Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sexuality and Women's Body Image: Sizing Us Up



Every time I speak in front of a group of women, I’m taken by the beautiful diversity of their individual selves. Of course, there’s the hypnotic variety of skin tones, facial features and hair colors and textures, that testify to the infinite garden of racial, ethnic and cultural diversity that flavors the human condition. But there’s also, invariably, a breath-taking array of body sizes, and I’m always so pleased to see those women who wear their sizes, the largest to the smallest, with love and pride.

No matter our size, there’s a vital case to be made for maintaining a “healthful” body weight, whatever that might be, based upon a variety of factors like age, height, individual and family history and so on. And certainly, maintaining a healthy relationship with one’s "numbers" including those associated with blood pressure and blood glucose levels, both of which are tied to size and weight, can be absolutely essential to staying alive.

But as far as sheer appearance and sense of self are concerned, like so many of women in the US and elsewhere, I’ve scuffled with this weight thing for as long as I can remember, sometimes impatient with my family’s tendency towards being “pleasingly plump” as my beautiful and pleasingly plump Nana used to say.

But especially now, when January 1st’s resolutions to trim it all down have begun their inevitable wane, a smart young woman who’s close to my heart thought a post about sex and size - not penis size, mind you - might just be in order.

Of course, when it comes to the crossroads of weight and sexual desire, the topic’s of particular interest to those of us past menopause, since the older we get, what with flagging hormones and the loss of muscle mass, the harder it often seems to pare ourselves down.

Lots of women know the pain of it all, it seems, feeling that a larger girth makes them somehow less desirable, and then striving to “get down” as close as we possibly can to whatever size and weight we believe approximates perfection. And in a culture that conflates youth and thinness with desirability, it’s easy to imagine how large-bodied women, particularly older large-bodied women, might wind up feeling marginalized and overlooked. Ironically, it doesn’t take much to see how larger women can end up feeling less than their thinner counterparts.

But the actuality is quite different, of course, and markedly removed from the superficial perception.

Whether gay or straight, and regardless of our ages, there are huge numbers of fine, attractive, accomplished prospective partners out there who find large, "thick", queen-sized women irresistibly exciting, exquisitely sexy, wildly “hot” and endlessly appealing. Ask them and they’ll be more than happy to tell you. And just as any one of us might actively seek out the sort of lovers/ companions/sex partners with the attributes that we desire, prospective lovers of large-sized women actively seek them out and often prefer them over smaller women for some very compelling reasons.

For example, many lovers of larger women feel that big beautiful women, or BBWs, as they sometimes call themselves, provide a kind of physical grounding, or something tangible, soft and substantial to hold onto, especially during sex. Many of these men claim a singular fondness for “thick hips and thighs” since the presence of those attributes creates a particular, sought-after feel against men’s oftentimes harder, more angular bodies. Along those same lines, some men attest that vaginal intercourse with a woman who's amply endowed in the rear gives greater depth of penetration in sexual positions that have the man on top. It's analogous, they say, to putting a pillow under one's hips to allow the entire length of the penis a more complete entry. Only better.

And while stereotypes of large women might have one thinking otherwise, BBWs are often perceived by the men who desire them as being agile, extremely self-confident, and poised in a way that radiates an intense and highly seductive kind of outlaw sensuality.

Others say that large women are more authentic and more “grounded,” and that they’re far less likely to try and change a man, evidenced, at least in theory, by the assumption that they refuse to change themselves. Indeed, some men find larger women’s refusal to conform to a thin standard of beauty a site of intense arousal in itself. Laid out in the simplest of terms, we can surely see why: resistance is a form of power and power is a seductive, potent aphrodisiac.

From an evolutionary standpoint as well, the sexual attractiveness of large female bodies made perfect sense if the species was to survive; women with extra body mass were less in danger of starving to death. Their bodies were seen to be better able to withstand the demands of pregnancy without depleting the woman’s own energy reserves. Wide hips indicated that the owner was likely to be able to carry fetuses to term and give birth multiple times with a high rate of success. To the extent that much of this may be hardwired into human males via somatic, or “cell” memory, it’s easy to see why larger women have such a devoted, enthusiastic, and loyal fan base. Certainly, the statues of fertility goddesses unearthed in ancient ruins around the world make an undeniable case for the perception of large pendulous breasts, rounded abdomens and fleshy behinds as sexually arousing.

The same, of course, can be said for the famous work of the 17th century Flemish baroque painter Rubens, whose very buxom nudes embodied the standard for sexual attractiveness in their time.

All of this is contrary, however, to the persistent, dominant 21st century US narrative about female desirability, the tagline of which still privileges thinness and a prepubescent angularity that many women are happy to have long ago left behind. But as we move ever forward into a world that values diversity in all its delicious richness and endless manifestations, BBWs, large women, fluffy women as some like to call themselves, already know what their admirers know: Pleasure and desire come in every shape and size.


Have concerns about your weight ever affected your sense of being sexually attractive? Do you think body image issues are influenced by culture?





photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/foxtongue/1363004/">Foxtongue</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

13 comments:

  1. My weigt has affected my way feel sexual attraction, I always felt ugly because of some people in my life. When I got married I didn't even want to sex in the light because of it. But now that I am divorce, I see things different and want to be happy with myself. I am no really sure if my culture is the reason.

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  2. Concerns about my weight have definitely affected my sense of feeling sexually attractive.
    I think mainstream media has a strong influence on how people should look. If I do not fit that standard then I get more active and eat less junk.

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  3. My personal body image has most definitely made me feel more, and sometimes, less sexual. The more comfortable I became with just me the more that slipped away. I believe that our society is driven by anything that looks pretty. However I have learned that pretty holds many, many different definitions and most of the time pretty cannot be seen with the eyes but with the heart.

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  4. I think when I view women in the physical sense then I am limited to just that. Today's media does portray skinny women as beautiful. Personally I prefer the connection spiritually and emotionally no matter the physical make-up. I am heavy and until I was comfortable in my own skin I couldn't get past the lack of self-confidence with my body. It does not bother me to be me today.

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  5. Weight has actually played a negative view with my body and sex. My weight used to always made me feel less then beautiful and sexy. With the years and experience I have changed my view on that. I considered myself beautiful and sexy all the time and so does my man.

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  6. Media and society's preoccupation of youth and beauty has most definitely affected the way we perceive each other and our definitions of attractiveness and beauty.
    I feel into this brainwashing as a young man but as I have matured and defined myself for myself and accepted beauty and attractiveness as I see it through the guiding principles of spirituality, physicality, and emotionalism my connection to 'beautiful" people has increased and allowed me to find the real beauty that lies at the very core of people,including myself. More so in those I find physically attractive; but being able to admit to myself that some of my belief systems of beauty and that of a woman's weight was influenced by what I was 'told" was attractive as compared to my personal concept has allowed me to break the chains of mental control and accept the truth of my sapiosexualism when dealing with what I truly find attractive in women.

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  7. I have been on both sides of the coin. I use to be small like a size 5 and the man that I was dating during those years thought that I was too skinny. Doing my years of contentment and alone I started gaining weight. I did not like it and still today I am struggling with it. My man tells me all the time that I am sexy as hell. I do think that today's culture plays a very big role in how I feel.

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  8. I have always been sexy slim and I have been called a lot of thin names . I had strong family values and support that enable me to look past the evilness that surrounded me . The kids would say" I was to skinny to cheer , to little to play basketball I heard it all and my parents let me try anything I wanted . I never let society set my goals on life . You must have self respect and control over your own mine and body and the prejudice of society will become a blind spot in your future. Every man ,woman and child has their own unique features and should always be proud of themselves no matter what others think . Heavy is sexy and so is thin an sexy !!!

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  9. yes i have major issue with my body imgaine yes it does effect me a lot of times. when i see my girls look at other woman it makes me feel fat and ugly and how can i change to look good for her.

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  10. This is an interesting article and something I have been battling with, for some reason, all my life. I know how I like my clothes to fit and I do not think it is attractive to have belly rolls showing from underneath my shirt. My figure represents my sex appeal. Unfortunately, I was once told by my ex-husband, that he loves to have something to hold onto, referring to my stomach. It reminded me of a child rubbing his mother's stretched marked stomach. I hate the notion of it. For me, the smaller I am the more energy I have in bed, and the more turned on I am by my own voluptuous body. When I gain weight I get depressed, but I also like to eat. I think it has a lot to do with the inward part of me on how I view my outward part. I am working on it.

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  11. I think it is different strokes for different folks. I am a small frame female every guy does not like slim women and every guy does not like thicker women, but luckily I always run into the ones that like slim chics! I use to think I needed to gain weight to be appealing to a man but now that im older have 2 kids and come to realize I am naturally small and there is nothing I can do about it I embrace it.

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  12. When I started gaining weight, I was somewhat self conscious being naked in front of my ex husband. I had to realize that I was getting older and would not stay the same size I was in high school. As I got older I began to get comfortable with my weight. I still want to loss weight, but more for my health and myself. sgardner

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  13. I lost weight 2 years ago and my boyfriend always tell me he loved me when I was thick. Now that I am smaller he says he still love me. I lost the weight for health reasons. Sometimes I wish I was a little thicker but I am glad I am not. I loved the way I looked with or without the weight.

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