A Tale of Fat Girls & Crocheted Penises
Last week I taught a class called “Intersextions of Fat Positivity and Sex Positivity at the Good Vibrations store on Polk Street in San Francisco. A little headier than my usual class (my last three classes at GV have been bump and grind tutorials, i.e., burlesque basics for the bedroom), I was unsure that anyone would show up. I prepared for the class in the back room, which doubles as a gallery. The current exhibit has the walls covered in about 100 crocheted penises attached to the walls. They jut out like dozens of unobtrusive fingers with bits of yarn “dribbling from the tips. Five or maybe ten minutes past 3 o’clock two people did and then two more. We went around the little circle and I asked them why they’d come to a heady little workshop on a Sunday afternoon. Everyone had a different reason: some professional, some personal. One woman stated her reason was wanting to work on her own sense of self and confidence.
I began to talk about my feelings about the word fat and how it had gone from a word whose mere utterance was capable of silencing and stifling me to a word that had made its way into my erotic life and my happiest moments. One of the women asked me how I got there. I told my story. It started with unlearning the lies I’d been taught about the undesirability of my body because people (lots of people) did, in fact, want to fuck me and they did. And then I went to college and met a bunch of radical sex positive feminists who taught me how to deconstruct misogyny and create sexual independence. Then I met my boyfriend whose love, singular sexual inclination toward me and whose dogged insistence upon my beauty further convinced me I was pretty great just the way I am. Finally, I met lots and lots of fat girls who were activists, who wore bikinis and who kept things “real. We used the word fat with love and affection; it became a word that denoted intimacy and inspired laughter over shared experiences of ridiculousness. Saying the word fat was the most honest I had ever been.
I pointed to the penises on the wall and said “it took a long time and a lot of skill to make that crocheted penis and imagine how long it takes to unravel it. That’s what body liberation is like: unraveling a yarn penis¦ with the use of only one arthritic pinky. It’s a slow and often solitary process “ with many steps backwards – to unlearn what has taken years and years and millions and millions of advertising dollars to learn. I can’t remember every little thought or every little word of praise, every flirt, every journal entry, every orgasm, every fantasy, every tear that led to my loving my beautiful fat body, but I remember that there were plenty of all of the above. And one day I woke up and enough of all that stuff had happened that I looked at myself naked at the women’s bathhouse on Geary and Fillmore and I smiled.
Because it was my first time teaching the class on fat positivity and sex positivity I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the most mind-blowing experience for everyone involved, but just getting to talk about our bodies, using the word fat, sitting in a circle in the same place at the same time, we unstitched one, little, tiny piece of a great, big, throbbing lie.