Dear Virgie: Do Men Exploit Fat Women?
I read your article “Do Thin Women Get This Many Texts About Penises,” and I was wondering if you think that men are more sexually explicit with fat women. Is getting unsolicited sexts from men sexual harassment?
In my nearly 17 years of experience dating dudes and my decade working with and talking to women of all sizes who date dudes, I feel like it is difficult to say conclusively if, across the board, men are more sexually explicit with fat women. I feel like the answer is probably yes, but let’s explore this a little:
I feel like straight women of all sizes are pretty dissatisfied with the way that men communicate with them, because let’s face it, patriarchy teaches men that women exist largely to fulfill their needs, whims and desires. It takes a pretty special dude + a lot of really hard work to actually de-program himself from such a thorough education in the dehumanization of women and the belief that femininity is inferior.
I do know, however, that when the culture treats certain sub-populations of women with decreased dignity (e.g., fat women, trans women and disabled women) it often leads to poorer treatment and increased likelihood of violence for those women.
Furthermore, even people who aren’t treating these sub-populations of women poorly or violently, may treat them differently than they would women with more privilege or higher standing in the culture’s eyes. But I’m not convinced that the difference is actually derived from respect or greater affection (even though it might feel that way, even to do the dude who’s doing it). I would posit that this difference in behavior is likelier inspired by their FOMO — fear of missing out on brokering more privilege for himself via his partner’s body.
Also, this difference in communication isn’t always a negative thing, per se. Some women for sure find it insulting, but others might enjoy it or find it sexy. For example, sometimes there is less pressure to interact in an artificial or guarded way with people who aren’t the model of perfection. Sometimes people feel they can be more honest and raw about desire with women who are part of a marginalized group. Each of us gets to decide whether that works for us or feels good for us.
As far as sexual harassment is concerned, that’s a little tougher to answer. In the case I outlined in that article — I received a text from a former roommate where he expressed he had been masturbating to pictures of me — I personally did not feel harassed. But I know many people in my case would have.
That being said, I feel like unsolicited sexts fall into a weird gray area. I personally find raw or raunchy confessions via text to be exhilarating and amusing. I don’t mind if it’s someone I know, or have known. I also don’t mind receiving texts from people I’m not attracted to, but I probably wouldn’t like it if they were a co-worker. I would not like it if we were in a relationship where they had power over my career, living situation or social life. I would not like it if they didn’t stop texting me even after I’d expressed a boundary. It’s probably safe to assume that most people don’t want unsolicited texts with explicit sexual language in them, and if you want to be completely sure that you are not crossing someone’s boundary then it’s probably a smart idea not to send unsolicited sexts. However, there is a subjective element to it. I didn’t experience his behavior in a negative way. I don’t feel harmed by his expression of lust, and I’m entitled to feel that way.
Hope this helps!
Virgie Tovar is an author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers in the areas of fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp. Find her online at www.virgietovar.com.
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