I just wrapped the podcast on why fat men are a feminist issue with Everyday Feminism's Sandra Kim. At the end of the interview I began discussing ways that we could culturally and individually combat the fat shaming that men experience. And I found myself (kind of totally unexpectedly) discussing attraction.
Attraction, in so many ways, feels like the final frontier of my own feminism.
I think I became a sexuality scholar because I felt that sexuality holds so many of our greatest secrets. Desire and attraction are like a map or a document that we can use to excavate our culture and ourselves. Interrogating my own attractions and desires was work I had avoided for a very, very long time (and, hell, I'll be honest, I've just started doing it and am a total newbie).
It was convenient to avoid the ways that my politics and my attractions didn't add up.
I - like many - had been taught that thin, fit bodies are superior. I didn't question that belief for a long time, but once I did begin to question it I found that my investment stopped at exactly the point of attraction. I was willing to begin resisting cultural narratives about my body, but when it came to the bodies of my sexual/romantic partners I didn't feel so resistant.
As I became fat positive, I began to really think about the words that came out of my mouth, the media I consumed, the clothes I wore, the beliefs I held about myself. I didn't really question the size of my partners, though. I didn't want to think about what their size indicated about my deepdeepdeep beliefs about my size, my rolls, my jiggle.
Time after time I was dating thin and/or fit men. It felt almost like it was "just happening." I convinced myself that it was "just happening." I told myself that my coincidentally thin partners just happened to be more aggressive than others, that the cost of living in San Francisco created a cadre of uniformly thin men because thinness was part of that "upwardly mobile aesthetic," that they just happened to show up at my doorstep through some miracle of alchemy. I had not chosen them; they had chosen me. And I was simply being polite and saying yes. Yes, coincidentally thin guy who's probably fetishizing me right now, yes, I will go have drinks with you because you asked and I am polite and it is a total coincidence that your body looks like an exact replica of the last 3 dudes I had drinks with obviously.
It was a practice in swapping dehumanizations.
All the while I managed to pretend that this wasn't part of an exercise in self-loathing, a manifestation of all the unresolved feelings I couldn't entirely reconcile, wasn't ready to address. I gave myself every imaginable excuse, but the truth was always there.
My singular attraction to thin men was my way of dealing with the enormously stifling and damaging fatphobia I had learned and internalized. And every time I engaged in that singular attraction I was re-opening and confirming that wound, keeping it fresh, punishing and disciplining myself through the momentary pleasures of false passing. In the moments those men were holding me or loving me, I was good enough because their thinness - their ability to be normal - was a stand-in for the culture's approval, was an atonement for my failure.
Back to the podcast (because, yeah, I still haven't worked all this shit out, ghurl!). I talked about how important it was for me to date fat men, but I think I meant that I like that I've begun to find all kinds of bodies super foxy. It doesn't feel like a forced practice. It feels like something that's just happening along the way to my own healing and my own sense of humanity and beauty.
The podcast, which will be live on Saturday, November 9, delves more deeply into my recent post on the ways that fat men are portrayed online.
I'm deep in the preparation work for this Saturday's NAAFA-sponsored free teleseminar "Fat & Sexy: 5 Things You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask." In thinking about the most important lessons I've learned over the years - as sexuality expert and as a woman who has an avid dating/relationship life - there's one lesson that took me a little longer than others to learn. Because it's not a tip or a trick; it's a state of mind. One of the secrets I'll be discussing the in-and-outs of this Saturday is this one:
Secret #3: Cuteness is a state of mind
Otherwise put: become your #1 fantasy. As a fat woman I remember entire stretches of time where I was no where near the scene of my fantasy landscape. I had internalized the culture message that my body wasn't sexy so deeply that I was unable to even imagine myself - as my actual self, not a future "ideal" - during fantasies. I learned a lot of amazing lessons in body love from friends and books and then came the part where I had to practice.
Ok, so I told you this secret wasn't about tips and tricks, but here's one practice that involves tricking your brain a little bit. When you're getting "busy" with yourself, try to imagine yourself as you are now doing something that you find sexy. If this is your first time doing this, have patience with yourself. You might be dealing with resistance to the centering of your body in your fantasy. That's ok! Touch yourself erotically without the end goal necessarily being orgasm. Do this once a day for 2 weeks. This practice beings to suggest to your brain that this is a new habit that it likes, and it will begin to remap your neuroanatomy.
Want to diversify the fantasies that can bring you to climax? I have a secret for you, but you'll have to wait til Saturday...
Sign up for Virgie's free NAAFA-sponsored teleseminar, "Fat & Sexy: 5 Things You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask" this Saturday at 4pm (Pacific).
Keywords: NAAFA, fat sex, sex positive, sexuality
Not many people know this but when I originally pitched Hot & Heavy the book was going to be all about fat girl sex... Sexuality has always felt like my political nest, the place from which I stretched my baby feminist wings. I am drawn to talking about sex openly and honestly because I experience it as a deeply political and pleasurable act. Dirty stories have brought people together for, well, a really, really long ass time. I never feel closer to people than when I'm telling them about that one time I queefed in my boyfriend's face (seriously, that was my opener when we would hang out with new couples) or they're telling me about that time they found glitter in their pussy, like, 8 days after that one orgy they went to.
Interestingly, whenever I talk to people who haven't read Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion they presume that the book is a full-on salacious read about hot times at Fat Ghurl High. I'm not sure if it's because of the cover (featuring duhliciously sexy April Flores), because I'm a pervert (or maybe they are) or because the title is a reinterpretation of a sexy turn of phrase. Just to set the record straight: as much as I love the idea of a book all about the secret sex lives of fatties, H&H isn't actually all about sex. Though, I will give you a little secret: when I originally pitched the book to Seal Press, it was. My idea was to interview a bunch of fat girls about their sex lives and share all the juicy details thus blowing the mind of all society, kick-starting an orgiastic fatty revolution. The senior editor at the time, the too-fab-for-words Brooke Warner, had a vision for a book that delved deeper into other arenas of fat girl life. It turned out that I LOVED that idea! We collaboratively came up with the idea for what is now Hot & Heavy.
I heard from Good Vibrations a few months ago and they said they were thinking about buying the book. They were one of a few local bookstores who really supported me during the sale of my first book (about boobies, in case you didn't know), and I was stoked that H&H was a fit for them. I was also excited because I immediately saw the opportunity to focus on the naughtier parts of the book in a reading... which is happening this THURSDAY at 1620 Polk Street! Yes, March 14 from 6:30-7:30 catch me and Miss Kitty Stryker reading from the book's more adult chapters. Kitty's chapter, "Fat Sex Works!", is an incredible look into her experience as a fat sex worker in the US and abroad. I will be reading choice morsels from chapters "2Fat2Fuck" by Rachel Kacenjar, "Journeying Into a Fat, Fleshy Vulva" by Shawna Peters and "The Fat Queen of Speed Dating" by Golda Poretsky. And there might be a little peak into my chapter, "Pecan Pie, Sex & Other Revolutionary Things." There will be truffles, there will be naughtiness, there will be cleavage (personal guarantee on mine at least; feel free to bring yours). Hope to see local folks there there! And if you're not around enjoy a couple chapters and raise a glass. We'll be there with you in perv spirit.
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.