Continued Discussion on Obesity and BDSM

I read this article with great interest. As I continue to research the connection between morbid obesity and the BDSM community, I am curious to find out what makes that segment of the community tick. 

I still believe that there are inherent issues and challenges with that part of the community that is morbidly obese. There are, in my mind, many excuses for why they aren’t the way they are. While I do not condone discrimination of any sort regardless of a person’s background, size, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, I do believe we should honestly assess why those who allow themselves to become morbidly obese engage in BDSM. 

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Size Matters! Reader Commentary on being Fat in the BDSM Scene – By Sensuous Sadie

“As a Dominant, it’s my role to nurture. I can only control you if you love yourself totally how you are, in all the glory of your submission. That obviously has nothing to do with size.”The other day my hairdresser commented that she thought I’d lost a few pounds. She expected me to be thrilled with the “compliment” of course. Instead, I explained that I’m uncomfortable with our culture’s obsession with weight, and that I’d prefer if she focused instead on my other gifts. It’s not like she’d ever said “you look great, you’ve gained weight!” Her comment was understandable though, because being a thin person, she doesn’t see many plus-sized role models; in fact I might be the only one she knows.

The BDSM scene is quite different in its approach to diversity. Master Alan says, “Our relationships are generally about psychological matters rather than physical ones. If you’re interested in medical play, you’re looking for a person who understands the chemistry of medical play. When your dream comes true in the form of someone who meets your needs, you are much less interested in his or her body and much more tolerant of physical differences.”

Are There More Large People in the Scene than in the General Population?
A novice once asked me “if there were a lot of fat people in the Vermont community?” I found his lack of tact annoying and told him there were probably the same proportion of fat to thin people as there are in the world at large. This wasn’t completely true however. It’s commonly thought that there are more plus sized people, particularly women, in the kink community. Although there is no real data on this, for the sake of discussion I’m going to accept this as true.

There are some good reasons for a larger number of plus sized people. In the vanilla world, there is a great deal of emphasis on being thin and a person’s sexual attraction is often rated on this scale. This is not to say that all large people are considered unsexy, only that our culture usually equates small size with attractiveness. According to National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA):


“At different times throughout history, the fat figure was looked upon as the ideal, desirable figure. For example, at the turn of the century, Lillian Russell − at a weight of over 200 pounds − was a reigning sex symbol. Today, the American cultural aesthetic of beauty ranges from the thin supermodel whose figure’s proportions are unrepresentative of the naturally occurring shape of the human female, to an emaciated, sunken-eyed look termed ‘heroin chic.'”


In contrast, the BDSM scene is, by its very alternative nature, welcoming to a wide variety of body types. Amanda says “I think that the reason you see so many larger ladies in BDSM is they can be accepted for who they are here. In the vanilla world you may not get a second glance unless you are a stick, but in the BDSM world curves are appreciated.” There is another way to look at this, and that is that it’s not that there are “more” plus-sized people in the scene, but rather that the ones who are there are far more visible. Leo says “I don’t think there are more than in the general population; I think there are more who have the confidence to present themselves as sexy and desirable. So a woman who cannot see herself as attractive in a vanilla context − because vanilla sexuality is all about having a conventionally idealized body − can feel desirable and admirable because she submits or dominates beautifully, or because she can give or take a good beating, regardless of her shape.”

There is also something to be said for people who are plus sized, but for whom their size is not an issue. October says, “There’s nothing i like or don’t like about being a BBW in the BDSM scene, it’s just not a factor for me. I’ve never really been body conscious; this is the way i am. But i think that has more to do with my submission. See, when i get into an intimate BDSM situation, i dissolve like in Star Trek when the bodies dissolved under that transporter beam.” On the flip side is Kittycat who admits her own self esteem has affected her involvement in the scene: “I have often wondered if there are more plus-sized women in the BDSM community because of they lack self esteem or because they feel like they have to submit to gain attention and love. This thought troubles me and I have even questioned my own motives this way.”

What are the Advantages of being Fat in the Scene?
Aside from a broader acceptance of different body types in the scene, there are a number of outright advantages to being a person of size. Kiss says, “Being plus sized has given me strength and character. I can go to any play party and be nude and still love my body and enjoy sensations.” Size offers particular advantages for Dominants, because it can suggest a secure sense of safety and protection. The biggest factors seem to be in the ability to “intimidate” a Submissive. Lady Greyeyes says “I like to think that I have a certain presence, an aura of power. Being a Woman of Size helps reinforce that image.” Similarly, Jeannie says, “Being a Domme as strong as I am allows me to literally throw around my playmates with ease. It’s delightful to be able to have that sort of physical control. It’s very amusing, and isn’t it all about my amusement?”

There are advantages for Submissives as well, although they tend to be more in the physical arena. For example, a well-padded body can protect bones and organs that would be at risk on a skinny person. Leo says “If you want a serious pain-slut, the bigger the better! Just about anywhere is padded enough to beat without restraint, bruises don’t last too long, and it’s far more difficult to pinch nerves and blood vessels.” While some might disagree with his sentiment, the “padding advantage” is one great benefit of size that came up again and again in my research. But practicality isn’t all of it says Thomas, a Dominant who is an open admirer of generously-sized bodies: “the best part of a round bottom is that it jiggles wonderfully when you spank it!”

On the psychological side is the two-sided sword of being able to take more pain. Kami says “Another thing i’ve noticed is that because I’m large i tend to become almost challenging in nature. i am a pain slut, and each time i play my tolerance for pain grows, which shows them I’m worth playing with.” For both Dominants and Submissives, size can be a non-factor, or something which brings special gifts to a relationship. Dominant or Submissive, Jeannie says it best when she comments on how size has affected her life: “The most important thing about being a big woman in the BDSM scene is the same thing that gets me through life. I have Goddess-confidence in who I am. I have no self-doubt or self-loathing or any other insecurities about who I am or what I look like.”

What are the Special Concerns or Challenges?
There is an assumption that being fat, in itself, is a bad thing. I would agree that if you are out of shape and unhealthy, it is a bad thing. Unfortunately, many people assume that all fat people are unhealthy which is incorrect on both a cultural and on a personal level. I myself work out with a number of plus sized people in my aerobics class. BrianaLynn adds that, “I, too, have lots of curves and work out to stay fit. I practice daily yoga moves to keep my spine supple and facilitate breath control, both disciplines needed to accommodate my husband’s predilections.”

That being said, there are a number of concerns that are specific to people of size. Pharaohdawg suggests that players “review good body mechanics (getting onto or off the floor safely), protect their back for long standing play scenes (the shifting of weight from foot to foot), and help them avoid body positions that cause undo stress, numbness, cramps, and poor circulation to distal limbs.” Some positions can be hard to hold for long, such as kneeling or on all fours, and support should be provided either with cushions or special equipment. Similarly, heavy people may quickly get out of breath doing things like crawling round the floor so activities like this should be limited unless they are specifically within the area of safe aerobic exercise. Pharaohdawg adds that, “High heels may not be a good idea because of issues around balance, back problems and foot pain which are made worse by weight.” Suspension is a particular issue and one which I generally discourage for larger folks. However, those who do want to do it need to provide for more points of suspension for better overall weight distribution. Lady Greyeyes says ” bondage, suspension, and weight on the knees for extended periods of time seem to be much more painful than for the average size person, so use pillows.”

How do People Deal with Their Fears?
While there are challenges to being a person of size in the scene, most of the commentary seems to be very positive. Even so, I was disturbed, although not all that surprised, to read the descriptions so many women have of their bodies, describing them as “disgusting” and worse. How can we truly enjoy the pleasures of a body we cannot bear to look at? Can there be any true gift of this body to a Dominant when your body itself is considered “disgusting?” Would any Dominant even want such a gift?

The issue of rebuilding self esteem is far to big to address in this article, but I do encourage readers to look into the resources listed at the end. This being said, there are some approaches to size that can help the transition into the scene. One of the things I do is that I only date Dominants who either love my body as it is, or don’t care much one way or the other. It’s particularly important to choose a Dominant who has good self esteem about their own body image, because that will be reflected in how they choose and treat their Submissives. Many Submissives say that the attitude of their Dominant is what guides their own approach to their body. For example, Kittycat says: “My Master thinks I am beautiful naked, who are you or anyone else to say that he is wrong?” I like that Kittycat’s Dominant is clear in his preference, but I admit that I feel a little concerned that she may be basing her self esteem on her Dominant’s opinion. This is a risky approach because it places the responsibility for good body image in the hands of another person. That being said, I’m thrilled that her Dominant is so verbal in his appreciation of her body!

The community can also help provide a support system particularly through play parties where big beautiful people can walk around nude, seeing and being seen for the human beings they are, rather than the body types they might be in the vanilla world. Kittycat describes her introduction: “The first BDSM community I found was a Big Beautiful Woman (BBW) submissive chat room, where we get together yearly for a bash. So over half of my public experience in BDSM has been in a BBW friendly environment. Seeing other BBWs confident and proud of their naked bodies help me over come some of my insecurities.”

Playing in public can be a huge fear for anyone, and doubly so for larger people who have been taught all their lives that their bodies are unattractive. Perhaps the best approach, at least in the beginning, is to “fake it ’till you make it.” Kittycat Says: “I am a physically prosperous woman and no amount of clothes or stages of undress is going to change that. That being said, showing off your more confident areas and hiding your more self conscious ones is a good idea. I go topless with a short skirt.” One of the best suggestions I’ve heard for dealing with the fear of being naked in public comes from Tressa who suggests using a blindfold, “When my son was three years old he spoke these very powerful words as he covered his eyes with his arms, “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me.” Kami adds that, “i am what many would call Morbidly obese and at times i do have issues with it especially when it comes times to disrobe in public. Yet once i get into the scene i do not care who looks at me. When i am watching others scene i am not looking at bodies but at the scene, so i figure that’s what everyone else is doing when i am playing.” While it is rare that anyone will openly criticize your size, Tressa offers her approach to dealing with unkind comments: “I approach them by letting them know that their comments hurt me, that while they’re entitled to their opinions that they should keep their comments to themselves, especially those that are cruel or meant to hurt.”

The downside of this is that the low self esteem that often accompanies being fat can become integrated into the Dominant/Submissive framework, making for a situation where people who are already short of self esteem can turn into Submissives with even less. It is unfortunate that low self esteem can masquerade as submissiveness, particularly to novices in the scene, a group that makes up the majority of the community. This is the side of things that can create a real emotional risk. For example, Kami says “i am my own worst enemy because of my body image. There are times that i give off the appearance of not wanting to play or not caring to get to know someone for fear i will turn them off as soon as the clothes come off. It’s your loss if you choose not to play with me, yet i keep you at arm’s length so you won’t ever ask. Contradictory aren’t i?”

Not everyone feels this self conscious however. October says, “Sure i’ve had men get that look when they meet me for the first time. But i ran down my list of those who had and not one of them, not one of them was either a real Dom or even a respected Top. Every single one was a wannabe or trytobe.”

Freedom for Fat Admirers!
According to NAAFA: “Based on anecdotal evidence, five to ten percent of the population has a sexual preference for a fat partner. Since fat partners are not considered attractive or desirable by modern American society, there is a high degree of stigmatization associated with such a preference. Due to this societal, peer, and parental pressure, individuals with such a preference see the preference itself as abnormal or shameful. As a result, most individuals who prefer fat partners suffer from self-doubt and often public ridicule. Many decide to stay ‘in the closet’ about their preference because of this opposition.”

Fortunately fat admirers don’t have to hide their preference in the BDSM scene, but can revel in it. I remember the first time my lover Alberto whispered to me, “I don’t get what men see in skinny women.” Hearing him say it made all the difference for me in that I could totally flaunt my body and know that he loved every minute of it. My former Dominant Griffin gave me a similar compliment when he murmured: “I love round bodies.” Having lovers who were able to verbalize their love for my body went a long way in increasing my body self esteem. One Dominant I played with told me straight out that he “didn’t date fat women” but then proceeded to play with both me, as well as three other big beautiful women. He is a “closet fat admirer.” Unfortunately this kind of admiration can be damaging because of his denial of what he truly likes, which in effect is a denial of me as well. Although fat admirers may not always be able to express it, they will show it in the way they interact with you physically. Jeannie clearly has found a few of these when she adds, “Any man who sees a larger woman as sexy must be either hard up or out of his mind, right? You should see the well adjusted hunks I play with!”

Do People have a Right to Preference about Size?
Once I made the mistake of dating a guy who told me he didn’t like dating “fatties,” but he said he really liked me so we went out a few times. The problem was that once I knew how he felt about my body, I was never able to become intimate with him because I knew he’d be criticizing me, even if he didn’t say it out loud. What a horrible thing to live with! Not everyone is so honest, so you may have to do a little detective work to spot the fat haters. Listen to how they talk about food and their own bodies, and what kinds of comments they make about other people. There is usually a tip off, but if not, you can always ask in a way that is self-affirming to yourself.

One of the challenges about size and sexual attraction is that many of the people who refuse to date a plus-sized person are a bit defensive about it. They say that they’re attracted to who they are attracted to, and there’s just plain nothing to be done about it. In a way they’re right. To a certain extent we are all hard-wired in terms of instant physical attraction, even though this kind of attraction is not a good foundation for a relationship. October adds that, “if i was the arbiter of what was attractive, you’d be writing about “The Pitfalls of Being a Short Man in the BDSM World” or “I’m a Skinny Man, and Subs Won’t Look At Me.” We all have our preferences and that’s okay.” In my own dating I’ve made a special effort to consider men who aren’t my type. Looks may be nice, but when it’s down to brass tacks I’d rather have an ugly (or fat!) man who loves me than a stud who hates my body. So yes, people have a right to have their preferences, but no, they’d best not expect me to listen to them whine because some size four babette hasn’t fallen into their arms.

What are the Issues around a Dominant “Helping” a Submissive to lose Weight?
NAAFA says that, “Despite evidence that 95-98% of diets fail over three years, our thin-obsessed society continues to believe that fat people are at fault for their size.” With these kinds of statistics, I feel that mixing up weight loss with the D/s relationship creates a dynamic that can be extremely dangerous emotionally. Although my friend Alan does handle weight control issues within the structure of his Master/Slave relationship, he does say that, “The hardest thing a submissive can be asked to do is to let go of addictive behaviors. I have seen submissives who were able to control their negative addictive behaviors through their submission. I have also seen the devastation that can occur when a submissive feels like a total failure after he or she has tried to obey Master with regard to food, alcohol or drugs.” It is relatively safer to approach general issues of overeating that are not related to addiction, or encourage health through exercise within the D/s context. For example I work out regularly and my Dominant expects me to make that a priority. The difference between this and him “fixing me” by ordering me to lose weight is that working out is loving my strength, rather than hating my size.

Who’s Responsible, and What you can do to Change Attitudes
One of the complicated issues around size acceptance is our culture’s very strong bias against larger people. NAAFA says, “An estimated 38 million Americans are significantly heavier than average, and face societal and institutional bias because of their size. Fat people are discriminated against in employment, education, access to public accommodations, and access to adequate medical care. In addition, fat people are stigmatized, and are the victims of tasteless jokes and assaults on their dignity.”

The question then is, to what extent can an individual, you or I, fight this cultural bias? Being fat is similar to race and physical disabilities in the sense that it is immediately seen, and yet it is still acceptable to overtly make fun of fat people. Despite this, you can find people of color like Tina Turner who do not believe they have been discriminated against. I myself have not found my size to have held me back from anything in particular. What accounts for this? Is it sheer ignorance, or is there something else in play?

I believe that there is a very big something else in play, and I would like to advance my own approach to size. I am not immune to the cultural pressure to be thin. However, being a size 24 for most of my adult life I have come to recognize that my size has little to do with anything that really counts in this world. For example, do you really believe that your size is more important than how good a parent you are? Does being fat somehow prevent you from contributing to your community? Does a size 18 dress actually translate into being inefficient at your job or pursuing your vocation? Of course not. I believe that it is these things that make our lives meaningful, and that to a certain extent our obsession with size suggests a superficial approach to life that ignores the essentially spiritual aspect of our existence.

I also believe that cultural pressure aside, the biggest contribution to how people treat me is how I treat myself. I have never had a shortage of friends or lovers, either in the vanilla or BDSM communities. I am a living example of how personal attitude transcends cultural bias. Am I unusually brilliant, good looking, or wealthy? I only wish I was! But I do love myself, and express that love in physical and spiritual ways. Can everyone do this? Maybe not, but each of us can do something to change attitudes, both our own and that of others. If you think this is someone else’s job, you’re dead wrong. It is my job as a plus-sized gal to help the people around me accept or at least not care about my size. The only way to do that is by accepting, and loving it myself.

In Closing

The BDSM community offers a unique place of acceptance for fat people, and I would like that acceptance to proliferate. I ask you to not just stand up for yourself, but to stand up for all fat people. Speak up! Stand up! Listen up! Do not allow yourself to be repressed by some cultural decree about never being “too rich or too thin.” You can start by complimenting a friend on their persistence, compassion or strength of purpose. Follow that up with some appreciation for their contribution to their community, the attention they give to their daughter, or their gift of listening. And if you really want to be subversive, tell someone “you look great, you’ve gained weight!”e

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