11 Things You Learn About Body Positivity When You Date A Smaller Partner
I used to think that a fat woman dating a thin man was a sin to the universe. It was something "not done," because the world simply wouldn't be able to digest it. It was, perhaps, OK for fat men to date thin women, because then they could protect the girl and succeed in their pre-destined duties of manliness. But the opposite? What a disgrace.
I was taught as much by relatives, or friends of relatives; and things like my media consumption, bullies, a couple of mean-spirited bros in high school, and ingrained social norms only solidified that belief. As I started growing up, though, I began to realize the danger of this line of thinking. It's the kind of thinking tied to the promotion of homogenization — to the same systems of belief that say bodies of different colors or bodies of the same gender or bodies of varying cultural backgrounds just shouldn't mix.
The idea of fat, conventionally unattractive women having sex or falling in love with or being loved by thin, conventionally attractive dudes freaks some people out. Whether this is because humans who go against the status quo make a lot of people feel on edge, or because some (though not all) thin women might feel threatened by the fat woman fucking the "gorgeous" dudes who should be fucking the "gorgeous" women with toned legs and who "work hard for their bodies," or whether it's because we're afraid of the things we don't see, and fat people (especially women) dating thin people (especially men) isn't really something we ever see in mainstream media, I can't say for sure. But I do think it's all fueled by the oppression of fat bodies overall, and the sexism that so obviously still guides contemporary living.
And so, when you're a fat woman dating a smaller partner (like I am) you're likely to learn some things about body positivity and the world at large. Here are some of those things.
1. We Only See Like-Bodied Couples Paired Together In Our Media
Or at least, we only see fat men with thin women, or fat men with fat women (it's why Kevin James or Seth Rogan's on-screen loves can be women like Maria Bello or Katherine Heigl, but Rebel Wilson's has never been Kit Harington). Very rarely do we see a fat woman or feminine person paired with a conventionally attractive dude. In fact, with the exception of Gabourey Sidibe's sex scene on Empire , I don't think I've ever come across a sex scene of a fat chick and a "hot" guy. Let alone a sex scene in which said gal's weight wasn't, like, "a thing."
When you date a smaller partner, you become acutely aware of this fact. If ever your pairing feels weird, you begin to realize that it's likely as a direct result of never having been told that such a pairing is a perfectly reasonable and normal. Never having been told that all types of bodies can be attracted to all types of bodies.
2. People Are Very Confused About Sex
You're likely to become increasingly more alarmed about just how many people have no understanding of sex, anatomy, and the anatomy of fat bodies. With questions like, "Aren't you scared of crushing him when you ride?" or, "Doesn't your fat, like, get in the way?" (and yes, those are real questions I and others I know in similar romantic situations have been asked) it's more than evident that fat phobia can result in a shit ton of mark-missing assumptions.
But no, thigh fat does not prevent a penis from getting up in there. And I'm pretty sure crushing someone to death would require a whole lot more pressure than the grinding lower half of a 250 or 350-pound girl.
3. But Some Sexual Things Might Be A Little Different & That's OK
It stands to reason that — because all of us like different things in the bedroom and all of us come in different shapes — sexual encounters might have to be modified partner to partner and person to person in order for everyone to be happy. Having sex with a fat person isn't ever going to be the same as having sex with a thin one, much like having sex with one thin person isn't ever going to be the same as having sex with a different thin person. And that's OK.
In certain cases, there are some little things that can make sex more enjoyable for fat babes, though. As was written in blog Persephone Magazine's "Fat Sex: What Everyone Wants To Know But Is Afraid To Ask," sometimes the first step is to "overcome the idea that your partner doesn’t know how fat you are." Whether you then do things like place a pillow under the small or your back or under your butt to "give your partner optimal thrusting room since this positioning moves your thighs out of the way and really opens the vagina up for deep penetration" when you're doing missionary or "put a pillow under your partner’s butt to elevate him or her higher" when you're on top, there's no shame in tailoring your bedroom activities for whatever is going to feel best.
4. Sometimes Insecurities Are Totally Illogical, But No Less Real
For the first half a year or so of my relationship, I would sometimes find myself in a state of paranoia. What if Patrick didn't really like me? What if I was a pity fuck? What if he was just desperate? What if he only thought he liked larger women because a hot, thin one just hadn't come along? He's never said or done anything that should've made me question things in such a way, yet the fact that "hot people fall in love with hot people and fat, ugly people fall in love with fat, ugly people" was this unwritten rule I'd been hearing my whole life still made my insecurities flair up with all the fervor of any irrational but socially-fueled insecurity.
Sometimes you might hear a horror story. Something about a teenage dude whose buddies bribed him him to ask the fat girl in history class to prom in exchange for illegal beer. But from my experiences, they're pretty rare.
5. Gender Roles Were Made To Be Broken
Having grown up in a very traditional home, gender roles were the foundation of many a rule and moral that someone or other tried to instill in me. Men make the most money; women keep the house looking nice. Men are the strong, tall, big ones in the relationship, so they can look after their small, frail women. By the time I was ready to start dating, I was only ever encouraged to pursue relationships with the guys who could stand behind me and not disappear, casualties of my girth. It didn't matter if they were "my type," or if we had anything in common, so long as their presence diminished mine.
But you know what? Being the bigger one in the relationship has been a blast. I love being the big spoon in bed, and knowing I can pick up my partner and spin him around when the mood strikes and for no other reason than to be silly. Abandoning all these siziest and gender-based "rules" of my childhood and adolescence has been hugely empowering. Sometimes, your relationship might feel like a political metaphor for your beliefs. And having that visible representation of concepts you care about only ever feels like a good thing.
6. Sizing Is Pretty Bullshit
My partner wears a size small in men's and 28 or 30-inch pants. I wear a 2X and would wear 50-inch pants if we're going by the circumference of my hips. But you know what's funny? I can basically fit into any of his T-shirts. Sure, they're snug. But no more than a form-fitting T-shirt in my actual size would be.
At some point or another in your relationship, you might find yourself playing dress-up and coming across a very similar realization: Sizing is weird, and it's pretty bullshit. Most of us know by now that sizing inconsistencies are pretty much guaranteed store to store. Yet we assign so much weight to these numbers — so much moral value, even. Sometimes all it takes to remember that size makes very little sense is to squeeze into your thin partner's size S Courage The Cowardly Dog tee and realize you actually look pretty good.
7. The Only Person Who Can Limit You Is You
"Society" is one of these words that can feel extremely overwhelming. No one seems quite sure how to define it or what its parameters are, yet we talk about it constantly and hold it accountable for much of our woes, both the micro and the macro. And, yes, saying "society has contributed to how shitty I feel about my body" feels totally accurate. Media-perpetuated body shame is undoubtedly a real thing, and it — combined with all the people who end up further perpetuating it still — can sometimes feel like enough to want to crawl into a hole and escape it all. It might make you feel unworthy of love — and especially of love by someone conventionally attraction. It might make you feel unworthy of pretty clothes. It might make you feel like your body can't possibly be "right" until you make a change.
But something about dating a thin partner can shed light on just how ridiculous it all is. When you date someone who by society's standards simply shouldn't be dating you, you realize that nothing all the bad will happen. The world won't implode. Few people will actually be traumatized. And all those insecurities you were subscribing to — even if perpetuated by television or film or magazines — can only survive if you allow them to.
8. Beauty Is One Of The Most Subjective Things In The World
Yep. We all like different things, and this applies to our romantic or sexual partners. Much like one person might think Piet Mondrian was a genius while another might think he was an insult to artists the world over, the way we perceive beauty in other humans is entirely our own. Since dating Patrick, I've caught myself paying more attention to the pairings I see in day to day life. Be it on Instagram, on the subway, or at one of the infinite Starbucks in New York City, different kinds of couples are all around us.
It's quite tragic that many of us grow up to believe that only certain body types deserve love. That only certain body types can ever actually find love. But sometimes all it takes to be reminded of the contrary is to just.look.around.
9. Preferences Don't Equal Fetishism, But Fetishism Doesn't Have To Be A Bad Thing
Another thing fat girls often grow up hearing is that if they ever do somehow manage to find someone who will love them or want to have sex with them, that person will undoubtedly be a chubby chaser. Or worse? Some kind of perverted, fat fetishist who only wants them for their body and nothing more. It's a weird ass thing to be told: That we're either too ugly and too fat to find someone, or we're too ugly and too fat to find someone who can see past the sexiness of our bods. Confusing...
There are folks out there who are attracted to all body types. There are folks out there who are mostly attracted to thin people. And yes, there are folks out there who are mostly attracted to fat women, men, or anyone in between. But these preferences don't necessarily make that person a "fetishist." They just make that person a human. And side note: I truly believe that the reason many people fear fat fetishism has less to do with being uncomfortable over sexism and more to do with being uncomfortable over fat bodies being perceived as or feeling like sexual beings. Because that's just gross, right?
10. People Are Quick To Offer Backhanded & Not-So-Backhanded Remarks
If there's anything Millennials know firsthand about human beings at this point, it's that when given access to the Internet, people will often go batshit crazy and unleash their wrath onto you for no feasible reason. Whenever I've posted an image of my partner and I onto my social media, especially Twitter, I've received at least a couple of, "How did you manage that's," or, "Why is he with you's?" Hell, I've gotten those in person a couple of times too.
Everyone in this world has an opinion, and many of those everyone's won't hesitate to tell you all about theirs. As with any form of bullying or trolling, sometimes it's hard to step aside or ignore or shrug it off. But most of the time, doing so is worth it. If you're feeling up to the challenge, educating someone on the subjectivity of beauty and their own internalized gender roles can undoubtedly be a good thing to do. But if that seems more daunting and mental health-sacrificing than it's worth, it's really not one person's responsibility to educate the masses.
11. You'll Be Confronted With Any Internalized Fat Shaming You're Still Holding Onto
When you are the recipient of some of those aforementioned comments, you might find yourself feeling conflicted. Maybe you're back to questioning your partner's motives or maybe you catch yourself comparing your weights and wondering whether it's really "OK" to be 130 pounds heavier than your boo. Dating a smaller partner can be a vulnerable thing, because it puts you in this position of breaking a rule. And when you break a rule, people will talk.
But want to know a secret? Being confronted with any lingering internalized fat shaming is so important. Most of us have been conditioned to believe the same shit. So most of us have been conditioned to wake up in our fatter bodies and feel that urge to tear them apart. Getting over all those things take time, but breaking rules and doing so without apologizing to anyone along the way will eventually lead you to this place. This place where you never stop to question whether your cellulite-covered ass is beautiful or how attracted your partner could possibly be to it. You just know that it is, and that they are, and that society, like Jon Snow, sometimes knows nothing.
Images: Lucy Cartwright Photography/Marie Southard Ospina