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Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014

'Oscars of Porn' Recognize Plus-Size Performers

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On Saturday, Jan. 18, AVN Media Network held the 2014 AVN Awards Show at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Dubbed the “Oscars of adult,” the AVN Awards have highlighted industry insider picks for the best erotic films, performers and products for the past 30 years. In 2014, the awards introduced the category of BBW Performer of the Year, which was won by the legendary April Flores. http://www.fattyd.com/.

BBW stands for “big beautiful woman” and has long been used by dating sites, porn and some fat activists as shorthand for unapologetically sexual women who fall outside the incredibly narrow range of body types that are considered “attractive” in mainstream U.S. culture. So why did it take until 2014 for AVN to recognize this category?

I have mixed feelings about this new award category. On one hand, I’m glad that the most well-known adult industry awards are recognizing that larger women are sexy and sexual. On the other hand, this probably means that the Best Actress and Female Performer of the Year categories will continue to be won by skinny people with preternaturally large boobs and/or butts rather than people of diverse body types—but that probably would have happened anyway.

In this battle of recognition vs. ghettoization, recognition may be an important first step. The week before the AVN Awards, I was talking to a student who was writing as essay about feminist porn that included a discussion of diverse body sizes as a hallmark of the genre. This student had shown some feminist porn featuring BBWs to friends to see their reactions and responses, which were mostly laughter or ridicule. I believe this reaction is in part defensive. We’ve been taught that there’s only one type of attractive female body, and to show attraction to any other type is to deviate from social norms and risk being shamed. So what do we do? Laugh at fat bodies to distance ourselves from them. An award like the AVN BBW Performer of the Year demonstrates that there are lots of people who find fat ladies to be super sexy, explodes the myth that there is only one type of sexually attractive body, and hopefully leads to more authentic expressions of sexual desires. For a great discussion of the effect that myth has on us, read xojane’s recent column, “I’m Fat, Forty and Single and I’m Having No Problems Getting Laid All the Time.”  

If you want more fat-positive sexuality resources, check out my past columns on good sex positions for larger people and new resources on fat sex.

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.

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