It’s Time to Dispel the Myths About Dating While Fat
In this week’s column, Feminista takes on the so-called taboo of being a ‘big girl’ and why the mainstream has got it wrong
I first became aware that being fat put me in a separate category of women as a teenager, when men began saying things like “Big girls need love, too!” or “I like my women thick, Big Mama!” as they passed me on the street. It continues to this day. To them, I’m not just a woman, I am a big woman, and for a long time, the way men commented about my body size made me uncomfortable. Their comments were attempts at being flattering, and they thought they were doing me a favor by showing “appreciation” for my size in a society that regularly rejects the idea that fat women are beautiful and sexy. I’ve never asked for that kind of favor, though, so it still weirds me out when it happens.
Fatphobia, or the fear of or disdain for fatness or fat people, heavily influences the ways in which a woman’s overall social value is assessed. From being bullied in school and being go-to targets of comedy routines, to being erased from popular culture and discriminated against in the workplace, fat women often feel disrespected, unappreciated, uncared for, and undervalued. We’re thought to be lazy, unhealthy, sloppy, dirty, or weak, and little consideration is given to our unique personalities, our strengths and accomplishments, or our overall contributions to society. Fat women experience anti-fat discrimination up to 16 times more often than men, making fatphobia a largely gendered issue. And when it comes to dating and relationships, being fat, particularly as women, has generally been a deterrent for potential suitors because we’re seen more as liabilities than assets, largely based on fatphobic stereotypes.
For too long, I believed that no one would want me because I was fat, and those thoughts skewed my decision-making when it came to dating and sexual intimacy. I regularly settled for partners who fell far below my personal standards because I believed, like many people do, that I shouldn’t be picky. I was eager to have companionship and afraid no one would ever want to marry me, so I might as well take what I could get. I learned early on that fat women are expected to be grateful when people express desire for us, no matter how objectifying or fetishizing it feels, because hey, we’re fat, so we should be happy someone actually wants us.
From being bullied in school and being go-to targets of comedy routines, to being erased from popular culture and discriminated against in the workplace, fat women often feel disrespected, unappreciated, uncared for, and undervalued.
If you can relate, I have some encouragement for you. Fat women have always been loved and appreciated, despite what we’ve seen in the media, so don’t be mislead by what you haven’t seen in popular culture. The average woman in the U.S. is a size 16 and media and pop culture are finally representing that reality. While we are often ridiculed as targets of jokes or shamed by our peers, especially on mainstream and social media, there’s been no shortage of people lining up to snag one of us. Fat women have been attracting interest, going out on incredibly fun dates, having amazing sex, and living their best romantic lives. It’s time for you to do the same.
Do NOT compromise your personal standards, no matter what anyone says or how they make you feel. Your extra pounds are no excuse for being dehumanized. You are no less deserving of daytime brunch dates, flowers delivered to your job, or trips to Caribbean beaches than any other woman. If you’re getting to know someone, and they’re hesitant about meeting in public or only want to meet late in the night, block their number and keep it moving. And if they’re only coming to your house for meals or using you as an emotional dumping ground, block their number and all of their social media accounts.
Fat women have always been loved and appreciated, despite what we’ve seen in the media, so don’t be mislead by what you haven’t seen in popular culture.
Learn to recognize fatphobia in potential suitors — while they may not say anything directly to you, you may pick up on their true feelings by how they speak of others. Also, be mindful when they say things like “You’re not really fat” or “You carry your weight well.” Those aren’t compliments, but rather thinly veiled attempts at denying your fatness because they don’t want to own their attraction to fat women or they think appearing less fat is an accomplishment every woman should be proud of.
Eat whatever you want. If someone has agreed to go out to eat with you, EAT! Dig into your chicken wings, clean your plate with your biscuit, and scrape your fork picking up that last piece of sweet potato pie. Don’t starve yourself or deny yourself the pleasure of enjoying your favorite dish because you’re afraid of being judged, especially if they’re paying. Order dessert too, okay?
Take your clothes off during sex. Unless your discomfort is related to something other than your size, don’t be nervous about being naked around your partner. You don’t think they know you have a big stomach and thighs? You don’t think they’re ready to dive right into your folds? They know exactly what will be unleashed when you take your bra off, so why be coy about it? Get naked and get to sweating!
It took me a long time to break free of thinking I was undeserving of love and affection because I am fat, but not before I endured the pain of only being the late-night booty call, the embarrassment of being the hidden girlfriend who was never introduced to friends, and the silent suffering of the fat woman subjected to emotional and verbal abuse because my male partner resented and was ashamed of his own attraction to my fat body. Even when people celebrated my pear-shaped curves as the “right kind of thick,” I struggled with being comfortable in my own body. It’s something I still work on to this day.
Dating while fat shouldn’t leave you feeling neglected or disrespected. You shouldn’t wonder if you’re going to get a text back or if you’ll ever be introduced to their friends. You should feel as comfortable and free to make decisions about your romantic and sexual life that affirm and serve you, and that includes saying “No” when you don’t want to be bothered with someone who is uncomfortable with your bold confidence, abundant self-love, and plentiful options.