originally posted on the Good Vibrations Blog June 22, 2012
Today I woke up to a Facebook update from a woman asking for advice on how to deal with someone from whom she wanted a public apology. She had listened to a podcast and the guy who makes this podcast had a whole rant about how much he regretted having slept with the “largest woman” he’d “ever slept with” in his life. He likened the experience to feats of human innovation and JFK-era accomplishment: “We can put men on the moon. I can do this,” he said. He concluded with “I hate me.”
“Fascinating!” said the sexuality scholar/social scientist in my head. But I’m also a fat girl who found it tres passé, fatuous, retrograde, and frankly a little wimpy and disingenuous. This man’s rant was one in a long line of similar musings on the subject of fucking fatties. Remember on the playground when we used make loud and public announcements about things we didn’t actually think were gross/strange/weird/funny just to gauge how gross/strange/weird/funny everyone else thought they were? We preemptively outed ourselves because the potency of the secret – the ramifications of someone else outing us – was something we didn’t have the strength to endure. It’s sad that many of us are still on the playground.
Besides that, I don’t know about you, but when I really, really regret something, I don’t tell strangers about it.
In reading his words I instantly had two thoughts. Remember the scene in Knocked Up where Seth Rogan notes how much hotter Katherine Heigl is than him… mid-screw? My first thought was that it is really interesting to me that when a man sleeps with a woman whom he deems hotter than he is it’s a “score” or a high-five inspiring “win” no matter how the woman feels about it. In fact, there seems to be some pleasure in duping women, but when a woman sleeps with a man and he regrets it then it’s humiliating for her. Huh? Female sex regret is a routine part of our cultural script. All the straight women I know are always regretting having slept with some dude. As someone who studies gender, I can tell you that often when there are wildly different responses from men and women to the same “stimuli” then this is likely a gendered response. A “gendered response” simply means that a person’s gender-specific education is at play when they’re reacting to something that people of all genders experience. For example, sex. When men play a quick game of grab-ass they’ve been taught to react to that with feelings of pride. When women get a quickie in the bar bathroom we’ve been taught to feel like we’ve been taken advantage of and that we “ought to be ashamed” of ourselves. This is one of the ways that women’s sexualities are subsumed within and circumscribed by male sexuality. Our sexual experience is somehow canceled out when his regret process begins. With a single word (“Doh!”) our entire sexual experience has the potential of magically and retroactively disintegrating. That’s some powerful magic.
Important to note is that what a man deems hot is what the culture at large has taught him to think is hot. Beyond a tiny number of consistent, cross-cultural factors (e.g., health: “Hey you’re not dying of typhoid! That’s pretty attractive!”), we are taught what is hot and sexy and what is ugly and unappealing.
My second thought was how this man’s rant acted as a confession. His regret was not only something he allegedly felt very deeply (a regret he has been taught to feel), but the regret was so acute that he felt compelled to share it with anyone and everyone in his listenership. Now, being one of the few Mexicans I know who isn’t Catholic I’m not entirely sure about this confession business, but I’ve seen it a lot in movies and so I think I get it. It involves two parties: one listener and one confessor. But wait. Doesn’t there have to be a sin involved?
There is only one sin, my son, greater than fucking a fat woman. And that is liking it (even a little bit)! The sin grows with the proportion of how much you liked every jiggle, every soft bit. Fat women’s bodies are so powerful – and are the playing field of such great moral pontification – that the secret of having slept with us cannot be contained. It must be publicly announced. It must be confessed lest you lose a modicum of your hard-earned moral fiber. Sexuality is a private matter in White Anglo Saxon Protestant America – except when it’s a matter of morality. Fat women’s bodies are subject to a moral panic fueled by a public health scare (fueled by even fewer data than the last one!). Didn’t you know? The War on Obesity isn’t just about carrots and taking the stairs, it’s also about whose vagina you’ve been in lately, my friend. This is yet another war against women’s bodies. Shocking, I know.
That women’s sexualities must be corroborated by long-term male joy is bullshit. That fat women’s bodies are somehow not suitable for gasp-inspiring, juicy delight in unfathomable. I’m not sure that the aforementioned things have been widely disseminated. So, I decided to write a letter. Here goes:
Dear Men who Allegedly Regret Sleeping with Fat Women,
Hello! How are you? I hope you are well.
I’m writing to inform you that it is okay that you like fat women. In fact, it’s great. You don’t have to keep it a secret anymore. Nor do you have to tell everyone you know how harrowing the experience was because, guess what? They’ve done it too. And they’ve liked it too. Just like you did. Your sanctimoniousness isn’t fooling anyone. In fact, it’s just making you look like a puerile douche. I’ve written this letter to let you know that you’re free to love up on anyone you like because you’re an adult. Congratulations!
This letter entitles you to one free set of balls. That’s right. I’m handing you some balls. In a letter.
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.