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Sexual Inadequacy: Body Shame and Sexy Fat

You know, men are a lot like buses—you wait around forever for one to show up and eventually you just give up and download Grindr. I've been using the electronic cruising app for a week and I've taken everything I've learned from nearly a decade of short-term online erotic relationships (hookups, I believe they're called) to this new platform.

When I enter online sexualized spaces, my most central characteristic is my size—I am completely and totally defined by it. I search every profile ad for certain keywords to let me know if I'm going to be unceremoniously disqualified—because I'm not "healthy" or "in shape" or "active" or "fit" or "height-weight proportional"—and I just skip ahead to someone else. I am upfront about how much I weigh, which wasn't always the case. When I first started trawling for booty on the World Wide Internet, I would only reveal my weight if asked. I would take pains to stretch out my neck in pictures to make my face appear slimmer and get the all-important Myspace angle.

I reasoned that since I was such a special and unique person of such varied talents and abilities, I was pretty much everyone's type, they just didn't know it yet. Cut to a series of uncomfortable in-person rejections, which made me swing in the exact opposite direction vis-à-vis my physical attractiveness. I started rounding up my weight, started posting pictures of myself displaying my less photogenic qualities—if I was going to get rejected, it was going to be right at the start. Every time I'd meet a man in real life that I found attractive I would reject him immediately. "Nice try, sexy dude asking too many questions about my shirt. If I wanted you you'd just reject me so I reject you first and also leave me alone, I'm busy." Two months later I met the same guy on Gay.com and we got halfway through our first date before he remembered seeing me and flirting with me, and I felt really, really embarrassed that I had been so willfully obtuse. This same scenario played itself out repeatedly, although sometimes the guy just walked away and I never saw him again.

Eventually, I started to clue into the fact that there might be some people for whom I was an ideal sexual partner. Two years ago I joined a website called Biggercity, "serving gay chubby men and their admirers," something I felt very ashamed of. I would access the site using my backup browser and my backup e-mail, to make certain no one would ever accidentally see the home screen and started asking questions. Joining a website that allowed me to chat up guys without worrying they might take my being fat as a personal affront to their sensibilities, and so very rude on top of it (aka Why Is This Fat Person Making Eye Contact With ME???) would be an admission that I had given up on my single goal in life, to lose weight. Obviously that would be giving up on myself. But, I've lived long enough to know that nothing ever brings eternal satisfaction and happiness, and I've stopped acting as if my real life won't start until I'm chewing on celery and grating parmesan on my 6 pack.

Part of this has, again, been getting older and growing ever more comfortable with my body. But the nefarious thing about body shame is that it drives you away from healthy sexual interactions that might lessen it and allow you to see yourself from another person's perspective, to see love or affection or lust in response to your body. That can be extremely powerful, but it isn't everything. In one of my favorite Bitch posts, Sex and the Fat Girl: Subjectivity and Self-Image, Tasha Fierce talks about substituting external love for self-love:

The desire of a partner for you should be the icing on your self-image cake. (Mmm, cake.) Feeling good about yourself starts with feeling good about yourself, it doesn't start when someone else starts feeling good about you.

She's right, as always. But I can remember a moment three years ago when I was having sex and my partner asked me to remove my shirt. I did not feel sexy, I'm not even sure what that feels like, but I knew that he found me sexy, that he had not made a mistake, that he was sincere. And afterward I realized how many of my lovers and boyfriends had been chasers, and remembered that with every single one of them I had tried to lose weight because I assumed that's what they wanted from me.

That is when I started enjoying sex for the first time. Even though I am still terrible at real-time flirting, I still know that there are people that exist on the planet who think I've got it going on. When I think about that feeling and compare it to what came before, I feel damn near bulletproof.

Previously: Abiguously Gay Wizards, Anoka-Hennepin School District

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Comments

4 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Love. I totally relate.

Love. I totally relate.

Wonderful piece! I can

Wonderful piece! I can relate, too, even though not overweight I have an eating disorder and horrid body image. It's hard to get around that shame.

Thank You

You speak the truth. Thank you!

I'm afraid I don't have any

I'm afraid I don't have any critique to make; I just wanted to say "thank you" for this article. It really resonates with me.