While brainstorming for this topic, we could not think of a single plus-size girlfriend between us who had escaped the down-low relationship completely. Every straight, chubby woman we know has had at least one sexual experience with a guy that existed exclusively in secret, not intended for the public eye. There is a stigma attached to those men who date women of a certain size, especially here in (but not limited to) America. Eva, who is married to a handsome, fit, olive-skinned man has personally experienced commentary from people who have observed them out in public together snarkily questioning, “How’d you snag a man like him?!” or “How long ago did you two meet?” insinuating that they must have met when Eva was thin. Which by the way is not true!
Just as fat tropes permeate our culture, men who love us are often stereotyped into creepy dudes with a fetish, especially if they are themselves fit and/or thin. There are hundreds of plot lines in movies and TV that reinforce this point of view, so the proclamation of a man’s love for his curvy wife on Instagram going viral should be the perfect remedy for this, right? Well . . .
Almost a year ago, a man named Robbie Tripp wanted to make a tribute to his voluptuous wife publicly. We love that he put himself out there and threw caution to the wind. He told everyone how he feels and encouraged other guys who felt the same to come clean about their love for the chubb! But as one reply to his ode on Twitter brilliantly noted:
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This tweet magnifies the reality that a man who loves a woman that beautifully fills out every inch of her jeans is heroic, but a woman, who sees no fault in herself for being curvy, is delusional and probably has health problems. Welcome to body bias rearing its ugly head. All different kinds of men find all different kinds of women beautiful, but there is a systemic bias towards thinness that results in men who prefer curves rejecting their own desires to be culturally accepted. Making a hero out of men who confess to liking big girls gives those men a pass because only a HERO would DARE to state this TRUTH.
Lack of representation for women over a size 6 has created a cultural blind spot. Take a minute to conjure up the last movie you saw with a plus size woman and a man in a positive, loving relationship. How about on TV? Print media seems to be the absolute worst at representing big girls and men showing any kind of physical affection, and yet according to our own Instagram account insights, these are the types of images that get the most traffic. When Glamour Magazine featured an intimate stock photo it commissioned specifically with a plus-size model, they damn near broke the internet!
Are you still having a hard time believing that plus-size women are actually desired by straight men? Don’t worry. We’ve got proof for you! Earlier this year, Vox.com writer Sean Illing interviewed Everybody Lies author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz; his book has that title because the data that he references exposes Americans as not being entirely honest when it comes to their true desires. Just take a moment to digest this exchange:
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz: If you define being in the closet as picking partners based on what society wants rather than what you want, many people are in the closet. For example, I am certain a large number of men are more attracted to overweight women than skinny women but try to date skinny women to impress their friends and family members.
Porn featuring overweight women is surprisingly common among men. But the data from dating sites tells us that just about all men try to date skinny women. Many people don’t try to date the people they’re most attracted to. They try to date the people they think will impress their friends.
Sean Illing: That says something truly awful about our cultural pathologies. People should be free to like whatever they want, but the pressures to conform are overwhelming—and ultimately unhealthy.
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz: It’s also inefficient. There are a lot of single men and single overweight women who would be sexually compatible. But they don’t date, while the man tries and fails to date a skinny woman even though he’s less attracted to her. And then there are women who practically starve themselves to remain skinny so their husbands won’t leave, even though their husbands would be more attracted to them if they weighed more. The desire to impress people causes all kinds of inefficiency.
Boom! It’s right there, out of the author’s mouth—it is more important for men to impress their friends and family members than be happy with someone they are truly attracted to. Not to mention how the author also reveals his own body bias by labeling men searching for porn featuring overweight women as “surprisingly common.” To be clear, we’re not blaming the author; this is a societal issue. There definitely needs to be more fat-positive representation in media, television, and films. But men need to step out and own who it is they find attractive. Fat women need to come out from the shame closet and say to those men they see on the DL, “Hey! I’m not willing to hide in the shadows with you anymore.” We fat girls deserve to be loved in public without shame or scrutiny, as well as live our fullest lives in and outside of the bedroom.
Actor/influencers Kathy Deitch and Eva Tingley spearheaded PlusThis!, the multimedia brand which features pop-culture, fashion, debates regarding food and health and the societal negativity and stereotypes that surround women who dare to take up a little bit of space. The duo broadcasts live every Thursday at 6 pm PT from Universal Broadcasting Network and simultaneously across several platforms including Facebook Live and YouTube Live.
Photo Credit: Haley Rivera/Unsplash