Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sex and Weight

Yesterday, I was interviewed by an online magazine on the topic of overweight* women and dating. Specifically, the interviewer asked questions about why thinness is glorified in women, how overweight women struggle in general and particularly with regard to dating. She wondered if overweight women might miss out on sexual opportunities and how these women might become more comfortable with sex. And then a bomb dropped: "What do you think about the idea that overweight women are easy?" (as in
sexually promiscuous. . . as in, in order to compensate for their weight)

Is this true? And, even if it's a stereotype, since most stereotypes are based on a glimmer of truth, why do you think this is?

*her word, not mine

29 comments:

vesta44 said...

Personally, there was a time in my life when I was considered "easy". I wasn't fat at the time, but I had been abused by my mother, physically, emotionally, and mentally. I got no love from her, and I was looking for love anywhere I could find it (and being young, I confused sex with love). As I got older, and fatter, things didn't improve much in that regard. It took years of therapy for me to figure out that it wasn't something wrong with me that made my mother unable to love me, it was something in her. When I finally figured that out, and started working on my self-esteem, realizing that I was a worthwhile person, I quit looking for outside validation through sex.
This may fall into TMI, but I decided that I didn't need a man to validate my sexual attractiveness (or a woman, since I'm bi). I had reached the point where I decided if people didn't like me as I was, then I didn't need them in my life, not for sex, not just to say I had people in my life. I would rather be alone than put up with crap just to have a warm body next to me in bed. This was my beginning on the road to FA, before I even knew what FA was. So, yeah, I think it's probably a stereotype based partly on fact, there are some fat women who are looking for love and settling for sex. And we all know that it only takes a few people in any oppressed category doing something considered "wrong" to set up a stereotype in order to keep that group oppressed. Just my take on it, from personal experience, YMMV, of course.

Fauve said...

I think men can be predators toward the so-called "easy" woman, whether she's fat or thin. That said, I Have heard of men who refer to fat women as "piggies" and delight in using them for fun and sport and then discarding them. I think part of it is that many men get alot of criticism and ribbing from their buddies if they date a fat women. Yet, there is an undeniable attraction that many men feel toward larger women. So, such men both want to exploit the fat woman and also give in to their attraction. So they have these completely hateful attitudes. Then, too, fat women have been so conditioned to think and feel in such a negative way toward themselves, that they are more vulnerable, or can be, to such men. They might also fight much loneliness and want to date and fall in love like other women. Any woman, in fact, who hates herself, is vulnerable to a man using her. My lowest weight had me quite beautiful and slender in my twenties. I also hated myself badly, and so: allowed a powerful, ego-driven, much older man to exploit me. He *seemed* to love me, but now I know he could really only love himself. I'm sure some of the fallout of this toxic relationship contributed to my problems today, as he was very critical toward me, including how I looked. Then he'd be very nice. It's a very common way abusive men behave, to be mean/nice. So all women have to take care of themselves, but especially women who are really down on themselves. All women, no matter what their faults, flaws, histories or bodies are like, need to love themselves enough to stay clear of such men. Easier said then done. The thrill of such men - it's not worth it. Find a guy who will love you at your healthiest (and want to help you get there/stay there) and you know you have a keeper. Fat women need to love themselves enough to stay clear of men who secretly hate them, and want to exploit them. There are Alot of wolves out there ready and willing to exploit women however they can.

Shoshie said...

I think the stereotype comes from the idea that fat women aren't pretty. If a woman isn't pretty, she must never get any male attention and will be desperate for it. And clearly all desperate people are easy. Gah.

I have to say, there have only been a few times when you could have called me desperate, and even in those times, I still had pretty high standards. It's pretty horrible that the interviewer asked. "So...what do you think of the idea that Jews just really really like money?"

bigliberty said...

I think part of what is going on here is validation of value, not fatness in and of itself. In this society fatness is largely seen as a detractor in the ultimate calculation of personal value to others. Since many people, especially youths, factor in how others value them into their self-valuation, you can imagine the woman who believes she is "devalued" by her fat could make the connection that she must, therefore, compensate for that particular detractor.

Low self-valuation can lead to compensation in the area of "easy" sexual encounters. The person in the bed makes you feel more valued. Since the person in bed most likely eventually disappears, however, one must find another, and another, and another to fill that void in her self-esteem.

Fat and weight are just a modern proxies for valuation (and there are many others). If the higher value was placed on fatness, we could imagine the tables being turned and your interviewer asking, "So, why do you think people think thin women are 'easy'?"

rien said...

I have to say, the first thing that comes to mind when I think, "easy fat chick" are those 17-year olds on Maury and Jerry Springer with 8 kids and no idea who any of the fathers are.

Karen said...

I think Shoshie has it almost right. I think it is more the idea that fat women are unattractive, therefore the mostly likely way for them to acquire sexual attention is by giving sex away at a much lower standard as a supply and demand kind of deal. There is assumed to be less demand, therefore (if fat women actually get sex) the price must be lowered.

Ashley said...

I hate the entire concept of "easy." If the fact that I had sex when I wanted with whom I wanted instead of denying myself and stringing them along makes me easy, than I'm easy. But frankly, I don't see it that way at all.

A healthy sex drive is not something to ridicule and punish women over.

Notice how men are never "promiscuous" and "easy"

queendom said...

Actually, being aware that some people think of fat women as "desperate for sex" and therefore "easy", as well as noticing the portrayal of sex with fat women as disgusting or worth of ridicule was one significant factor of hiding my sexual feelings/ desires completely for years.
I wrote a related post related to this a few days ago: Fat, sexuality, and romantic love
I wonder if reseachers (and members of the general public) who believe that fat women are more likely to be "sexually disordered" ever consider that even if this is the case it is most likely mostly a result of the attitudes that society has towards fat women's/people's sexuality?

Becky said...

Like Ashley, the term "easy" pisses me off. If a woman is having sex with many men because she wants to and enjoys it, what's wrong with that?

I do think sometimes women with low self esteem have sex with multiple partners not because they want to and enjoy it, but because it makes them feel wanted. (I have done this, a little). And being fat in a fatphobic society can cause low self esteem. So you can see that behaviour in fat women, but I dislike the generalisation and the implication that men should take advantage of fat women's "easiness".

Juliet said...

I think that some women, regardless of weight, are so incredibly insecure that they think that to get a man they have to sleep with him. When I was a teenager, I was the fattest of my friends and the only one who lost her virginity under terms that were all hers. Most of my friends, many thin, were pressured into having sex before they wanted to, really.

I also had several thin or fairly thin friends who were completely promiscuous. In the case of one friend, she was incredibly insecure about her body, despite being fairly thin. She slept around to compensate.

So at the end of the day, I think that it's less about being overweight and more about being insecure. That said, since a lot of overweight women are insecure or hate their bodies, that could lead to it seeming like "fat girls are easy."

I just don't think the cause of that sort of promiscuity is limited to "fat girls." I've seen in firsthand in "skinny girls."

Shinobi said...

I'm pretty much right with what Becky said.

I mean, there have been occasions when guys have hit on me in bars and I've been flattered but mostly creeped out. They seemed to have this expectation that because I'm fat if they tell me I am beautiful I will go to bed with them. While I might be more inclined than some to go to bed with random strangers, not so much with random strangers who are getting married the next day.

I have had lots of one night stands and very casual sexual relationships with guys who I really didn't like that much on a personal level. But the thing is, I REALLY like sex. Lots. So sometimes sex with a guy I don't like much is more valuable than no sex. I guess that could qualify me as "easy."

But then what does that say about the guys who were still calling me a year after our last "date" trying to get a piece? (So Ironic. The Fat girl can't get guys to stop calling her.)

Juliet said...

PS. I left my comment before reading the others, always a bad idea. But I just wanted to chime in on the "easy" or "promiscuous" debate.

I think that if a woman is emotionally prepared to handle casual sex, and she's as safe as can be, that's fine. I don't look at that as "promiscuity."

To me, "promiscuity" implies a woman doing something she doesn't necessarily want to do. It implies a behavior that is in some way damaging.

Most of the women I knew who fit into this category had low self-esteem and on top of that, they were too afraid to stand up for themselves and insist the guy wear a condom. Several of my friends went through multiple pregnancy scares as a result, and some just went through pregnancies.

Casual sex is fine. I have no issue with that. I'm not on some moral high horse, believe me. I'm the last one to preach virginity till marriage, and my own experiences taught me that casual sex only makes not casual sex more meaningful and valuable.

But casual sex is not to be taken lightly, and I think that a lot of women who engage in this behavior aren't just like Samantha from Sex in the City. I think they are battling emotional issues that lead them to promiscuity, and therefore, behavior that is not healthy for them.

Fauve said...

Ashley wrote: "...a healthy sex drive is not something to ridicule and punish women over.
Notice how men are never "promiscuous" and "easy"

I absolutely agree with this. The double-standard, whore/madonna crap is still very much alive, despite the achievements of modern women. It's just wrong.

Anonymous said...

Agreed-it isn't all about being fat, but more about self esteem. If a man is seeking an "easy" woman, he is looking for one to exploit through finding her weakness. For some women it's self esteem and they feel good getting a boost. That being said I know a lot of overweight women in happy stable relationships enjoying great sex. I know a lot more aquantinces who are thin and pretty who go home with a guy after a night on the town.

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Anonymous said...

"I know a lot more aquantinces who are thin and pretty who go home with a guy after a night on the town."

I hate that this makes a woman "easy" as though it's a horrible thing that women pick up guys for casual sex, fat or thin. We have it in our heads that all women want "love" and all men want sex and it's just not true. Some women just really like sex. There is no reason to involve all the emotional baggage of a relationship if all you want is a one-night thing.

As for men manipulating women into doing things they don't want to do, I think every woman should learn when out and about to carry a condom herself and have enough money in cash for cab fare home. And not be afraid to use whichever is necessary.

Palmtreechick said...

That's a weird question. Bizarre!

Sara said...

I have certainly been there. At 200+ pounds years ago (rebound weight gain from anorexia, where I bottomed out at 88 pounds), I was very promiscuous. Sleeping with men made me feel wanted and valued. Why I couldn't do something like write a book or do well in school to make me feel good about myself, I'm not sure. Only recently have I realized how much I want men to want me. And I'm married! When I lost some weight and felt better about myself (I'm not THIN, but I am at a healthy weight for my body), my standards and self-confidence were lifted. I don't understand how feeling wanted by men could ever be so important, but unfortunately that has been a struggle all my life.

Anonymous said...

I think it it is a bullshit statement. I'm surprised you have seriously asked people.

Sheila said...

Where did that question come from, a 1940s guide to good girls?

A woman of any weight having sex because she wants to and because it feels good does not make her "easy."

There may be a perception that "overweight" women are easier, but I haven't observed that. Most of the women I know have sex because they want to and like it.

FeministGal said...

um... what did you respond to her?

Joy said...

I'm in with Becky and Shinobi.
Being fat in a fatphobic world can make you think there's something wrong with you. That low self esteem can have a hand in making you think you should treat any and all advances like they're glowing floaty gifts from above.
I had to be burned more than a few times before I decided I wasn't going to put up with anything I didn't want to.

Erin said...

Wow. Never heard that one although let's not go down the road towards thinking there's a bit of truth in all stereotypes. Because that's not true.

I'm bulimic and at my smallest size (pants/skirts 6, shirts medium) I was a WHOLE lot more active than I am now. In fact I have never been intimate with anyone once I've been in double digits. There's a block. I know I'm big. I don't feel sexy.

But when I knew I wasn't big I still didn't feel sexy. I had way too much shit rattling around up in my head. I needed to be DESIRED because that's what I always thought would happen when I lost weight. I PUT myself in situations where men would sleep with me (and I wouldn't say no) because THAT made me feel sexy. Same mind. Different bodies. And honestly, I felt like I couldn't say no...because it was what I had always wanted. All the guy wanting to BE with me.

Whenever women have hangups or have low self esteem they will put themselves into harmful situations be it with alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, promiscuity. Some girls are only promiscuous when they're inebriated or high...Just like some women can only have sex when they're thin, or just like some women feel they have to make up for the fact that they aren't beautiful or thin.

It's really really sad. But I don't think one should generalize. Just as there are different driving factors that lead us to have eating disorders, we use them in different ways to avoid real life situations that we'd rather not embrace with open eyes and arms.

Anonymous said...

I do not think it is about the "desperation" of fat women to "get some" but linked to something more profound.
Think about Audrey Hepburn. Beautiful, fairy-like, innocent, pure Hepburn.
Now think about Marylin Monroe. Ms Bombshell Monroe.
Hepburn was idealized as the perfect spouse, I woman that charmed you with the blink of an eye. But Monroe had to be a sex idol.

There is a certain stereotype that because fat is assumed to be caused by overeating, fat women are unable to controll themselves. And as food has also an erotic quality to it (eve's apple, mdoern "Food porn- photography"), they are also assumed to be promiscous.

OS said...

I knew a guy who summed it up in brutal guy language. Fat chicks are grateful. Ugly yes, but there is that element out there in the immature man camp that thinks that way. Don't shoot the messenger here. But there really is something to his statement. As true about women as it is about the men in question. But only for a certain segment of the people in question. Not all men are predatory but not all women have healthy ideas about their bodies and the access the give others to their bodies. Like an earlier comment noted, when society devalues you, you look for alternate sources of validation. And many of the same issues that lead to compulsive eating are the same issues that lead to having sex for the wrong reasons. And seriously, we don't really believe that every woman out there having one night stands is doing it for the sexual fullfilment and nothing else, do we? No way. Some are, some definitely are not. It's just one more subject that cannot be answered simply. Women aren't vending machines. And men aren't all seeking an easy lay.

vbsmith said...

Did you just say "most stereotypes are based on a glimmer of truth" ? WTF!!?!!?!!

Anonymous said...

Been reading this blog for a long time, but never posted....now I am compelled to, b/c I have to say....what?? What era are we living in that we are still talking about whether some women are "easy" or not??? And for that matter, what era are we living in that we think stereotypes might be based on truth? And the killer question - why is there a discussion happening where women can be called "easy," but not men?

If I want to have sex with someone, I will. I have always been this way - back in my early 20s, and now that I'm approaching 40. When I was in my early 20s, I was part of a group of 4 friends who often went out on the prowl together, looking for sex without commitments. I was the only fat one. We wound up with about the same number of sexual partners over the course of our time spent together - I know this because we inevitably wound up at Sunday brunch to hash over the details of the night before. Currently, I am in a situation exclusively for the sex. I see no long term possibilities, and I don't want any kind of entanglements outside the bedroom....although he not only thinks I am the sexiest woman alive, he certainly has his hopes for more, despite the fact that I've been upfront about where I'm at. Am I "easy?" No. I just like sex.

bee said...

I am surprised at the amount of ignorant and prejudiced comments in response to this post.

I <3 The Apocalypse said...

With apologies to Eddy Said...

I know this was posted like forever ago, but I am absolutely shitshocked not one person has mentioned what I like to call "Fatentalism." Part of the super weird madonna/whore thing that men have is utilizing a marginalized facet of society as an outlet for the "whore" half. Basically, someone has to be their fantasy fuckpuppet, but society would totally breakdown if men were unable to recognise at least SOME women as people. This cognitive dissonance is handled by blaming the slut. This is much easier is the slut in question is already a member of a culturally subjugated group or "the other." Said, and most of the sociologists who followed him, believed this was historically intentionally done to non-white women as a means to support colonial dominion. I think its the other way around. Sorry Said, there's nothing you can say that would make me think that "Le Bain Turc" is about anything than an excuse to look at tits. Because fat chicks are the ultimate "other"* in our society, its okay to want to fuck and disregard them. You already have a million socially acceptable reasons to not feel bad about only wanting to have sex with her... as long as it is perfectly clear you only want to sleep with her. This inadvertantly supports the subjugation, but the subjugation is not the root cause.

*Even though we're the majority. WTF!