I remember the first time I became consciously aware of my fat attraction. I was sixteen, sitting on the couch with my high school boyfriend watching Ruben Studdard sing “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” on American Idol. My boyfriend was skinny and white, with dyed blue-black hair, and I loved him, as much as an emotionally-embryonic teenager can love someone. I loved him, and I loved fucking him, but watching this 400-pound man on the TV stirred something in me. I wanted his body next to mine. I gave my boyfriend a hand-job, and imagined what Ruben’s heavy embrace would feel like, something like a down comforter mixed with a hot bath.

“It’s not a fetish,” I sometimes find myself explaining. I don’t exclusively fuck fat people, just like I don’t exclusively fuck black people. Out of the—one, two, give me a minute—nine people I’ve slept with or dated this year, three have been fat. Last year I dated two men who you might classify as “obese” and who I classify as “some of the best sex I’ve ever had.” The fact that I even have to qualify my attraction to them outside of fetishization is fucked up and depressing, but that’s the world we live in. Most people are so conditioned to view fat bodies as undesirable that those of us who desire them are automatically labeled deviants.

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I should probably admit right now that I am fat myself. I’m barely 5′1″ and though I’ve been as heavy as 170, at the moment I’m 135 pounds. And I’m sure there are many people who wouldn’t call me fat. But less fat is still fat, and I refuse to think of the word “fat” as a negative term. I hate when I make an offhanded comment about being fat, and someone immediately says, “You’re not fat!” as if to consider myself fat is the worst, most self-hating thing in the goddamn world. I’m certainly not thin or skinny, and I grew up thinking of myself as a fat person—I have what I like to call “fat kid brain.” And now that I’ve come to accept and love that part of who I am, thanks to friends and partners and therapy and a career as a nude art model, I’m loathe to let go of that aspect of my identity. I also absolutely have body dysmorphia, which, in conjunction with my anxiety disorder, more often manifests as an issue of perception—whether or not I’m okay with being fat, I never know how other people see me, because I can’t trust what my brain tells me is being displayed in the mirror. It’s one reason why I love Instagram and take so many selfies—it’s the only way I can see myself through other peoples’ eyes. The only way I can ask, “I love my fat body—do you?” And the answer is almost always yes. A big part of learning to think of myself as beautiful was realizing that many of the women I am attracted to are as fat as I am, if not more. And if I want to be with a fat girl, surely there are people out there who want to be with me.

And duh, there are plenty.

If you’ve never fucked a fat person, take a minute and ask yourself why. Is it that you truly find their bodies ugly? Are you afraid that fat stigma is going to rub off on you, that people will see you loving a fat person and think that means there’s something wrong with you? Are you fat and unhappy with your own body? Are you not-fat and unhappy with your own body? Has the media conditioned you to believe that sex with fat people is somehow more difficult and less enjoyable (spoiler: it’s not)? Or is it that you have fucked a fat person but insisted to yourself or to them that they’re not fat, instead of telling them what part of their fatness you consider sexy?

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I could rhapsodize about the feel of soft skin and flesh you can dig your nails into, about men and women with barrel chests and wide asses and round faces and strong arms. But, as choice as I find it, the hotness of fat people is something you have to discover for yourself.

The other part of loving fat bodies is realizing that, for people socially coded as undesirable for any reason, a fair amount of narcissism is a healthy and necessary thing. In the immortal words of RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” And this is an issue that I struggle with all of the time. Because I am attracted to fat people, and I am also attracted to people who aren’t drowning in a sea of self-loathing. I don’t want someone who wants to change everything about themselves. I don’t want someone who thinks they can’t have style because they’re fat. I don’t want someone who believes the lie that clothes that highlight their fatness are unflattering. I don’t want someone who doesn’t think fat people can be sexy. I want to be able to give the person who makes me wet a compliment and have them say, “Thank you,” instead of “Ugh, whatever, you’re just saying that”.

I’m not saying that feeling positively about fat bodies, be they your own or someone else’s, is easy. It takes real work to break down the connections in our brain that equate fatness with guilt and shame and ugliness and blame. This is one reason why it’s crucial for there to be an increasingly wider representation of body types in media, and for those representations to be nuanced. It’s one reason why Mindy Kaling’s success, and her show’s depiction of a not-thin woman of color as an intelligent, complicated, and desirable woman who dates all kinds of men is important. There’s this weird standard for on-screen relationships that bleeds out into our everyday lives: that if one person is a certain level of culturally-determined hotness, their partner should be equally hot. That a “10″ should only date other “10s,” as it were. This is not how attraction works. And the unfortunate dialogue that reinforces the idea that some people “aren’t good enough” for us and that others are “out of our league” is probably keeping a fair amount of us from having a healthy relationship with someone with whom we are both intellectually and physically compatible.

There have been many articles that call attention to the TV husband whose wife is “too hot” for him. I would link to some of them but I...don’t want to, so if you’re interested in substantive proof and/or getting really depressed about male body shaming, you can do what I did and Google “tv husband too fat”. One piece from 2010 opens—sincerely, unironically, and humorlessly—with the line, “In real life, fat guys never get the girl.” Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck yoooooooou. Fuck anyone who has fed into this system that keeps men from believing that women like me exist. And if your argument is that we see fat husbands with thin wives but not the other way around, the solution to that problem is not to body shame fat men—instead, let’s use the fuel of our outrage to get more fat women with diversely hot partners on television.

I once spent a summer in love with a fat friend. We would hang out at his place, watching Freaks and Geeks while I rhapsodized about my crush on chubby, jewfro-ed Seth Rogen. At some point, when I couldn’t take any more late nights spent smoking blunts and pressing my cleavage against his chest and wishing he would just kiss me, I finally said to him, “I am attracted to you in a multitude of ways. How do you feel about that?” He didn’t know. He sent me an email about “valuing his friendships with women” that at the time felt like a classic blow-off. A year later he apologized for how he handled the situation: “I didn’t think of myself as attractive, so I didn’t know what to do when you told me that. I didn’t trust that what you were saying could be true, so I freaked out and pushed you away.” Because of his body shame we both ended up hurt and unhappy, we lost the chance for a romantic relationship, and our tight-knit friendship suffered as well.

I’ve always been an impatient, make-the-first-move kind of girl, but I have a rule against doing that now. I need to be with someone who I know is confident enough to read my blatantly encouraging signals and act on their desire for me. I need someone who doesn’t second-guess my attraction for them, who can look at themselves in the mirror and see a lovable, fuckable, hot-ass body. Yes, I fuck fat people and skinny people and everyone in between—but I only fuck people who don’t hate themselves. Just think of what could happen if we all work a little harder to see and express and depict and acknowledge the endless spectrum of human beauty the world has been gracious enough to give us. We might find ourselves with more—more joy, more orgasms, more opportunities, more love. And a little more can be a very good thing.


Eloise LeBel is a Los Angeles-based writer of various concerns, including her blog Sexistential Questions. You can find her on Twitter at @eloiselebel.

Illustration by Jim Cooke.