Cleavage Shaming

I live in San Francisco, a place where fitness (and when I say “fitness I mean the kind that leads to thinness) is part of the prevailing beauty standard. Fitness affords one many things: cramps, knee surgery and better luck at bars in the Marina. One thing is does not often afford, however, is great big boobies. No, great big boobies are the domain of hot fat bitches like me (as are big thighs, big butts, big arms, and other luscious big things).

The fitness ideal has created an interesting economic system: it has created big tit scarcity. And oh yes, I am a beneficiary of said scarcity. I believe that my outfit and my day aren’t complete without a healthy dose of cleavage. I tend to enjoy showcasing 3-6 inches depending on the time of day: 3 for early afternoon tea with a nothing-approaching-tasteful half a foot post-prandium. People of the boob-loving variety seem to appreciate and enjoy my boob art (isn’t cleavage art?), but another, more sinister force is also at play: cleavage shaming.

Why, you may ask, does cleavage shaming exist and how does it take shape? Well, to the first, I have no reasonable answer. We all know that the skinnies get the full-on leg exposure and we fatties get the tits and ass side of the bargain. For decades we seem to have held this truce, tacitly understanding that we did what we had to in hopes of attracting a worthy peacock/peahen. Sure, a few back-handed compliments here and there, but nothing approaching full-on war.

As for how it takes shape, cleavage shaming takes various forms, from subtle to full-on rude, and I have been the recipient of all the shades of cleavage shaming that are out there.

First, there’s the establishment, that is, institutional cleavage oppression. These mental health professionals and intellectuals would have me believe that my desire to show off my cleavage is a pathological need sprung from low self-esteem, self-hatred and is ultimately the result of my desire for normativity.

Second, there’s the tacit, nostril-flare on the commuter train level variety. Often practiced by skinnies who take a quick, sideway glance at my goodies. Quickly thereafter begin, first, the pursing of the lips quickly followed by the nostril flare with a possible eye roll.

Third, there’s the silent (but deadly) shaking of the head. Because it involves a new set of muscles, I consider it a category of its own rather than an extension of number two. This one involves the look and then a head shake, at times followed by an audible sigh.

Fourth, there’s the point-shake-comment. This one involves actual pointing (yes, at my cleavage), followed by shaking of the head, an under-the-breath comment, and often requires more than one skinny. Sometimes a mother-daughter skinny combo.

Fifth, there’s the full frontal attack. This can happen anywhere, but is likeliest one-on-one and where they’re less likely to get caught (think: crowded bar or busy bathroom). It might be in the form of a veiled insult (“oh, wow, that top is so forgiving.) or it might be a full-on fucked-up thing to say (“I feel bad for fat girls who don’t at least have big tits.)

A while back (pre-engagement to my current lover/big booby aficionado) I went to a house party with a very conventionally pretty skinny friend. She had a complete tantrum (including yelling, calling a cab preemptively, threatening to leave me at the party, and ramming her first against the door of the room in which we were happily “macking) when a cute boy we’d been flirting with begged to play with me instead of her. Oddly, I had been sitting there in a rather conservative blazer and she encouraged me to take it off and “flirt a little. The evening ended with her “explaining that the reason she became so upset was not because things hadn’t turned out the way she expected (surprise: lots of people don’t hold any particular preference for petite folks) but because she felt that my behavior displayed a disloyalty toward her that “worried her. I ended up apologizing to her. Later that month, the same friend asked to go for round two: she invited me to go to a sex party with her and I ended up playing with two cute boys (who were deeply aroused by my abundant boobage) while she sat and talked with the wife of one of them. She gave me the silent treatment after that.

Could it be that I enjoy a high SAQ (Sexual Attention Quotient)? Could it be that this is my performance art? Could it be that I don’t own anything that can possibly contain the mountain of tit under my blouse? Could it be that we’re all just trying to get laid by any means necessary? It’s all sexual capital, friends! None of it is more fair or tasteful or less about getting some than the next. Some of us use our great hair, some of us use our great legs, some of us use our cute toes or our pretty faces or our fantastic sense of style. Hell, some of us even use modesty. And some of us use our great big tits.

And I say, get it girl. All’s fair in love and orgasm acquisition.

Virgie Tovar

Virgie Tovar is the author/editor of the upcoming fat positive anthology Hot &Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012). She holds an MA in Human Sexuality, is certified as a sex educator, and was voted Best Sex Writer by the Bay Area Guardian in 2008 for her first book, Destination DD: Adventures of a Brest Fetishist with 40DDs. After teaching Female Sexuality at UC Berkeley she went onto host The Virgie Show (CBS Radio) from 2007-2008. When she’s not teaching sexuality seminars or shimmying as her burlesque alter ego, Dulce de Lecherous, she is creating content for her video blog: Virgie Tovar’s Guide to Fat Girl Living. Virgie has been featured on Playboy Radio and Women’s Entertainment Television. She lives in San Francisco.

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3 Responses

  1. Virgie Tovar says:

    Yes, Kath! Thankfully I ended that friendship! I’ve stopped attracting/abiding that kind of behavior from people in my life.

  2. razorwinged says:

    I agree with Kath!  That “friend” gots to go!  As a “skinny” female I must say that the behaviour of other skinny females gives me a bad rep and it sucks!  I definitely encourage the cleavage.  It has gone as far as me being the one to adjust and tie the corset on a friend of mine who as you Virgie, can rock out the boobage.  I take it upon myself as a friend to encourage the boobage wiggle and the high five that correctly adjusting boobies inside a corset deserves.  For me (as skinny female), it is not as much my legs as my hair that calls in the attention and I am good with that.  Let it be the boobage, the legs, the ass, the hair, whatever, trying to block and/or censor each other is just a big move towards a sour life and friendship.  Keep on working that cleavage! 

  3. Kath says:

    Can I just say that “friend” you speak about at the end of this article is by no means someone that could be called your friend?  Holy crap, talk about douchebag behaviour!
    Time to replace her with a proper friend who isn’t horrified by you having people attracted to you.