Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fat Sex as Queer Sex

(Disclaimer: I am 5'7" and 275 pounds. I use the word 'fat' because I don't attach any sort of moral platitudes to the word. It is just a descriptor, and that is how I mean it.)

The online fat acceptance community blew up several weeks ago when Maura Kelly, a writer for Marie Claire, wrote about her opinions regarding the new sitcom Mike & Molly, a show about two fat characters who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting and start dating.
So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.
When I read this, obviously the first thing I noticed was that I was very angry, but aside from that, it made me think of complaints people have about shows with gay characters, usually gay male characters in particular, since it's acceptable for conventionally attractive women to kiss each other on television.

A blogger I adore, Lesley Kinsel, made a post on how fatness queers people. I wish I could find it to quote it, but she recently moved to a new site, so my favorites don't work. When men gain weight, it tends to make them rounder. Our culture teases men for "man boobs" when they have what is deemed an "excess" of fat on their chests. Fat feminizes men. When women gain weight, it tends to go to the hips, thighs and breasts first, and can be written off as "curvy" for a while, but once enough weight is gained, women get broader and the curves start to be diminished by the fat present all over the body. Thus outward gender presentation of fat people can be queered by something outside their control.

In college drinking culture, there is also a prevalent notion of being "drunk enough to pick up fat girls," the idea being that a person (generally a man) will only go after someone seen as fat after they are drunk. Sometimes the implication is even made that these drunk people are doing a favor to fat girls by hooking up with them. Similar things can also be said for homosexual behavior in people who identify as straight when they drink. Songs like "I Kissed A Girl" by Katy Perry discuss the notion of being "club bi[sexual]". It seems to be a common phenomenon in our culture for drunk women to be expected to make out with one another, and depending on the venue, sometimes this is expected of men, though this is much less common.

Queer issues and fat issues are very clearly difference, and I certainly am not trying to make the case for all fat people being queer, or even that anyone who has sex with a fat person is queer. Some of the similarities in cultural attitudes toward queerness and fatness are just eerily similar in troubling ways.

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