Yesterday I read yet another story where a woman who is not skinny gets naked for sex, and then immediately covers up afterwards because she’s ashamed of her body. I went on a bit of a rant on twitter.
I do understand of course that some people don’t get naked for sex. I’m one of them. This isn’t about that. This is about the representation of thick, curvy, chubby, voluptuous, big, zaftig, and fat women in erotica and romance, and the scarcity of representation where they enjoy hot sex and are ok with their own bodies and nakedness. (As a fat activist, I generally use the word fat to include all those folks, as descriptor, not an insult. So that’s the word I’m going to use for the rest of this post.)
I’d love to see fat men and fat genderqueer folks who are ok with their own bodies and nakedness too! I honestly have read very few erotica and romance stories with main characters who are fat men and genderqueers; there are a lot more stories centering fat women.
Sure, body shame is a struggle for most folks, and being targeted by fatphobia generally means that fat folks have a good portion of it at various points in our lives. I don’t need characters who never have fat shame, but I would like to sometimes see characters who have worked through the lion’s share of it. I’d love to see fat characters who begin the story already knowing that the daily fatphobia they experience is toxic and wrong and who are working on their internalization of it. Maybe even fat characters who are fat activists, or connected to fat activist community. If the character has to grapple with fat shame in the story, can we please have a character that generally feels pretty good about herself and gets triggered by something specific that she then works through?
I care about this because it hurts to read it over and over again. It hurts to read yet another fat character feeling ashamed of their body. It especially hurts when it happens right after sex, when they immediately move into self-doubt, shame, assumed rejection, fear, self-loathing, a sense of personal failure right in the afterglow of sex. I’m going to tell you why this is hurtful for me, as a fat reader.
- It is yet another message that body shame is (read: should be) the constant condition for fat folks. That if anything, sex pauses that momentarily, and then the character resets to their usual self-doubt and self loathing. I don’t need more of this fatphobia in my psyche, thank you. It jars me out of the story (which often does not actually center fatphobia), and nudges me to connect more deeply with my own internalized fatphobia. It’s also not realistic. I have been having sex as a fat person for a long time, and my body shame is just not that fucking predictable.
- As part of a repeated pattern that is deeply tied to the ways fat oppression intersects with misogyny and sexuality and manifests culturally, it’s enraging. Which, you know, isn’t what I was looking for from this reading experience. It also feels like the author let me down, when the blurb and promo material promised a fat positive book with a HEA or HFN, what I have instead is a book that feels terrible to read because of the ways it reproduces fat oppression.
- It disrupts my own erotic engagement with the book, and basically makes it impossible for me to have further erotic engagement with the book. As someone who actually does love reading the dirty parts and likes to have erotic engagement with what I’m reading, it often makes me avoid reading the rest of the sex scenes in the book, which takes a considerable amount of enjoyment out of reading the book at all, and can lead to a DNF. Like some of my experiences as a trans reader, this kind of thing can jolt me out of stories so intensely that I don’t even try to return, because I’m dealing with the reverb.
- It deeply impacts how I experience the prior sex scene, retroactively. While I might have thought it was hot, or gorgeous, or a lovely moment of connection, or exactly what the characters needed, or the perfect nudge for the narrative arc, or whatever other warm fuzzy or smoking hot thoughts I might have had about the sex scene, they are ruined; the sex scene cannot be disconnected from the after body shame. Because that’s a common way human psychology works; what happens at the end deeply shapes our evaluation of what happened overall. (I learned this in a psychobiology of SM class taught by the brilliant Dr. Richard Sprott back in 2005 at the Queer SIG.)
- It tells me that despite the other cues I have about how the sex actually was, and how the fat character actually experienced it while it was happening, (e.g. the feelings of pleasure, love, a sense of acceptance and celebration from their partner, an increased level of trust and intimacy between the characters), that I was wrong. That sex instead stirred up their internalized shit (with no specific trigger that I can perceive), or that I was misreading the relationship or sexual dynamic between the characters. It disrupts any positive narrative I might have been experiencing, throws it all into question. (And maybe that’s the point. Except this moment is often gratuitous and doesn’t actually serve the narrative.)
- It doesn’t just make me question my read of the relationship, it also feels like trauma on the page, out of nowhere. Up until the post sex moment, it had seemed like embodied pleasurable consensual (often hot and/or sweet) sex. Now, after sex, the character is reacting much like a character who was triggered, or dissociated during sex, or a character who has just been sexually assaulted. But there is no clear trigger, nothing to tell me why this is happening, or what made the sex scene turn this way. And sure, trauma responses don’t often have clear triggers, but the response isn’t even interpreted within a trauma context for the character experiencing it. It is not tended to by the folk(s) they were having sex with (their attempts are often rejected if this comes up at all as a possibility). Nor is it often returned to later as something to work through. Instead, within the narrative, and for the character experiencing it, this is understood as the way sex is. As if the best that fat folks can hope for from sex is hot sex followed immediately by feeling terrible about themselves and distancing themselves in a jarring way from their partners. All that is triggering for me, in an underground way, where the internalized oppression is acting as a trauma and is normalized. This kind of reading experience often literally (as well as emotionally) makes me feel queasy, which is not a good mixture with erotic engagement. It’s a mixture that feels toxic, like I am in the middle of repeated humiliation scenes going terribly wrong, or sex so steeped in misogyny that it feels awful even when it also may feel hot.
- It denies me aftercare, as a reader. Instead, I am just abruptly left, with no aftercare or consideration for my connection to what I’m reading. (This often mirrors the experience of the characters having sex with the fat character in the book.) Sure, this can happen sometimes, and make sense, be the right narrative choice. But as the thing that happens every time a fat character has sex, it’s not just about the narrative, and it’s too easy of a choice.
I don’t go to erotica and romance for these experiences as a reader. They are not what I’m seeking. They are something I dread from stories centering fat characters. And it sucks to dread stories that center people like you and the folks you love and care about.
So, I’m looking for recommendations. If you know stories that center fat characters who are not ashamed to be naked after sex, I want to read them!
If you are thinking of writing fat characters and are worried you don’t know enough or that you will do it wrong, let me point you to a few links that may help. I want you to write those stories!
- My round up of resources on writing the other
- dicey tillerman on the need for fat characters,writing fat characters and on writing thin characters
- Falconesse on writing fat characters (she’s talking more about secondary characters)
- Sarah Hollowell on writing fat characters (good stuff in comments too) also her more recent post for skinny writers on how to write fat characters
- This piece on how to date a fat girl may be useful for folks writing heterosexual romance
- Lynne Murray on the challenge of writing fat friendly fiction
- This post where clawfoot describes stereotypes about fat women can be useful as a description of what to avoid.
- Amanda Fitzwater on a common trope to avoid when writing fat characters
- ETA: This video by Olivia Dade on writing fat rep in romance
Since I’ve found it so difficult to locate these kinds of stories, I also want to make it easier for others to find those things in my own work. So, here is a list of my work that centers fat characters having hot sex and play, where there is no thought of immediately covering up once the scene is done. It includes short excerpts. As a heads up, all my work involves BDSM.
My Work Centering Fat Characters
ETA: My best stories centering fat characters are included in my new collection, Show Yourself To Me.
(As a heads up, this excerpt references Daddy/boy dynamic that does not involve ageplay)
Theo was my first Daddy. If he was still around, things might be different for me. He was 41, an experienced top, a large bear of a man with knowing eyes. This Daddy could see into me, past my bravado to my scared little heart. He could read me like no one since. He just knew how to reach right in and find that kernel of pride he wanted to grow in me. He was the sexiest man I had ever seen. In my memory, he is seven feet tall, but I know he was really 5’9″. He had reddish brown skin, chocolate brown eyes, and a wicked grin. His beard was thick and wild, and that hair traveled all over his considerable frame. He had large precise hands, and if I close my eyes, I can still feel his paw resting firmly on the back of my neck.
I worshipped my Daddy, and he soaked in my adoration as his due. Daddy had been on T for four years. Until I saw him naked, I had not even imagined a trans man could get so hairy. His legs were hulking trunks covered in fur, and his belly had this wiry wandering maze of hair that prickled my cheek when I rested my head on it. He had this gravely growl of a voice that just felt dangerous. When Daddy talked about who I could become, it seemed very far away. A bare-faced trans guy who had not even started testosterone, I wanted to be a boy forever. I didn’t see my future in Daddy, I just saw magic and power that I wanted to worship.
Daddy was a joyous faggot, fully comfortable in his fat body. His unshakeable fat pride steadied my own. He prized me for my size, for my strength, for my pride in myself, and for my ravenous appetite. Daddy was a hedonist, and he taught me the pleasures of indulgence. We could spend hours in the park, lazing in the grass, soaking up the sun, his paw resting possessively on my throat as my head snuggled his furry thigh.
“Lucky” (Best Women’s Erotica 2009, Best S/M Erotica 3, Sugar and Spice) centers a fat femme submissive and describes her fantasy gangbang scene that her butch dominant sets up for her at a kink conference.
(As a heads up, this excerpt depicts a D/s dynamic, orgasm control and humiliation play, including play with misogyny)
“Tell me. Tell me who you are.”
“I am your slut,” I whispered, and her hands released me as I came for her, writhing on her boot, tears rolling down my face, my cunt throbbing. There is no release like tears and orgasm combined, and she doesn’t forget that. She lifted me to my knees and gently licked the tears from my cheeks.
“Look at yourself,” she said warmly, lifting and turning me to face the mirror. My eyes were wide, face flushed, hair wild. My lipstick showed I’d been sucking cock. The A-line shirt was stretched tout over my large tits and belly, and was so thin you could see my nipples clearly, “slut” written across my chest in red. My skirt had ridden up and my cunt peeked out, glistening. The fishnets had ripped, and the tough boots made me look decidedly queer. She had marked me, her scent enveloping me, her name for me emblazoned on my chest, her cock still on my lips. I am not just a slut, I am her slut, and her actions crystallized that fact. Being her slut makes me powerful.
She tugged my skirt down slightly and stood behind me, pulling the lock out of her pocket and locking my cuffs together behind my back. I stood tall, and followed her out of the room, strutting, my shoulders back, my boots loud, my head high. I was proud to be seen with her, my handsome butch in leather.
“A Large Full Meal” (Salacious magazine #1, Cruising for Bad Boys) tells the story of two transmasculine tops who have a hot scene in the bathroom at a queer conference. The character who bottoms in the story is fat.
A few months earlier, I had caught his eye at a sex club, but we both were busy at the time. I grinned when I saw him in the hallway at the queer conference that morning, telling him that I hoped I would see him at my workshop. I saw him again later in the day, sitting up front in my workshop, holding my gaze as I spoke, a wicked smile on his face. That evening, I was roaming the halls when I spotted him again. He was giving an impromptu lesson on cruising gay men to a couple of eager young trans fags.
“It’s all about the body language,” he explained. “See, in gay men’s community, touch is a primary mode of communication. Say I think that guy is cute.”
He raised his brows at me as I was walking slowly past him. I turned slightly to catch his eye and cocked my head, pausing, eyeing his ass.
“So I’d body up to him from behind, see?”
And he did, slowly. I could feel his breath on my skin.
“And then I’d wait,” he said.
I moved back slightly, completing the contact. He wrapped his arms around my waist, settling in behind me, resting his chin on my shoulder. Even from behind, I could tell his bulk was mostly muscle.
“See how I waited for him to complete the contact before I wrapped my arms around him? It’s all about the subtle signals. Now I bet, if I trailed my hand along his arm, and tilted my head, he’d follow me. We wouldn’t need to say a word.”
He was right. I followed him. Into the single stall all gender bathroom, and locked the door.
“How He Likes It” (Best Lesbian Erotica 2012) is told from the POV of a fat femme bottom, who is offered by her dominant to his former mentor and dominant.
(As a heads up, this excerpt depicts an intense D/s dynamic)
I was his to offer, and glad of it. Glad to be valued so much that I was worth offering to others. Glad to be seen for who I was, my exhibitionistic desires celebrated. Glad to be his, to have the opportunity to give myself to him exactly how he likes it.
Sir knew me from the start, knew things about me that I had not even fully seen. He was a mirror to my power and grace, showing me how beautiful I was in his eyes, how gorgeous my pain was, how delicious my tears, how very much my desire moved him. That is the best a lover can offer us, to really see us, and celebrate what they see. It is a rare and precious thing to be seen, and valued for who we are. So often I had been told I was too much, too loud, too smart for my own good, took up too much space, was too needy, too sexual. Sir had other things to say about my hunger, my desire, my size, my power. My reflection in his eyes told me I did not need to hide my need or my self, I could bring it all to him. That I could not possibly be too much for him. It scared me every time, felt risky every time, and it was exactly what I wanted.
I had not met Dexter before that night. Christian had told me about him, of course. The mentor who had taught my Sir everything he knew about leather; the first top he’d met what was also trans man. They had topped together, of course; it was part of learning. But this was different. I was the first girl that my Sir was going to offer to Dexter after 7 years of estrangement.
We traveled out to DC for the kink conference that Dexter was on staff for, came out a day early just to do this. We had a room in the conference hotel, and as I unpacked for us, Sir made final arrangements. I ate before he came, ordered the room service, set up the cigars on the balcony, and dressed to Sir’s specifications, my hands fumbling and nervous as I attached my garters, my eyes wide as I saw my reflection. I looked like an offering, my hair curling round my shoulders, my small tits raised and bursting out of the tiny shirt, boots drawing attention to the fishnet stockings, skirt short enough to just reveal the very tops of the garters. I had been preparing for this all afternoon, luxuriating in a bath, rubbing lotion on my skin, trimming and primping and readying myself, down to the small plug I slid into my ass. By the time he arrived I felt grounded in myself and who I was, and my body was preparing his welcome in anticipation.
“Strong” (Say Please, Best Lesbian Erotica 2015) is a story told from the POV of a fat trans butch dominant, describing an edgy gender play scene with his genderfluid submissive where the bottom is first a girl and then a boy.
(As a heads up, this excerpt depicts a D/s dynamic and rough body play)
“That’s it boy. Just you and me and a wall. Show me how strong you are, boy.”
I started steady, pounding him with my fists, going after his muscles. We breathed together, slow and easy. Ramming into his pecs, his biceps. Going after his quads. Rhythmic even pounding setting the stage. This was about strength, endurance. Mine, and his.
“Show me what you can take, boy. What you’re made of.”
I slammed him into the wall with my bulk, reminded him that I have 100 pounds on him. He stuck out his chin, just a bit. I slammed into him again, propelling my weight into him. Again, taking his breath with my girth. Again. His eyes started to get glossy. I stepped back and began to kick. I drove my boots into his thigh muscles, delighting in the sound of him grunting with each blow. I used my knee to strike his thigh, watching his eyes get darker.
Sinking into thud roots me, pulls me deep into myself. Using my whole body helps me re-establish, find my footing. He’s not the only one that needs to put himself back together, and he knows it. Knows that this is for both of us, that I need this as much as he does, and his job is to feed the energy back to me, to help keep it cycling between us.
“My Precious Whore” (Best Lesbian Erotica 2011) centers a fat femme submissive sex worker and her trans dominant doing intense edgeplay around misogyny and whorephobia.
(As a heads up, this excerpt depicts a D/s dynamic, orgasm control and pain play)
I place my boot on the back of her neck, smashing her face into the ground at my feet.
“Come,” I order.
And she does. Writhing under my boot, whimpering as she spurts her cunt juices onto the floor.
“Make yourself available.”
She gets into the position, offering me her beautiful wide back. I take out my quirt and I start laying into her. It bites deep red welts into her back. I can feel the blood searching for the surface as I continue to strike, watching her squirm as it hits her, her ass contracting around the baton, a yelp escaping her with each blow, quickly transforming into a moan. Twining designs onto her gorgeous full back with my quirt, I am mesmerized by the sight of her movements in response. She is so beautiful. She is mine, to use exactly as I choose. This fierce, intelligent, incredibly sexy woman is mine. I can fully be myself with her.
(As a heads up, this excerpt depicts a Daddy/boy dynamic involving fear play, and bondage)
I wore only my father’s clothes that night, because that was what Daddy asked me to do. I tried to stand tall and stop trembling as I stood in front of him in them. Daddy walked slowly around me, and the sound of his uneven gait on the concrete calmed me in its familiarity. His hand snaked out and unbuckled my belt, whipping it from my jeans, and he wrapped it around my wrists and forearms, securing me. I began to breathe, slow and even, my father’s belt wrapped around me. Daddy knew exactly how to calm me, and how to scare me, he made a delicious dance of it, and that dance was just beginning.
Daddy shoved me onto a chair, and attached the belt to it. There is nothing that feels safer to me than bondage. Even if the rest is scary, if I concentrate on the sensation of being bound, I can make my way through it.
Daddy was looming over me, his large belly brushing against my head. He smelled so good, a musky sweaty scent mixed with oil and metal. That smell alone gets my dick hard, the smell that tells me a man has been working hard on a bike. It was clear he had; he was dirty as only a mechanic can get dirty, and I ached to suck the grease off his thick fingers.
Sometimes I think about Daddy and get so giddy knowing that I get to be his boy, that a scrawny faggot like me is lucky enough to be claimed by this big tough bear of a man. This was one of those times, as he rested a paw on my head and pressed my mouth against his stomach. Daddy was big enough to keep me safe, strong enough to hold all of me, cruel enough to give me exactly what I needed, and scary enough to keep me coming back for more.
“What I Need” (Best Lesbian Erotica 2014) is a rough ride of a scene shuddering with intensity and sharp edges, told from the POV of a fat trans top.
(As a heads up, this excerpt depicts a D/s dynamic, pain play, face fucking, and breath play)
I push you to your knees, take out my cock, and ram it down your throat. Fuck the niceties, I need to be deep inside you right away, and I am there, feeling your throat convulse around me, growling, telling you to choke on my cock, to take it for me. I have my hands wrapped in your hair and I fuck your face, watching you work to take my dick, reveling in the sight of tears in your eyes. I take your breath with my cock, your nose stuck in my belly, my dick down your throat, and watch you struggle, your eyes huge, tears rolling down your cheeks. I pull back just a bit to free your breath, and yank up my shirt, as I take your breath again, my cock blocking your throat. I don’t pull up my shirt often, usually fuck with all my clothes on, but I want to feel your tears on my skin. My hunger for that is stronger than my need to be completely covered, at least right in this moment, and I know how you see me.
My stomach is jammed against your nose, allowing you no air. I savor it, the control I have over you in this moment, and wrap my hands into your hair, pulling it, as I feel you gasp around my cock. Then I let you breathe again, pulling out for a moment to slap you across the face with my dick, watching your mouth form the words, “Thank you Sir.”
I slap you in earnest, hard on the face, with my cock, then the back of my hand, repeatedly, each time upping the intensity. I thrust into your throat, feeling you choke on my cock, telling you to take it for me, be good for me. I groan, and grip your hair tightly, ramming your mouth onto me, closing my eyes, savoring the feel of being deep inside you. I work my boot between your legs and grind it into you, meeting your eyes and watching them fill with pain, my dick down your throat muffling any noise you might make. I ride your throat hard, my boot grinding in time with my strokes, fresh tears falling on my fat belly and making my cock even harder.
“A Wolf’s Yearning” (free on my site) is told from the POV of a fat genderqueer werewolf sadist named Rocky, and describes hir desire to claim a fat butch for hir own.
(As a heads up, this excerpt depicts a possessive D/s dynamic, fisting, and fear play)
Rocky gripped Frankie’s throat tighter, upping the ante, raising fear in waves for both of them to ride, tasting the meat of it, feeding on its power, thrusting it into hir boy. Ze would claim her just as much with fear as with teeth and pain and sex.
Yes. That’s how Rocky wanted her. Scared and strong and under hir massive body. Covered in hir scent, marks on her skin announcing that this was hir boy. That’s how Rocky would fuck her for the first time, one claw gripping her hair, the other hand burrowed all the way inside so that ze could feel Frankie ripple around hir fist. Ze wanted to bask in the warmth and rightness of hir fist buried in hir boy. And then Rocky wanted to watch Frankie’s eyes as ze began to move that fist, twisting it just right, thrusting it deeper, pulsing the muscles, intent on pushing Frankie to take it for hir.
I also have a number of works in progress. My series of stories centering disabled queers also centers fat characters. My novel in progress, Shocking Violet, centers fat characters, including a fat femme switch named Violet who is deeply involved in fat activism.