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.)
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.
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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