11.30.2010

Its okay to be attracted to fat people

It occurred to me when writing my post last month affirming that fat acceptance is not about forced attraction to fatties (and how such a false fear is used to justify dismissing change), that there is a flip-side to giving people permission to not be attracted to fat people. That's giving those who want to be attracted to fat people the permission to do that. They are both problems stemming from one source. See, some people feel SO entitled to not be attracted to fat people that they want to enforce that lack of attraction. They turn a lack of attraction into a moral failing. Its not like those people needed my permission to not find fat people attracted. What I was doing was telling them to stop thinking it mattered. That's privilege in practice. They feel so privileged to what they do find attraction that anything outside of that is treated as an offense. But what about the people who ARE attracted to fat people?

Sadly, I've found very often that these people struggle with the notion that this is okay. Where the opposite choice gets so privileged, many act like they don't have permission to really be who they are. Being a fat admirer myself, I'm always frustrated by the lack of self-respect from many Fat Admirers. Even ones who are open about it seem to believe on a basic level that they don't actually have a right to their sexuality. That fat is fundamentally wrong. They may get to a place where they want to act on their sexuality, but they have no pride in themselves and provide no support to the political needs of the people they are attracted to.

I don't really know what to do about that because it feels so foreign to me. That political empathy developed in me almost immediately upon recognizing the physical attraction. As a kid, I didn't exactly have access to fat porn or the myriad of substitutes thin admirers take for granted, but what I did have access to was literature about fat acceptance and I read it voraciously. Politics and sexuality always went hand in hand for me, so in a lot of ways I don't know how to relate to fat admirers who act like they don't have a right to their sexuality. Like giving up their sexual desires is an inevitability.

Its okay to be attracted to fat people. Sadly, that can be a very important message, too. You don't have an obligation to consent to fat hatred. I get feeling like that's your only option, but its not. Its not shallow to be attracted to fat people. That's such a bizarre sentiment yet I see it so often from apologetic fat admirers. They'll date thin people as some sort of hairshirt to prove their virtue but its just such nonsense. Its accommodating thin privilege instead of challenging it. Its ignoring the ways fat people are denied attraction and instead creating a new instance of such.

Like I said, I don't have any easy answer to this, but I want to implore my fellow fat admirers to be proud of who they are and to know they have options beyond having their sexuality steamrolled by fat negativity.

8 comments:

Ms. Heathen said...

My problem with fat admiration is that a lot of the admirers I've met feel it's okay to be attracted to fat bodies and act on that without trying to engage with the whole person. Especially with men, I've had the problem of them feeling entitled to my time, my attention, or me returning their feelings because of their attraction. This is why I'm skeptical, and even avoid, men who say they're into a particular body type or set of body types, of any range. I am more than my body, and I want to connect with people who are going to love the whole package. There is a massive difference between "I am attracted to you" and "I am attracted to your body". It hurts, it hurts a lot, to waste time with someone who isn't into you and is just using your body to masturbate basically.

So no, there's nothing wrong with being attracted to fat people, but I emphasize people here. Just because you find someone's body hot does not mean you get to ignore their personhood or the rest of their experience to indulge your preferences.

silentbeep said...

Right. On. I think that it's completely and entirely o.k. to be attracted to whatever kind of adult person, and that includes fat people. I approach this subject from being a pro-sex fat feminist. In my life, I have seen SO much distrust of fat sexuality around me: distrust of fat people being sexual (such as the cultural message of "ewww fat sex gross!") and I've also seen the distrust of people who like fat partners(the cultural message of "ewww! how can you like that?!").

As a feminist, and human rights activist (fat rights IS part of human rights) I completely co-sign and promote the respect and dignity of the individual. Part of that for me, is breaking down taboos, and shame, and oppression, around who "gets" to be "appropriately" sexual.

I think as long as someone is respectful and gets that I'm a whole person, there is no problem with someone being attracted to me, in part because they like my figure, which happens to be fat. And if that person doesn't get that there is a whole person here, they aren't worth my time.

Brian said...

Ms. Heathen- I've got a post I've been trying to write for months about the problems with fat admirers because they are considerable. I would, though, suggest that what you describe isn't one of them so much as its a problem with a lot of men in general. While I'd hope FA's would be more introspective about that kind of behavior, many aren't and the proportions get skewed by all the FA's who are ashamed of themselves so they don't pursue fat women or do so apologetically enough to be undistinguished. Physical attraction should just be a part of a relationship, not its driving force. I just think we should be careful not to treat that as a Fat Admirer problem because its sadly a lot bigger than that.

If we just criticize FA's for it, we run the risk of reinforcing the kind of skewed power dynamics that convinces Fat Admirers that they are being shallow while "regular" men do these sorts of things invisibly. It fuels that distrust of fat admiration that is very negatively shaping Fat Admirer attitudes. I don't want to blame Fat Admirers for problems with men in general, but we really DO need to be blaming men in general so its not like I want that behavior excused. There need to be ways to encourage people to express a desire for fat partners in healthy ways.

I think in a sense, all of these problems get tied to a lack of respect for one's partner. That can manifest as only wanting someone for their body, shame for desiring them, a lack of support for them when they challenge social standards contrasted with aggressive support when they accommodate those standards. Part of the problem is Fat Admirers are not engaged in Fat Acceptance. Its turning into a circular problem. People gave up on FA's decades ago so the kinds of engagements they do receive tend to just reinforce or coddle bad behavior. What I'd love to see is a Fat Admirer community that was inescapably feminist and pro-Fat Acceptance. The shape and nature of such an effort, though, is elusive. But all more things to post in about in the future as I try to unpack these issues.

Eve said...

I was talking to my male partner about this last week. He's completely unembarrassed by what kinds of bodies he finds attractive, and tends to be attracted to unusual-looking people in general, including fats, including me. I asked him if anyone had ever made fun of him for liking big girls, and he said that he wouldn't tell anyone who would make fun of him for it. It's obvious now since he's with me, but his friends accept me as his partner, even though I know that some of his friends think fat people are unattractive. I expect that he would have serious words and possibly break up with a friend who disparaged me or him for liking me, but I don't think it's ever happend.

Honestly I see this as a facet of his male privilege, which allows him to see his likes and attractions as his right. He likes a lot of things that aren't necessarily socially acceptable (or are only in some circles), and he knows that not everyone likes what he likes, but he tends to think that his opinions are superior in general.

Brian said...

I think there is a competition between male privilege and thin privilege that plays out for a lot of male Fat Admirers. Some get that kind of sense of superiority over it which isn't really healthy. It veers very closely to those fat admirers who think they should get a cookie for dating fat people. But when thin privilege wins out, you get Fat Admirers who act like its not okay for them to like fat people. They'll lust, but they'll turn around and promote dieting too. Some will get a smug sense of superiority about THAT which gets all kinds of screwed up.

Notblueatall said...

Well written post. I would love to read more about fat admirers. I am not sure that I ever encountered this way of thinking when I was in the dating pool, but now that I'm not the idea intrigues me. Just as there are women who adore fat men. Yet they don't get the same rap for focusing on their bodies. Hmm...

Brian said...

The complicate thing is its not like that rap is unearned but I also feel that its unrepresentative for reasons that are pretty complicated. Definitely need to keep writing about this to try to get a better handle on it.

Sleepydumpling said...

I kind of feel the same way as Ms Heathen, but don't believe this is unique to fat admirers in any way. I believe that in general women are objectified by those sexually attracted to them, whatever the type. To me it's not about the attraction to fat, but the objectification of people as sexual objects rather than being attracted to them as people in general.

That said, I do believe that there is such a stigma around being attracted to fat people that we DO need to speak up and say "It's ok, you don't have to treat this like a kink, just be attracted to who you are attracted to."

As a single woman who is very fat, I don't want to be objectified because of my fat, but I do want to know that those out there who ARE attracted to me as a person can be so without feeling shame, or like they're somehow weird or strange."

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