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Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012

A Column Inspired by Fat-Shaming Spam

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At this time of year, we are bombarded with messages about losing weight – magazine articles, online ads, e-mail spam. I get a specialized kind of spam in my SEXpress inbox: promises that being thin will vastly improve one’s sex life. I’d like to call bullshit on this particular kind of fat-shaming.

Fat people are often stereotyped as being lazy, uneducated, and unhealthy. These types of negative labels are especially attached to fat people’s sexuality: fat is seen as the antithesis of the young, thin image of sexiness that is constantly presented to us. Fat people (especially women) are presented as sexual jokes or horror stories.

Fortunately, right next to the ugly spam in my inbox are messages about new, positive resources and representations of fat people’s sexuality. Hanne Blank recently revised her book Big Big Love: A Sex and Relationship Guide for People of Size and Those Who Love Them, as well as releasing Zaftig: Well-Rounded Erotica. Prolific erotica writer and editor Rachel Kramer Bussel published Curvy Girls: Erotica for Women this year. Fat Sex: The Naked Truth by Rebecca Jane Weinstein and Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion by Virgie Tovar also came out in 2012.

Readers take note: links in this paragraph are not-safe-for-work, because, you know, porn stars
. Sex-positive, ethically made pornography that celebrates rather than denigrates larger people can be a great visual way to explode the myth that fat is not sexy. Plus-size porn stars April Flores (who is featured on the cover of Hot & Heavy) and Courtney Trouble have new projects in this genre. April Flores World is April’s latest DVD, and a new photography book featuring April, Fat Girl, will be released in 2013. Ms. Trouble recently launched her own production company, Trouble Films, and the third release from this label is Lesbian Curves, which comes out January 15. Kelly Shibari, who appears in Lesbian Curves, was the first “BBW” porn star to have a Fleshlight male masturbation sleeve modeled after her this year, although oddly, it no longer appears on the Fleshlight site.

While it is a totally false, negative stereotype that fat people are not sexy or sexual, it is true that larger folks might find certain sex positions, toys or products suit their needs better than smaller folks. One of my favorite sex bloggers, Dangerous Lilly, reviews toys from the perspective of a larger person. SpareParts Hardware is a small company making dildo harnesses that goes out of its way to create sexy, comfortable, functional harnesses that fit a wide range of body types without binding or cutting (it’s a mystery to me why SpareParts only features pictures of skinny people on its website, since our larger customers absolutely love their products). I was really pleased that this year, lingerie maker Leg Avenue came out with a line of plus-size lingerie that is specifically designed for larger women – not just bigger versions of their pieces made with smaller bodies as the model.

I’m glad that in 2012, there seemed to be more new resources than ever before that celebrate fat people’s sexuality. You may have resolved to “lose weight” or “get in shape” earlier this week. If you are doing so because you (and not someone else who is shaming or pressuring you) believe it would improve your health or your life in some way, then carry on (and maybe let Hanne Blank’s latest book, The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts, inspire you). But if you made such a resolution because you have been made to feel bad about yourself or your sexuality, step away from the unrealistic diet book and check out some of the resources listed above.

Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.