I’ve considered myself large for a very large part of my life. I was fat when I was learning to ride a bike, I was fat when I first started crushing on boys, and I was fat when fellow high schoolers started dating each other. Even though I might not have been as fat as I thought in early parts of school (thanks, family!), the mentality of being fat affected how I viewed my desirability from a young age.
Throughout high school, I saw a lot of “missed opportunities” (so-to-speak) because of my fatness. Conventionally attractive and popular girls in my classes wouldn’t want to make a connection with me even in terms of casual friendships. Guys in my classes would treat me differently too, either seeing me as the “funny, fat, undateable friend” or asking me out as a joke. Everywhere I looked, I felt excluded from what was supposed to be considered the mainstream high school experience. Yes, I was quirky personality wise in addition to my fatness, but my body made the first impression every time, making my peers automatically judge my worth. It wasn’t something those social groups had to spell out, when you’re fat you just know when you’re being judged on your size.
In addition to friendships, romantic connections were difficult to make. In high school, every crush I had was something I kept to myself or to close friends because I knew that my fatness was something that was considered a burden to others, that no matter how great my personality was (to me at least) my fat body would be seen first and foremost. The body positive moment hadn’t started yet, and I know that even if someone had had a crush on me during that time, no one would have come forward about it because thickness and fatness were not “in” and acceptable to pursue. I stayed single, waiting and yearning for love and kisses.
I lost weight in between my first year of college, had sex for the first time, and moved to Salford to start university, giving me a new found confidence in my body and myself. I was still an XL, but I was much more ready to take on the dating game and get dive into the sex world. But even with the newly gained boost of appreciation for my body, I still had some hangups about how other people, specifically men, would view my plus sized self. I remember my first ever Tinder hook up, one of the first couple of people that I slept with. His first message was “DTF?” and at the time this was a very acceptable message for me with my low self esteem. I told him, yes, and we quickly sorted the details for him to come and pick me up. However, I was nervous and not because of having sex with a stranger for the first time, but because I was worried about my body. I texted him “You know I’m plus size right?” to make sure I didn’t seem like I was tricking him, despite having ‘plus size’ written in my bio as well as full body pictures. He texted back “Yeah, I know.” and we ended up knocking boots later that night. I did the same thing with a bunch of matches in those formative years; I had confirmed that they were aware that yes, I was indeed ~fat~. My need for confirmation came from the ideas instilled in me from my experiences growing up: fat people, especially fat femmes, were rarely desired and if they were it was either as a joke or in a very particular way.
After I started feeling desirable via the men I was sleeping with, I got a kick in my confidence while online dating. However, I didn’t quite account for the nuances and attitudes surrounding Tinder culture. I quickly noticed there was a certain attitude men carried when they would approach me. Especially as a fat femme, I didn’t realize there were some sexual-based tropes that furthered chastised and fetishized my body type. There were guys who would ask me if I was down to shag and then call me a whale because I declined their offer. If I “lead them on” they would immediately use my weight to try to leverage their own self-esteem by putting me down. Men have told me that I should be thanking them for offering to fuck me when in reality they’re one out of 1700 Tinder matches in my phone.
In those other matches lurked people on the opposite side of the spectrum. Fat fetishization is a big issue for fat people (especially femmes) and it’s something we’re constantly bombarded by. Many of the first messages I would get would be “Love your curves.” “That booty!!!!” or “I bet you give great head,” the latter referring to the stereotype that fat girls are good at blowjobs because cis men don’t want to fuck them, just use them for their mouths and that they’ll “take the dick they can get.” I’ve had men insult thinner people to try to boost my self-esteem, saying that women who are thicker are real women (a statement I actively disagree with). During a couple of hookups, I’ve had men grab and mash my fat rolls while fucking me, making me feel objectified and used. My fatness was sexualized in a way that started to take away the agency of my journey.
It seemed no matter where I turned, my sexual and romantic life was informed by my fatness. Luckily, once I started recognizing my disadvantages of dating online as a fat woman, I was able to shut down fat based fetishism and fatphobia quicker than before and ended up carving out a place for myself within Tinder. Learning to use the unmatch button was hard (“This person who’s fetishizing me is really cute and what if they want to date me?”), but over time became a natural instinct towards almost anyone who brought up my body lewdly or shamefully. Slowly but surely, these changes in my approach (in addition to some political ones), lead to much more appreciative partners, who loved my body but not in a fetishizing way.
Many fat folks share similar histories with desirability; from what we’re taught when we’re young, to how we are treated in later dating, sex and everyday life. My journey is privileged in itself, and I do not experience with the worst of fatphobia, and as frequently and plus-sized babes with intersecting marginalized identities. Fat disabled people, fat trans folks, and fat POC (especially fat black femmes), all have much harder battles to deal with.
There needs to be a serious shift in how larger people, especially women and non-binary individuals, are treated in dating and casual sex culture. The rise of the body positive moment helped a bit, but the movement has since been taken over by people who only appreciate big boobs and butts; bellies, underarm chub and back fat were left behind in wake of those who claim “thickness.” While my experiences haven’t been as bad in the last year, there needs to be major work done to create a society where fat babes are no longer ridiculed and objectified. People of all sizes shouldn’t be worried whether their crush will fat shame them, or that someone will fetishize their body. We are no one’s fetish and our bodies deserve the strongest appreciation.
To my fellow curvy babes:
You are loved, you are desirable and you deserve hot sex (if that’s something you want!) If people in your life aren’t treating you the way you need to be treated, it’s time to cut them loose. You and your bodies are temples and you deserve to be worshipped by people who aren’t being creepy. It’s not your fault that there’s an entire system of oppression in place to chastise our bodies. Uplift each other and uplift those more marginalized than yourselves. Practice self-care.