Fat Sexuality and the Policing of Sex

Content warning: I’m about to talk a lot about sex. Specifically, fat sexuality and my own experiences of it. If the discussion of sex or fat sex is something that you’re uncomfortable with, this blog post won’t be your cup of tea. TW also for ED and SH.

Note: This will specifically be discussing my own experiences. I have not ‘researched’ this topic beforehand, sought out blogs that discuss it, etc. I will have read about this topic in the past, however. The point to be made here is that all the opinions expressed are thoroughly my own.

This is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time now and have never really had a medium to discuss it. Recently it has become more important to me, and so I felt that now is the time. The easiest way for me to discuss my feelings toward this are to outline my own journey with my sexuality, so I’ll issue another warning: if you don’t want to hear about my sex life, don’t read this.

I discovered my sexuality at a young age. When I talk about sexuality in this sense, I do not refer to labels LGBTQ+ (etc.) but rather to the discovery that my genitals can be used for something other than making babies or bleeding me dry every month. In fact, my sexuality became apparent to me not long after my first period.
I was 13 the first time I discovered I could “make myself feel good”. It was a little scary, a little troubling, and felt very, very wrong. I thought it wasn’t right, I shouldn’t have done it, why did I do it, what was that feeling, and more. Now, I wasn’t a child particularly shielded from sex. I had grown up in a Christian household, I went to church on Sundays, but that had stopped the year before. It stopped when my parents divorced. This is not something I’m going to go into, but suffice to say, there’s something that happens when two people who have been together since they were teenagers and only slept with each other divorce. Guess what it is.
So, the past year of my life I had known what sex was, and it was my first recognition as a child that the guardians in my life were “having it”.

As I went into that year I had less of an eye on me, as it were. I think this happens a lot to girls who turn 13 – they reach maturity, they develop, they’re much more understanding of the world around them. So I stopped being shouted at so much to turn my light off at night, to go to bed early, to get off the computer, to turn the tv off. So when my Mum went to bed at night the tv stayed on in my room, softly, and I would sit on the end of my bed watching Graham Norton and Eurotrash, not really understanding, being shocked, but learning. Learning that -surprise!- people have sex. People masturbate. People facilitate their pleasure in all kinds of ways and with all kinds of things. It became normalised. It was okay. What I had done was fine. Everyone did it.

I wasn’t at all eager to have sex. I knew that I was far too young. I was still a little Christian girl. I wanted to wait for marriage. I wanted it to be right. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t okay on my own, right?
I had an amazing group of friends. I loved them dearly. I hadn’t had brothers or sisters growing up and had only recently acquired a step-sister and a half brother, so my friends were my family. I could talk to them about anything. Or so I thought.

I remember trying to broach the subject one day with them in our form room. I was curious. The tv was telling me everyone did this shit, but did they? “Ew”, “that’s gross”, “that’s disgusting”, “of course not”. Oh. I went back to feeling ashamed.
Later, I was alone with one of them in the toilets. I don’t remember how it got brought back up, but I remember the girl who had told me “no, of course not!” was not standing in front of me, whispering “yeah, okay, I do. But you don’t TALK about it, Kirsten!!”
I shut up. I learnt very quickly that sex is something you don’t talk about. Especially if it’s on your own.

And then things started changing for me. I became very, very interested in boys. So did my friends. They all liked the same people, but I was the outsider in my tastes, I guess. Nobody thought the people I found attractive, were (well, not that they were admitting at that point). I remember being kind of shamed for what I liked – one was ugly, one was far too old, one was never going to happen. There was always something. And then, going into our 14th and 15th years, my friends started dating. I didn’t.
I didn’t understand. I liked boys as much as they did. In fact, I probably liked more boys more intensely than they did. Why were they all seeing people? Why wasn’t I seeing anyone?
I thought, maybe, I’m not going about it right. Maybe I need to actively let people know I’m interested. I found out my biggest crush had started dating someone. No luck there. “He’s ugly anyway” one of my friends on the school bus said consolingly… I later found out that she sucked his dick. Getting over him pretty quickly, I developed strong feelings for someone else. “You’re like my sister”, he said. My friends discouraged me from liking him. He started sleeping with one of my best friends. Around this time (at 14) I became pretty good friends with another guy, but he was hesitant to let people know he hung out with me. One night, we sat on my bedroom floor drinking straight vanilla vodka when everyone else was asleep. He made it pretty clear that he had had feelings toward me, but was cagey about why he wouldn’t act on them, why we couldn’t see each other, why he didn’t even want people to know we’d been hanging out. The next time I saw him he ignored me and flirted with one of my best friends. One who had called him ugly.
There was a pattern here. No boys wanted to be with me. They’d flirt, kiss, sleep with the girls who they didn’t even know were dissing them behind their backs, yet ignore the fact that there was someone right here who DID like them. Who didn’t think they were ugly, or annoying. Of course, they were under no obligation to be with me or to like me, and I didn’t shame them for liking my friends. I just wondered what made me different.

Later that year something happened, though. I went to a house with 2 of my girlfriends to babysit. There were also 3 boys there. Very quickly these 2 girls became attached to 2 of the boys. Talking, flirting, ducking out of the room. It was just me and this other guy left. We started talking. We ended up outside smoking, then, under the moonlight, he kissed me.
It was nice, it was pretty. It was cold outside but his face warmed mine and it felt amazing. Suddenly his hands were everywhere. I panicked inside my head, I tried to keep myself calm. I didn’t want his hand  up there. Then it started trailing down my stomach. “Don’t!” I said, pushing him away suddenly. I remember exactly how his face changed, morphing from this thing I had found attractive into something ugly, and looking down at me with disgust. “What, are you on your period?!”, he said, contempt in his voice. “No, I just don’t want to do that.” He stared at me hard. “Oh.” then, after a long pause, “Don’t tell anyone about this.” I nodded as he walked away. He turned back and said “By the way, how old are you?”, “14”… “Shit.” And he was gone. I found out later that he was nearly 18.

When I was 15 something happened that changed everything for me. Someone I was close to started going to Weight Watchers. “Why don’t you come with me?” they asked. Oh. Was I fat? I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure. I certainly knew that I was bigger than my friends. My closest friends were buying size 8s, my best friend a size 6, and I was sometimes struggling into 14. I’d never had much of a problem with it. I knew I was big but it didn’t bother me. I knew that people saw my size 6, 5’8″ friend as the tall, skinny, pretty one. I knew I was seen by other people a lot of the time as a tag-along. “Which one is Kirsten?”, “Oh, she hangs around with [x].”
By then some of my friends were in “long-term” relationships. Some of them were on their second and third boyfriends. From my recollection at that time, I only had one friend who wasn’t in a relationship. Around her house one day, I built up the courage to ask: “Do you think I don’t have a boyfriend because I’m fat?” She considered. We didn’t look at each other, and she said “Do I think you’d get a boyfriend if you lost weight?”. “Yeah” I said, agreeing with the reworded question. “Yeah, I mean, probably.”

Around my 16th birthday I had a house party without my parents knowledge. Some of my friends and I started drinking early and polished off a bottle of vodka. Then, the one thing I didn’t want to happen, happened. Some people I didn’t know turned up. Friends of friends. Friends of friends of friends. There was one vaguely attractive guy. I hit on him a little bit, and he very unceremoniously brushed me off. Everything winded down, people left. Some people decided to stay over and fell to relaxing on the sofa. Lots of people in different bedrooms. In the middle of the night, the door opened. He silently got into bed next to me. We had sex.
It was awful. Embarrassing. Painful. Shameful. He forced me to perform oral sex on him. After, all I could think about was how it was something I never wanted to do again. He told me not to tell anyone and left directly afterwards – as I found out later – to go and continue his mission to get off with one of my friends.
In the morning he pretended it didn’t happen. Denied it to someone who asked. He left my house and I never saw him again (which was altogether completely fine by me). I found out later that he had a girlfriend.

I started going to WeightWatchers. It wasn’t working. I became vegetarian. It wasn’t working. Around this time I became really close friends to another girl. She made me see stars. She made me see beauty in things I didn’t think had value. She introduced me to new worlds of beauty and fashion and music. I was desperate for her attention. It wouldn’t be until years later that I realised I was falling for her. “I hate being so fat” she confided in me one day. “You’re not fat!” I said, meaning it. I was 16 and wearing a 16. She was probably wearing about a 12. “Do you ever think about doing something about it?”, she questioned. My fatness was not up for negotiation. By this time, it was something I had started “concerning” myself with. That conversation changed my life. She sent me pictures of herself in her underwear, outlining every detail that she hated about her body, and all I could tell her was how perfect she was, how amazing she was, how beautiful the broad hips she hated were. This wasn’t enough. I couldn’t make her see herself the way I saw her.
Our relationship became destructive. We started emailing constantly, sending pictures in our underwear to “critique” each other. Sharing pro-ED websites. Sharing “inspirational” songs which were actually written by people struggling. We would look disapprovingly at each other when we ever saw each other with food. There was one girl we knew who very obviously had a problem. The most we ever saw her eat was a few grapes. “She’s so inspirational”, “I wish I had that much control” I was told. Please don’t get me wrong – she is not the enemy in this – I was just as bad and in just as destructive a place. Probably telling her the same fucking awful shit. Her parents invited me for a BBQ once. She caught me with a plate of salad which had one sausage on it. “I can’t believe you’re eating that”, she whispered. “I’ll get rid of it.” 10 minutes later I was throwing up in her sink.
That was the most disgusting year of my life. Restricting, purging, laxatives, bags of rotten food and sick under my bed, pills, self harm, 2 suicide attempts.
It was coming up for Christmas and my school Winter Ball was approaching. I bought a size 10 dress.

In November, when I was 17, she invited me to a party at her house. At that party I met a guy. A really hot guy. A really, really hot guy. He was talking to me. He followed me round. Was he interested?
She didn’t like it. She practically threw us out of her house just because she found us chatting on the stairs, convinced we were about to go have sex in her bedroom or something. We exchanged numbers, then began seeing each other. My first boyfriend.
After a few dates he invited me back to his Mum’s flat and we became intimate. It was good. I didn’t realise it could be good. We only ever had sex once, near the end of our relationship, and it was very, very short and full of laughter.
I put on a bit of weight. My main priority shifted from my need to be skinny, to him.  In less than 2 months I was one dress size bigger, and he dumped me. By then my relationship with the girl who was my everything was practically non-existent. I didn’t feel like I had anyone to turn to. Then, a mutual friend I had made through him approached me one day. She tried to comfort me, telling me he was an asshole, etc. and that he had moved onto someone else very quickly. The same week actually. Another of my friends saw him with her and thought it was me. She said she looked so much like me. I looked her up. She did look like me. Eerily like me. She was skinny.

That year I turned 18 and moved 500 miles away to go to Uni. I’d put on weight but I wasn’t fat. Looking back on it, I can say that with certainty. I felt the opposite in that moment, of course. My bad habits had returned and mainly I drank my calories away. It was fine to go a day eating one tin of cold peas because then my calories would be saved for a bottle of wine that night. And that’s what I drank. Every night.
Over my first year at Uni I had the same experiences as my limited ones before. Guys who weren’t interested in me until it was behind closed doors, or if I would make a promise not to tell anyone. I even entered into a relationship with a guy who wouldn’t go out in public with me and made me promise not to tell anyone we were seeing each other. I kept my word. I thought that this is as good as it gets for girls like me. Until I’m skinny, they’re only going to see me as disposable. I’m not good enough to be in a proper relationship with.

One day I broke. I was extremely drunk and had an argument with my best friend who was visiting me, and it became violent. I couldn’t forgive myself for trying to hurt her, so I grabbed every pill packet and bottle I could find and swallowed everything I could, locked in the toilet.
I don’t remember much. I remember the ambulance. I remember how awful the sickness was – the taste of Jagermeister with the bitterness of the pills. I remember being in a gown and my Uncle next to the bed and not knowing how I got changed, or when he got there. And then I remember waking up in my Aunt and Uncle’s house. I was still being sick. It would take a while for my system to readjust, they said, apparently. I remember my Aunt making me toast and becoming angry when I wouldn’t eat it because I hadn’t eaten in days. “If you don’t eat it, you are going to be going straight back to hospital and put on a drip”. I ate it. Then I threw up.
I did start to feel better, and eventually I went back to Uni. I sat through lectures brainlessly, trying to catch up with what I had missed and failing. I remember feeling so happy that my stint in hospital had made me lose weight and that I suddenly had no desire to eat, to drink, or smoke.

I went down to England for Easter, and that’s when I met Ell.
There is plenty I could say about how we met. Of how we got together, but I would never be able to have the time to put into words the way he made me feel. We became best friends to begin with, and started dating in the summer. June.
It was the first time in a long time I had to examine my sexuality again. I wanted to be with him, and I also didn’t. I was terrified of putting on weight. I was terrified of him breaking my heart. I was terrified of him seeing me naked. When we eventually did have sex, I remember how hot it was. No, not in that way. Like, baking hot. Because I had insisted on keeping the duvet completely over us and tightly wrapped around so he wouldn’t be able to see me, at all. He was very understanding. He reassured me that I was beautiful, that there was nothing he couldn’t like, but he understood. It remained like that for a while, then one day, he asked to see me. Feeling a bit more secure in our relationship, I told him he could. He peeled the covers off me one morning while I kept my hands clasped tightly over my face. I didn’t want to see anything. I didn’t want to see his reaction. Of course it was positive, and it changed me.
He was gorgeous, and he wasn’t afraid of being naked around me at all. “How can you be so confident when you’re naked?”, I asked one day. “Because you think I’m beautiful.”, he said. He explained to me that he had had insecurities about his body, but now that I was here, now I told him how wonderful he was, how gorgeous he was, he didn’t care about any of it anymore. I found him beautiful, so he thought he must be. I wished I could feel that way.

I went to a sleepover with my friends. About half of them were the same people I had broached the subject of masturbation with all of those years ago. The conversation became sexual. I sat back and listened to these girls talking about preferred vibrators, how many they owned, what they liked sexually, with partners and without. I sat there in silence, and in shock. Sex wasn’t something you were supposed to talk about. Masturbation wasn’t something you were supposed to talk about. I knew because THEY had told me.
After sitting quietly for a while they turned the conversation on me. “I don’t own a vibrator”, I said. They were stunned. “How can YOU not own a vibrator?!” they demanded to know. Surely the girl who was the first person to have the gall to talk about or question their sexuality aloud SURELY owned a sex toy. “Have you ever had an orgasm?!”, they questioned. Yes, of course. “On your own?!” Yes, of course. It then turned out that not one of them had had an orgasm unassisted. I felt a quiet sense of joy in the fact that I was doing better than them, it seemed. That was one of the reasons I had never owned a sex toy. I didn’t need it. What could it give me that my own self couldn’t?

Over the next few years I put on a lot of weight. I went from a 12 to a 20. Every so often my bad habits would come back, but it was different this time. This time I had Ell. He encouraged me to seek help about my MH issues. He didn’t bat an eyelid when my pills made me gain weight. We never stopped having sex. And he didn’t care about how much I weighed. “You were gorgeous when I met you, but I prefer you like this” he said one day, his arms around my waist, his head resting on my tummy. “Yeah, right. How could that possibly be true?” I asked. “Because you’re happy”.
And he was right. I couldn’t control those voices in my head. My issues were there and they’re always going to be there, but instead of sinking into them, he was there to pull me out. I’d stand and examine myself in the mirror, pulling at myself, crying, talking about how I should diet, how I should make myself sick, sometimes how I should just kill myself and delete everything permanently, and he would always run up behind me and pull me into him. “You’re gorgeous. Please don’t change. Never leave me.”

We got engaged. I got pregnant. I loved being pregnant. I loved seeing what my body could do. I gave birth to our baby girl and my body started going to shit. The placenta had torn and I contracted a severe case of endometritis, then I developed gallstones and had attacks as bad as childbirth for months on months on end with doctors insisting my organs were “settling back into place”. I didn’t get my gallbladder removed until nearly a year later after having near daily attacks, and losing a ton of weight, as there was nothing I could eat that wouldn’t set an attack off. Again, my mental illness praised me for losing weight, even though the reality was I had been very, very ill.

Once my gallbladder was removed, I started gaining weight again, and over the next year would be fighting my body back and forth to try and get rid of it. Then, I came across “body positivity”. Now, I had seen various forms of this without giving it a second glance before, such as Dove campaigns, but not really taking an interest in it. Now, I immersed myself in it. I immersed myself in beautiful, fat women loving their bodies. I put on weight and had hella fun doing it. I started not feeling guilty about eating the things I loved. My body positivity and fat positivity became one of the most important things in my life. It still is. I should also note that a few years ago I realised that there was a reason why I had put so much stock in my female relationships without the same return: I was bisexual. A topic for another time, perhaps. I also became a radical feminist.

With this newfound sense of self, I started examining all of the experiences I had, outlined above. Why had I allowed myself to be used by so many men who hadn’t really wanted anything to do with me? Why had none of them wanted to be seen in public with me? Why were guys with skinny girlfriends abandoning them for one night with me? The answer became inescapable. I was fat, they wanted to have sex with me, and this was inexcusable.

Fat is the enemy. Fat is not attractive. Fat is DEFINITELY not romantic or sexual.

This is what mass media tells us. This is what society tells us. This is what we tell ourselves.
We like to think fat people don’t have sex, because fat isn’t sexy. Look at any porn magazine, website, tv programme, movie. Sex permeates our society. Sexuality is becoming more and more normalised. Women are reclaiming their sexuality and their pride in their joy of sex. You’re allowed to like having sex. You’re allowed to go and purchase stuff from Ann Summers. It’s not embarrassing to have to buy condoms any more. Or to have a package from Lovehoney sat on your doorstep.

That is, unless you’re fat. Specifically, a fat woman.

You may think I’m being ridiculous. I invite you to think about it. How many times have you seen a sex scene on tv or in the movies? And how many times has the female been fat? HARD MODE: how many times have you seen that happening without it being comedic or the butt of a joke, but actually frank and romantic sex?

I can only think of one, and for that My Mad Fat Diary deserves all the praise in the world.

 

Not only are you not allowed to be a proud, fat woman in our society, you’re certainly not allowed to be a sexual one. I bought condoms once and overheard the snickering behind me from a group of lads, followed by a “who’d want to have sex with her?”
Aside from the obvious – my husband – probably, one of them. But they’re not allowed to let me know that. In fact, they probably feel almost obligated to let me – and each other – know that they’re thinking entirely the opposite. Because fat women shouldn’t have sex. Those guys want to get their dicks sucked. But certainly not by me. Or so they’d have you think. Just like all those other guys before.
Men cannot confess their attraction to fat women, even men who are fat themselves! And yes, misogyny and the view on fat sex and attraction to fat women is inextricably linked.
Only last year it took several rounds of drinks for one of my husband’s attractive friends to confess that I am “really pretty. For a big girl.

Even in recent years I have entered into sexual conversations with people, listening to them discuss their relationships, their sex lives. But I always find myself shut down. My sex isn’t valid.

The reality is, at this point in time you’re only going to find two things regarding fat sex: comedy or fetishism. Because BBW and SSBBW porn is big bucks. And that’s fine. I’m totally pro safe sex work, and pro fat sex workers. But that’s not the only kind of fat sex there is. Being attracted to a fat girl does not make you “into BBW”. It does not fetishise your sex. I don’t understand how people think it does.

What makes the invalidation of fat sex so infuriating is that it leaves us boxed into not examining other areas of our sexuality.
Lots of people have kinks. Fetishes. Things they like regarding sex. There’s a plethora of sexual experimentation out there. The sky is the limit. And yes, a lot of people are kink-shamed for the things they like in (or maybe out) of the bedroom, but imagine how much worse that is for a fat person.
I’m pretty vanilla when it comes to sex. My fetishes are few and minor. But, I love erotic fan fiction. This is something that people look disgusted at when they find out, yet how many women have I seen reading 50 Shades in full public view? They probably don’t even realise that yes, there are fat women out there having BDSM sex and you just don’t know it. And hey, guess what? t0 Shades of Grey was originally an erotic Twilight fan fiction. I’m not going to go fully into my defence of fan fiction and the problematic views society has surrounding what is and isn’t sexually acceptable, but I will leave you with this for thought:

 

 

Some fat women love having sex. I love having sex. I love having sex with myself. And that’s okay. But I have been shamed into thinking it isn’t. It was the reason I kept my mouth shut, even in specifically sexual conversations, for so long. It was the reason I never bought a sex toy.

I want to see romantic fat sex. I want to see fat sex on tv. In movies. I want fat women to reclaim their bodies and know that they are worthy, and sexy, and amazing. That their sex is valid, their kinks are valid. They are valid.

Oh, and I bought my first vibrator yesterday.

K xo

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