According to recent findings, two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.
And, obesity rates have more than doubled in adults and children since the 1970’s (National Center for Health Statistics, 2009). While recent estimates suggest that the overall rates of obesity have plateaued, obesity is widespread and continues to be a leading public health problem in the U.S.
So, in age where sex sells, but that sexual empowerment is driven with images in the media from the thin, where do obese people stand in terms of lust, sex and romance?
Rebecca Jane Weinstein has penned “Fat Sex: The Naked Truth”, which explores experiences and issues of fat and sex, recognizing that though our culture is obsessed with both, the two commingling are sometimes seen as offensive, obscene, or even grotesque.
She writes that fat people are not viewed as sexual beings. Fat people have normal and peculiar sex lives, just like everyone else, she says. In the tome, subjects touched on include heterosexual relationships, gay men and lesbian women, those who have gained and lost a great deal of weight, and the sexual “underground” such as fetishes.
We caught up with Weinstein, a person of size herself, to help us better understand the struggles that so many experience living in a world with a “war on fat.”
Here is our interview with her….
Celebzter: What is the message you hope to get across in your latest tome “Fat Sex: The Naked Truth” ?
Weinstein: I hope to get across several things. First that large people need not buy into the idea that they are unlovable because of their size, and that despite the millions of messages we get constantly, being fat is not the end of all happy life. Also I hope to dispel some myths about what it means to be a fat person — show the incredible hard work people go through in an attempt not to be fat. Also that there is a universality when it comes feelings. Change the details and a fat person’s story can be the story of someone who looks very, very different.
Celebzter: Is it commonplace, in your experience, that society as a whole deems fat people not sexy?
Weinstein: Absolutely. There have been times when there was a different aesthetic that was prized. And there are still cultures that prefer flesh. But generally speaking, in our society, fat people are invisible. When a fat person acts overtly sexual they are frequently mocked. I am not saying “oh poor me” though, because a lot of that is superficial. The book is full of stories about how in actuality fat people are often seen as very sexual, even super-sexual.
Celebzter: But in your opinion, is a larger woman sexier than say a size zero woman?If so, why? If not, why?
Weinstein: I think my opinion on who is sexier it pretty meaningless, well, to anyone but me. Sexy is about a whole lot more than size. Everyone has a drive to fit in, and size zero is what we are told is most beautiful right now. But really it’s so subjective, and sexy is about chemistry and connection. It’s also about attitude, which seems a bit of a cliché, but I found through people’s stories that the cliché about attitude being the most important thing seems to be pretty right on. As far as my opinion goes, I like some flesh on a person– on women and on men too.
Celebzter: Do you think fat people are made to feel embarrassed by sex, and being sexual? Or is society to blame for that?
Weinstein: I think fat people are made to feel hopeless about sex. We live in a culture that is very contradictory about sex in general – it is hyper sexual and sex is also taboo. When fat people are sexual there is more body moving around, more parts that are soft, bouncy, and round. That makes fat sex more dramatic, which is not a bad thing, but fat people need to learn to embrace that and not be ashamed of it.
Celebzter: What about the men who like larger woman…do you know why that is their own particular fetish?
Weinstein: There is a pretty big difference between a preference and a fetish. When a man is attracted to a thin woman he is considered normal and when he is attracted to a fat woman he is seen to have a fetish. That’s pretty strange, that the mere fact a different body type is preferred, is seen as a fetish. But there are men, and women, who have a fetish around large bodies. There are fetishes around all kinds of things. I don’t know why anyone has a particular fetish, that’s a question for therapy. But simply liking a round form is not a fetish.
Celebzter: The book also explores the “sexual underground”, can you explain that further to our readers of what that comprises of?
Weinstein: There is a sexual underground that involves all kinds of activities. The reason it is important in the book is that fat people can and are a part of a sexual underground, just like any other size person. In particular there is a great interest in porn with large woman. It is the most common kind of “alternative” porn. It is almost so common it is barely alternative. Then there are much more controversial activities like “feeders” – people who like to make others gain weight as part of sexual play – or “feedees” who like to be fed and have their bodies grow. The truth is this is very rare. It’s been highlighted in shock television, but statistically, there are thousands of times more people interested in bestiality then feederism – but they don’thave those people as guests on Dr. Phil.
Celebzter: The people portrayed in “Fat Sex: The Naked Truth” sometimes face bigotry and experience shame, can you explain that a little further?
Weinstein: According to numerous studies, right now size discrimination is more prevalent than race or gender discrimination. Whether it is or it isn’t, being up there with the most common kinds of discrimination means it’s pretty ubiquitous. But even more profound than discrimination in our daily lives, is that everywhere we turn we are told thin is beautiful and fat is ugly. That gets deep into our subconscious – exactly as the advertisers intend it. Any diet commercial you can think of is based around shame. If you just loose that unsightly fat you are happier and more in control, you can accomplish more and will be more liked and respected. That’s the message to people who want to lose ten pounds. For someone who is considered 100 pounds overweight the pressure is literally ten-fold, and so is the bigotry and shame.
Celebzter: But you also talk about how they live remarkably fulfilling lives… how do they go about this, and is there a sense that they have to mentally block things out?
Weinstein: Fat is not a death sentence, physically or emotionally. All kind of people can and are unhealthy, and weight may be a factor in health. But generally it is not the determining factor (we would have to get into the science for that). It is also not the determining factor in living a good life – unless you let it be. That’s not to say unhappy fat people are weak. It’s hard to be fat in our society. But some fat people are better than others at overcoming or avoiding the mindset that they are unworthy. Some people are raised to love themselves and some are raised to hate themselves. Different people also have different emotional make-ups. Being fat is just one of the many things in life that can bring a person down. But it doesn’t bring everyone down, and even if it does, some learn to rise about it. This is where things like the size-acceptance movement are so important, and so misunderstood. People involved in size-acceptance are not “happy they are fat,” they are trying to be happy however they are. Their size does not determine their value or their right to happiness.
Celebzter: Margaret Cho wrote the forward in the book, how did that come about?
Weinstein: Margaret Cho is a strong advocate when it comes to body image. She has talked about her own struggles with body image publically many times. She saw I was working on the book when I ran a Kickstarter campaign and she thought it was important enough work to share it with her fans. From there she graciously gave me the material for the foreword. It’s a powerful opening to the book. She’s a smart and strong woman and her piece is a beautiful way to open the dialog.
Celebzter: You’ve long worked in the online community to help social interaction between other people of size, what is the most rewarding part of doing that?
Weinstein: There are two most rewarding aspects. The first is being able to give people a voice. Through my online community PeopleOfSize.com, people can learn about and discuss any and all issues about size and weight. It is a connection people desperately want and need. Then through the book I tell these stories that have been brewing in people their entire lives and they are so thrilled to share them. Also the reception is amazing, people are so pleased to see they are not alone. The other reward is more selfish. As I talked about in the book, I have struggled with weight and the emotional consequences, most of my life. This project has helped me to be stronger, more open and honest, and brave. That is a good thing for me in my life, and I am grateful for the experience.
Celebzter: And lastly, what would you say to larger women out there?
Weinstein: Find your “sisters.”Find communities that help you to feel good about who you are. Whatever your goals, it will be much easier to reach them if you feel good about yourself along the way. Other women, and men, who understand what you are going through are invaluable teachers. And recognize that there are people who are fat and happy. Many in the world may fight that idea, but I have met fat and happy people – they exist, and they are fantastic and generous role models. Finally, allow yourself to feel sexy. Push all the garbage in your head away, and let your bad-self feel like a sex goddess, you are entitled – and anyone who has a problem with that can stick it.
For more on the tome, click here.