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 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.
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.