Articles about body image usually focus on either shaping-up or honoring the shapes we have, even if they’re more voluptuous (for women) or heftier (for men) than the media’s ideal. However, there’s another side to the body acceptance story that some might call a darker, or even more bizarre side. It turns a cultural preoccupation with thinness and dieting completely upside down.
The story begins right here on the internet, where forums have sprung up for admirers of the large and lovely. As with other niche erotic preferences, connections in cyberspace have brought the most extreme variations on this theme out of the shadows and onto millions of screens. Many men are confused by their attraction to extremely fat women (or men, if they are gay), especially if their attraction extends to fantasies of feeding imaginary partners mounds of delicious food until they develop ever grander mounds of luscious flesh. As one Love and Health letter-writer says: “I go online to look at sites that Im not proud of, and I fear getting into a relationship where I force feed a woman into obesity. How can I calm my fetish so that I dont force feed my partner? Is the answer therapy, hypnosis, medication, or what?”
This question is similar to those asked by many others whose niche erotic preferences are so exclusive and overpowering that they constitute an undeniable fetish. Yet fetishes are not always unhealthy, and they don’t always pose severe problems. Often, the shame, confusion and fear surrounding a fetish can be far more debilitating than the fetish itself. The shame, not the sexual urges attached to specialized activities, interferes with life’s ordinary pleasures more than an acceptance of the fetish might. Sometimes, the difference between a gratifying and isolating fetish is, first of all, the ability to distinguish between fantasy aspects and “real life” attributes of the fetish, and, second, whether the fetishizer has the support of an erotic co-conspirator: a loving partner who is equally enthralled by a complimentary role in the fetish activity. I will add – although it should go without saying – that an acceptable fetish is always consensual, adult-adult, and does no harm to either participant.
When it comes to eroticizing larger than average body size, as with many other preferences, people tend to align within certain camps and sub-camps, some accepting of and others rejecting the fetish label. Men attracted to BBWs (big beautiful women) might not consider themselves any more fetishistic than men who are attracted to blondes instead of brunettes, or nerdy types over cutesy girls-next-door. Some of those who are primarily attracted to BBWs might see themselves as part of the “fat admirer” (FA) community, without regarding their preference as a fetish. Other FAs, however, not only find large women lovely, but they eroticize fat, are completely uninterested in slender women, and simply don’t date them. Such FAs would lean further toward the “fetish” end of a continuum that places appreciation or interest on one end and fetish on the other.
The letter-writer who fantasizes about feeding a partner into obesity clearly has reached the fetish end of the spectrum – and he knows it. As within most internet sex-oriented communities, there is ongoing dialogue about exactly which behaviors fall into which sub-categories and what labels best apply to each. In the “Feeder” world, this is certainly the case. However, the following terms are general enough to accurately reflect the accepted language of this realm.
Real life relationships between those known as “Feeders” (most often men) and their counterparts, known as “Gainers” or “Feedees” (most often women), can develop out of a mutually compelling need. However, a person need not have a Gainer in their life to be a Feeder. Feeders are more likely to exercise their fetish in fantasy than to indulge it in reality. As one Feeder writes: “I enjoy reading Feeder stories on the internet and fantasizing about feeding someone and having them gain weight. But I have never actually tried to fatten up a partner. Its only a fantasy for me.” However, Feeders and Gainers do find each other and hook up.
Rarely do Feeders coerce an otherwise uninterested partner into eating and gaining weight. Where the fetish is played out, the fetish is usually a shared one, and weight limits are consensually designated, with an erotic charge attached to the feeding, gaining, and attaining of the goal. While fantasies of non-consensual feeding can be a turn-on, it’s important to understand that, just like any other fantasy that involves coercion – even romance novels’ swashbuckling bodice-ripper fare – it’s one matter to imagine overwhelming someone or being taken unwillingly, and it’s quite another to live it. No healthy person with a rapist or ravishment fantasy is going to carry it any further than a consenting role-play scenario. (Anyone feeling urges to force any erotic activity on another, or to place oneself in danger, should immediately seek professional counseling.)
For compatible, consensual Feeders and Gainers, the act of feeding and eating is an erotically heightened experience, beyond even the sensual epicurean levels that most of us can relate to. Obviously, F/G relationships can carry dire consequences when the fetish embraces such extreme obesity that the Gainer’s mobility and health are compromised. While F/G relationships always have some characteristics in common with dominant/submissive relationships, a seriously obese Gainer’s immobility makes her quite literally dependent, and the Feeder can in fact control her. This set-up will take the D/s aspect to a potentially dangerous, probably non-consensual extreme, and I would venture to say that it is far outside the boundaries of what any professional would consider an acceptable expression of erotic preference.
Websites abound for men and women who adore the fat form, fat fantasy and Feeder imagery. For instance, photo-manipulation sites showcase celebrities “before and after” packing on 50-100 pounds, so that the formerly svelte pin-up is viewed in pulchritudinous glory. One of the more fascinating aspects of this Photoshop phenomenon is the realization that many super-thin women also look gorgeous as women of size. Do they look different? Yes; but still lovely in a startlingly alternative way. Or, perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that they look beautiful within an alternative dimension: an imaginary world where nobody is held hostage to current standards of thinness. These photo sites make a political point that can hardly be lost on anyone with a conscience, even if they are not avowed FAs. But, viewed from another angle, these sites are also erotica for the true FA, even though they are no more explicit than a Victoria’s Secret catalogue is to the mainstream. Yet, benign as they are, visits to these sites – and, of course, to more explicit fat-fantasy sites – can induce enormous shame in fat admirers whose preference (or fetish) is still considered by a thin-centric society to be gross and perverse.
So what do we say to men who ask how to “calm” their fetish for fat women, whether they include Feeder fantasies or not? Do we tell them to get help to alter their preferences, or suggest they seek support among others of like mind? Do we assist them in standing up to a society that is less than accepting of their ideal partners? Or do we urge them to change?
My advice is to realize that there is no single answer, no easy solution to any of our complex erotic patterns. Balancing social, emotional and sexual forces is a mighty effort for even the most ordinary “vanilla” man or woman, let alone anyone who deviates from the ordinary. Eccentric or novel erotic attractions can be as safe and healthy as the most common ones – or over the edge. It’s all a question of balance. My advice is to check in with yourself first: if your erotic style or activities are troubling you, speak with a certified sex therapist (www.aasect.org). She or he can help you determine what your erotic interest means, how much fantasy or fetish-reality you can handle, under what sets of circumstances you can safely explore your needs, and how far you can go. Rarely is it necessary or even possible to entirely eradicate a fetish – or even a strong preference. Instead, combining education and supportive counseling with discovering your own comfortable limits and boundaries – and, best yet, a compatible partner or partners – will offer the most successful approach in the long term
Article :Dr. Davidson Img: FantasticCherry.com
A psychologist and sex therapist based in New York City, Dr. Joy Davidson has been involved in the development of internet-based sexuality education for much of her career. Convinced that the internet has the capacity to revolutionize intimate connections, she has been actively researching and writing about the internet as a vehicle for sexual expression, education, and therapy for nearly a decade.
Dr. Davidson was a key contributor to MSN’s pioneering online magazine for women, Underwire, as well as a sex and relationships columnist for MSN’s WomenCentral.com, SexualHealth.com, and SavvyMiss.com. Offline, she was for 8 years the sex columnist for Playgirl magazine and Men’s Fitness magazine.
Dr. Davidson is the author of Fearless Sex: A Babe's Guide to Overcoming Your Romantic Obsessions and Getting the Sex Life You Deserve (2004, Fairwinds Press), which, in hardcover, was a selection of the Literary Guild and the Venus Book Club. As an expert on sexual issues in popular media and culture, she is also a contributor to four of Benbella Books’ acclaimed “Smart Pop” anthologies and the editor of an upcoming fifth release.
Her astute insights and warm, vivacious personal style have made Dr. Davidson a sought-after speaker at seminars and conferences, and a guest on hundreds of national television and radio shows, including Oprah, 20/20, CNN News, Entertainment Tonight, Montel, and Bill O'Reilly. She was the host of 36 episodes of the Playboy channel’s series, “Secret Confessions and Fantasies,” and the writer/creator of the Playboy/Sharper Image home video series, “Secrets of Making Love to the Same Person Forever.”
Dr. Davidson is a frequently featured expert in national magazines and press, including USA Today, Salon.com, Redbook, Wall Street Journal, Glamour, Marie Claire, Men's Health, and Cosmopolitan. She holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, an AASECT certified Sex Therapist, and a member of AASECT’s Board of Directors.