“You’re actually really pretty… You know some guys actually like a bigger girl”
The well-meaning but rude customer commented out of context while I finalised the sale. I smiled and nodded in that way you do when you really want to chew someone out, but can’t because you’re at work. If I weren’t at work what I would have said was:
“Listen, I don’t need you to comment, reassure or say a damn thing about how I look. Firstly, I’m fine with how I look and I don’t need or want the bullshit “sympathy” you’re offering and secondly my weight and this transaction have nothing to do with each other, my weight is not relevant to you, my job or much in my life.”
However being a plus sized woman means my weight and discussions around it are always relevant. It is always a focus that people feel they can comment on, joke about or offer “helpful suggestions” – Yes, I have heard that exercising can help people lose weight, you don’t need to tell me.
I have always been bigger (whatever that word actually means). At my smallest I was still considered on the larger side of normal, so I haven’t ever really known any different. But as I have gotten older I have found that I have much less patience for people wanting to bring up my weight. When I was younger, every comment, mean look or anything I interpreted as being about my weight would hurt me for days. I starved myself, trying every diet possible, I worked out every day, played sport 3 times a week and ate like a mouse. At school I would skip lunches because I didn’t want anyone to see me eat. And all that work, didn’t change much, I stayed a similar size (never being able to leave the 14-16 range). I could never lose enough weight and when I did it was in the wrong spot. I was literally and figuratively stuck on a treadmill, miserable, for other people’s opinions. I did this for years! I would listen to people’s advice, pretend to be in on the jokes and ignore the comments, all the while not standing up for myself, feeling like dirt and letting people treat me as less than because of the way I looked.
There wasn’t a moment or interaction that changed my perspective. Learning to stop all that toxic self-loathing stuff takes time and I still have a long way to go and a lot more to learn about accepting myself, but I’m trying. A few things help me; My husband who loves me no matter what, my family and friends who are just happy to see me no matter what size jeans I’m wearing, my brain which I decided early on would be my real asset and not my body and finally the amazingly strong women I know or know of, who inspire me every day to live my best life without apologies. Knowing I have this in my life gives me the strength every day to starting owning and accepting my body.
Then I learned I was a fetish…
The big beautiful women (BBW) fetish is defined by people who enjoy watching and having sex with plus size women. Now If I am being honest I was aware that there are men who like bigger women, I have been in a relationship for 10 years, I listen to hip hop, I knew chubby girls were getting laid and what threw me was the fetish title given to it.
I think the word fetish carries different meanings depending on who you are talking to but I believe it can be generally considered as things (sexual acts, preferences, clothing etc.) that sit outside the norm of “regular” sex as white mainstream culture defines it. No matter the kink, a fetish is generally thought of as alternative and niche. Before I continue I need to state, I have no issue with fetishes, whatever form it may take. Even celebrities have their own secret fetishes. I indulge in some myself, the issue I take with BBW being considered a fetish is that I cannot opt in or out of. I didn’t consent to participating in this fetish, simply by living in the body I do, I am in a small way a part of it whether I want to be or not. I imagine this isn’t only a problem for me and women like me but other people who don’t fit into society’s definition of normal (for example, people who are Trans). It is as if because we don’t fit within the very narrow definition of who can be seen to be having sex within our culture (only young attractive people, normally white and normally heterosexual) any sexuality displayed by someone who isn’t them is considered a fetish or outside the mainstream in one way or another.
Another big hang-up I have with the BBW being considered a fetish is that it seems to be the “sex worlds” (for lack of a better term) way of labelling someone as “fat”. I read the fetish title placed on BBW as de-normalising a fuller figured body thus reasserting that the standard porn star body as the normal body. I believe this extends out of the “sex world” also. The average Australian woman looks a lot more like a BBW actress than a standard sized actress and when they come to porn or even into a store and see themselves only represented within a fetish category while the rest of the store is populated with standard size porn actresses the message that is being sent is, that you belong over here and nowhere else or just, sex isn’t for you.
This is also a disadvantage to men. Many men will often feel disappointed when the woman in front of them doesn’t look (and act like) a porn star. People are missing opportunities for real and fulfilling sexual experiences with real people because they don’t live up to the fantasy and unreal expectations set by porn. The podcast “The Butterfly Effect” is an interesting listen if you would like more information about the way the changing nature of porn is both effecting and affecting people.
This leads me to wonder if my whole issue with the fetish label placed on BBW is that it seems to be trying to make real bodies a fetish and fake bodies the norm. Maybe what my real problem is that I miss reality in sex. And I don’t think I’m alone, the tide is changing. Amateur porn with real people and bodies is becoming incredibly popular, stores like Oh! Zone Adult Lifestyle Centres stocking inclusive products (lingerie in plus sizes, plus size toys etc.) are all part of the change. Ultimately there is recognition in representation and recognition that more than just porn star bodies have sex is only good for everyone. I am not saying we need to stop watching porn or pretending that beautiful people aren’t fun to look at we just need to treat them for what they really are, a fading fantasy that has no bearing on the real world. Maybe if we stop presenting such a narrow view of what sex can look like and be, we can all start having a lot more fun!
Author: Jamie is a consultant from Oh Zone Adult Lifestyle Centres