I was in my 20s the first time I heard the term BBW and learned that it stood for Big Beautiful Women. I had access to magazines, TV, books, movies and a host of other media, all without ever hearing of someone who thought fat bodies (like mine) could be sexy. I'm like a lot of fat people. (And yeah, I'm using the word fat even though some people still cringe when they hear it. Nothing about it is inherently insulting, negative, or worthy of scorn. I promise, getting used to hearing it will take the sting out.)
Anyway, like a lot of fat people, I was raised on a steady diet of disdain for my body, predicated on the idea that I could never be happily partnered with anyone if I "stayed fat." Many people of size are resigned to the idea that they should settle for boring, intermittent, unsatisfying sex, or worse -that they should forgo sexy times altogether until they lose weight. Given the stats on successful weight loss, roughly 95 percent of those people will be waiting a very long time. I'm sure geriatric sex is awesome, but why wait decades to have the awesome giggity you could be having right now? Let's take a look at what keeps some Big Beautiful Women (and yes, Big Handsome Men too) from the big, big love they could be enjoying now.
Problem: LogisticsTrying new sex positions can be daunting for anyone. But when you or your partner look nothing like the Kama Sutra pictures, sex becomes a mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a condom. Can you believe there's no such thing as a fat Kama Sutra? Existing books on sexual positions all focus on a specific body type that excludes not just fat people, but anyone below 5 feet or above 6 feet tall.
Solution: In the 1980s Dr. Ruth Westheimer encouraged the use of pillows for propping and leverage, making sex positions easier to achieve. Since then, people have been talking about sex more openly and more honestly, leading to a flood of products designed to help people of all sizes have great sex. The Liberator ramp is my personal fave. It's a bit of an investment but honestly, how much is too much to spend if the result is even more incredible sex? (Get more tips on sex positions in 9 Sex Moves to Rock a Woman's World.)
Problem: Dressing the PartFinding sexy bras, garters, teddies and other lingerie in plus-sizes has always been a hassle. Even if you find a reasonably priced store that carries large sizes, they almost never have large models. A size 22 shouldn't have to guess what something will look like from seeing it on a size six model.
Solution: Fat-shion! More (mostly online) stores than ever carry plus-size lingerie of all types from modest to bold. Fat people demanded bustiers, thigh-high fishnets, silk boxer shorts, teddies and naughty nighties of all kinds. Torrid and Hips & Curves are good places to begin. (You can also check out plus-size lingerie at our affiliate, Adam & Eve.)
There are also crafting websites where talented seamstresses line up to create custom clothing for all sizes. Adventurous DIY types can add sparkle to boring bras with fabric paints, or even a bedazzler. Finally, you can network with other fatshionistas online to ask questions, get opinions and advice, and see pics of heavy people looking super cute in fancy duds. You might even see me over there!
Problem: "It Doesn't Look Right"The concept of confirmation bias means that our brains tend to favor information of imagery if it conforms to something we already believe. Most of us have been taught that, for example, full breasts above a small waist is very sexy. Anything that deviates from this, like fat, must not be sexy, right? Wrong! Sexy is always in the eye of the beholder. Luckily, the solution here is an easy one, since we always have the option to broaden our idea of what sexy looks like.
Solution: In the real world, preferences are as varied and changeable as the people who have them. Find some of the many wonderful images out there of people of all sizes playing sports, dancing, eating cupcakes, and getting the most out of life, and put them someplace you'll see them often. Whether it's on your refrigerator, your desktop wallpaper, or stuck on a bulletin board, surround yourself with images of people who look like you (or are you) doing wonderful things. Get used to looking at them until you remember that beauty can be found in a multitude of sizes -especially yours.
Problem: Negative Body ImageI'm certainly not suggesting that fat people are the only ones with body image issues, but fat people are often told how unacceptable they are by parents, siblings, teachers, doctors, classmates, friends, enemies and even total strangers. Whether it's done in the course of bullying or out of feigned concern, being told that your body is unhealthy, ugly, or wrong can make anyone feel decidedly unsexy. Because we don't tend to take good care of things we hate, bad body image can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Solution No.1: Pampering. Stress and negative body image go hand-in-hand. We tend to be less patient and accepting with ourselves when we're under stress. The first step in feeling better about yourself is to relax. Whether this means deep cleansing breaths, a few minutes of Mozart, or a nice foot massage, less stress leads to better body image. (Sex is also a great stress reliever. Read more in Skip the Gym, Get In Bed: 7 Health Benefits of Sex.)
Solution No.2: Realism. Everybody knows someone who hates to be photographed because they never like how the pictures turn out. But being fat isn't like having a zit on your nose. You can't hide it. What's more, everyone with working eyes can already see what you look like. So who exactly are you hiding from? Whoever they are, they can already see you. And they're wondering why you're trying to disguise curvy hips under a giant T-shirt, or hide a double chin behind a carefully placed thumb-and forefinger.
Problem: NudityAside from all the puritanical attitudes people have about nudity in general, fatties have an even bigger problem. They've been told that no one wants to see them naked. If you grew up believing that everyone thinks fat is ugly, taking your clothes off in front of another person is not so much sexy as it is heart-stoppingly terrifying.
Solution: Befriend your body. If you don't already do this, spend some alone time walking around your home naked. Do the things you'd normally do. Make some tea, read, fold laundry or just take a nap. Take a few minutes to really look at yourself in a full-length mirror and marvel at just how amazing your body is. Being naked with yourself will help you be more comfortable being naked with a friend. Befriending your body also means being honest about what it looks like. Fat women in particular are more likely to engage in fat-denying gymnastics during sex. They keep their arms tight at their sides or twist their backs like a pretzel doing yoga, all in the hope that they'll look a little slimmer, their stomachs a little flatter. Your partner can see you, and he totally wants to have sex with you. Accepting that upfront makes it easier to relax and have fun.
Problem: ShynessThere are different types of shyness. The shyness I refer to here has to do with not speaking up about your needs, fears, likes and dislikes, or generally being too nervous to discuss things openly with your partner. This type of shyness doesn't just lead to bad sex; it can be crippling to the whole relationship. While shyness can seem daunting, it can also be overcome.
Solution: Talk it out. Many of us have been taught that it's romantic for our partner to magically understand our needs without being told. Unless you're dating a wizard, that's probably not possible. You don't have to wait until you're in the throes of passion to discuss sex. In fact, many couples find it less awkward to talk specifics at non-sexy times, while doing the dishes or relaxing in front of the TV, for example. The timing is less important than the openness. If your fear of crushing your partner (not a realistic worry, say the experts) makes you not want to avoid being on top, say so. If you burst into uncontrollable giggles at the sight of a glow-in-the-dark condom, say that too. Levity is great for diffusing awkwardness. (Get some tips on how to communicate better in Talk Dirty to Me: The Why and How of Hot Aural Sex.)
Focusing on fat can leave fatties feeling so ugly that we develop our own confirmation bias. But come one. Plenty of other things that come in all shapes, sizes and colors are called beautiful every day. Is a sunflower less beautiful than a peony because it's so much bigger? Of course not. Why should it be any different with human beings? It shouldn't, especially when you consider that the most powerful sex organ in humans is the brain. That means that spectacular sex - at any size - is really all about putting mind over body mass. (For more great info, check out "Big, Big Love: A Sex and Relationship Guide for People of Size.")