Why I'm OK With The Term BBW As A Descriptor For My Plus Size Body

Within the body positive community, many plus size women have taken back the word "fat" and are using it with connotations of empowerment. When it comes to using the term BBW (big, beautiful woman) when describing plus size women, however, the term doesn't always hold the same kind of inspiring potential.

From my experience, I've found that a lot of women feel disdain for the term because of its connection to the "fetish" or porn communities. When some ladies are called BBWs, they might feel that they are being perceived as somebody's fetish, rather than as human beings. Many women, thus, support the #iamnotafetish notion — and it's totally understandable in some respects. Although that line of thinking is one I can completely rationalize and empathize with, though, I don't happen to share in the same opinion.

Let me begin by saying that I am in no way trying to discredit or nullify the opinions people hold, or the offense some individuals take up with the term. Every one of us has had very different experiences that have helped shape our attitudes towards such things. This is merely my own interpretation of being called a "BBW" — something I happen to look upon in a positive light.

Here's the thing: I owe a lot of my self love, confidence, and passion towards body positivity to this term. Not only do I completely relate to it (I am a big, beautiful woman, y'all), but I also respect (madly respect, honestly) the term for being so deeply connected to the very root of the body positive community.

Many years ago, when the world-wide-web was introduced to homes everywhere and the sounds of dial-up (and frustrated parents who couldn't use the phone) were heard across the land, a young, teenage me discovered a hidden world: An online, BBW world. Up until this point, I had always felt quite alone in the universe when it came to being a fat girl. Sure, there were a handful of fat people my age sprinkled here and there, but they were few and far between. So one night, sitting at my computer in the dark basement with only the neon glow from the screen for light, I typed in the words: Big girl chat room into the search bar.

Like any hormonal teenager, I wanted to experience the feelings of connection, belonging and, hey, maybe even a little taste of romance. I didn't really know what I expected to find, but sure enough my search came up with several results. As I skimmed through the list of sites wide-eyed, I noticed that a lot of them were dating platforms that used the term "BBW." Confused, I immediately decided to log into one of the BBW dating chat rooms and do exactly that — chat. Little did I know that chat would have a profound effect on the development of my confidence and pride as a plus size women.

After a few hours of asking questions in chat rooms, I was amazed to discover that not only did "BBW" mean "big, beautiful woman/women," but that there was an entire community of humans who did, in fact, find big women to be beautiful. For me, that was key. Back then, the Internet was a new thing, and the "plus size community" was nowhere near as defined as it is today.

I never knew that there were men out there who could actually find me attractive. I always believed (as you do when you are young and insecure about your body) that if I did happen to find a man who loved me, then he simply "wouldn't mind" that I was bigger. He would tolerate me, but not actually desire me. Before I discovered the online fat community, I had tried to turn my sexuality off. Fat people weren't supposed to be sexual beings, after all. We were disgusting, diseased, shameful, and unattractive. I felt I had to hide my entire sexual identity because of this, never allowing myself the freedom of connecting with my body in a way that would allow me to connect with my sexuality.

As the years went by, I participated more and more in the BBW community. I made online profiles (including dating profiles where I would happily list myself as a "BBW body type"), I went to BBW social gatherings, and I even started modeling (having an appreciative audience was something the acting and drama-lover in me adored). And I learned a lot along the way.

First, I learned that the amount of plus size people (and the people who are attracted to them) in this world is a lot larger than I ever imagined. As the Internet became more and more popular and commonly used, I watched the community grow rapidly. Suddenly, the fat politics community started gaining ground, and I even saw (quite literally) "the birth" of the plus size fashion community a little later down the road.

Second, I learned that I was wrong regarding how people saw me. I used to walk around feeling ashamed of my body, like everyone believed I was ugly or disgusting. After being a part of the BBW community, however, I encountered a plethora of men and women who happened to believe that not only was I beautiful, but that I was hot, too. "Hot" was never something I had been called before, nor had I ever considered myself in this way, either. But when you're told something enough, you finally start to believe it. While validation towards yourself shouldn't depend on validation from others, the comments I would receive from people (and yes, that sometimes included "creepy" ones from guys) helped flipped my entire perception of the world.

When it comes to the term BBW and its connection to the fat fetish community, I think a lot of people tend to forget that sexuality is a natural part of human life. The "fetish" community (which largely consists of fully autonomous, empowered women who genuinely love modeling, being in videos, maintaining a higher weight because they are personally empowered by it or find their bodies more attractive when fat, or are attracted to fatness in others) gave me a safe space for exploration.

When I finally felt the freedom to feel sexy, I was able to begin building my confidence up in all other aspects of my life as well. I felt stronger as a woman, more powerful, and certainly more sure of myself after embracing myself as a BBW. But when it comes to not liking being "seen as a fetish," I suggest we take a deeper, more patient look at what that actually means.

Having a big enough community expressing their natural love and appreciation for the plus size body speaks volumes towards our fight for equality. Aren't the people who find fat women beautiful part of the conversation, too? Don't they also play an important part in this movement of ours? They are our cheerleaders, our supporters, our fighters, our partners.

When it comes to my own personal relationship, I'd much rather be with someone who not only loves me for who I am, but also desires me and the body I have worked so hard to love and be proud of. I identify as a plus size, fat woman, and for me, I want that to play some kind of part when it comes to my sexuality (and not something that is just tolerated or simply ignored).

I'm in no way suggesting that the only place to discover your own confidence and self worth should be via in the eyes and opinions of men (or others in general), of course, because that's never going to be the case. People find inspiration for confidence and self worth in all kinds of different ways, and each person has their own experiences that have helped to shape how they feel about themselves in relation to the world. What I am suggesting, however, is that there is value in seeing yourself as beautiful, attractive, and sexual through someone else's eyes (especially when you may not have ever experienced that kind of sensation before).

As someone who owes a lot of her positive, personal development to the BBW community, I will forever be OK with being referred to as a BBW. I remember my roots, where I first found a connection to my sexuality, my body, and myself. Thanks to years of being a BBW, my confidence, passion, and talent have led me to actively participate in all aspects of the plus size community: Sexual, sociopolitical, and sartorial.

So to all of those who like their women BBW (thanks, Drake!) and to the fellow women who proudly identify as BBWs: Thank you. Thank you for being part of my own journey towards self love, personal strength, and confidence. Thank you for providing a safe space to interact and to discuss fat sex. Thank you for helping make me feel sexy and comfortable as a woman in my own body. Thank you for making me feel like a woman in touch with her own sexuality. Thank you for being part of the root of the body positive movement. Thank you for all the light you shed on my world, and for all the love, appreciation, inspiration, and support.

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Images: Courtney Mina; khaleesidelrey/Instagram; Giphy