of your sex life without any consent on my part.”

    And “don’t act like you’re doing me a favor.”

    • TR
      Posted May 6, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      And I’m not sure how anything you’ve written is in any way contradictory with what I’ve written.

      “Objectification is a thing. When it is the only way in which you are looked at, it is a bad thing. When it is a systemic and enculturated way of seeing an entire gender, it’s an extremely bad thing.”

      That applies evenly and across the board. Someone does not need to be a fat fetishist to send you emails about your breasts are great on OK Cupid – because that happens to women in general as a symptom of enculturated objectification and sexism in general. It’s because dudes – dudes who like all sorts of bodies – way too often feel entitled to approach people in that fashion. There is nothing not valid about your response to that.

      And you are a person who is willing to think about your own shit – I hate to be all “this is not about you” but this is not about you. This is about the large number of people I have seen you are not willing to or never have considered thinking about their own shit when it comes to this sort of thing.

      Consensuality is absolutely a problem in modern sexual conversation – because people with every preference aren’t being taught to have that kind of conversation. That’s not an issue unique to fatness.

    • ako
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 1:37 am | Permalink

      I know what you mean. I’m not into having that particular aspect of myself fetishized (which is not the same as having a problem with people finding me sexy), and most of the people who I know have fat fetishes are the creeps pushing themselves at me inappropriately and not willing to accept that while my body may fit their fantasies, there’s a whole thinking person who wants other things here.

      Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a selection bias, and the non-creeps are very rarely going to tell me about their fetish, seeing as I’m not going onto fetish communities and express an interest. So the fact that 90% of the people mentioning that they have a fat fetish where I’m likely to hear it are creeps doesn’t mean that 90% of people with fat fetishes are creeps, and a certain degree of “Don’t judge them as creeps unless they do things that are actually creepy” consideration is fair. But that doesn’t mean I have to be interested in or comfortable with the stuff that the people who tend to approach me want from me.

  10. Posted May 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    As usual Marianne, you take the wool off my eyes and make me see all the things :)

    I needed to be reminded that sometimes I’m super judgmental and quick to tell people no.

    xoxoxo

  11. Erylin
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    this coincides nicely with my life right now…i am in the odd position of not only being found attractive to my fiancée…but i am found attractive by a whole group of folks.

    I guess at this point i need to come “out” as a swinger. I was so scared at first, i thought no one would find me hot….i get the emotional part of FA, the self love fuck everybody part….but its weird to feel hot and DESIRED. So often i’ve been the pretty but (deathfat) fat girl….hot, but not hot enough to date (i was a local plus sized model for a time, doing catalouge work locally in the midwest.)

    Now i FELL attractive because others declare me so…..i hate that i base my self worth off others like that and i am definitely working on that vis a vis fat admirers.

  12. Posted May 6, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    When I first got started in porn as a fat woman, I expected to hear a lot more about my fat when my customers wrote to me. It surprised me to learn that it’s not necessarily all about the fat… like you said, it’s just that I’m hot. I get fetishized much more often for the fact that I have all my body hair than for the fat.

  13. ako
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    It’s a thing that tends to make a lot of people uncomfortable – and, I will fully admit it makes me uncomfortable because I’ve almost exclusively seen it practiced harmfully – but it’s a thing.

    I think a lot of people’s discomfort is about seeing it almost exclusively practiced harmfully, more than personal body image issues. Particularly about seeing lots of “Your body fits my fetish, so I am going to push my fetish on you without bothering to consider that you might not be into that, and assume you’ll be grateful for my attention, because women like you are lucky to have anyone want them” and very little respectful acceptance that not everyone’s into that. It can really color your perspective and create a certain visceral revulsion, if you strongly associate a fetish with harmful behavior and unwillingness to respect your boundaries.

    I’m fat, I’m visibly disabled, and I have feet. I’m not into fat fetishism, disability fetishism, or foot fetishism. I’ve never had anyone with a foot fetish tell me about their kink in an inappropriate context, insist that I owed them some sort of reciprocity because parts of my body fit their fetish, harass me about their attraction to my feet, stop me on the street to demand personal information because I have feet they find appealing, stalk me over their fetish, or attempt to head-game me with a “You don’t want to come over and do foot fetish play with me? What’s the matter, don’t you like being thought of as attractive? Do you have body image issues about your feet? If you were truly comfortable and secure about having feet, you’d play along with my fetish!” That is not the case with disability and fat fetishes.

    The creeps are loud, they are pervasive, and they’re the ones telling me that having a body like mine is the cause of their attention. It’s not that I’m not okay with people liking my fat. It’s that ninety percent of my encounters with people who express attraction for my fat are with creepy and unpleasant people who show no concern with things like boundaries or consent (and play the “If you were truly healthy, you’d be happy to participate in my fetish” card), so there’s sense of dread whenever it comes up. It’s like the Schrodinger’s Rapist post on Shapely Prose – I’m doing risk assessment because of genuinely dangerous creeps, and I can’t know this particular person isn’t a creep.

    • K
      Posted May 8, 2011 at 1:59 am | Permalink

      But you can’t know the person IS a creep either, and that’s the crux of the issue.

      • ako
        Posted May 11, 2011 at 4:01 am | Permalink

        I can’t know. I know what’s most probable. I supposed I could endlessly put myself in uncomfortable and vulnerable positions because it’s only almost certain that I’m dealing with a creep, but I’m not doing that.

    • Tiferet
      Posted May 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      Oh G-d, THIS.

      My third husband came on to me saying that he was an FA and he was really a feeder, and he was always trying to get me to overeat and would do really gross things with food to make it more caloric and I had to stand up to him about that, and in my experience this, like a lot of his other really abusive behaviour, was about control. He didn’t want me to dye my hair. He didn’t want me to wear makeup. He wanted me to get fatter. And so on and so on. He really wanted to control my appearance and my life, and because of him I don’t trust people who are all about how they’re an FA and not about how they, as individuals, find me, as an individual, hot.

      I mean it all hinges on what they say. Are they talking about me, about their attraction to me, or what? I’ve never gone out with a woman who said, I wanted to date you because I’m a lesbian. I’ve never gone out with a man who said, I wanted to date you because I’m straight. I have gone out with people who wanted to date me because I’m white (lol, but I have dated a lot of Japanese guys) and that never ended well at all. I basically do not want to go out with anyone who wants to date me because I’m an X, regardless of what that X stands for–physical attraction is nice but there’s got to be more to it than that.

      And I am absolutely wary of feederism. Their porn freaks me out because you see a lot of images of women literally being blown up to a size where they are immobile, and the immobility and dependence are part of the fetish, and that seems to be about control, and I’m just not sure I trust a guy with those kinds of issues not to be harmful–also, attempts to control me generally don’t end well, because I’m not particularly submissive and I also know how to spot manipulation, now.

  14. Astraia
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    This is a post I’m going to have to think about for a while.

    For me, one of the main paths to *acceptance* of my body was the revelation that it wasn’t important to be *attractive* – that compliance with beauty norms, including thosesurrounding body size, didn’t have to factor into my self-worth. I think that’s something few people here will argue with.

    “If you feel discomfort every time someone finds you sexually attractive, that might be a sign that you need to unpack what’s underlying your responses.”

    I feel discomfort, because I’m asexual and don’t experience physical/sexual attraction myself, so it’s difficult for me to interpret whether someone is seeing my appearance as an appealing facet of the person I am, or objectifying me. That’s been the case for me at both my heaviest and lightest weights.

    Objectification just squicks me. Physical attraction in general used to, until I realised I was being unfair to people who experience forms of attraction I don’t and so see it differently. It’s now very much a ‘your kink is not my kink but as long as you’re not trying to pressurize me to participate, that’s okay.’ And as an asexual, the ‘kink’ in question runs from heteronormative attraction to the more unusual of fetishes. That I’m uninterested in something doesn’t make it bad, but it does mean that if I tell you so, you shouldn’t keep pushing for me to change my mind. (Which is where we run into the idea of enthusiastic consent, but that’s a whole other post…)

    Just my perspective, as an asexual outsider-looking-in of sorts.

    • Viktoria
      Posted May 29, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      YES!!!!
      I was trying to figure out how to phrase my thoughts but you did it for me. As someone who is fairly well asexual, I hate being sexualized. And I certainly don’t like it when people try to change my mind about being celibate. They either give me the “poor thing” schpiel and encourage me to “get counseling” so I can enjoy sex like “normal people” (I don’t enjoy sex, no amount of counseling is going to change that) or act like I just said I molest puppies.
      As long as no person or creature is being harmed I am accepting of everyone’s sexuality, including kinks, but I find it offensive that people seem to be unwilling to afford me the same respect.

  15. Louise
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I think there’s a massive difference between those who find fat bodies attractive and those who are proper full on fetishists. I don’t like the way that the two things are often thrown together by the mainsteam media who seem afraid of the fact that some people find fat bodies attractive and so try to attach these people to fetishists.

    Taking fetishists alone, no I don’t think that you can ever be truely appreciated for who you are with them. Because it’s always going to be about the fetish because it’s an obsesive thing that’s driving them and not just a preference. If you suddenly got ill and lost a load of weight, would they be there for you, probably not. Just as someone who has a fetish for skinny people would walk out on someone they were with the minute they put on some extra pounds. Whereas a preference isn’t all encompassing like that, there’s riggle room for change and therefore more of a chance that the relationship will last.

    However if you just want a bit of short term fun, I’m not against a fetishist… I suppose what I’m saying is that fetishes for fat bodies are purely sexual, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I don’t think it’s good for long term relationships and that’s the most meaningful difference.

  16. Clare
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    While I think it’s totally valid to be uncomfortable with objectification, it makes ME deeply uncomfortable to see discomfort with fetishes and discomfort with objectification conflated in this way.

    Can I ask what definition of ‘fetish’ you’re using? Not being sarcastic – I think it’s genuinely important to establish whether everyone is even talking about the same thing. Because, to me, a fetish means attraction to an object as an object. Which IS pretty problematic when it’s someone’s body part, or race, or any other feature (especially when that aspect of their body means society oppresses them for it). Which is why it makes me hugely uncomfortable to read this post, because from my POV it sounds as though you’re telling marginalised people that being uncomfortable with being objectified just makes them prudes, and that they shouldn’t judge others for reducing their bodies to an object to fap to.

    But maybe ‘kink’, ‘preference’ and ‘fetish’ are being used interchangeably here? In the general conversation, I mean.

    • ChloeMireille
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      My understanding is that “fetish” means mandatory, but “kink” means optional but preferred.

  17. JJ
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    This is a brilliant post. Thank you.

    There are so many things spinning in my head, so I’m resorting to bullet points, or I’ll write for days.

    –I think objectification is admiration of something WITHOUT also admiring the context/person it is in. Simply admiring a body part is not objectification.

    –Fetish has many definitions, and one is ‘cannot be aroused without x’. In that sense, I don’t find fat fetishists offensive.

    –It’s crucial that as fat women we remember that all women are submitted to the same crap. It’s no less creepy when someone admires breasts, or feet, or anything else WITHOUT at least admiring, if not loving, the rest of the package that they come in.

    –The silence about feeding in the comments is spectacular. All the same things that are true of FAs and all other het men are true of feeders, too, as well as male gainers (I hate the word ‘feedee’ for reasons I hope are obvious). I know some utterly lovely, thoughtful, kind, and considerate feeders. And most of them are narcissistic, objectifying jerks, just like men in general. We live in a culture that teaches men they can be that way–it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they turn out that way. A genuine feeding relationship is like any other real, deep relationship–lovely, fragile, wondrous, and rare. And they aren’t helped by hatred from the Fat Activist communities.

    So, thank you, Marianne, for being smart, articulate, and politically fierce (as usual :) ). Brava!

  18. Jazz
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this. I recently found a website called fantasy feeder and some of these issues were stirring in my mind recently. (Can you read my mind!?)

    It’s mainly a fetishist website, but its a damn good place to get positive comments on your fat pictures! <3

  19. Posted May 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    There was a similar conversation a few months back at Red No. 3 if anyone’s interested.

    I am a bisexual, cis female, fat fetishist. It’s not just that I find larger people attractive, I have an obsession with my partner’s fat. Fortunately my awesome boyfriend is perfectly okay with that. Having a fetish for a body part (or type) and loving that person’s other qualities, are not mutually exclusive. Nor do I think that fetishizing part of his body is the same thing as objectifying my boyfriend (as opposed to, say, appreciating the sex appeal a person or a picture, which, as the OP brings out, is reasonable).

    As with anything sexual, there needs to be communication, boundaries, and mutual consent. With that, it’s perfectly possible for fat fetishists to have healthy relationships.

  20. Lea
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    That was incredibly well put, the whole thing.

    I mean, idealistically speaking we should one day get to a place where it is considered a banal and commonplace observation that yes, fat bodies can be attractive, too, just like thin bodies; instead of being seen as outlandish and sexually deviant.

    If so many people, fat and thin, weren’t still indoctrinated to that idea, we certainly wouldn’t be so quick to marginalise a sexual preference for fat bodies as a fetish instead of just a preference.

    As always, it has to be pointed out how non-existent that phenomenon is with people who prefer thin bodies from a sexual perspective; a guy might tell his slender girlfriend every day how much he enjoys her body because it is so trim/taut/tiny/fit/whatever he adores about her physique, yet she probably wouldn’t worry at all about him fetishizing thin bodies and only being attracted to her because of that fetish.

    Similarly, if the cited stereotypical cis white frat boy proclaims that he prefers his gilrs slender, no exceptions, and fat chicks just don’t do it for him at all, hardly any cries of “Oh my, here’s a bona fide thin fetishist!” can be heard.

    It would be real nice if at some point we started being equally as slow in jumping to conclusions with people who happen to prefer fat bodies in a sexual context, whether that preference is exclusive or not.

  21. Librarrr
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    “If you feel discomfort every time someone finds you sexually attractive, that might be a sign that you need to unpack what’s underlying your responses.”

    NAILED IT! If someone finds me sexually attractive there must be something disgusting about them. Someone who wants me for my body must be some sort of dirty pervert, only people who get to know me and can “get over” my appearance are acceptable!

    I think it’s also the whole, “I don’t want to join any club that would have me as a member.” I don’t want anyone who would stoop so low as to want to have sex with me, obviously they have no standards.

    So much to overcome! I think you’re absolutely right about it being a self-esteem thing in some cases.

  22. K
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    You pretty much nailed exactly how I’ve felt about “fetishism” with regards to my disability.

    I’m gonna have to bookmark this, link it, Tumblr it, tweet it, and whatever else – it’s too eloquent, reasoned, and smart not to share!

    Thanks.

  23. Auntymana
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    So well put! Although, it happens in the poly community as well as the mono one. Hell, both my mates fell in love with me first when I was (due to illness) around 58 kg. Now I’m closer to 105 kg, and I can still turn them both on with a smile. They love my body because it’s MINE (not that some people don’t start accusing them of being “fetishists”, whole other story).

  24. SoRefined
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I have nothing constructive to add here, but Actual Factual Fetishist is so the name of my imaginary Glam Goth band.

  25. thirtiesgirl
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Others have expressed it here more eloquently than I will, but here’s my particular issue: when I visit “fat admirer” and “BBW” communities and I’m contacted by a guy, if I haven’t posted a picture yet, one of the first questions the guy usually asks is what I look like. If I *have* posted a picture, the guy often writes that he finds me and/or parts of my body attractive.

    Those are initially harmless questions; simple objectification, as it were. I usually respond by thanking the guy for the interest or the compliment, but also making clear that I’m not into feederism, fat fetishism or casual sex; that I’m looking for someone to date. Nine times out of 10, I never hear from the guy again. Which leads me to believe that the only reason he asked what I looked like or gave me compliments is because he’s looking for an instant hook-up with a fat gal.

    So, yes, it’s simple objectification, leading, most likely, to casual sex. Nothing wrong with casual sex, if that’s what I was looking for in these “fat admirer” communities. I have sought it out and engaged in it in the past. But it’s not what I’m looking for now. Which leads me to conclude that the main reason guys who frequent “fat admirer” communities compliment women and/or ask to see pictures of them is to objectify them and hopefully have casual sex with them.

    As you write, Marianne, there’s inherently nothing wrong with simple objectification; it *is* part of the process of physical attraction. But, based on my personal experience, 9 times out of 10, the guy expresses his attraction not simply because he’s attracted to fat women, but because he has other motives in mind. If I shared his motives, I might be more inclined to respond to his attraction. But I don’t any more, so my warning flags usually go up when a guy approaches me on a “BBW” site to tell me how sexy he finds my belly.

    Am I wrong for expecting a guy to approach me on these sites and tell me he found something I posted there compelling and intelligent, or that he likes the sense of humor I show in the chat room? Once we get to know each other better and have dated a few times, he can tell me how sexy he finds my belly all he wants. But I don’t want that to be the first thing he writes to me, or asks me for a picture and what my measurements are.

    • Ashbet
      Posted May 8, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      To be fair, I’m going to say that your experience is pretty similar to the experiences that female-identified friends have run into on a lot of different interest/dating sites — whether it’s BDSM or BBW or polyamory or just plain OKCupid. There are a LOT of guys out there who are looking for casual sex, and there are fewer women looking for casual sex, so a lot of guys basically just throw out a lot of lines to see if any of them catch anything.

      I don’t blame you for feeling objectified and uncomfortable about this, but if it’s helpful at all, it doesn’t seem to be exclusive to the fat admirers/BBW community.

      Does your profile state that you’re not interested in casual hook-ups/etc.? Not that it’ll keep *all* the guys from trying, but it might thin out the requests slightly if you’re VERY clear what you are and aren’t interested in. (However, it’s not on you to keep people from being skeevy, obviously — just wondering if that’s at all a factor.)

      • Allison
        Posted May 12, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

        “I don’t blame you for feeling objectified and uncomfortable about this, but if it’s helpful at all, it doesn’t seem to be exclusive to the fat admirers/BBW community.”

        Agree.

        (Totally unrelated aside: Most of the pervy messages I get on OKC are not about my body at all but about smoking? Men saying that it’s hot that I smoke and asking if I’d smoke in front of them. I often wonder about dudes with smoking fetishes – if we were to date, would they be supportive if I decided to quit?)

      • thirtiesgirl
        Posted May 16, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

        On any dating site where I’m a member, whether fat-friendly or not, I clearly state that I’m not looking for a casual hook-up, that I’m looking for someone to date to see if we might be a good fit for a relationship. I know “skeevy” behavior (for lack of a better term) is not exclusive to fat-friendly dating sites. I’ve been doing internet dating off and on for the past 12 years and used many different dating sites from nerve to American Singles to Match.com to PlentyofFish to OKCupid to Geek2Geek to various fat-friendly dating sites. And regardless of what I’ve written in my profile on any of those sites, a majority of the guys who contact me are only seeking a casual hook-up. A few of them, of course, are not, and occasionally we talk online and make it to the first date/meet-up. And invariably, I never hear back from them for a second date. Or if I *do* hear back, I’m given excuses and have been told a few times that the guy didn’t find me attractive. I’ve yet to have internet dating work well for me in the number of years I’ve been doing it. I’ve given up on the concept and prefer to remain single.

  26. Posted May 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I have to say that I have wondered why this had not been mentoned here before and I’m glad you have now. Many people find big, beautiful people attractive and I know people wonder about that. It is my belief that people into whatever kink they enjoy are often more accepting of all kinds of people, except maybe those pesky vanillas, lol!! Thank you for such an accepting talk regarding those who may be different from the accepted norm.

    ~Becca

  27. fatvegancommie
    Posted May 9, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting post and comments. As for FAs that like big women, its the same situation of any guy – is he respectful or slobbering all over your lady bits?

    I have a totally different perspective. My husband is not FA and never dated a fat woman in his life. He did fall in love with me and we are happily married and he has grown into loving my big body.

    But I feel sad knowing I am not his “dream girl”, to be corny about it. I know his preference is for smaller. slimmer younger women. (I also happen to be the same height as he is and over ten years older!). I never felt a lack of love or desire and we have a very enjoyable sex life…but I am quite wistful to be his physical ideal. It’s strange to be married to someone who doesn’t seem me that way.

    Not to say there is any lack of desire, etc. We have a wonderful life together…I just feel like I am missing a small joy…

  28. Posted May 9, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    This is a great post and a great clarification.

    What kills me with cultural expectations is that my father’s first wife was fat, and my mother (his 2nd wife) is fat, and yet he felt like it was ok to tell me that really I need to just lose some weight or no one would ever want to love me. DUDE. Obviously YOU love fat chicks, wtf is wrong with your brain??

    Now. Can someone please point some dudes who are into fat chicks my way? I’d love that. I really would.

  29. Posted May 17, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this. This is exactly how I feel about this issue, but since I’m a member of the offending party (being a Fat Admirer), I often feel like I’m shouting to the wind.

    Not all FAs are creepers, not all creepers are FAs. Creepers are creepers, but they each have their unique flavors. Judge the creeper, not the flavor.

    Peace,
    Shannon

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  1. [...] I am privileged enough to be friends with Bruce, I know we’ve linked to his blog a few times. On top of that, I’m also privileged that his lovely girlfriend Jess allowed me to friend her on facebook without ever having met me. So quite often because of things that she posts, really cool things end up in my feed. I used to read the Rotund religiously, however due to the fact that I’m moving on Monday and the past few months have been a whirlwind of hectic days, I have lost track of my blog readings (and sometimes writings!) Today in my feed, courtesy of Jess, popped up with this wonderful post from Marianne at the Rotund. [...]

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