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Fat objectification: Fetishism

July 11, 2009

I think when we think about objectification in tends to be about women who fit a defined norm of what it means to be beautiful. I’m not going to claim that larger women are more objectified, but I wanted to point out some specific forms of objectification those deemed “fat” face. More on fat objectfication.

Fat Fetishists, Fat Admirers, Chubby Chasers, are all names given people who prefer larger bodies sexually. And there are all sorts of acronyms for those they are attracted to: BBW – Big Beautiful Women, BHM – Big Handosme Men, (you can SS or “Super-size” either”). And, of course, there are all sorts of derogatory terms on urban dictionary (No link for you). This terminology shows how sexual attraction to fat people is considered as part of the realm of kink and fetishism.

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with kink and fetishism (as long as it’s consensual and safe, obviously), but there is something wrong with considering a certain body type a fetish, and the sexualization of that body non-normative sexual behavior. A sexual fetish, “is a situation where an individual… attach[es] sexual significance to an object or behavior that is in large part not considered erotic in nature.” Fat bodies are certainly not behaviors, and absolutely not objects. Continuing to refer to the sexual preference of a certain body type as a fetish, means that the “fat” body is not a body type but an object. It’s absolutely dehumanizing and objectifying.

Let’s look particularly at the definition of “Fat Fetishism” as given by Wikipedia:

Fat fetishism is a term used to describe the context in which fat (as a substance) and obesity are eroticized

First, looking at fat “as a substance” while viewing someone’s body is objectifying, right? I’d be offended by someone only attracted to my ass, and I’d be equally offended by someone only attracted to the fat on my ass.

Secondly, this idea of eroticizing fat and fat bodies – as if they weren’t sexual before! I understand eroticizing objects, you can imbue them with a sexual meaning they didn’t have before, but a person? The fat body is erotic. Of course it’s erotic, but not because someone else gave it sexual meaning. A fat body is erotic because a fat person is a sexual being just like everyone else – with a sexuality, sexual orientation, and sexual desires. The ides that someone else has to imbue fat bodies with sexual meaning is bullshit and ridiculous. My body is erotic on its own, thank you.

Finally what sucks about all this is the idea that there needs to be a separate category for people who have sex with people who are fat. It compounds on the shame already given to fat bodies – not only are you unhealthy, weak-willed, and unattractive, you’re unfuckable. No, scratch that, you’re fuckable, but only by sexual deviants. I really, really encourage you to read, “How Do You Fuck a Fat Woman?” by Kate Harding (From Yes Means Yes). She talks about how this sentiment can create insecurities and negative expectations for women, contributes to a culture of sexual violence, and is completely counter to most fat people’s experiences.

So the take away message is this: Fat people have sexualities. Fat people have healthy sexual relationships. Fat people are not your objects to objectify, they’re pretty fucking sexy on their own.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2009 4:21 PM

    Hi

    Thank you for this post.

    I have always felt that the time when organizations like NAAFA exhibited close ties to the Fat Admiration/Fetish Community did irreversible damage to Fat Acceptance. What other support community had a built in fetish component?

    The objectification of Fat and Fat Women by the fetishers turned the earlier gender inclusive Fat Acceptance into something more appropriate for BBW Dance and the fetish activities that proceeded in the hotel rooms above.

    To this day Fat Acceptance delivers few statements that would be empowering to masculine psyche of Fat Men.

    William

    • Becky permalink
      July 12, 2009 2:57 PM

      Hi William, thanks for your comment. I’ve actually been think a lot about how Body Positivity/Fat Acceptance can be more inclusive of male bodies. (see: Male Body Week) Can you elaborate more on the messages that need to be sent to men about body image, and how that might be accomplished?

  2. July 12, 2009 2:51 PM

    this is seriously problematic, as you stated. it also removes agency from the fat body, as it becomes an object, which is passive. a passive object can only be acted upon; it doesn’t act itself. this dehumanization is offensive and inaccurate, since yes, we’re people with sexual urges like everyone else, and we don’t need to be reduced to parts…

  3. July 12, 2009 3:59 PM

    Hi Becky

    I really like the Fat Acceptance writings from the 1970s. Their message was much more gender inclusive than a lot work I see in Fat Acceptance today. They also did not include beauty and handsomeness as part of the equation for the acceptance of Fat Bodies.

    I do visit the Social Websites in Fat Acceptance because that is where most of the Fat Men can be found online. Most Fat Men are not into Fat Acceptance, but at the same time they are not accepting of themselves. I know many Fat Women who share a body shape with Male Apples, yet they are automatically classified by Fat Acceptance as curvy. Fat Acceptance needs to peel away the fantasy concepts contributed to Fat Acceptance from Fat Admiration/Objectification.

    I know that the historic focus on the femininity of Fat in Fat Acceptance is a deterrent to Fat Men. I feel that not all Fat Women are beautiful and feminine and not all Fat Men are Handsome and Masculine. None of this should stand in the way of a Fat Man or Woman accepting themselves

    William

  4. djdubld permalink
    November 22, 2012 7:07 PM

    HEAR ! HEAR !

  5. November 30, 2012 9:43 AM

    I feel like fetishization is NOT the recognition that fat bodies are sexual but it when you take liking fat bodies to an extreme level. I have had men tell me that they only like women who weight 500+ pounds, thus I am “too small” for them to get turned on. I have had men talk about how they wish to rub or thrust their penis in my fat folds to get off and that is the ONLY way they could get off. The flaw is that they are separating who I am from my body. Who I am now doesn’t matter to this sexual encounter as much as the fat that surrounds my organs.

    I mean, I wouldn’t call my significant other a fat fetishist just because he likes me. He looks at people holistically before adding them in his life. Yes, he thought I was pretty but he didn’t decide he wanted to be physical with me based solely around what I look like. As a whole person body and spirit he made a decision about the kind of woman I am, and the kind of person I am. This is something that I did for him as well. Yes he’s attractive but basing my sexual relationships on purely the physical has never ended well for me. I think it is important as we explore fat sexuality, that we make this distinction. Loving a fat body does NOT make you a fetishist. It makes you a person who likes a fat body. Fixating on it to an extreme level, is when it goes from being a preference to a fetish.

  6. BaccusVD permalink
    March 5, 2013 4:26 PM

    Okay like I’m sorry but there’s a fetish for EVERY body type and everything thing. If you try and make up a fetish as a joke and you google it it’s real, they all are. I’m not saying it’s okay to objectify and dehumanize fat people, or the people who love them. But everyone in some way is objectified so really the onus is on each individual to find a partner who is attracted/appreciative of who you are. This goes for men and woman with large amounts of body hair, amputations, ethic qualities, tattoos and piercings, little people, exceptionally tall people. The list goes on and on. Not everyone needs to belly ache in a blog.

    This is sort of a joke. I think with an article like this you have to address the entire spectrum, because this article really made it seem like fat people are especially fetishised and I think any Asian woman will argue that fact.

  7. March 23, 2013 8:05 PM

    I think it is a difficult and dangerous thing to paint all fat-positive lovers with the same brush in the way I sometimes see. When I joined NAAFA and heard about FA/SIG, I had hoped I would find a band of brothers who felt the way I do, which is exactly in the vein of this post, that the turn-on of a fat woman is not something I make up or gin up out of proportion to its reality, but actually IS a reality to which I’m tuned. But I understand what can happen to the minds of people who begin their sexual lives being told they do not exist at all, or are responding in incorrect ways, for one dysfunctional reason or another. I understand how deeply so many lies are fielded and insinuate themselves into the collective psyche, such that it can well up and gush out of the mouths of people who claim to have been a part of the “BBW” movement, but who somehow were able all those years to avoid any kind of deep political digging, and that includes some men who have eyes for fat partners but who, having never built up any political footing to stand on, can be knocked into nodding and accepting every tired notion the enemy has ever cooked up for their objective of disappearing us.

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