“Why can’t I just be in a fucking relationship” I find myself whinging to my friend probably for the 57th time this year. She then suggests I join tinder for what also seems to be the 57th time this year. Now there are two reasons I find myself refusing to download such app; one being that I’m a nostalgic artist who likes to believe romance isn’t dead and now down to a swipe on a screen, but also because, as a fat girl, I am constantly afraid of being called a catfish. How do I subtly slip into my bio that I’m extremely overweight and you’d probably need to have a fat fetish to find me attractive, without seeming like I’m being sarcastic or detrimental to the body positive movement?
You see, growing up as a fat girl I was taught that for anybody to take interest in me, find me desirable or worth dating/sleeping with, the key thing I had to do was lose weight. I was told that by my family members. By friends. By my favourite TV characters. And most notoriously – the internet. I’m now 21, and still see these ideas reinforced every single day. I still struggle with my self-esteem, have a pretty shit lack of confidence and can honestly say that my body repulses me. I read a lot of books, especially ones by body positive, unapologetic authors such as Lindy West and Jes Baker, and they tell me quite the opposite – that I can be fat and still have sex, be in relationships, be successful and happy. Which of course is true for many people. For me however, this has not panned out at all.
The idea of undressing in front of somebody until I’m wearing nothing but a necklace makes me feel so physically sick that I’m sure I will remain a virgin until I’m six feet under. Now, this is obviously because of my lack of confidence, but also because of how much sexuality for fat bodies is shunned by society and presented as something to be disgusted by. There are many examples I can think of to prove this, but I’m going to pick out just three.
- Memes. I remember scrolling mindlessly through Facebook one night and coming across a picture of an overweight woman with cake in her hand, captioned “TAG A MATE WHO’D SHAG THIS” or something to that effect. In the comments were boys tagging friends who they’d consider to be the most offended by this, lots of ‘crying with laughter’ or ‘sick in mouth’ emojis and a lot of ‘fuck you’s.’ Because, of course – who on earth would want to sleep with a fat girl? That has to be positively one of the vilest things you could do.
- Television. When was the last time you saw a fat character have sex on TV that wasn’t a rape or for a joke/dare? I was watching That ‘70s Show a while ago and Jackie Burkhart so gleefully exclaimed to Kelso “I wouldn’t want to be with you anyway. You’re fat.” Because, you know, if you’re fat, there’s no way you’re worthy enough to be in a relationship. Oh, you’re a serial killer? A sociopath? A racist? Amazing. Go ahead, get married! But fat? No way, count me out. There’s obviously nothing worse.
- “BBW a.k.a. Big Beautiful Woman”. Now as handy as this phrase is, (only for singling out videos on pornhub when I want to prove to myself that fat women really are capable of having sex. PS, fat women ofc have to have their own separate category away from the thin women because as we’re so often reminded – our bodies are nothing to normalise!), I personally find it incredibly dehumanising. I remember when I was 18, on a night out at a club in Shoreditch, a guy – who btw had spent the entire night trying to hook up with my friend – started coming on to me. Now, as a fat girl, I should have just been grateful for the attention right? Isn’t that how it goes? But we sat there and started talking, and I pointed out that even though this guy now seemed to be interested in me, he was after my friend first. His reply was “true, but I know a BBW when I see one.” He couldn’t even say the full words, he had to use the abbreviation which, to me, just reinforced that to him, I was nothing more than a piece of meat. A big ol’ slab of one that he could just take home and do whatever he wanted to, but in the morning, would lead to him being filled with regret and no doubt become the butt of the joke with his friends. Because having sex with a fat girl is the funniest thing, right?
When sex comes up in conversation, I’m usually silent or steer the conversation elsewhere because I’ve seen the way most people recoil in disgust when fat people express their sexuality. I used to dread playing the ‘I have never’ drinking game at university because inevitably it would lead to something sexual and I’d be outed as the virgin that I am. I get sick of this constant string of anti-fat bullshit I see day after day that reiterates the way I feel about myself is totally justified.
Fat shaming leads people to believe they should stay in toxic and abusive relationships because they should be thankful that anyone wants to be with them at all. Fat shaming is trolls telling fat sexual assault survivors that they should count themselves lucky as that’s the only action they’ll ever get. Fat shaming is telling me to my face that I’d be much prettier if I lost weight. Fat shaming is using rhetoric that constantly reinforces that we aren’t sexy, desirable or deserving of being intimate. I want to have sex. I want to be desirable. I want to be intimate with somebody. And I do deserve to have all of those things; I’m just a fucking human being.
Words: Anonymous, Images: Rachel O’Regan