10.27.2010

Its okay to not be attracted to fat people

As luck would have it, the latest fatosphere topic of discussion dovetails nicely with the next thing I wanted to talk about relating to fat sexuality. A Marie Claire blogger (really, there is such a thing) wrote a post complaining about the overrepresentation of fat people in our entertainment mediums. No, really. Its all about how she feels uncomfortable with seeing fat people on TV because she's so disgusted by them. But she's only grossed out at us for our health, you see. Like everyone else who stigmatizes and bullies fat people.

Of course, that's not true. She clearly isn't concerned for our health when what she's talking about is a show about self-loathing fat people who regard weight loss as the ultimate goal. She's "aesthetically displeased" and she wants to rationalize that. So, to this writer and anyone else who is wondering, let me say this: Its okay to not be sexually attracted to fat people.

The purpose of fat acceptance is not making people be attracted to fat people. Actually, I think people in fat acceptance get this pretty readily, but ocassionally you'll see a post bemoaning the superficialism of people who only date thin partners. More likely, it'll come from people who aren't really fat accepting at all, but who think they are helping by regarding attraction to thin people as necessarily suspect. Its not. Its totally okay to not be aesthetically pleased by fat people.

I say that as someone who very much IS aesthetically pleased by fat people. Indeed, that's why I say it. My sexual attraction to fat people is not charity work. Its not because I'm enlightened in any way and am willing to date fat people in spite of their physical appearance. Its not because being fat myself, I feel it is the proper thing to do. Its not because I can't do any better. Well, actually it is. I just mean it in the other way. This is what I want. This is what my sexuality is.

I've really started seeing this through the prism of sexuality and its been making a lot of sense to me. As I started to have sexual feelings, an attraction to fat was one of the things I was immediately aware of. It reminds me a lot of stories I've heard of gays and lesbians coming to recognize their sexual orientation. This was something I felt very strongly, very innately. I simply wasn't sexually interested in thin partners. Fat is at the core of my sexual aesthetic and even calling it a preference doesn't feel like it does it justice to me. This is part of who I am and I'm prepared to demand respect for it.

And offer that respect to others. I would no sooner want anyone telling me I couldn't be attracted to fat people than I want anyone telling people oriented to attraction to thin people that they shouldn't feel that way. Both "orientations" deserve respect. And we should all recognize that this isn't something that acts as a binary. People don't all come in only fat admiring and thin admiring flavors.

I think if we had some sort of fat acceptance utopia, we'd find that a certain part of the population was specifically attracted to fat partners, a certain part of the population was specifically attracted to thin partners, and there would be a lot of people in the middle without a strong leaning towards one or the other. I don't think we see that much now because those people in the middle are strongly conditioned to believe that attraction to thin partners is appropriate and they decide to try to "pass" for thin admiring. Because its not very hard to pass. There are definitely still people who don't get caught up in this. I think a lot of fat people do have partners that come from this middle group which is awesome. But there are probably a lot more people who could potentially be in this group who instead do what they are told is expected of them.

Problem is, of course, that we can't really tell the difference. There is no way to know who is thin admiring because they are genuinely oriented that way, and who is just going along with what they think they are supposed to. So we have to just respect it all. Which also means not lionizing those who buck the system too much. Its great, and all, but no one is noble for dating fat people. Either because they want to or because they are willing to do. I think that kind of construction actually just endorses fat stigmatization by making too much out of resisting it. I mean, yeah, it means something but lets not act like it makes any of us better people. It doesn't matter in that way.

Which brings me back to the Marie Claire writer who decided to write an article consisting exclusively of things Google suggested be searched about fat people. Her problem is not that she's not attracted to fat people. Its that she thinks that matters. Its that she regards lack of meeting her sexual aesthetic is a moral failure worthy of condemnation. I'm not attracted to thin people, but I'm not disgusted by them. For pretty much the same reason I'm not disgusted by gay people. Because I'm not an asshole. Because I'm not offended by anything which doesn't turn me on. The privilege of thin attraction, though, allows this and it clearly fuels a great deal of fat stigmatization. They are allowed to elevate their sexual attraction to something that matters beyond their choice of sexual partners. There is a world of difference between not being aesthetically pleased by something and taking the time to be aesthetically displeased. But its a difference thin admiring people rarely feel the need to see.

It creates a false notion of a backlash against fat acceptance for the perception of trying to make them be attracted to fat people. While a few people do seem to advance this, I want to be clear that I utterly reject it and I think most fat accepting people would agree. We no more have a fat agenda to force ourselves on people sexually than gays are trying to turn straight people homosexual. No one is trying to take away their sexual attractions. We're just trying to get THEM to stop forcing theirs on us by elevating their sexual aesthetic to something objectively "right". You don't need to be disgusted by fat people to not be sexually interested in us. You don't need to be disgusted by fat people at all. Its just privileging your sexual interests as something more important than they are. Its okay to not be attracted to fat people. Its not okay to think that means anything more than that.

17 comments:

CTJen said...

Oh yes, excellent post! I am right there with you. For example, many people make a big deal about how attractive and fuckable David Tennent is. While I can appreciate objectively that he is an attractive person, I much prefer my sex partners to be rather a bit more fleshed out than he is, so if I try and imagine having sex with David Tennent, it kind of squicks me out. This is not to say that I will rail against all thin people as "disgusting and unfuckable!!!1!!!!!" No. It's just my preference. My orientation if you will. And what of it?

Thanks again for a thoughtful post. :-)

erylin said...

having been in the fat girl skinny guy relationship i am done...my physical preference hs little to do with outright attraction. ( i am a bisexual horn-dog and am attracted to just about anything with an IQ over 130...brains is the only requirement i cant bring myself to fuck stupid.) My preferences has much more to do with ME... i am 6 foot 2 and over 300 lbs (it hovers between 280-330) I like feeling like a girl, feminine. Its hard to do that when you tower over the guy buy more than 4 inches or if i am the heavier in the relationship. I like feeling smaller, shorter, little...GIRLY. it sure beats feeling like an amazonian peg bundy (which is what one abusive departing ex called me onnce)

Brian said...

CTJen- That's a good point, too. Being sexually attracted to fat people doesn't preclude me from being able to appreciate attractiveness in people I'm not sexually attracted to. That's what gets me about the Marie Claire writer. Like, I have to put up with sex scenes with thin people that do absolutely nothing to me but I just am not bothered. I have no sympathy for someone so deeply bother by just seeing fat people at all. They are being self-important and obnoxious.

erylin- There are lots of reasons people can come to their sexual desires and that's really why I don't think its useful to try policing that. Again, I don't feel like that happens much in FA but I feel like sometime is done on our behalf. Some fat people, like yourself and myself, are going to want fat partners. Some aren't. Same thing for thin people. I can get the frustration since a lot of people don't consider their sexual desires, but we can't know that. Bottom line, no on has a right to be sexually attractive to any other individual. All of us have a right to our own sexuality, and that's where the focus should be.

Eve said...

This is an excellent post, and it gets at one of the most irritating anti-FA strawmen out there - that we are somehow trying to make people date us or have sex with us who don't want to. Drives me crazy. As if I'd want to go on a date with someone who didn't want to date me.

I'm still kind of blown away by my boyfriend who openly prefers fat girls to thin girls, sexually. He doesn't even think there's anything unusual or strange about that. Not being an asshole, he's friends with and friendly with people in all kinds of bodies, but when it comes to who he'd rather look at, it's usually the bigger girls.

Brian said...

Exactly, Eve. Its not about forcing anyone to find us attractive. Its about not being an asshole. I'm not disgusted by someone I don't find sexually attractive. That kind of attitude isn't about one's sexuality, its about thinking what they think is somehow divine knowledge to base the world on. Aka, being an asshole. They do it because our culture has entitled them to be an asshole about people they don't find sexually appealing, but there is no obvious necessity about that.

The flip side, obviously, is respecting their right to their sexual attraction but you're right that this is a total strawman argument. I've seen people question other's sexual desires, but its very rare and usually outside of Fat Acceptance. There is no fat agenda looking to force people to marry fat partners against their will. Its just how people who enjoy privilege act when that privilege gets threatened.

Notblueatall said...

No, I think her problem is that she's a terrible person who comes from great privilege! The fact that a fat person even walking across a room grosses her out so much? Yet she wants us to get exercise and slim down? Um, she has more issues than she realizes right there.
Thank you again for posting about it being okay to not be attracted to fats, but hey, they don't have to make big nasty remarks about their distaste either. I mean, I personally don't like mullets, on anyone, but when I see someone with one I don't go out of my way or blog about how they shouldn't even be allowed to be outside!

sweetnfat said...

"So we have to just respect it all. Which also means not lionizing those who buck the system too much. Its great, and all, but no one is noble for dating fat people."
Yes. This. Thank you, so much. That's something that's bothered me for a while now. A lot of times I've resented the "I like big girls" comments because it feels like someone is trying to win favor with me, like because they've said that, I HAVE to like them. What other choice would I have, amirite? I mean, who admits to liking fat ladies?

Fantastic post. Thank you.

Brian said...

I often feel like it gets to be the flipside of the trap a lot of fat admirers fall into where they rationalize their sexuality on some notion that fat women are a better class of people with some pseudo-psychological justification that is usually very demeaning to fat and thin women alike. (Fat women are better because they have to cultivate their personality, etc).

Because we're not supposed to be "superficial". Except, tons of people are superficial. Its totally okay. Its only a bad thing when that's all you are concerned about it. But the truth is, a fat admirer deals with more angst and condemnation for being "superficial" than a "thin admirer" purely because their attractions go against convention. Other people can be invisibly superficial. So, some FA's come up with these excuses to make it okay to date fat people. Kind of like how thin admirers start fussing over health. But its BS going both ways.

Being a Fat Admirer has been an amazing thing for me. I don't need anyone to congratulate me for it, because I'm amply rewarded by being open and honest about my sexuality. I neither deserve nor desire a cookie. I'm getting plenty out of this all on my own, thank you very much.

This is all veering into the "problem with fat admirers", which is a whole 'nother post.

BecLove said...

I'm just attracted to your intellect! this is a fantastic post, will you marry me? (PS I'm fat) lol :)

Brian said...

hehe. I'm afraid I'd have to decline. My wife got there first. :D

Beth Hicks said...

Fantastic post. I think your post also touches on the idea that by creating this straw man that all fat acceptance activists are trying to make people dig fat folks, it bolsters the fetishizing of fatness by people who don't understand the spectrum of attraction.

That sounds really confusing on re-read :-) I guess in my mind is the idea that it's tiring that being attracted to a fat man or woman is still outside the norm. And attraction is both ridiculously subjective and also influenced by what society deems normal.

I love my boyfriend. I also prefer him with a bigger stomach and at a heavier weight. But his body is not mine to create. I love him at any size and want him to be happy.

Sorry, Brian, if this is rambling.

tiferet said...

@Erylin - While I get what you're saying, I think that your preferences are probably a majority and fairly socially-approved.

I am around 250# and 5'4" and I love feeling feminine and girly (hence the superfemme wardrobe) but I actually CAN'T STAND being in a sexual relationship with a man who is much bigger than I am, particularly if he likes to use his size to move my body around (which sounds like something you'd like). Not that it ever gets to that point. What usually happens with big guys is that they try to use their size to flirt with me and then stand there wondering why I bolted away after they leaned over me, put their bodies between me and the other people in the room (including the short guy I was flirting with), and looked down at me, particularly if they touched me while doing so.

I used to always think I should enjoy it, but when it happens, I hate it like burning and I want to fight. I don't ever like that feeling and I don't have a surrender button.

I like to be with a guy I can look in the eye, one who doesn't tower over me or interpose his body between me and other people, and one who isn't hard to move underneath if he's on top. In no way do I want to police or criticise you for desiring what you desire.

But what I do want to say is that what you desire is also what most people think is socially appropriate. I've had many experiences with larger men being annoyed and even angry because they showed interest in me and I rebuffed them to pursue someone I found attractive. (Ditto with older men; I generally prefer younger partners.) Older and bigger men sometimes tend to feel that older and bigger women are "theirs" and react quite negatively to being rejected, particularly for behaviour they think is flirtatious and sexy which I personally find creepy and intimidating.

As the woman I'm not supposed to want someone smaller and younger than me, but I do. And while I have run into the passive-aggressive guys who date larger, more dominant women and then shame them for being that way (one of my ex-husbands, who was also a feeder at heart--I lost so much weight without trying at all when I dumped him and his cooking)--I don't think that smaller man/bigger woman relationships have to be that way.

I also think that while you should absolutely go for what you want, you don't have to be smaller or submissive to be girly or feminine or femme. In fact one of the things I loathe about "the scene" is the assumption that because I wear lace and pearls I'm looking for someone to dominate me. Because not so much!

Brian said...

@Beth Hicks: I'm definitely frustrated at how we stigmatize attraction to fat people. There is definitely a companion piece brewing about how it IS okay to be attracted to fat people because I think that's also a major issue. Being a "Fat Admirer", you constantly have to apologize and justify yourself and I think it leads to some pretty screwed up results. I don't mean this to harp on you, but the fact that you felt the need to stress that your boyfriend's body is your own is one of those things that I think is a problem but so many people feel they need to do it because that attraction is considered suspect. I feel there is this thread of how people have to talk about fat attraction where we need to not feel like we can own this as part of ourselves. Its just been a reality for most fat admirers, though, so I'm not really sure what to say on that but we need to really shift all of these dynamics.

@tiferet: I've seen that sense of entitlement to attention from fat males who also are fat admirers and it drives me crazy. The worst is how much of it comes not from fat people settling for fat partners, but from fat people who DESIRE fat partners. That they struggle to get it upsets me as a Fat Admirer. Its part of the way we can sometimes exalt being attracted to fat people as somehow a noble pursuit. It creates an expectation for accolades and when reality doesn't cooperate with delusion it makes people nuts. But it is completely unfair. These guys have their own physical desires so where do they get off trying to deny someone else theirs? I want to be with someone who I am sexually attracted to. Why on Earth should I not want my partner to have that same opportunity? These thoughts are all posts in their own right though. In addition to the "its okay to like fatties" post, I also want to deal with the ways Fat Admirers can inflate their importance and nobility. I'm really bothered that my sexual identity so regularly gets hijacked by "Nice Guy" types who are just bitter and angry. Being attracted to fat women has been an incredibly wonderful thing for me and I don't get people who turn it into something so wrapped up in spite.

Beth Hicks said...

Brian, you're totally right. I should have been more clear that my attraction to him is mine and it's wonderful. I am attracted to him whatever size he is and am also aware that I enjoy it when he has more of a belly and a fatter body. I don't want to hide my attraction or negate it in any way, but I'm also negotiating exactly what you just said. The idea that I'm supposed to hide it and not just from random other people. I'm supposed to hide it from him. Because society says that he should be ashamed that he's gained weight. And my telling him how much I like it would be a reminder that he's stepped outside the cultural norm.

I would love to read a piece you do on that very problem. The silencing of fat attraction.

Brian said...

What you describe is something I think all "Fat Admirers" wrestle with and I don't think the tools really exist to respond to it in a way which is honest to ourselves because its such a foreign concept. So many Fat Admirers grow up feeling very alienated by themselves. Our attraction is often rejected by the people we are attracted to. And not because that person just doesn't happen to be attracted in return, but because they don't want someone else to find themselves attractive. Its not us they reject, its our sexuality. I mean, that's a screwed up way to discover one's sexuality but its a near universal rule for people attracted to fat partners. That's not healthy and I don't feel like there is a meaningful community to provide support for fat admirers. Indeed, I think the communities that do exist primarily work to reinforce these attitudes that we don't have a right to our sexuality or that boil it to only that without any empathy for the people we're attracted to. I never felt comfortable in those spaces and inevitably ended up getting into trouble with fellow fat admirers because I called on us to respect ourselves and to respect the people we are attracted to in a meaningful way instead of a self-pitying way.

I definitely want to write about this, but its tough nut to crack because its such a big issue. I feel like I'm on a roll, though, so hopefully I'll start exploring it soon.

Anonymous said...

Hey Brian,
I know I cite the Colbert Report almost every time I comment on your blog, but, he did this funny thing about "fear" recently where he was interviewing the editor of "Out" magazine. He kept saying thing such as, 'stop trying to make me gay so I'll gay marry you". And it reminded me a lot of the trope "stop making me think fat people are human beings because you want me to date you."
I'm a large person and I definitely have a type I prefer in my male partners that is stocky, but I don't really find myself attracted to larger fat men. I've spent some time investigating that, because I wonder if it has something to do with the images I've absorbed growing up in our society. Yet, it does just seem to be my preference. And it's okay. I used to feel like I was betraying my fellow fats by not wanting to have sex with them, but sexual preferences are not everything. And now I'm rambling.
Jackie

tiferet said...

@Brian -- came back here after reading the latest post.

The funny thing is that I'm generally attracted to people who are smaller than me, but I'd date someone who was larger than me if I were attracted to them for other reasons--like being smart, funny and NOT CREEPY.

I don't actually think it is the size I am unattracted to so much as the dominant, aggressive, entitled body language that usually goes along with it.

I do however enjoy the physical relationship between my body and a smaller one. That's taboo for women, but it's fun for me, just as it is for some men.

The other thing I can't stand is the NICE GUY business you mentioned. Total turnoff.

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