Today I want to share my thoughts on an article I read from a fat positive activist about weight and attraction.
Virgie Tovar is a body positive activist, feminist, and a powerful voice in the current anti-fat phobic wave that has been very popular in the media lately.
She recently wrote an article (see the full article here) titled ‘No one gets to tell you what your body looks like’ where she talks about nobody having the right to decide how you should or shouldn’t look.
Now while I agree with those sentiments 100%, the big problem is that in this article she also states that if you won’t date a fat person because of their size then you are being controlling!
“If a person won’t date someone because they’re fat – or would consider ending a relationship if their thin partner became fat – that’s an example of being controlling.”
Now this echoes many other viewpoints I’ve heard from various women in larger bodies on a similar journey and while I really enjoy a lot of the work that I’ve seen so far from the author of this post, Virgie Tovar, I have to disagree with her.
My critique is never anti-fat but it is from a male perspective and as a lot of Virgie’s work I’ve tuned into does seem to be quite feminist based, I got the feeling that this article was aimed mostly at men. As in, those men who won’t date fat women.
Now I really don’t know enough about the different schools of feminism to be for or against it, however, as a man, and I hope I can speak for women too, but I have to defend the right to not feel as though I’m oppressing someone else if I don’t find them attractive.
This is not by the way based on my own preferences but a stand for anyone to have freedom of choice.
DO WE CHOOSE WHO WE ARE ATTRACTED TO?
Now fair enough, we may be attracted to someone and repressing our attraction. Interesting studies on homophobic men have found in instances them to be the most aroused by gay pornography and religion has also proved a popular shield for many to resist their carnal desires of the flesh or as the case may be for some priests, they don’t resist!!
Sure we are living in a fat phobic culture where I believe many’s capacity for being sexy is stifled as it is difficult to appreciate body diversity and flaunt when anything other than skinny and lean are sadly banished to the side lines as a disease, but ultimately do we choose who we are attracted to?
If I find someone unattractive based on any physical aspect of them am I then at fault? Am I just not working hard enough to appreciate them? Am I a racist? A bigot, because I’m not learning to find someone else attractive for that aspect?
By her logic, I should really be open to finding every man and woman attractive, regardless of age, race, gender, and body shape.
Her argument as I’ve read it, is stating that anyone who doesn’t date someone because they are fat is controlling.
Perhaps I’ve misunderstood her message and her use of the word control but deciding a romantic partner or encounter based on your preferences seems like free will to me. Both parties are free agents to either like or dislike one another based on something as superficial as appearance.
The other point was referring to breaking up with a partner because they gained weight. In that sense I can understand how one might abuse their influence over their partner by setting ultimatums for change but that is really a different issue entirely. That, in many forms is manipulation and could be considered by some to be a type of abuse. If one person decides to leave a relationship because they don’t find their partner attractive anymore then I’m sorry but that is the free world we live in. It’s not for us to decide the quality of a person based on their decisions within their relationship.
SO WHAT MAKES ATTRACTION?
A big problem I notice from some of the female side are confusing self-worth with attraction. Every man and woman is deserving of absolute respect and consideration but often times some of these women are demanding men to find them attractive based on the criteria that women find men attractive rather than what men actually find attractive and that is an unfair imposition to make of men. To say love me or you’re fat phobic!
WHAT MEN WANT
Attraction for men bases its evolutionary success on how much seed men can spread with as many of the most fertile and attractive women he can get. Whether we men can pull the trigger on this instinct on not is not always within our control and also many, many men, including myself, recognise and value far more than just the superficial in order to create a relationship of real substance and also many take the time to get to know a woman and be open to a romantic relations based on qualities that excite attraction beyond a split-second judgement. But still it remains that our biology of copulating and then pursuing the next woman and the next one is our survival strategy. It is superficial but that does not illegitimize it.
It is more than evident that we are indeed being given very narrow parameters of what attractive and beautiful is in our media and culture. Too narrow to be accurate of such a diverse demographic and certainly narrow enough to brainwash us into believing that stick thin and lean is the norm. So yes, I believe our perceptions of beauty can be tampered with; made unrealistic, and we can place unfair demands on ourselves and others, but some people don’t find other people attractive and there are some internal regulators that drive what we find attractive.
To be base, I’m sceptical to believe that our dicks can be manipulated. Regardless of any influence, our factory setting is a very well calibrated system that has worked for hundreds of thousands of years but I will consent to there being a grey area and even though we may have been tainted with cultural brainwashing, it is not measurable which means we cannot distinguish between our instinctive lust and what might potentially be being subdued by the thin ideal, and so it is unjust to say if someone is judging you because you don’t fit society’s mould because you don’t know. You just don’t know if you don’t fit their animal desire that is saying you’re not attractive to them, in which case their judgement of you is their human right and not a moral issue.
This doesn’t dismiss that there is a lot of work still to be done and that there is certainly a conventional mould of what we acknowledge beauty that we need to break, i.e. the skinny norm as the only way to be healthy and sexy, but we also can’t just go jamming our desires down the throat of the world because it’s what we want and hope everyone will change so that we feel better. I think we all want the common goal of eliminating bigotry and taking size diversity out of the fringes and into the collective consciousness.
IS FAT ATTRACTIVE?
So finally, is fat attractive?
For some yes and for others no.
That's the beauty of life and the point I ultimately want to make that attraction is subjective. In fact, in her own words Virgie Tovar says that one of her “inalienable rights that humans deserve regardless of size, appearance, or health status,” is “no one gets to tell you who you sleep with.”
I really respect a lot of her work and I hope she keeps challenging the status quo because we need debate and we need mavericks. Even if it’s so we disagree with them and start our own new thought process for self-learning and discovery.
I would like to know what other people think about this topic. If you agree or disagree. Am I missing something? I’ve also used a heterosexual framework here but if anyone has any other angles they’d like to introduce that can add some flavour to this debate then the more the merrier.