Fat Phobia – Not Sexy, Not Positive

April Flores

by Anna

One incident during last weekend’s Porn Festival really made me think.  It happened while watching a few scenes from Tristan Taormino’s Rough Sex 2.   Great film. You should see it.

Anyway, it was a midnight showing, and and several groups of  people wandered in late. One group of Germans sat down behind me and a group of young-ish Americans in the aisle where I was sitting. These groups arrived in the middle of Madison Young’s pony-play scene. After that was over, there was a scene involving some light dominance.  April Flores was the sub and  Claire Adams was the domme. As soon as the two started fucking, there were groans all around. The Germans behind me were all “that’s gross, who wants to see that.  Those fat Americans.”  The American group  consisted of what seemed to be two (hetero) couples. The guys were glued to the screen, one of the girls kept leaving and coming back, and the other girl was voicing her disapproval rather loudly. Her remarks ranged from “that’s disgusting” to “I’ve never seen a butt so big” and culminated in a “why would they make a movie like this, people want to look at hot bitches, nobody wants to look at that.” At this point I turned around with a “Maul zu” (German for ‘Shut your trap’) for those behind me, and sent a “why don’t you shut the fuck up, we’re trying to watch here” down the aisle.   I paid good money for my ticket and intended to enjoy the show.
Things quieted down until the next scene, when a buxom Sinnamon Love is introduced and discussion starts about a BDSM scene involving domestic service. At this point, the girl a couple seats down can’t hold back anymore and she says something to the effect of, “I simply have to leave – this girl’s butt isn’t as big as the other one’s, but it’s too much and I can’t support something that promotes being fat: it’s unhealthy and what’s wrong with our country.” She rises, clutches her purse to her bosom, and rushes out. Her friends reluctantly follow.

My initial reaction:  There’s a guy threatening to cut off the female protagonist’s breast with a knife, and the thing that really freaks you out is her big ass? Really? Seriously?

"The Adipositivity Project aims to promote size acceptance, not by listing the merits of big people, or detailing examples of excellence (these things are easily seen all around us), but rather, through a visual display of fat physicality. The sort that's normally unseen. The hope is to widen definitions of physical beauty. Literally."

The thing about this off-screen drama is that the girl conflates representation with promotion. The logic seems to be: ‘if we show or see fat people having sex and being sexy, then everyone will want to be fat and we’ll all be getting reverse-liposuction! In order to protect the (non- or low-fat) public from this, it is best for fat people to hide, to not be seen, and to be shamed into dieting until they are thin enough to deserve to be seen having sex and loving others (i.e.  be human at all).

This, my friends, is called Fat Phobia.  It is a kind of bigotry, and sounds like other kinds of bigotry. Think about initial responses to TV shows, movies and books in which gay characters are represented – especially if they happen to be normal, healthy and successful people. There’s suddenly a ‘gay agenda’ and ‘pushing their lifestyle on everyone else’.  What actually happens, and what many bigots are afraid of, is that when everyone gets seen as the complicated humans they are, the shame and fear go away.  When we see April Flores all hot and sexy, or fat actors kissing on TV, we don’t get to pretend that fat people can’t have happy, loving, sexy lives anymore.  The scary story upon which the weight-loss industry depends – that weight gain is always horrible and will ruin your life – is quickly revealed to be a fiction.

The Fat Acceptance Movement has done an awesome job of creating culture that refutes these scare-tales.   One recent project was the Big Fat Kiss-In outside of Marie Claire in protest of a rather cruel piece by their writer Maura Kelly*. There were people of all sizes kissing each other, and blowing kisses to passers-by.  For those unable to join in the NYC action, there’s the Big Fat Blog’s Virtual Kiss-in (F.Y.I – they’re still accepting pictures!).

One resource that I really want to explore, once I have more access to English-language books is Big Big Love, by Hanne Blank. Working on the premise that sex guides like the Joy of Sex describe positions in ways that privilege thin bodies as normative, Big Big Love focuses on issues particular to fat bodies having sex.  This is much needed.  Truly inclusive sexual information addresses the requirements of many different kinds of bodies explicitly.

The biggest misconception about fat people and sex that I've attempted to clear up is actually a two-for-the-price-of-one misconception: the idea that fat people don't have sex or romantic relationships because they're not sexually attractive to anybody, ever, full stop. It simply isn't true, and never has been. - Hanne Blank

Suggesting a possible need for ‘Big Big Love, vol. 2’ are the fantastic comments to Marianne Kirby’s blog post entitled ‘Fatties Have Sex.’ Readers go further than modifying sex positions to accommodate fat bodies and  ask the question ‘what can you do in bed because you’re fat? Different body types don’t just have different needs, they have different advantages too. Sexual pleasure is for human beings, all of us who want it, no exceptions.

*In response to the negative feedback, Ms. Kelly issued an apology.


  1. It’s one thing to be immature and an asshole.
    It’s another thing to “promote” or “accept” being fat like it’s a positive thing at all.

    Americans ARE epidemically fat. Europeans DO live a healthier lifestyle on the whole. (both eating locally and getting more exercise)

    There are significant health risks to being overweight. Diabetes, heart disease, circulation problems and sleep apnea are just a few.

    Is that cool? Is that sexy? Is that healthy? No.

    Accepting yourself is one thing….but being deliberately obtuse to a health risk condition is another.

    I can also say that the “fat movement” seems to me like a dilettante cry from people without the correct education and support to GET healthy – stop the double doubles and learn new and healthier ways of eating and living.

    I detest people that impinge their suppressive agenda on BOTH sides of this very laden picnic table of an issue.

    Pressure from family to STAY fat” just like them” …..pressure from peers to lose more and more weight to ” be popular, sexy, in fashion..etc…whatever”

    There is a REASON Beauty in all it’s many forms tends to lean on the side of a healthy body with proportionate curves, cuts and definition.

    It’s about health.

    I’d like everyone to knock it off with the whining on both sides and just get to the gym and then eat healthy.

  2. April Flores turns me on so much! I can think of several advantages to her body: it’s soft and round all over, with plenty for me to bury my face into.

  3. Lilly, for what it’s worth, tossing out your opposition to both sides doesn’t exempt you from clearly being on one of them. You have some important points here, but they’re mired in exactly the same kind of rhetoric that you’re accusing others of having.

    As Anna noted, representing people of different sizes does not inherently promote the healthiness of the people being represented. I’m always reluctant to get into conversations about weight, whether it be on the topics of phobias or pride. It’s not a black or white issue and both sides have valid points. That extra weight is connected to health problems is not a reason to hide heavy people or shame them.

    Education plays a huge role in helping people understand the nutritional value (or lack thereof) of the food and drinks that they consume, but not everyone has access to that information. Access to healthy foods and good information is affected by everything from socioeconomic class to education levels. People should not be ignored or ridiculed for their weight; not every overweight person lives off of double-doubles.

    As to there being a \reason\ that beauty in all of its many forms leans on the side of a healthy body, your statement doesn’t hold true. Various ideas of beauty have thrived throughout the ages, and even recent research into concepts like waist-to-hip ratios show that common perceptions of beauty change from culture to culture, and even depend on what angle you’re viewing a person from. Beauty is subjective, and the way a culture deals with beauty shouldn’t be used to comment on the health of its citizenry.

    Weight is not the only indicator of someone’s health, and it shouldn’t be the only indicator of their beauty. Health concerns should be addressed and education should be focused on, but protesting a woman’s ass on the screen isn’t how you do that.

  4. Velvet Lily:
    the relationship between weight and health is a really complex subject as is the question of healthy and permenant weight loss.

    Regardless of where the science comes down on these issues, I still maintain that it is culturally and politically irresponsible as well as inhumane to shame anyone into sexual invisibility (or to banish them to a fetishy corner) because of their bodies.

    If beauty and sexy really had such a one-to-one correlation with leanness, how do you explain April Flores’ success as a porn star?

    I’m also really curious about what you think about books like Big Big Love. In your view is it ethical to have a discussion about sexual pleasure in a fat body? Or should the only kind of media that addresses and acknowledges the existence of fat people be weight loss manuals?

  5. If women who have sleep apnea, diabetes, or other weight-affected conditions shouldn’t be glorified, then why are there so many famous women who are (I’m conjecturing without proof) too thin to be menstruating? And for those females who manage to stay as thin as society would like them through lots of jogging and running, why am I not being warned that they will require knee replacement surgery in a few decades?

    And even if we argue that only medically healthy humans should be seen, I’d have to mention someone I know who is medically obese yet has a great heart-rate, cholesterol levels, etc.

  6. First, I love me some April Flores. I think she’s dead sexy.

    Second, there are a lot of unhealthy behaviors that are depicted in media as they occur in real life. When was the last time someone walked out of a movie because characters smoked, drank to excess or did drugs? It seems to me that only the most conservative commentators accuse those who simply depict these behaviors of promoting them.

    Fat people exist. Many of them have fulfilling sex lives. Pretending they don’t isn’t going to motivate anyone to get on a treadmill. If we want to talk about pornography promoting unhealthy behavior, I think we’d have to start with unprotected sex before we get to being fat.

    Yes, being overweight does come with health risks. So does steroid use, or breast implants, or eating disorders. When was the last time you walked out of a movie because the men were too muscular, or the women were too thin or had boob jobs?

    It sounds to me like people who are turned off by fat bodies are using concern for people’s health as a smoke screen. I don’t have to manufacture any medical reason not to watch adult-baby porn. It’s just not my kink.

    I also see a gender double standard at work here. Ron Jeremy has been the most successful male porn star in history, and while people openly acknowledge that he’s fat, hairy and not leading man handsome, in all these years I’ve never heard any concern for his health or accusation that he’s promoting an unhealthy lifestyle with regard to diet and exercise. Nor have I heard this leveled against mainstream actors like James Gandolfini, Kevin James, or John Goodman. It seems to be a weapon used exclusively against overweight women who own their sexuality.

  7. I have lost over 100 pounds via diet and exercise. I am now a solid size large. I’m still not considered the perfect weight, according to the entertainment industry. I don’t let it stop me. I am proud of what I have accomplished and can FINALLY wear sexier clothing. So my butt isn’t tiny and perfect. Whatevs. I am finding the people I attract into my life admire my curves and spend a great deal of time enjoying them. WOO!!

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