When people hear the term “fatphobia”, many likely start to think of the run-of-the-mill jokes and jabs so often directed at folks in bigger bodies (“what a whale”; “she’s such a fat pig”). Others might call to mind the countless tabloids, adverts, listicles, weight loss shows, or fitspo ‘grams of the world that frame thinness as the pinnacle of beauty and worth, while relegating fatness to the dowdy, miserable “before” picture in a journey to weight loss and alleged happiness.
Fatphobia is all of that, sure, but it’s a lot more as well. It shows up when disordered eating behaviours are prescribed to fat people, even though they’d be diagnosed as signs of sickness in thin ones. Or, when fat people prepare to board an airplane – never knowing if they’ll end up next to someone who verbally berates them for “taking up too much space.” It shows up when we cannot find clothes that fit our frames, or when we aren’t even considered for a job based on our body size alone.
It can also show up in the bedroom. From the person I nearly hooked up with who asked, “Is it true that fat girls smell like cheeseburgers down there?” to a dude who told my friend to guide him in because “I don’t think I’ll be able to find it through the flab,” there’s no doubt that weight bias can penetrate even the most intimate of settings. Fat people have to navigate a dating pool that often feels saturated with folks who believe they are “settling for us”, who want to non-consensually fetishise our bodies, or who assume we should be grateful for any attention we receive, and abuse us because they believe it’s their right to do so.
Of course, plenty of fat people can and do have amazing, fulfilling, glorious sex and relationships – eventually, I certainly did. Still, the below stories prove that fatphobia doesn’t discriminate when it comes to the places it’ll show up.
“IT’S A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT STRATOSPHERE FROM GARDEN VARIETY MISOGYNY”
“I once had a couple message me on Tinder looking specifically for a fat girl to make fun of and humiliate in a sexual context. Basically, they messaged me and they were like, ‘We’re looking for a fat girl to spend time with us. Are you into humiliation?’ And I said, ‘Who’s being humiliated?’ And they replied, ‘You.’ Both people in the couple were thin. Obviously, I turned them down.
There are just so many people, though. Like a person I was dating on and off for a year who said, ‘Some girls you like for their boobs and some for their ass and you’re neither.’ Also, there was the time a dude on OKCupid wrote an entire poem about how disgusting he found me. I indicated that it was off-the-charts bizarre and then he was like, ‘Why are you so serious? Fat people are supposed to be jolly?’ It’s a completely different stratosphere from garden variety misogyny.” — Mary, 31
“AT LEAST I WAS GETTING LAID, RIGHT?”
“I had someone I was crushing on for years say I was ‘too fat’ but he’d let me suck his dick. I had a one-night-stand in my single years, and he said he was ‘safer’ on top. Another sexual partner asked to do it from behind so he didn’t see my fat body or face. I accepted this all as normal.
How could I forget the dickhead who raped me and didn’t believe I was a virgin at the time, as I was black and fat so I would have been ‘gagging for it’. I met him off Match.com, exchanged instant messenger accounts, spoke for a week on the phone, and it happened on the first night we met, in which he insisted we went to his. I still haven’t fully healed from that, but it really does surprise me how people treat other humans and how I was made to feel like it’s acceptable, and even encouraged by another female relative to accept it because ‘you are getting laid at least’.
My cousin encouraged me to go back after that incident. She was always better at dealings with the opposite sex, or so I thought. Who knows more about men than my big-breasted cousin who states she’s been with 100 men and a few women? So, I listened to her against all of my better senses, met him at his place, and presented myself to him like some prized cow and we proceeded to have consensual sex that time, though I knew deep down I didn’t want to – he verbally abused me, calling me ‘stinky,’ that ‘I was nothing like his old girlfriend’ and spit on me, saying I was ‘too fat and boring’ all whilst inside me… but at least I was getting laid, right?” — Gaby, 31
“IT MADE ME WORRY FOR YEARS THAT HE WASN’T ATTRACTED TO ME”
“When I lost my virginity, I told the guy that I was nervous about him seeing me naked for the first time. He responded, ‘Don’t worry. I won’t look.’
My partner of four or five years also told me ‘it was nicer when you were smaller’ after I had gained weight. Both made me feel like absolute shit. With the latter, I don’t remember my reaction exactly, but I know it made me worry for years that he wasn’t attracted to me, and that was compounded by the fact that he had erectile dysfunction, which took us years to talk about and the whole time I thought it was because I am fat. He had ED for as long as I’ve known him, but it wasn’t diagnosed until many years after we got together. I always thought it was me that was the issue.” — Stella, 32
“IT’S LIKE I’M FUCKING BOO!”
“When I was 19, I had gotten this cute pixie cut and then while I was having sex with this guy, doggy style, he starts laughing. I asked him what was so funny and he said, ‘It’s like I’m fucking Boo from Orange Is The New Black.’ To be honest, it isn’t an insult for me. She’s an androgynous babe. But the fact that he was laughing at me made me feel really low. Never fucked him again.
At the time, I was going through an androgynous phase, so I liked the way I looked, but he had never seen me with hair that short so it was kind of a shock for him. Maybe if we were more emotionally invested, I wouldn’t have taken it so personally, but he was just a hook-up so it felt like even though he wasn’t as attracted to me as before, he was still fucking me to get his dick wet.” — Noemi, 24
“A LOVER DIDN’T WANT TO TURN THE LIGHTS ON”
“A lover didn’t want to turn on the lights out of fear of both being seen and seeing me naked. They said, ‘By the way we both look, I don’t think anyone would favour lights on.’
I was puzzled and surprised, because I haven’t dated or had sex with anyone else that timid about seeing flesh. Add to that I thought them to be sexually ridiculously attractive, it just made me super puzzled.
Later, I noticed they had some other similar habits as well. They refused to be entirely naked in any circumstance – always something covering either the top or the bottom – and me walking absolutely naked in their flat earned me a ‘don’t do that’. It was probably a fair bit of projection there.” — Remi, 37
“SHE ASKED IF I WANTED TO RECREATE THE BRUCE BOGTROTTER SCENE”
“I’m pansexual, and I’ve been with people of all sizes, but I’ve definitely had some less than pleasant experiences with thin ones. There was this one girl in high school, the only other queer girl I knew, who – the first time we took off our clothes in front of one another – told me she’d never seen a body like mine. ‘I think I changed my mind,’ she said. ‘I don’t know what to do with all that.’ I actually kept trying to date her for a while after, because my self-worth as both a fat person and a queer person was so low.
Another girl at uni asked if I wanted to recreate the Bruce Bogtrotter scene in Matilda where he’s forced to eat a whole chocolate cake. We’d slept together a few times, but this came entirely out of the blue. I don’t judge people who have feeder or feedee-like fetishes, but this didn’t seem to be that. It was more like she was getting off on the idea of humiliating me, or on perpetuating the notion that anyone who is fat must obviously want to ‘stuff their face’. I always felt she thought she was superior to me because of her thin body. So, yeah, I kind of stopped getting involved with really thin people after that.” — Courtney, 29
“[IT WAS] MAKING ME FEEL LIKE MY ONLY REASON TO EXIST WAS TO PLEASURE SOMEONE”
“There was a guy I slept with, may have even dated him for a while, who told me fat girls are better in bed because they have nothing to offer a man, so they would go all the way. Like, they would bend over backwards and do nasty things because they are ugly and no one wants them. They used to say because our thighs touch, that we would have tighter vaginas. Just making me feel like my only reason to exist was to pleasure someone.
I was about 19 or 20 when this happened to me. I really felt quite worthless at that point, like no matter what I liked, or what I stood for, no one would see me for who I was. Instead, I would only be seen as a sexual object. Very early on I learnt that there were men who would sleep with me in secret, but never date me and then I knew that my price to pay was to be easy.
We truly deserve more. I wish I had learnt earlier that all they wanted was just to use me, but it’s okay. I learnt from those experiences, and I’ll never go back.” — Rose, 38
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This article originally appeared on VICE UK.