I’m fat. Most of the days I’m pretty okay with that. It seems to be the state my body prefers; only by going on severe calorie restriction and excessive exercise regimens can I get thinner, and as soon as I relax a little, my weight rebounds. I’ve hit a set point where my body stays pretty stable, and it seems to be happy there, so that’s just how it is.
Sometimes I’m more frustrated with being fat; it’s hard to find clothes that fit, people are unfriendly to me in spaces dedicated to exercise, people invest a lot of energy in telling me I’m disgusting and unpleasant to look at, I’m uncomfortably aware that it’s not uncommon to be the fattest person in the room for me, people make a point of telling me they don’t find me sexually attractive, as though this somehow matters intensely to my existence on earth, like I’m going to be heartbroken that some random person doesn’t want to fuck me. Or that some person who’s being pushed into flirting with me by a third party feels the need to be rude about the fact that I’m fat and this person doesn’t do fat people.
I get it. I’m fat. There’s a lot of social and cultural baggage that surrounds fat bodies; many people are trained to think of us as unpleasant, gross, and sexually unappealing. While I think that people who express a preference for thin bodies are bigoted and expressing internalised bigotry, I’m not really interested in getting into a discussion with those people about whether I have the right to exist, let alone deserve to be viewed as socially or sexually appealing; that you can be fat and attractive is just a fact, and people are going to have to deal with it.
Especially since this is an issue that seems to see-saw violently between two extremes. Either fat people are completely nasty and you never want anything to do with us because ew, gross, fat, or fat people are fetish objects. And that makes me just as uncomfortable as the people who tell me that fat people just aren’t sexy do, because I don’t like being a fetish object. I strongly dislike the idea that I, walking down the street, minding my own business, can become the object of some kind of wanker’s fantasy, and I have no control or autonomy here.
Fetishes are complicated—I’ve written extensively about them and I feel again the need to make the point that I am fetish-friendly and supportive of fetishes, when they don’t involve a fundamental part of someone’s identity. If you’re into having people wear knee-high boots with sky-high heels and making you lick those boots clean, more power to you (and I totally have some boots that need cleaning, so give me your number, please). If you have a thing for rubber ducks, go you!
But if you’re into specific kinds of bodies simply because of intrinsic traits and not because of anything about the person, if you stalk and fetishise people because they’re amputees, or Asians, or fatties, you and I need to part ways. Because bodies themselves should not be fetishes; fetishes are about a large and complex part of your personal culture and relationship to sexuality, and they also revolve around objects and activities (they can be extended, as in the case of people who live a full-time BDSM lifestyle, but that’s negotiated between two people and agreed-upon). When you tell me that you’re sexually attracted to fat, that skeeves me out.
Because, uh, what it tells me is that you’re not interested in who I am as an individual. In what I do with my life, in my own autonomy as a being, or anything else; you find me sexually appealing, perhaps even stimulating, simply because I’m fat and I exist. While I absolutely get an appreciation for people you find beautiful (I, too, am captivated by the human form in all its diversity), there’s a difference between saying ‘that is an attractive/interesting-looking person, how excellent!’ and expressing a strongly sexualised response to someone because she’s, say, Black with natural hair, and you fetishise Black women with natural hair.
With fatness, the fetishisation of fat bodies carries some really loaded complexities because of the taboo nature of being fat and expressing attraction to fat people; and irritatingly, a lot of chubby chasers seem to think they’re doing us some kind of favour by being the only people willing to fuck us. As though fat people can’t find relationships in any other way. As though being degraded as a fetish object is the most we can expect from life, because, lets face it, we’re fat.
Some go a step further; the chasers who are also feeders, who get off on the thought not just of watching fat people eat but specifically of feeding us, and hopefully fattening us at the same time. It’s one thing if you want to buy me dinner and hang out because you like my company; it’s another if you’re doing it with a creepy fetishishtic ulterior motive. Particularly when people talk about things like ‘taking people into immobility,’ which is exactly what you think it is (and talk about the loaded intersections not just with fatness and gender but also disability there).
Look: if you find fat people hot, that’s cool. Because we are pretty damn sexy. But if you fetishise fat people, you’re walking a delicate tightrope and it’s easy to cross a line into a world that is not so great. And maybe you’ll find fat partners who love chasers, who love feeders, who are excited about being in a fetish lifestyle with you, who are making independent choices—but that doesn’t mean you get to fetishise me just because you saw my fat rolls when I bent over at a bus stop, just because my ankles swell a little over the curve of my heels, just because when I laugh with friends, my double chin appears.