“I used to say ‘overweight.’ But fat is a neutral word. If you look it up, it doesn’t say good or bad. I want to remove the negative associations,” explains fat Danish comedienne Sofie Hagen(they/them).
Hagen is not alone in the campaign to reclaim the word fat. It’s a universal movement, thanks to the constantly evolving body-positive/body-neutral movement and fat-positive activists.
They invite us to consider reframing the word and, in doing so, shifting the power dynamics by discarding the associated negativity. It’s an important reminder that language has so much power and constantly changes.
Society & Situation
Dr. Jenny Lee, an academic, activist and writer, addresses that situation and context matter when using the word fat, especially if you have a “smaller” body.
Lee suggests a few considerations: if you are fat – you are encouraged to use the word freely if you so choose. If you’re not, assess – what is your intention? Have you processed your personal biases? What is your relationship like with the person you are talking to or about? Have you asked them how they feel about you using it? Is there a descriptor they prefer to use? “Fat” may not be the chosen descriptor one chooses.
Despite body-positive movements, society is still lagging. “Thinness” continues to be pushed as the “ideal” and diet culture is prevalent. There continues to be a lack of respectful and accurate representation of fat folk across media. This is especially true for dating and love – we rarely see a storyline about a fat person dating or in love whose weight isn’t the butt of their storyline.
We want liberated, fat, sexy folks with beautiful love stories!
Aubrey Gordon, a fat, white, queer cis-woman, who is also an author, podcaster, and activist, says about society’s “success” with anti-fatness:
“It stops us before we start. Its greatest victory isn’t diet industry sales or lives postponed just until I lose a few more pounds. It’s the belief our bodies make us so worthless that we aren’t deserving of love or even touch.”
Dating as a fat person can be complicated, with inherited feelings of shame and unworthiness – often heightened when queer and fat. The last thing one wants is to date someone who is not actively fighting their internal biases or ignorance regarding fat folks.
So, if your partner is fat, regardless of whether it is a strictly sexual partner or a more romantic partner, below are some suggestions on how to best support them and what you’re better off avoiding.
My partner is fat. How can I best appreciate them?
Do not fetishize
This is a big one! It comes down to whether the person attracted to bigger bodies sees the person’s importance beyond the size. Size should and can be celebrated, but there is more to focus on than just body size. Of course, certain nuances come with discussions about desires and boundaries. But it’s a red flag if body size is all someone discusses and focuses on.
Do empower your partner and ask about language
Saying “no, you’re not fat!” to someone who literally chooses to describe themselves as fat can be insulting. This could be because you’re perhaps afraid to use the word as you associate it with society’s correlation of fat with lazy, unworthy, unattractive – an insult. It might be time to reflect on biases and what you know about fat bodies. Listening and asking what language your partner prefers is valuable, as not everyone will use fat.
Do not comment on food choices
There tends to be an assumption that larger bodies are seeking to change. Chances are, they are not – so comments about what your partner chooses to eat are incredibly unhelpful, downright rude and unwelcomed. Do not say things like, “maybe you should pick a healthier option,” or “do you need another?”
Show your partner off
Some fat folks have had to deal with partners who keep their relationship with larger bodies to themselves. This makes a fat partner feel like a shameful secret. This will depend on the nature of your relationship, of course, but don’t shy away from taking your partner out for meals, to the cinema, art galleries, drag shows, or whatever tickles your fancy.
Staying home all the time could imply you may carry some shame about your partner’s size.
Do listen to your partner
Nobody is immune to days with low self-esteem just because, or maybe it was brought on by someone’s ignorant comment. Either way, you should strive to be a safe place for your partner to discuss their fears, frustrations, and insecurities. Listening is often what your partner is looking for, without judgement. Try starting with open-ended questions, like, “What are you feeling?”, “What do you want more of right now?”
Do find activities you two can enjoy together
Trying something new with a partner can bring closeness and help you learn about them in different settings. Try something different and fun that allows you to laugh and be silly. This will look different for various interests, but maybe it is joining a book club together, a pottery class, bike riding, a cooking class, etc.
Do try props to enhance sex
Pillows, rolled-up towels, or wedges/sex-specific furniture can make sex more pleasurable for fat folks! Props help with balance, comfort, support and relieving additional strain. You can use them to support your head, hips, knees, anywhere that needs a little extra attention.
Don’t make assumptions when it comes to sex
Discussing boundaries, interests, and pleasure points is key for any healthy sexual relationship! Discuss bedroom boundaries like location, lights on/off, clothing/lingerie/nude, and positions that feel best for everyone.
Do consider pleasure enhancing sex toys
Sex toys can bring pleasure to new levels. For larger folks, penis extenders, vibrating penis rings, and sex slings are among the favourites for extra support.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with sex
Some sexual positions feel better for fat folks! This can include:
- Missionary with your partner’s legs around the waist
- A variation on doggy with your partner’s upper body on the bed
- Or with your partner on top while the other sits on a chair that’s low enough for the partner’s feet to touch the ground
Have fun experimenting with what works for you!
Finally, never assume fat folks’ needs or wants are the same! Treat your person as the individual they are – with all the individual nuances and respect they deserve.