At my ex-girlfriend’s family reunion a few years ago, I ate delicious food, met new people, and danced all night. Towards the end of the trip, I watched her grow darker and angrier. After a couple of days of passive-aggressive attacks, I finally mustered up the courage to ask her what was wrong.
“I need you to stop eating so much in front of my family. I don’t want them to get the wrong idea about you.”
That was the second in a string of emotionally abusive relationships. A year later, after a terrible breakup and a short recovery period, I met another woman. She was a beautiful, friendly, funny professional soccer player. She lavished me with attention when we were alone, constantly told me how beautiful I was, and compared me to Adele every chance she got.
I met her roommates, two fraternity brothers she played soccer with, a few days before. They constantly, in front of me, referred to their ex-girlfriends as “Fatass”, “Fat Girl #2”, “Fat Pig”, and other equally awful names. Abruptly, not even a week later, she ended things. In a Facebook message. It just got too complicated, being with me.
Hi, I’m Cat. And I’m fat. That’s not a bad thing, I’m not insulting myself, I actually really like my body.
Fat. Adjective. (of a person or animal) having a large amount of excess flesh.
At 5’6 and 250 pounds and a size 18, that’s definitely me. I’ve been chubby my entire life. Even when I was doing sports and musical theater, even when I was having my diet strictly and abusively controlled, my weight didn’t change.
But my attitude about my weight did.
I spent my entire childhood hating myself for my weight. I developed eating disorders and used exercise as a punishment and hid my body in awful, unflattering clothes. As I got into high school, however, it hit me that this body was mine whether I liked it or not.
I could spend the rest of my life obsessively exercising and doing ridiculous, restrictive diets that are proven not to work. Or I could spend the rest of my life learning to love my body, with all its curves and cellulite and rolls and dips and valleys.
I started doing a ritual in high school that I still do today. After a shower, I slather myself in my favorite body lotion and find a mirror. Sometimes, I even take pictures with my phone. And I just look at my body. When I find flaws (it’s usually my belly), I single them out. Instead of repeating the usual abuses I throw at my belly, I throw radical acceptance and kindness at it. It goes like this.
“Wow, my belly is really big. I don’t like that right now, so I better focus on it. My belly is soft, my belly is full of warm, good food. My belly is smooth and comfortable for my pets to lay on. This is my belly, whether I like it or not. Even when I exercise and eat healthily, I will always have this belly. It may get smaller, but that process is long and I need to focus on health, not making myself smaller. Thank you, belly, for doing exactly what you are meant to do.”
In this process of falling in love with myself, I’ve also found that it grows easier and easier to fall in love with others. Past abusive exes aside, I am in a wonderfully healthy relationship with a beautiful woman. She and I push each other to love ourselves, and I am forever indebted to the work she’s put into our relationship to show me how much she loves me because of how my body looks, not in spite of it.
One of the most important parts of a healthy relationship with anyone, but especially someone who’s fat, is open communication about needs and wants and boundaries. There are many ways to be a good ally to your fat partner, and all of them improve the relationship for all parties.
Yes, fat people have sex. Lots of it. We’re even pretty good at it. Sex as a fat person should be enjoyable, fun, and comfortable. While part of sex is absolutely about loving your own body, not every person is going to be 100% into themselves 100% of the time. It is okay to still enjoy sex. It is okay to laugh, to cry, to get nervous, to get excited during sex.
I grew up Southern Baptist, and though my mom did her part to teach me about how babies are made, I still had a lot of internalized fear of sex. Company that with my distrust of men (and eventual realization I didn’t even like men at all), I spent my entire teenage years horrified at my friend’s description of their “first time”, threw myself at boys who I never wanted to touch me, and convinced myself I was broken and just needed more alcohol, more revealing clothes, a thinner body, to be wanted.
When I finally realized I liked women, and there was a reason kissing boys never did anything for me, my world changed. I didn’t have sex until I was 19, and my first partner was a fat femme with a record player and a Batman memorabilia collection. She showed me what body euphoria felt like, that I could love myself in men’s clothing, and that communication is key in a sexual relationship. She showed me different ways fat bodies can be used and moved and kissed. Even though we didn’t last long and I hopped from abusive relationship to abusive relationship for a while, I still continued to develop a relationship with my body.
It is so important for fat people to be surrounded by other fat people and allies who know what fatphobia is and how to fight it. It is much easier to be confident in your body if you have friends and family and partners who love and support your journey. Now, I still have issues like anyone else does. I still struggle, daily, with body confidence. I still face hateful comments online, passive-aggressive attacks in person, and my own inner bully that hates who I am and how I look. But I have a beautiful girlfriend. I have a weird little community of friends that overshare and under-appreciate ourselves. I have a sexy, wonderful group of friends that will push me to wear that bikini, that crop top, that lingerie.
It is more than possible to be fat and sexy, to be fat and confident, to be fat and wanted. Porn does a horrible job of conveying this, but fat people can and should enjoy sex without being a fetish to be hidden. Sex should be enjoyable for all parties, and you should enjoy sex with people who think you’re sexy because of your body, not in spite of it. If porn can be trusted (which, I know, it can’t), everyone who has sex is an acrobatic goddess with a rubber spine. But there are ways to make even the sexiest, stretchiest moves accommodated and comfortable for fat partners. There is nothing wrong with telling your partner what you like and don’t like, what is and isn’t comfortable, and even bring up things you’d like to try or would never try. Talk about sex.
Talk about sex with your partners, with your friends, with your doctors. Tell your partners to do that thing you like, tell your friends your experiences with good (and bad) partners. Tell your doctors how sexually active you are, how you stay safe, and any concerns you might have.
And if anyone tries to shame you for being fat and enjoying sex, sit on them.