Sex and the Fat Girl: She's Got a Great Personality

Tasha Fierce
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Tasha Fierce is a writer living in the occupied Tongva territory known as Los Angeles. You can follow them on Twitter at @tashajfierce and read more of their work on their website.

In real life dating, as in pop culture, fatness is often treated as something a person has to overcome in order to be considered an acceptable romantic partner. The trope of the fat girl with the “great personality” (“great personality” being a common code phrase for “ugly” or “fat”) who triumphs over dating adversity and finds a date who is able to see past the fat is commonly used in movies, television, and pretty much any other form of entertainment. An extreme example of this trope playing out is portrayed in Shallow Hal (which I hate to even bring up), with Jack Black’s character literally being put under a sort of spell in order to be able to see the inner beauty of Rosemary, played by Gwyneth Paltrow in a freaking fat suit. In the end, of course, the spell wears off and he’s shocked that Rosemary is fat—but eventually her great personality enables him to love her despite her size.

Rarely if at all are narratives used in which fat women’s bodies are viewed as sexy in and of themselves, where said bodies attract mates because they are desirable. As we’ve discussed before, fat women’s bodies are often desexualized, and fat sexuality itself is something that’s seen as disgusting and undesirable. A movie with a fat heroine who is actively desired and pursued by men and enjoys engaging in sexual activities is the stuff “controversial” indie movies are made of. It’s so counter to our common thinking that fat is a repellent that any narrative daring to claim otherwise is considered “fringe” in many people’s minds. With the majority of U.S. women being lumped into the nebulous category of “overweight,” you’d think the demand would be high for portrayals of fat women who aren’t desired only for their personality. But so many women are used to it being drilled into our heads that our bodies are never attractive because of their size, shape, dimensions, etc., that we don’t even think we deserve to see a woman like us experiencing the pleasure of being desired physically.

Of course it’s important to develop a decent personality for any size woman, but fat women are charged with being twice as nice as the thinner girls. We aren’t supposed to be able to lean back and not be overeager when someone shows a spark of interest in us, whereas thinness often gives you a pass on being worried about having to overcompensate for your size. Fat women are expected to focus all our efforts in the dating world on doing everything possible to make it easier for someone to look past our fatness. Dress monochromatically; don’t eat in front of him; cut your hair so your face looks less fat; downplay your interests and focus on your partner’s. Society, and in turn pop culture, reinforces these ideas and desired behaviors by only producing media that show fat girls who bend over backwards to overcome their “flaws” getting rewarded with love and desire, whereas more “sassy” fat girls only get to be sidekicks to some thin woman.

Fortunately, in real life we get to make the decisions about who is worthy of our time and affection. If we can empower more fat girls to see their bodies as sexually attractive and deserving of a partner who agrees with them, eventually the demand for pop culture that reflects our reality will increase. But first, we have to stop consuming the media that make us feel unattractive and undesirable in the first place.

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7 Comments Have Been Posted

Lauren of 'Glee'

I wonder, what is your opinion of Lauren on 'Glee'? She is unapologetic about her body, which is larger than the bodies of other female characters on the show. She seems to feel sexy in her skin. But still, her current love interest (Puck) has to make many excuses for her in order to explain why he's into her despite her size.

You should connected this

You should connected this discussion to both the series Huge and the character Lauren Zizes from Glee. I would be interested in how these representations conform and resist these tropes about fat female sexuality.

Sookie St. James

I always think of the character of Sookie St. James on The Gilmore Girls. At no point in the show is her size pointed to as in any way affecting her love/sex life. In fact, the one scene in which she does get a bit defensive about her lack of dating, she points to her busy career and never once mentions "body image issues" or anything about her appearance. When she falls in love and gets married it is seen by all the characters on the show as completely understandable and natural. I love it, it makes me happy every time I think of it.

Thank you, Gilmores.

Mike & Molly

Like you, I was thinking of Sookie on Gilmore Girls as I was reading this. Melissa McCarthy a.k.a. Sookie has a new show called Mike & Molly. She plays Molly, an overweight teacher. In the first episode she goes to a meeting called Over Eaters Anonymous or something, and makes a lot of jokes about her weight. She meets Mike there, an overweight police officer. It would be great to see a discussion on these two characters in relation to this blog post. They seem to want to lose weight for health purposes, but the jokes their sidekicks spew out about their weight, it's disturbing.

Fat women take up space and

Fat women take up space and that is very threatening in a hetro-male centric society because size is power. Could you imagine if women could feel desire, own their bodies and space and demand respect, equal wages and express their "appetite" for sex, love and all else, how that would throw off the patriarchal paradigm in such a radical way? It would be a different world if feminine power had an equal place.

"fat women take up space and..."

totally agree w/ anonymous about size being power. i am also almost 6 ft. tall as well as being "overweight", and damn am i a threat!

I was agreeing with you until

I was agreeing with you until that last bit. Saying "most men are latent pedophiles" is an extremely awful statement--it's like saying that all heterosexual sex is rape (and let's not forget that women can have pedohilic tendencies and that homosexual men are excluded by that statement). It is, in short, a fucked-up thing to say. I will agree that our society equates female beauty with youth, and that youth is prized over age, and that these kinds of ideas are often problematic, and that the infantilization of women is something that must be dealt with. But saying that men are pedophiles is terrible on both sides: it's insulting to men, and it's not examining the core problem of our society's habit of infamtilizing women by saying, "Oh, men are just pedos. It's just how they are."

So, Common Man, I agree with you about the ick factor of that statement. But I take issue with your equating fatness with sickness. If it can't be said that most men are pedophiles, then it also can't be said that most fat people are "diseased." Weight gain and loss are often factors/symptoms of ailments, but a person can be fat and healthy.

In short, blanket generalizations are not your friends. <-- except for that one. :)

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