Newsflash: Fat Girls Have Sex!
The anthology Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion was released this month by Seal Press. The book addresses all kinds of subjects: speed dating, motherhood, yoga, car crashes, being fat at the gym, stretch marks, performance art, cancer. Oh, and sex. Readers have had a panoply of reactions to Hot & Heavy. As the anthology’s editor I get most of the feedback from readers. Most people tell me they feel inspired by the women who have written so honestly and vulnerably about their relationships with their bodies and their journey to fierceness.
There’s a small but vociferous minority who have a different opinion.
These people criticize the title’s double entrendre and some of the book’s 31 essays that discuss sexuality frankly and, at times, explicitly. These people tend to use words like “hypersexual” to describe the book and even make assertions that sexuality and sexual experiences are not the route to body liberation. I wonder what is really at the heart of their negative judgment: Is it the idea that fat women don’t in fact deserve pleasure until they become thin? Does it make them uncomfortable to think of “those” bodies (or their own body) in jiggling ecstasy? Is it the conviction that sexuality is dirty and base and should be kept locked away in some secret cave of mysteries? Is it the belief that fat women are all victims of exploitative men and can have no sex on our own terms? Is it that their own experiences with sex have been scarring and painful?
I don’t know the answer, but I do know that discussing sex is something that is often very difficult and complex. And this book is one of the few that addresses sexuality among fat women.
There’s Shawna Peters’ essay, “Journeying Into a Fat, Fleshy Vulva,” in which she writes about attending a workshop about vaginas and then heads home with a vibrator to explore her vulva – honestly – for the first time:
“After the workshop, I timidly bought my first vibrator. It was red, like… strawberries, and after the transaction went through I thanked the woman for everything and quickly walked home. I went immediately back to my apartment, snuggled into bed, between the sheets and opened up my legs. I started slow. Reaching down with my fingers across my soft round belly, through my fine curly hair down to my ‘cushion.’ I placed my hand on my fat and started curling my pubic hair around with my finger and for a moment, I forgot every fat insult and fat phobic joke that had hailed me into place that week. I moved my finger down through my soft silky flesh and moved through my layers upon layers of labia, spreading apart my lips to a kind of fleshy utopia…”
Kitty Stryker wrote “Fat Sex Works,” in which she writes about her career as a fat sex worker in the US and the UK:
“I thought I had found the Promised Land for fat hos. The clients I had were polite and respectful, for the most part showing up on time, fresh, ready, and open-minded. Many of them, quite frankly, were attractive dorky guys I wanted to fuck anyway. My new clients adored my curves in a way San Francisco types generally hadn’t. They would lick my belly and kiss my thighs while I sighed dreamily at their British accents…”
There’s also my essay, “Pecan Pie, Sex & Other Revolutionary Things.” I write about how sex and men’s desire for me were miraculous when I was a teenager because I’d been told that no one would ever want me because I was fat. Much like a child who discovers a secret button for a machine that shoots out sparkly gumballs and pink unicorns, I was thrilled. And I pushed the button a lot.
I’m no stranger to people’s judgment of my sexuality and the way I choose to discuss it freely and display it aggressively. Sex is part of my life. Sexuality is part of me, my identity, my pleasure, my joy, my truth. I’ve had sex with myself and other people. And, goshdarnit, I’ve liked it almost every time. There’s not one type of body that magically transforms sex into a pure and perfect act that will withstand the judgments of every generation’s changing mores. Sometimes sex is beautiful, sometimes it’s dirty, sometimes it’s scary or confusing or just kind of “eh.” Sex is something we do with our bodies, our minds, for the sake of intimacy or convenience or release or misguided beliefs about what it will do for us. I couldn’t articulate my feelings on the subject better than Rachel Kacenjar does in her essay, “2Fat2Fuck:”
“Maybe I’d been fucking around for the wrong reasons, or shit, maybe they were the right ones. All I know is that I learned to love my body by letting other people love my body.”