Evolution of style

There once was a time when fecund, fertile, round, fleshy women were adulated. In some parts of the world, this is still true. However, the majority of the west finds a hyper-skinny almost childlike appearance to be the paragon of sexuality, and women starve themselves, overexercise, undergo dangerous surgery, and constantly strive in other ways to meet this ideal. Women have always been held to a higher beauty standard than men have and the costs have always been high, but they seem particularly high now, when women are dying for the sake of acceptance in their narrowminded and media-driven society. For women, our bodies are our sexuality, and modern society has a limited view of which bodies are “healthy” and therefore permitted to engage in sensuality.

Style and sexuality are closely equated, especially in the Western World. Especially styles about body types, which determine when a woman is viewed as “sexy,” and when she is merely “attractive” or bluntly “ugly”. When did style trends change from a value of the larger body to adoration of the emaciated? The transition seems to have begun in the teens and twenties with the Gibson Girl and flapper looks, although the groundwork was laid by the Victorians (who had some curious ideas about sexuality themselves). In the twenties a lean almost boyish look was the order of the day, although womanly curves came briefly back into style during the second world war, for those who could afford them. But the sixties brought us mass media on an hitherto unknown scale, and they also brought us Twiggy. After that, it seemed inevitable that any woman over a size six would be called “fat,” that the dieting industry would become a multi-million dollar powerhouse, and that Western Culture, and especially American culture, would marginalize “the fat” to the point that they may as well not exist.

By Western beauty standards, a women must be freakishly slender, yet miraculously endowed with sizeable breasts. She is also preferably blonde and tall, though there is more leniency in this field depending on personal preference. For males seeking a prospective mate and status, this is important information. Men who choose to date larger women will be condemned by their fellows, and may find themselves hiding a secret girlfriend from their critical society. Some allowance may be made for women who are slightly chubby (cute), but fat women are not, under any circumstances, to be dated. One might consider picking one up at the bar on a desperate night (hogging), but certainly no long term relationship would come out of it, because fat women are not permitted sexuality under the rigid standards of Western culture. It used to be that being fat was a sign of wealth and social power–now the less flesh you have on your bones, the more money you are likely to control, at least in the West. Being skinny is quite expensive, nowadays.

Fat women are mother figures. Fat women bake pies and set them out to cool on the window sill, they give you big hugs and reassurance when you feel bad, and all sexuality is abstracted from them. Some fat women embrace their bodies and dress stylishly, flamboyantly, and always in perfect shoes. Some wear muumuus and skulk about in shame of their physical appearance. Fat women drift through society more or less invisibly, unless they invent larger than life characters and force the world to recognize them. All fat women are reminded on a daily basis by their doctors, the media, disapproving friends, and their culture that they are lesser beings than their thinner brethren. Fat women are forced to exaggerate themselves for attention, to be constantly cheerful and pleasant, and they will be chastised if they aren’t.

It’s unfortunate that society has decided fat women are not to be allowed sexuality, because there’s a whole lot more to love there. And not just in the sense of being larger. In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf points out that fat women actually have stronger libidos, and a greater concentration of sex hormones. Would you like lackluster sex with Kate Moss once a week or frequent great sex with a larger partner? Extremely large women may face some physical difficulties due to their size, but they more than make up for it with creativity and commitment. Fat sexuality, far from being something to be feared and reviled, is something to be embraced firmly with both hands. Fat women are sexual, and fat women are sexy. Fat women are rejected out of hand as nonsexual creatures, to the detriment of those doing the rejecting. Fat: it’s just a better lover.

Fat women enjoy their sexuality as they enjoy life. I ate out with a large number of ladies recently and I was dismayed to see them ordering ascetic salads, eating half their portions, and fretting about the number of calories therein. I plunged joyously into my meal, savoring the flavours I was experiencing with my whole heart. Some people claim that fat people are obsessed with food–au contraire, thin people are obsessed with food. They are wrapped up in consuming themselves, and food becomes an all important issue for them, rather than a pleasurable daily ritual. No wonder skinny people look so bitter and stressed all the time, because skinniness is a never ending quest which must be constantly pursued. You cannot afford to let your guard down if you still want to fit into those double zeros, if you still want to be loved and adored by society.

While the fat may be invisible, they are having a lot more fun.

I’m not the only one who thinks this. Numerous studies have suggested that while men claim to prefer thinner women, they are more aroused by mid-sized figures. Curious, isn’t it, when one considers how high the pedestal upon which thin women are put is. It’s a tragedy that our culture discriminates against people of size in all walks of life–they find it harder to get jobs, to travel comfortably, to be in social situations, to exist. Considering the growing number of Americans who are overweight, it would seem that a reevaluation of our beauty standards may be in order, otherwise status-seeking men may find themselves seeking after a dwindling number of fretful, skinny women. It is deeply unfortunate that this country invests so much in fetishizing skinny women when there are so many amazing, powerful, beautiful, sexy ladies out there–who just happen to be a size 14.

Fashions do cycle, and eventually the larger body may come back into style. (It is likely that this will occur doing a period of food and resource scarcity, because then fat will, once again, be a signal that the bearer is well connected, healthy, and influential.) People who fetishize the skinny claim that their desires are “innate” and “hardwired,” that fat women are just “repulsive,” and that’s the way it is. I suspect, however, that this “innate” wiring is largely cultural, and therefore malleable. Until the time do change, our only recourse is exposure and education. You’re going to see my cleavage in tight shirts, and you’re going to like it.