Originally published on The Body Is Not an Apology and republished here with their permission.
In my Sexuality Studies Master’s program at San Francisco State University, I struggled for a while trying to come up with a way to connect my interest in the Fat Acceptance movement and in the field of Fat Studies to the realm of sexuality.
While trying to solidify my thesis topic at the intersection of Sex and Fat, I decided to play around with a popular Fat Studies concept that was originally meant to be nothing more than a personal writing point.
I turned to the concept of Health at Every Size, a set of beliefs and practices meant to help Fat Studies researchers, public health researchers, doctors, and anyone interested in Fat Acceptance concentrate research, health care, and activist efforts on dismantling the popular notion that fatness inevitably means unhealthiness.
According to the Fat Studies Reader, edited by Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay, the five most important aspects of Health at Every Size are:
1. Enhancing health (not focusing on weight loss)
2. Size and self-acceptance
3. The pleasure of eating well
4. The joy of movement (finding fun in exercise)
5. An end to weight bias
Inspired by the Health at Every Size model of breaking down fat discrimination, and wanting to work it into my thought process related to Sexuality Studies, I hoped to come up with my own fat-positive model of sex and sexuality.
Toward the end of my second semester of graduate school, and after giving this model a great deal of thought, I gave a presentation called “Fat Sexuality as a Moral Panic in the United States.” The goal was to talk about how sexuality is stripped from people who are considered fat, overweight, or obese.
Any sexuality that surrounds such people becomes a cause for nationwide ridicule and is considered perverse.
I ended the presentation with my brand new, hopefully thought-provoking, and cleverly titled model, “Sex at Every Size” (not to be confused with the Good Vibrations campaign Sexy at Every Size).
Feeling quite proud of myself, I presented my own five points of the model, some of which stayed very close to the original:
1. Redefining sex and sexy
2. Public displays of fatness (rocking that lingerie or taking those sexy pictures)
3. Sex positivity for all
4. Beyond fetishism (moving the discussion of fat sexuality away from one that assumes it is inherently a fetish or perverse)
5. An end to weight bias (specifically related to what weight means to sex and sexuality)
The class was, surprisingly, very receptive to this model. As I started doing my research, though, I felt that this list was far too limited.
I was interviewing awesome young folks about their road to fat acceptance, along with their experiences of racism and sexual identity development, and all of the information I was getting made me think about what a comprehensive model of “Sex at Every Size” would look like.
After finishing my research and leaving that model by the wayside for the sake of writing a legible thesis and graduating from the program, I went back to “Sex at Every Size” with the conversations I had had in my interviews – and with my analysis of them – fresh in my mind.
I realized that it would be useful to focus less on the research aspect of fat sexuality and more on the everyday experiences of fat people and how they felt about their lives.
So, I hereby present to you, the new and improved “Sex at Every Size.”
1. There Is Nothing Wrong with Sex
If you want to have sex, you should!
There is no point in suppressing your desires if you feel that you’re ready for sex.
If you’re not ready, don’t rush (of course!), but don’t be afraid of exploring your desires with yourself or through talking with others.
And of course, if you don’t want to or don’t feel the need to have sex, that’s perfectly fine too!
2. You Have Every Right to Express Your Desires
If you’ve decided to have sex, you have the right to discuss all of your desires with your partner.
One of the keys to any relationship – whether it’s a fling, a long-term deal, or a purely sexual encounter – is communicating what you like and don’t like and what makes your comfortable and uncomfortable.
3. Consent Is Important for Everyone
Both you and your partner should be openly expressing consent to have sex.
If you don’t want to have sex with your partner or don’t want to try something, it’s important to communicate that to your partner, and you should also listen to your partner’s discomfort.
If you are having trouble communicating your discomfort in the face of pressure, try finding a friend or family member you can hash out your thoughts with and who might be able to help you talk to your partner.
4. There Is No Need to ‘Settle’
The concept of “settling” can indeed be unsettling, but you shouldn’t feel that you need to forgo your own desires just to have sex.
If you feel that you’re not going to be happy, or that you’re not going to enjoy your sexual encounter, don’t force yourself to move forward.
Never enter a relationship that is mentally, emotionally, or physically abusive.
5. Try Those Positions
Maybe you feel that you can’t do a certain position during sex because you’re “too fat.”
First of all, there’s no such thing as “too fat!”
Second, you don’t know if you don’t try! That “impossible” position may be the best position you’ve tried.
Of course, as with anything, if you feel that you’re body is being pushed or twisted in a way that may lead to or re-aggravate an injury, tread lightly.
There are a plethora of sex toys out there, and they can always be integrated into your sex life (and just might help you improvise those “impossible” positions).
Strap-ons, dildos, vibrators (ones made for clit stimulation, g-spot stimulation, prostate stimulation, and so on), cock rings, oh my! Not to mention whips, paddles, handcuffs, ropes, and other things if you want to explore the BDSM realm.
Unfortunately, these things can be expensive; however, you can look on the Internet for inexpensive alternatives.
7. Fat Sex Doesn’t Have to Be a Fetish
At no moment in your sexual relationship should you feel objectified. Your body does not have to be the only basis for your sexual encounter. However, don’t be afraid of exploring the fetish world! It’s perfectly fine to engage in a fetish-based relationship if that’s what you enjoy.
8. The Internet Is an Amazing Place
Explore, explore, explore!
There are endless possibilities for places and communities on the interwebz to help you explore your sexuality and desires.
Fat positive tumblrs, queer and feminist porn, sex tips for fat folks, online dating, exhibitionist outlets, anything you can think of.
Don’t be afraid of getting to that “weird” part of the Internet, because that my just end up being your favorite part! Also, private browsing (aka “Incognito” on Google Chrome) is your friend if you’re on a shared computer.
Of course, this isn’t the end-all-be-all list of fat sexy times (in the same way that Health At Every Size isn’t the end-all-be-all of fat health).
If you feel that you have something to add or change, let’s talk about it! The best way to promote fat sexuality is to talk about it with other fat folks, especially fat folks of color, queer fat folks, trans and gender non-conforming fat folks, and fat folks with disabilities.
So, I’m inviting you all into this discussion with an altered Salt ‘n’ Pepa quote: “Let’s talk about (fat) sex!”
To learn more about this topic, check out:
- What Happens If We Let Fat People Be Happy?
- How Not to Make Love to a Fat Girl
- Fat Men Are a Feminist Issue
- Fatphobia: 5 Facts and a Guide for the Disbeliever
Philippe Leonard Fradet is a content writer for The Body Is Not an Apology as well as a fat studies/sexuality studies researcher. You can check out his writings on his Tumblr.